Rise at Seven's Carrie Rose on why ‘our industry wasn’t meant to be built in our bedrooms’

Rachael Hesno's picture
by Rachael Hesno
Carrie Rose - Rise at Seven

Sheffield-headquartered agency Rise at Seven has enjoyed exponential growth while forced to operate remotely during the pandemic, but for chief executive Carrie Rose, the office is still king. Here she explains why.  

This piece is published in Prolific North's Northern Agency Guide - find out more about getting a copy here.

I launched my agency two years ago, grew it to 100 people and we’re on track to turn over £6.8million this year - all from my living room. And despite such success, I couldn't think of anything worse than continuing this journey remotely.

We had around five months at the beginning building the business from a small office space in Sheffield, surrounded by creatives and young hungry people. But closed up soon after with the pandemic worsening, building the remaining from home. 

And in the last few months, we have opened up three offices (Sheffield, London, Manchester) and I am on my way to the US right now to find our next home in the States too. Why? Because that's what the people want!

We could be £500K more profitable if we don't do this, but with the average age of 27 and creative freedom, connections and collaboration being core parts of what we do - having an office space to allow that is super important for nearly all of our staff. 

I know businesses that are literally saving millions by shutting down their offices, agencies similar to us. But if they think that money will become profit, they’re wrong. That money will have to be put somewhere else to replace what will soon be missing.

Rise at Seven
The Rise at Seven team

As a business, we have always been flexible. And we still are today. But making the decision to remain having an office was an easy decision for me. I felt I was not making the decision to protect the business but for the people, their futures, their mental health and more. Even if they don't know that yet!

During our remote period, productivity and results were up. Massively too! But that came at a cost. Each night, I would see a handful of staff working till 7-8pm. This isn't expected, or encouraged by us - but in fact encouraged by their new working life. The commute created boundaries for people and they no longer had boundaries. We brought in a number of initiatives, reminders to encourage switching off - it helped for a short while, but then lockdown number 2, 3 and even 4 came and not only did staff not have an office to go to, they had nowhere to go. 

There are studies which show the importance of connections, small talk and office environments for confidence-building. There's scientific evidence that clocks on a wall in an office encourage you to finish on time and take lunch. This was not happening. People worked during their lunch breaks and not something I wanted to create for our agency. I feel unlucky to not have had the chance to build my business outside of the pandemic, in fact I feel envious of those that got the chance to do so. I feel the pandemic put so much pressure on people, drove negativity, overworking, which combined with a fast growing start up - wasn't easy. 

The WFH vs back-to-the-office debate is *still* way too dominated by middle-aged people who have good wifi access and a comfortable solo workspace at home and that simply is not representative of most young people who are the bulk of the working future. So many people (no matter their age) want the office, for their futures, their training and connections. I see our careers just like our education - going to university is an experience where we work hard and play hard. And I truly believe the working space should be too. I believe people miss out if they don't see their work friends, as their friends too. We spend 70% of our awake lives working, so why not enjoy that too. 

Training and learning became difficult during the pandemic, although we seemed to nail it in the end after spending long nights writing process documents and training programs. But the ability to lean over someone's shoulder and show them the tricks of our industry, the ability to suck in positive energy and confidence from people around you was near impossible remote.

As for the hybrid approach, I believe this is the best way to allow for flexibility and something we offer. Hybrid, however, does not mean “just do what you want”. Businesses need to know if their staff are coming into the office or working from home, people need to have structure, routine, and even rules at times.

We never once checked what my staff were doing whilst at home, we don't even track their time or micro-manage them in that way, this isn't about control and lack of trust. This is about mental health, progression, positive behaviours and confidence. The creative and marketing industry wasn't born to be built in our bedrooms.

Carrie Rose is chief executive of Rise at Seven.

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