Keeping Your Brand Coherent In The World Of Hybrid Working
Up until March 2020, a business meeting would usually involve travelling to an office somewhere in the city centre, signing in at the reception desk, passing through the entrance foyer, taking the lift up a floor or two, identifying the correct room, unpacking your notebook and pen, pouring yourself a glass of water, and waiting for proceedings to begin.
You might not notice it at the time, but throughout this whole process, you’re getting a sense of who and what that business is. Whether it’s the art adorning the walls of the entrance foyer, the logo on the pen you use at reception, the style of chair you’re sitting in, even the type of glass you pour your water into – these things aren’t there by chance. They’re all telling you something about that business and the image it wants to project to the world.
In fact, before anyone in the meeting room has even opened their mouth, you’ve already formed a strong idea about the business and its people. The things they stand for. How they conduct themselves. The standards they set.
Now, since March 2020, this hasn’t happened. At least not in the same way. Meetings have been conducted online – from home offices, kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms and gardens. And when you attend a meeting, you don’t sign in with a branded pen and drink sparkling water from cut crystal glassware. You open an email invite, try to make your bookshelf look appealing, and drink lukewarm tea from a chipped mug, much like everyone else on the video call.
This means you, as an attendee, don’t get the same multisensory brand experience you would have had by visiting that company’s office. And that company, in losing the use of its office space, also loses a key channel through which it can communicate its brand to potential partners, prospective employees, new clients and anybody else who would usually visit their office for a meeting. In short, the shift to home working means businesses lose the branded environment and all the benefits that come with it.
This isn’t to say that home working is a bad thing. Far from it. Pandemic aside, home working creates flexibility, boosts productivity, saves people time and money, improves work-life balance, reduces carbon emissions, the list goes on. But it also presents businesses with a new challenge. Specifically, without the power of the branded environment, it becomes much harder for companies to give new clients, partners and employees an immediate, coherent sense of who they are, what they do and everything they stand for. Presenting to a new client is tricky at the best of times, never mind throwing into the mix unpredictable Wi-Fi, kids shouting in the room next door, and the plumber popping his head in to say he’s done for the day.
So, with Covid sticking around for the foreseeable, how should businesses look to reconcile the benefits of home working with the problems that arise from the lack of a coherent branded environment?
We’re already well on our way to a solution with hybrid working, a model that enables employees to work from home on certain days and travel into the office on others. In an ideal world, this means that important meetings can be held in the office, giving attendees the full multisensory experience that the branded environment affords, while on other days employees can enjoy the flexibility and autonomy that comes with home working.
Of course, the extent to which this is possible will depend on the nature of the business. Some companies will require employees to commit to three or four days in the office each week; others will require only one or two days. It’s up to each business to consider what works for them and their employees, and to create a hybrid model of working that’s tailored to their business and their business alone.
However, hybrid working doesn’t fully address the problem of brand coherence. To be sure, a brand isn’t just a surface image in place to impress clients and outsiders. It runs deeper than that. A brand is a set of values and principles that is lived and breathed throughout an organisation. And a key way in which these values and principles are communicated and reinforced is through the branded environment – through the design, décor and layout of the collective workspace.
Herein lies the problem. As employees use this collective workspace less often, opting instead to work from their dining room tables or the comfort of their sofas, the power of the branded environment starts to dwindle. So as the move to hybrid working picks up speed, businesses must look for new ways to communicate and reinforce their brand values and principles among employees, ways that don’t rely on the office as branded environment.
Here at SED, we’re on the case. Our Outer Thinking Division looks to find solutions to problems facing brands and businesses in the near and distant future. From colour theory to font psychology, social influence theories to the relationship between the working environment and productivity, we’re exploring new ways to bridge the divide between the work office and the home office, helping businesses to keep their brands clear and coherent as we all take tentative steps into the world of hybrid working.
Watch this space.
Creative Director & Founder
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