If Covid pushed one thing right to the fore very abruptly, it was the entire concept of remote working. For me and my team, we had always been a semi-remote business, and we only ever worked together for two days a week, so we were blessed in that we were built for remote working such that – pub lunches aside – it didn’t really impact how we operated as a business at all.
As Covid dragged on, businesses – and workers – had to accept that remote working was actually possible, and this in turn has led to quite the debate as to how much it should be adopted now that things are easing.
For me though, the discussion of remote working is looking at the wrong things.
Businesses are asking whether it works for them operationally. Staff are asking whether it provides a greater work/life balance. But the issue is not so much whether remote working is possible; it is more about whether it is a good move for the business as a whole. Happy workers = better productivity in my view, and managers and MDs in general should ideally listen to their staff and consider whether, amid all this change, new ways to work should be explored.
As Covid lockdown went from weeks into months, we decided to embrace the remote working aspect of who we are as a business. So, we announced to our team that we would now consider ourselves fully remote, and that if people wanted to move out of London and base themselves further afield, they could.
However this also meant we could hire from further afield too – something we then proceeded to do when Bristol-based Tom joined our team.
One of our directors, Matt, even went a step further, moving to Spain before the Brexit drawbridge was pulled up. He’s now living in a lovely villa on a hillside near Malaga, and given the lousy UK summer we’ve just had, yes, we’re all a bit jealous.
It has also allowed more flexibility in the lives of our staff; this week Sadie is in Wales, whilst Asher is in Denmark. Both are working from their locations, and productivity isn’t affected at all.
So far, so good – but one thing we have also learned is that we all just miss the social side. That was always the actual reason we met up to work; truth is that we can do our job from anywhere, but it’s great to just hang out, have a laugh, perhaps grab some food and a drink together – all of that.
Also, some of our team felt it would be good to just meet up and work together now and then, purely because it can be a lot easier to, for example, walk someone through how to do something in person.
To address that, we now use The Halley over in Haggerston. Any member of staff can book a spot there, such that anyone can meet up and work together if they fancy it.
So, we now have options for our staff. They can work from home, or they can work from The Halley. But we are keen to stress that we’re not expecting them to be in the office space X days a week, and nor will we think less of people working from home all the time.
This, in my view, gets to the nub of the remote working debate. For me, this is about providing flexibility for your staff and allowing systems to come together that work. Happiness is a massive priority for me where staff are concerned, because I simply believe happier workers do better work, avoid stress and generally have a better quality of life. Hardly rocket science! So listening to them and finding options that allow a dynamic approach to working in general feels like the right thing to do.
For those running businesses, I’d simply say that it’s worth being open-minded and listening to your staff. Give them a voice and pay attention to what they’re saying. Of course, you cannot please everyone, but in my experience treating my staff fairly and positively also means they afford me the same courtesy back. Nobody is unreasonable and together I think we’ve found a path forward that might just work.
Oh – and on the social side, we’re planning to just have regular get togethers where we can have a great meal, talk a lot of nonsense, laugh loads (usually at someone’s expense, as is our way) and generally make merry. That’s invaluable – but it’s also a LOT of fun.