Let’s talk about remote working

13 Feb 2019

Let’s talk about remote working

Remote work is becoming mainstream. With more and more people opting for flexible working or freelance careers half of the UK workforce is expected to be working remotely by 2020. That’s quite an amazing stat isn’t it?

And a survey by Investors in People discovered 31% of the UK workforce would rather have a more flexible approach to working than a 3% pay rise.

By 2020, Gen Z (those born after 1996), will amount to 36% of the global workforce. This generation can’t remember a life without a smartphone and are more likely to look for remote or flexible work than pursue traditional working practices. The best talent is already looking for companies that encourage creativity and support flexible working.

But it’s not just about the young. With life-expectancy and the cost of living increasing many people over the age of 64 are choosing to delay retirement. Working remotely allows this generation an ideal way to fit around their changing lifestyle too.

Gone are the days when we need to be in the office at our desk for a fixed schedule of 9am to 5pm. The average person in the UK spends 60-80 minutes getting to and from work. In a report published by the Royal Society for Public Health, it found that 55% of people felt more stressed as a result of their commute. What madness! The concept of a rush hour belongs to an age past. Why should we endure those often cramped and over-crowded, miserable commutes that even migrating wildebeest would reject?

We are forging into a new era of the anywhere office. Remote working is no longer a privilege. And thank goodness for that.

WHAT DEFINES REMOTE WORKING?

Well, put simply, it’s working in a way that suits your life.

Some remote workers have the opportunity to work where they choose for the majority of their working week and go into the company office once or twice a week for face-to-face meetings.

Coffee shops, libraries and especially co-working spaces are often the place to get the job done. Co-working spaces can be hubs of productivity, community and technology and offer great networking opportunities. It’s like working from home but with the added benefit of the amenities, facilities and companionships that’d you’d find in an office.

Working remotely allows you to set your own schedule so that you are able to work whenever you know you are most productive.

MY EXPERIENCE OF REMOTE WORKING AS A BUSINESS OWNER

I sometimes work from home. And the flexibility of working from home doesn’t mean I’m necessarily ‘at home’. I have been known to work from my tent or even my canoe (you can read about this here in my earlier blog post).

Flexible working for me as the owner of GiftRound is a mixed blessing, which I believe also relates to employed remote workers or a those who work a mixture of at home and in an office. Let me explain what I mean.

For someone that works 9-5 in an office then it’s accepted that you are at work and that is what defines your productivity.

As a self-employed business owner, it’s down to me to decide how I carve up my week, my day or hours within that day but ultimately, if the task doesn’t get done then that’s what I have to deal with. And for someone in employment that has flexibility then they are put in a position of trust that they are working the right number of hours to get the job done. Ultimately, they are valued for the work they produce, rather than the times of day in which they work, which can only be a good thing. As a business owner who occasionally contracts out various pieces of work to other remote workers, this is certainly how I approach things.

However, what I feel for sure is the social interaction and sense of community, the banter or pulling together is much harder when you are setting your own boundaries, whether that be location, hours or productivity. I give some ideas for how to pull together as a team of remote workers at this end of this article.

I’ve been fortunate though, by being a member of the RBS Entrepreneur Accelerator and have greatly enjoyed the benefits of the community as well as the workshops and mentoring.

WOULD YOU BE HAPPIER IF YOU WERE ABLE TO WORK REMOTELY?

The most obvious benefit for people working remotely is that it offers them a more flexible lifestyle. But it’s much more than just being able to sit at your laptop in your pyjamas blasting out any tunes of your choice.

Flexibility

So, it’s your kid’s first Nativity play at school and you want to attend? You can! Simply work around it, catching up with what work needs doing at a time that suits you to meet that deadline. Want to go to the gym at 2.30pm when it’s less busy, rather than trying to squeeze in with everyone else at 6pm? Fill your boots.

Motivation

Amy M Haddad in her article on Medium makes a great point about the motivation she gains from working remotely:

“But what’s motivating for me, as an employee, is the autonomy to work where I like, instead of where someone else thinks I should work: in an open office with an endless number of visual and auditory distractions imposed upon me. It’s hard to get work done when phones buzz, people talk, and games chirp. Plus, it’s mentally exhausting to block out all these distractions, so when I can avoid them my productivity soars.”

Less stress

Remote workers are often less stressed and have a much healthier attitude to their work than their in-office peers. They tend to do their best work outside of the office because they can work in places that filter out environmental distractions.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF REMOTE WORKING TO EMPLOYERS?

It’s so much cheaper: we simply have to mention the cost saving first. Keeping costs to a minimum is always going to be key isn’t it, whatever size business you run. Super-expensive office space rent supplies and equipment… they all come at a price. Having a team of remote workers reduces those expenses to zero

Happier, healthier people:your remote employee will be in better health. They are much more likely to incorporate physical exercise into their day and we all know that a healthy workforce is a productive workforce. Companies that prioritise work-life balance also have much lower rates of employee turnover compared to those that don’t.

More productive: There are many studies on the subject of remote working and generally show that remote workers are more productive than in-office workers. Why is this? Well, far fewer distractions, such as over-chatty coworkers and unnecessarily lengthy meetings. Remote workers soon become keen to exceed their goals in order to continue living the lifestyle they have come to love.

Eco-friendlier: by removing the daily commute, you are greatly reducing the carbon footprint of each employee. You’re also eliminating the resources to keep an office running, such as energy-guzzling office equipment, heating and lighting.

A REMOTE TEAM IS STILL A TEAM

As we’ve discussed remote working can be a powerful tool for both employers and employees. But we can’t lose sight of the fact that unless managed well, working remotely can at times be a lonely and isolating experience. So how can you avoid that?

Build your community

You may not have thought of this, but remote workers often make the best teammates. Why is this? Well, distance actually demands more communication. A remote team needs to create a collaborative environment with inside jokes, shared experiences and general chit chat. A friend of mine works for a company where everyone is a remote worker – there is no head-office. He told me that their daily, online team chat is a vital component of the success and happiness of the team members. He’s observed during the many years he’s been working there that the people who don’t get involved in the virtual office banter, tend not to stick around too long and simply move on.

The technology is there, use it

We are inundated with apps and software that can help us keep connected. If you’re

not using them already, take a look at Slack or Teamwork They offer slightly different things but overall, both bring all your messages, tools and file together in one place. They also allow for the all-important collaboration and fun.

Schedule regular video conferencing

Messaging platforms are hugely useful for daily contact within remote teams but don’t lose sight of the importance of body language. It can be all too easy to misinterpret the tone of a written message. Investing the time for a video conference at least once a week can make a big difference.

Google Hangouts is great for quick chats or GoToMeeting for bigger team meetings – both make it easy to work in real time.

Celebrate your team mates

Just because you may have never met in person, they’re still your team mates, right? And in some cases, you wouldn’t have been able to get your job done without their support and help, would you? Celebrating your co-remote workers is all part of being one big happy team, even if your team is only small.

And if you celebrate their wins, birthdays, milestones and achievements, they are more likely to want to share and celebrate yours too. It’s a win win.

It doesn’t have to be expensive

Sometimes, it’s all about just saying it. Tell your remote co-worker or employee that you’re impressed with their work; that your grateful for the help they’ve given you, and while you’re at it, share the love by letting the whole team know. We all need a genuine, honest boost sometimes.

Write a recommendation

Another way to show how much you appreciate your co-worker is to write them a recommendation on LinkedIn. This is a great way to show your respect for this person as a colleague and that you want to see him or her continue to succeed. It will always be welcome.

If it’s something you’d like to do but get the heebie-jeebies about actually sitting down and writing one, Adrian Granzella Larssen has written a very useful 5-minute guide to writing an amazing LinkedIn recommendation on themuse.

What about celebrating the milestones?

If there’s a birthday to celebrate; a new baby, someone’s moving on to their next adventure; getting married… well, we can help you with that. Obviously, you can’t drop coins into a collection envelope if you’re all working in different locations. But you can easily create a money collection with GiftRound and buy them a gift they’ll actually want.

Creating a money collection

You can create a money collection in 4 easy steps. Wanna see how? Take a look

Over to you

Do you work remotely? Or would like to? Would you prefer a flexible approach to work over a pay-rise? C’mon, join the conversation. We’d love to hear from you.

Further reading:

Forbes: Working with Remote Teams? Here’s how you can grow a positive company culture.

Forbes: Top 15 tips to effectively manage remote employees.