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Goodbye office: Why a Baltimore agency is emerging from the pandemic with a hybrid work model

Kapowza is trading its office for a coworking space, with some team members going fully remote. "Working remotely has not slowed our team down," Director of Accounts Sean Sutherland said.

A Baltimore icon. (Photo by Flickr user Elliott Plack, used under a Creative Commons license)

When it came time to have the conversation about going back to the office, Kapowza leaders Dan Schepleng and Sean Sutherland put three options to the team about the suddenly-very-imminent future of work.

Fully remote, fully in-office or hybrid.

“Resoundingly,” said Sutherland, they chose hybrid.

So, as vaccinations and lifted restrictions are allowing a return to in-person work, the team members who report to the Baltimore creative agency’s offices at Natty Boh Tower will no longer be going to their office. Instead, per an agreement to convert its lease with Obrecht Properties, they’ll have dedicated space at Brewers Hill HUB, which is the coworking space located on the first floor of the building. That’ll provide space for the creative team to collaborate.

Two team members, including Sutherland, won’t be heading in at all, as they chose to go fully remote.

While it means cleaning out the office and finding a new space for his many business cards and the company’s awards, Sutherland believes that the new arrangement is the best option for the team coming out of the pandemic.

Sean Sutherland. (Courtesy photo)

For one, the team got bigger. With nine people now involved in the company and another hire forthcoming on the accounts side, they wouldn’t have desks for anyone in an office that had room for five people. But at a time when many employers of knowledge workers are considering if and how they’ll go back to the office following a year of health-mandated WFH, there’s another reason that management is fine with a more distributed model: productivity. Many a local tech CEO has told this reporter about how their company actually got more done in 2020, and Kapowza was similar.

“Working remotely has not slowed our team down,” said Sutherland, who is the company’s director of accounts. Trust is an important element in letting team members work from home. The last year was a time to try that out, and Sutherland and Schepleng were “really impressed with what the team did.”

Given that, the company is prioritizing a more flexible model can help the team as people, whether it’s easing appointments or childcare.

“When you work remotely, it’s a much easier thing to figure out your day around not only professional demands, but personal demands as well,” Sutherland said.

For the company, it’s something of a full circle moment. Kapowza started out of East Baltimore incubator ETC (Emerging Technology Centers) before moving down the street to the new office a few years ago. Now it’ll be back in a coworking space, and it’ll still have a local base at a time when going remote could mean a company is based anywhere.

“I don’t think we’ll ever lose our connection to Baltimore,” Sutherland said. “Most of us still live in the city limits. The majority of client base is here, the majority of my network is here. There’s still an opportunity to do good work.”

With access to a conference room, the team will still gather for meetings on Mondays in person, and Fridays for a virtual session. There’s also support from clients working with the company on ads and marketing who are happy to meet at their space or virtually.

Kapowza signed their lease just before the pandemic arrived. In March 2020, work-from-home was required and everyone moved quick to adjust. The future of the office remained an open question. Now, there’s more time to get a plan in place, even as the avowed extrovert is ready to start mingling at local events again.

“I think people are hungry to get back out there and get in person,” he said, adding that, from his own perspective, “having in-person stuff again has been wonderful.”

Companies: Kapowza
Series: How to Work Remotely

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