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Flexible working, creative minds: Whitespace

A creative agency working across media and brands, Whitespace isn’t new to the game. In fact, they’ve been around since 1997, and have been nominated as Best Scottish Design agency three times.

When Iain Valentine, Managing Partner, joined the company fifteen years ago, there were about twelve people working in the office- the number has now gone up to seventy. According to Iain, “Whitespace has always had a flexible and open attitude; but there’s been a definite change in attitudes in the past ten years or so”.

At Whitespace, he says, “we are addicted to making things better- that goes for our work, but also for the agency itself”. The goal of every new project is not only to satisfy the client, but to make them an advocate of Whitespace’s own values.

In terms of flexibility, employees (the “Whitspacers”) can try their hand at a variety of options: nine-day fortnights, 8am to 4pm days and a week of working remotely to a week of office working are some of things Iain mentions, but they’re not the full range. Everyone is given equal opportunity to work flexibly, whether or not they’re a parent: one of Iain’s staff works nine days in a fortnight to spend the rest rehearsing with a theatre company.

Like many SMEs, Whitespace has a mix of formal and informal policies, informed by the single cases as much as by general guidelines. “The formal aspect can be a hindrance sometimes, a way to tick a box; but I also recognise the importance of promoting what we have more”.

Attracting the best talent through flexibility has always been a priority for the agency, though this has increased in recent years. As Iain explains, this comes partly from the creative nature of the work: “it’s a struggle to remain fresh and creative when work is bad. The workload can be heavy and demanding, so the flexibility we offer is one of the ways we use to rebalance demands”. Freelance work and flexibility in the field of design is so prevalent now that “having side projects is now considered almost obligatory for a good designer; so we try to give the time and space for people to work on other interests”.

Whitespace promotes training up for its interns and new employees and can boast a low turnover. “We’re constantly looking for the best; so we also want to create the best possible atmosphere for our team”.

by Anna Viceconti

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