Remote workers from all over celebrated Global Work from Home Day on 10th April 2019, organised by Remote-how. Their communications campaign promoting remote working reached over million people, including Jake Maxwell, LiveTime’s Chief Commercial Officer. Jake used the day to reflect on his career to date, his current remote set-up and what he thinks about remote working…
My name’s Jake and I’m a remote worker
The bulk of my career to date has been office-based in London and Brighton, UK. My first experience of a “remote worker” was having one of my team based in France, at a time when I took over an existing sales team a few jobs ago. I initially found the set-up slightly unusual, but to all my new colleagues it was the norm, so I didn’t think about it much more.
From then and over the next couple of years, I learned a lot about the different approaches needed to offer the same level of attention and inclusivity to one remote member of my team vs those office-based…
Subsequently, I managed and led a team of remote workers based in different European locations; the learning continued.
Fast-forward a few years (I hope you’re keeping up) and I find myself in a similar situation, where I’m one of the remote workers – living and working from Catalonia, travelling to the UK and Europe when required.
It’s fair to say I have seen and experienced the good, bad and ugly sides of remote working and could discuss the pros and cons all day! What is more beneficial, to you the reader, are my three key thoughts on remote working that I think are the most important:
1. Remote working is not a benefit and should not be treated as such
Treating someone as more fortunate because they “get to work from home”, or “go to the beach at lunchtime”, is disrespectful to say the least.
There is a variety of reasons why someone would opt to work remotely – from wanting to remove their daily commute and opt for more flexible hours, to promoting better health and wellbeing or providing a better environment and opportunity for your loved ones.
The tongue in cheek email subject line “Are you still there, or is it beach time yet” can be hard to swallow especially if you already feel isolated (and yes, I’ve received such an email).
Remote working can make you feel pressured to show you’re present and online all the time. You should never make assumptions why someone’s situation dictates they need to be remote, be that from a basement in Barnsley or a beach in Barbados…
2. Communication is a two-way thing for remote workers
Picture this, it’s Monday morning, you arrive at work, there is a slower pace as everyone remembers what they are doing and prepares for a busy week. You make a coffee, chit chat about your weekend and what lies ahead, laugh a little and open your working window…
At 10am, the weekly company meeting starts and you’re sitting comfortably next to your friend. There is a buzz in the room and people are cracking jokes – this has certainly been a typical Monday morning for me in a few organisations and generally a good start to the week.
Just as the big screen comes to life and the branded ppt slides appear, someone remembers to dial in the remote member(s) of the team. They arrive and you go straight into the first slide, pressing ahead.
And yet, the remote workers have also just made a coffee, they have the same weekend stories to share and the same need to ease themselves into their working week – but no opportunity to do so.
The responsibility sits 50/50 between the organisation/leader and the remote worker to address this as an inclusivity issue. Yes, it is hard to juggle all members of staff at any one time, but there is a need for management and senior staff to ensure their people are treated fairly with equal opportunity for all. Communication works both ways and the basics need attention.
3. “You’re more productive when you work remotely”
People generally don’t like hearing this. Research aside (of which there is plenty), anyone who has worked or works remotely knows that by lunchtime you have achieved more than you would have done in an entire day in the office.
As humans though (well, people) we don’t have endless concentration and brain capacity. So “fitting in” an entire day’s work into a few hours free from distraction, doesn’t mean you can achieve twice as much.
Afternoon fatigue is a problem. Couple this with the need to show you are “still at your desk”, remote working is typically more tiring – you end up being present at your desk an awful lot more than in the office. This isn’t good for your general health. As a leader I have often needed to push those who are remote to take breaks, by giving “permission” and letting them know it’s OK.
A final thought…
I personally believe there is no organisation that does remote working well. There’s a lot of learning to be done.
Remote working generates real benefit for organisations, not just individuals – think heightened morale and retention, lower overheads etc. With the need and drive organisations have for more remote workers now and in the future, there is a huge opportunity to improve this experience for both parties and generally make the world a better place.
LiveTime Learning is hosting a webinar on 22nd May 13:00 – 14:00 (UK BST), sharing best-practice processes to help forward-thinking organisations support their staff and get #remoteready. Register to attend.