Freedom. Expression. Personal choice. When you start your business and you put these 4 words front and centre you are, in my opinion, setting the bar high. Well, you are if they are not just a gimmick, and you want to live and breathe them.
I very much want to live and breathe these 4 words when it comes to Digital 51. They inspire me, they remind me of what I am doing, why I am doing it, what I truly believe in, the business I want us to be and I gave up a great job to go on this madcap start-up journey in the first place. However, they come at a price. They represent a huge change for me and the way I have worked during the past few years. Like many people my pre-Covid years were more traditional, more corporate and more ‘normal’ when it came to my working life.
Digital 51 is not normal. We are not about normal. In-fact, we don’t like normal. We like freedom, expression and personal choice, the reality is in 99% of workplaces these are not normal.
The cornerstone of freedom for us when it came to launching the business was the flexibility to work when you want, where you want. Yep, that’s right, we went right in at the freedom deep-end. There are times I wish there was someone else I could either credit or blame for this decision, however there’s not. I created that cornerstone and idea.
So here we are the end of the week that saw us reach six months of working day in, day out to this new way of working. Real freedom. So, how’s it going?
Well, first of all I should say it has not been easy. I would be lying if I said anything different. It has been a challenge and for no other reason, no matter how much you want and or believe in a change, that does not mean it will be easy. Secondly as much I do wholeheartedly believe and am proud of this approach, I also love, love, love, being around people. I don’t like working alone. I don’t like working remotely too much. I adore the Digital 51 Hub. All these things mean that with all the freedom in the world I do still work in the same place most days, as that’s what I like. Freedom to others however means they come and go from the Hub as they see fit. That can mean as little as one day a week to three days a week in the Hub, depending on the person, their workload, their family life and how they feel.
On this basis freedom has killed a culture. Flexible working has killed the culture of daily office collaboration, spontaneous chit chat, having a moan to a colleague when something goes wrong (yes, things do go wrong,) or celebrating when you seal a fantastic deal and a piece of business for the team. For me, however, it’s killed something which has been part of my working culture for over 10 years now. Flexible working and the way we have embraced it has killed Friday drinks, something I never thought I would say about a business which I lead. I love a catch up and beer at the end of the week on a Friday. It’s a time to accept the week has happened, be together and sink a couple of old ones before heading home for the weekend. It’s also a time I really get to speak to people as they relax, and we can talk about how they are really feeling. Flexible working has killed that culture.
Flexible working however has also created a culture. I love, love, love our online chat for example. We use TEAMS and like many, we have all adapted to it over the past 18 months, but we really do embrace it. When someone sends round the words ‘who wants some good news?’ then does not say anything for about 60 seconds……….
I live for those 60 seconds!
We also have a Digital 51 playlist ‘Simon Digital Jukebox!’ Yes, you read that correctly. Regardless of where we are all working from, home, coffee shop or the Hub, at 8.30am we put on track 1 (Shakira Waka Waka – honestly, true story) and all listen along. I love seeing new songs being added and people saying, ‘oh I love this one!’ when a certain song comes on. Flexible working has also created a culture of needing to work that bit harder to understand, communicate and support each other. This has not been easy and again being honest, we are still on a journey with it, but at least we are on the journey. We are trying and that for me is what this is all about. Flexible working has created that culture.
Lastly, flexible working has created personal freedom in a way I could never have imagined. I always thought it would be something we said, but people did not actually do. However, I could not be more wrong and if you speak to any member of the team, they will instantly tell you how flexible working has allowed them to adjust their life. Not just their work life, but their actual life. Whenever I am frustrated that we are not all together to talk through something, or a video call is going south because we can’t read each other properly, it’s remembering the freedom flexible working has created which gets me back on track. Speaking selfishly being in the Hub everyday works for me, course it does, I put the hub 20 minutes from my house! I also have a very understanding and supporting family unit, who take care of everything for me, so I can focus on work, work and more work. That is not how most people’s lives work. Therefore, flexible working is creating people to have the freedom they need, crave and love, is what really matters.
Digital 51 is built on the belief that people are at the heart of business and very much this business. Freedom makes our people happy and their lives easier. Flexible working created that freedom.
Our journey will continue with flexible working and as we grow in the coming weeks and months, it’s really going to be put to the test. Let’s see how we respond to that test.
I’ll keep you posted; I can assure you!
This article was written by Simon Brown, Founder of Digital 51. To speak to Simon about his belief in freedom, expression, and personal choice and how he believes that could benefit you, drop him a line on