“Become more fluid” is what Gen Y are screaming to employers! It’s no secret that we millennials are tech obsessed and recognise that the advances in technology mean that the traditional sense of ‘working’ is no longer confined to the conventional offices and sometimes, restrictive hours. While many of us wish to have the freedom to work in our own comfortable surroundings, achieving the ultimate work/life balance, we have to ask ourselves – does the slow death of the traditional office signal the end of the power of collaborative working forever?
No, I don’t think so. However, some of the Silicon Valley powerhouses think that it might and are refraining from this trend because of the impact it has on the positive attributes working as a team can bring. In 2013, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer put an end to the company's work-from-home policy, and has since argued that workers are 'more collaborative and innovative' when they're together.
George Frater from Sensée explains how remote working has improved his life, “I used to commute at least 1.5 hours a day, 5 days a week… that works out to 16.5 days per year wasted, I now invest time into my degree qualification and spending more time with my family. Last but not least, I really appreciate the fact that I have no interruptions. This means that my personal productivity levels are as high as they can making it easy to meet my work, study and family obligations”
Personally, I’m happy to work in any location, as long as there is coffee in the near vicinity. What I have noticed about many modern offices is…..HEADPHONES. Everyone is sat in focused silence, tapping away on their own projects, locked away in their own musical world. However, the environment that provides structure is still there, it undoubtedly takes skill to work from home, you have to be strict, committed and have personal motivation. But still, it would certainly serve to quickly identify the good from the bad. Of course, there still needs to be guidelines and boundaries about how communication must be undertaken, but using VPNS, cloud storage offer security, and along with applications such as Skype, you are given instant access to see who is available on the network; compulsory video conferences enable the weekly team meeting to take place.
Tim Kitchen from Exposure Ninja offers his experience of moving to fully remote working, “When I set up my company, Exposure Ninja, back in 2012, I wanted to work with small businesses and startups and that meant that I needed to make my company the best value digital marketing company that I could. Our business essentially gives clients access to what is essentially a “virtual marketing department” for small businesses that can’t afford their own marketing teams. I wanted my ninjas — all of the guys on my team — to be as productive as possible, using their expertise to get awesome results from our digital marketing campaigns, whether that’s in SEO, digital PR, social media, PPC, website design and so on, while still being affordable for small business owners. Originally I moved up to Nottingham and opened an office space. My small team got on well and we got the business off the ground, but I wondered if they could be more productive. Could we make dead time standing around at the watercooler and eating cereal more productive? One day, I decided to shut the office down and send everyone home and allowed my ninjas to work from anywhere in the world that they choose. I kept track and found productivity that amongst these ‘free range’ Ninjas to be 50% higher than the battery variety! I keep track of their work using an app called Hubstaff that shows productivity levels and a project management software called Teamwork.”
Some companies have opted for using remote working as an incentive for teams to produce results, personally I think this is asking for uproar. Adopting telecommuting should be a tangible business decision, not a carrot to be dangled in front of an employee; especially when studies have shown that working from home can make an employee MORE productive than the traditional environment. You either deploy it across the company, or you don’t – but do yourself a favour and make the decision otherwise you will witness the demise of productivity VERY quickly. This of course, is my personal opinion and I know that many disagree, as this quote from an article in Entrepreneur clearly states,
"Many companies decide whether someone works from home based on the job itself: Can it be done remotely?" observes clinical psychologist Aubrey Daniels of Aubrey Daniels International. "This is a fundamental management error. The decision should be based on whether the person has earned the privilege of working at home. If the person is a poor performer at work, they will most certainly be a poor performer at home." And, one might argue, they will most certainly be fired eventually.”
My issue with this statement is simple – a bad employee is a bad employee, regardless of where they are working from. Stop employing them. I am absolutely not saying that staff shouldn’t be incentivised, I’m saying that working from home shouldn’t be considered a privilege. Encourage them to learn more, to become thought leaders and to produce amazing work – provide them with the tools and reading materials and reward them for that instead.
The cost saving for both businesses and employees that remote working offers is a big pull – it is reported that employers save around £7620 per employee annually. In fact, could save them further costs as employees are so keen to work from a location of their choosing that 28% of U workers would take a lower salary. Telecommuting also opens up the talent pool, and a business suddenly finds themselves employing great staff from all around the world, no longer restricted by geographical constraints – welcome to unadulterated recruitment freedom.
Tim supports this by adding, “It has allowed me to hire some of the savviest online marketers around because now I wasn’t bound by location and an office building. It’s been awesome, our client retention is fantastic and our team has grown to 40 ninjas in just three years. I’d never go back to having a location-based company again.”
Another company that encourages its staff to work remote is Goodman Lantern, CEO Raj Anand says, “For us as a business it implies our team is more productive and flexible. Also, some of our team members are digital nomads i.e. they travel as a lifestyle choice and work at the same time. Hence our EU team can cover different timezones and we can server customers around the world. Enabling us to server customers in the US, Australia and Singapore.”
Yusuf Yeganeh, Director at Microbyte Solutions explains, “It makes sense for employers to be looking further afield for employees who can work away from the office, not to mention he benefits of providing out of hours services to clients from operatives based at home. Varying factors will be contributing to an increase in workers operating remotely. Technology for remote working is in a good place with VoIP solutions and Remote Desktop sessions operating seamlessly, regardless of where users are geographically. We not only have staff in the office around the clock but also overflow and on call staff operating from home. This helps keep the whole operation more efficient by only calling on resource when required.”
Ultimately, it is down to whether remote working is going to hinder the business in anyway; if you are uncomfortable that it will not be managed properly then holding back is a good idea. The only advice that I would allow the decision to remain with you, allowing employees to pick and choose is likely to cause fractures in team culture, trust and relationships, think back to –
“It’s all for one, and one for all!”