As media agency December19 settles into Clerkenwell Workshops, founders Dave Barnett and Dan Pimm explain why seeking flexible office space during a pandemic was the best move for them.

In 2010, Dan and Dave joined forces. With a limited amount of cash and an idea, the pair set out to bring their advertising experience at Sky, L'Oreal and Nestlé to the wider business community.

They launched independent media advertising agency, December19, to rival larger networks. Now, they work with SMEs and challenger brands, such as online accounting software provider Xero, to help their adverts get seen.

Most recently, they have teamed up with a band of 16 other agile and independent media agencies to form The Land of Independents during lockdown. This industry-first ad campaign has seen competitors come together to learn from and work with each other to champion their success stories. 

Ten years since their launch, and three office moves later, we find out how the company's getting on at their new base, Clerkenwell Workshops.

What is December19 in a nutshell?

Dan: We're a media planning and buying agency. We place, plan and buy advertising on behalf of our clients. From working for big corporate brands, we set up an independent agency and now apply that experience to clients with relatively small budgets.

COVID has been a stressful time for business founders. How has December19 been affected?

Dan: The business hit a wall. It completely stopped for three months. It was hard, but you just have to be understanding. Luckily our clients are still alive and kicking, so we have been helping to support them through this challenging time. 

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Dan (left) and Dave make themselves at home at Clerkenwell Workshops

You moved into Clerkenwell Workshops in mid-July. How has that been?

Dan: Great, we just got lucky really. It was the first office that we saw. We entered the space and straight away we were like, "This is it!". It's a light, airy office with amazing views in a great location, so it worked for us on every level. We moved in mid-July and it makes so much more sense in terms of how we move forward from a business point of view. 

 

Why did you choose Workspace?

Dave: Ultimately, it was the flexibility. We decided to downsize during this period of uncertainty for a more efficient use of space. We didn't want to become a completely agile, remote business because we're in the communications industry and we felt like we needed a base. It was important to us to have somewhere flexible but still have our independence, somewhere with our own front door and keys.

The other thing that attracted us was looking at the businesses within the Workspace network and the types of businesses that we attract and work with – high-growth and interesting businesses, disruptors and challengers. The Workspace community seemed to have that going on.

Dan: It offers us a hybrid between what we think is traditional and looking forward to a new way of working. We didn't feel that we needed the volume of space that we had in the past. We will still have meetings, but just not as many as we would need a permanent meeting room space for. It's great that we can just hire space on an adhoc basis for meetings now.

 

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Has social distancing in your office been a success?

Dave: Yes. We're lucky, we've got desks the size of tanks! They're about 2.5 meters in length. We’re also very careful with numbers. As a team of 20, we make sure that no more than 12 are in the office at one time. There's plenty of hand sanitiser and lots of posters up. And, because we hot desk, at the end of each day, everyone simply wipes down their desk and puts their stuff in their box. 

 

Did your team want to come back?

Dave: There were certain people who needed to look after family or were travelling in from a long way. They weren't ready to come back. But the majority of the team were immediately asking, "When can we come in?". Some lived by themselves and wanted a change of scene, others wanted to sit at a proper desk with good Wi-Fi. We felt for the mental wellbeing of the team, it was important to not have a one-size-fits-all rule and leave it to people's own judgment.

Have you taken any steps to improve team communication?

Dan: We're a very personable business, we've made a point of being that way. We set out to be an agency with a community feeling where people talk to each other. Obviously, the last few months have been a challenge but we are trying to make sure that people feel supported. We encourage our team to press video and speak face to face, rather than tapping out a quick note. Don't email them, click on Teams and say hello! Constant little check-ins and casual chats can help people that are feeling burnt out.

What positives have you taken from the pandemic? Will you apply these to your business moving forward?

Dan: From a business perspective, Dave and I both agreed that being more efficient with office space is going to be the biggest learning really. I also think that talking about mental health more will be a big thing to come out of COVID because a lot of people have been stuck at home, isolated for a long time. I think that's something that every business has to be wary of. We have to understand what people's feelings are.

If you're looking for a flexible office space, see what Workspace has to offer. Prepare to return to your Workspace office with these seven expert tips on getting back to the office safely.

For further advice and up-to-date resources on how to navigate your business through COVID-19 and beyond head to our content hub.