Storycatchers. An agency dreamed up by Scandinavian Dads?
New-ish Storycatcher Simon reflects on his first six months in the job and the benefits of working in a more flexible way…
From time to time, you’ve probably seen articles about Scandinavian paternity leave featuring pics of impossibly fresh looking Swedish Dads hanging out at Stockholm cafes with other latte pappas, chatting away, babies in papooses or snoozing in fancy modular buggies. All very enlightened and sensible.
Well, I imagine if the same Dads were leisurely talking about setting up a creative agency, they’d probably agree on a template pretty much like the Storycatcher’s model.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with how Storycatchers works, it’s a brand communications agency with under 20 employees, many of whom have young kids and work remotely, only coming into the office hub for collaborating, attending agency get togethers or client meetings. We’re a relatively small group but when we need to draw on specialist skills, we can pick and choose from the best in the business – recently we’ve been working with behavioural science expert Richard Shotton and social entrepreneur and self-confessed ‘pirate’ Sam Conniff Allende.
Having properly settled into life here, I can report that my overriding feeling is: why don’t more businesses operate like this? Aside from any questions about work/life balance, I’ve found that this level of flexibility liberates so much more pure thinking time because my energy is not wasted on travel, meetings or the hassle of making myself presentable to the outside world. Smart use of Skype (audio only, never video, god forbid) and other digital platforms means that many conversations happen remotely and we’re able to access and share files easily.
Of course, there are many of the usual stresses of agency life but they are generally handled more easily because we have more time and space to deal with them.
Interestingly, our clients – large, multi-national brands – seem to be embracing flexible working more readily than many agencies, and they seem happy to work with us because they know this approach leads to better quality work and greater efficiency.
Admittedly, there are plenty of reasons why Storycatchers is well-placed to operate like this: many of us have worked together previously which makes for trust and efficiency; and there’s a relatively high ratio of client-facing, senior people which means we can multi-task and work with greater independence. It also relies on a serious work ethic that would have those Swedish Dads nodding earnestly.
It’s also fair to say that Storycatchers wouldn’t work for everyone. You need to be a certain type of person to operate like this: fairly self-sufficient, industrious and good at ignoring distractions at home. It wouldn’t be right for you if you like the buzz of city-based agency life with after-works drinks and office intrigue. There aren’t many pairs of cool trainers or wireless headphones on display at our HQ on the Welback Estate, but we do have two very lovable office dogs.
Hopefully this has given you a fairly balanced insight into how the agency has successfully embraced a different way of working. My motivation for writing this was not to give myself a big slap on the back for a successful career move, but simply to spread the word about more human ways of working; so if you are reading this as someone who has influence over the working lives of others, I’d urge you to be open-minded about relaxing the way your business operates – I’m convinced you’ll soon see the rewards. My biggest hope is that by the time my kids enter the job market, they’ll have the freedom to make the most of their talents, unconstrained by office hours or visible desk-time. I know the Swedish Dads would certainly agree.
Join the conversation or let us know your thoughts @tweetcatchers