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Home is Where the Office Is

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Home is Where the Office Is
By Scott Davis, Chief Revenue Officer, Harmelin Media

I will begin with a confession. Three years ago, I looked at the handful of companies I engaged with that
were fully remote operations with more a sense of pity than anything else. Didn’t they care about culture?
How could they possibly innovate without those chance water cooler encounters I kept reading about?
Was this just a ploy not to pay rent? I mean, we’d long offered our staff limited work-from-home time, but
this was nuts!

OK, maybe not my most forward-thinking managerial moment. But after two years of pandemic-driven
reinvention, I a big enough person to admit I’ve had a (partial) change of heart. In March of 2020, with no
real choice in the matter, our leadership team embraced remote work, and set out to create an
environment where every team member could thrive. And we’ve been rewarded with the two best years in
our company’s history, and (not to brag) two consecutive AdAge ‘Best Place to Work’ awards. And we’ve
learned a lot along the way:

  • With the massive adoption of Teams Video and Zoom (both of which were used only sparingly
    previously), we actually got more facetime with our clients than ever before. Business dinners
    were replaced with virtual happy hours, which – given the sense of isolation many were dealing
    with – were something to truly look forward to.
  • Without the office as a central hub, we were free to find talent anywhere. And now approximately
    15% of our staff resides outside the Philadelphia area, in all four US time zones.
  • Culture can thrive outside the office – it just takes effort. We’ve greatly enhanced our company-
    wide communications, and at the same time prioritized more one-on-one engagement. And we’ve
    thrown in as much fun as we possibly can, from clever contests to employee cooking shows,
    surprise gifts to “meet the pet” montages. We struggled through personal crises and social justice
    upheaval together, and we celebrated many milestones along the way.

I have great empathy for the many people whose home environments are not conducive to working, due
to family issues, space issues or something else. Because I’ve found the experience unexpectedly
pleasant, highly productive and socially engaging. And the commute rocks.

I still believe the office has value. And nearly two years to the day after we left, when Harmelin returned to
our offices with a highly flexible, hybrid model, I was uplifted and energized. We are committed having our
in-office time be a different, and better experience than it was before. We’ve proven we can thrive without
being together all the time, so there’d better be a good reason to ask people to come in. We envision
fewer cubicles and more collaboration spaces. We’re experimenting with ‘hoteling’. We’re prioritizing
social time and cross-team engagement. We’ll find what works best for our company and our associates.
And we’ll adapt, protecting our core values and our culture along the way, to be the best modern
workplace we can be – wherever we happen to be logged in.