Sheffield firm ditches the office to work from home - and it's the best thing they've done

A Sheffield tech firm has ditched the office - with all staff working from home permanently - and the boss says it’s the best thing they’ve ever done.

Saturday, 18th July 2020, 6:00 am

The Tech Dept has not renewed its lease at St James House, on Vicar Lane in the city centre, and co-founder Daniel Kirby says the benefits have been “a revelation.”

The move comes after millions of people started working from home in March due to the pandemic. Four months on, many are reportedly missing the human interaction, as this thread on David Walsh’s LinkedIn page shows.

But the 11-strong company, which builds websites and databases, is now saving hundreds every month in rent, rates, parking and bills, as well as travel costs - and cash frittered on coffees and food.

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Dan Kirby.

It has also improved communication, since emails force the author to think through what they’re trying to say, Mr Kirby says.

Staff can also plan their work around family, ‘work from holiday’ if they need to, or go to a coffee shop to work.

Meet-ups are now at venues like Chatsworth House, replacing “half-cocked social interactions every day with one amazing one a month.”

Customer satisfaction has shown a “measurable improvement” and the business is growing and recruiting, he says.

The Tech Dept team.

But most of all, it has led them to question everything.

Mr Kirby, who set up The Tech Dept with Rick Grundy 16 years ago, said: “It’s potentially the best thing to ever happen to this company. It feels like starting over.

“We have the time, energy and headspace to question everything now, like, ‘why am I in business?’ and ‘what am I passionate about?’

“With the amount of money we’ve saved we could rent an Airbnb in Bali for the full team and their families for a month and have an amazing team building experience.”

St James House.

The Tech Dept was about to announce a record quarter until lockdown was announced on March 23. The start of working from home was a period of uncertainty and worry. But it also came with creative freedom, Mr Kirby added.

The company was looking for a new office after three years in St James House. Two weeks later and the company might have signed a new lease, ruling out its radical new direction.

“I live in Bakewell, 45 minutes’ drive away. It was costing £150-a-month in fuel. Then I’d be in Kommune every two minutes. So I wasn’t even in the office when I was ‘in the office’. Lockdown forced through a lot of change.

“I thought there was no way you could run a fundamentally creative business remotely and maintain team spirit, values, culture and fun.

“But due to better communication projects are smoother, customer satisfaction is up and we’re more profitable.

“We take wellbeing very seriously, including mental health, taking breaks and handling notifications.

“We had a meeting and discussed everything and agreed not have an office. That may change - we could rent one for a specific project - or we could work from Barcelona for three months.

“We’ve hit the reset button and it could lead to the next step in our evolution.”

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