As we continue to navigate our way through this lingering pandemic and an impending second lockdown, startups are trying to figure out the most effective way to run their businesses.

The outbreak of Covid-19 saw a mass move of workers from offices into homes. While many office based startups have made the decision to keep their teams at home for the time being, others have insisted that workers, both full-time and freelance, return to the office.

Heading back to the office can understandably be a real cause for concern and frustration for many. We’ve heard of freelancers and employees at startups who really haven’t enjoyed heading back into the office. It seems to be proving quite unproductive in some cases, as adhering to Covid-19 protocols for every single office activity such as meetings, can eat into one’s time and dramatically slow down their workflow. 

Saying that, certain tasks require individuals to be on site for work and we were quite surprised to hear from many freelancers who’d had positive experiences returning to offices and studios in recent months, as long as safety measures were respected and they had adequate time to complete their work. As freelance photographer Ivan Weiss, explained, “It was fine. We all washed hands, kept masks on while appropriate and kept two metres distance where possible.”

So, it’s clear that while some freelancers and startup teams feel comfortable working on site, others remain wary and therefore prefer to work remotely where projects allow. It is unfortunate however, that a cohort of this latter group do seem to feel that they risk discrimination and unfair treatment if they don’t comply with a client or employers requests to show face at the office. 

Rethinking old business structures

The pandemic has forced many startups to rethink the way in which they run their businesses. 

While it can be difficult to change old habits and business structures, many are realising that in order to attract and more importantly retain quality freelance talent during this unsettled period, they may need to shake up their business models and workflows. 

The industrial business model of working nine to five was being challenged in many sectors before the pandemic hit. In recent years, many businesses rolled out flexi time for their employees and adopted elements of hybrid working within their businesses, allowing teams to work both in the office and remotely. 

Man on work video callThe rapid advancement of technology was one of the primary reasons businesses were happy to give teams more autonomy and flexibility over the past few years. The introduction of digital communication tools like Zoom, Skype and Slack and project management software played a big part in this transition.

New technology meant that teams no longer had to work together in the same office, building or even the same country. Improved technology also acted as a catalyst (and a facilitator) for many businesses to adopt an agile approach to project management, where projects are broken down into incremental parts and regular check-ins, feedback and updates are provided by team members.

This popular approach facilitates and advocates for flexibility and change throughout projects and it seems that these traits slowly seeped into the way in which businesses structured their operations with regards to when and where team members could work.

With regards to Covid-19, many startups using an agile approach to project management were in a strong position to react fast and effectively in order to limit the impact that the virus had on their businesses. 

How can founders assess and rethink the way they run their businesses at the moment?

Firstly, question the theory that a ‘hybrid structure’ is the best solution. This phrase has been bandied about as an answer to the question ‘what is the future of work?’, however, it raises more questions than answers in this writer's opinion. 

The office is a less productive environment for many. It raises logistical challenges and, although it can be a relief for some, it can represent a burden for others. Every case should be looked at in isolation. 

You might also consider reevaluating your approach to both current and upcoming projects with these questions: Is our current approach to projects working well? Would a different approach to project management serve my startup and my team better in the current climate? Am I micromanaging my team? Should we switch from an hourly system to a value-based system?


The outbreak of Covid-19 has no doubt taken its toll on many startups, specifically those who have had to furlough staff, get rid of office premises or axe projects to ensure their survival over the past few months.

Out of necessity, founders have had to reassess their existing operations and get creative in order to keep their businesses afloat.

Whether you’ve been badly impacted by the virus or not, it’s worth reassessing the way you operate certain parts of your business. 

Simple things like understanding how different members of your team work best and choosing an approach to project management accordingly could really help you retain and get great work out of existing team members. It could also have a really positive impact on your company’s culture. 

Out with the old, in with the new. 

Book in a complementary consultation with a Freelance Growth Specialist to discuss your strategy for 2021.