In the mid-1990s I managed a remote working project for the large magazine publishing company I was working for. The main office housed hundreds of people who turned up every day to sit at a PC and mainly write articles. The project involved making sure the technology would allow people to log in to systems remotely and trialing it with a number of people in the office. If successful it would free up valuable office space, ease the log jams at the lifts each morning and evening (the building had 30 floors) and facilitate flexible working. We found that the technology worked really well, the tricky bit was persuading managers to allow their team to work from home. They just didn’t think people would do the work if they weren’t sitting near them in the office, when in fact the results would speak for themselves. The forward-thinking progressive managers who trusted their teams found they were much more productive on the days they worked from home, as there was no commute and no interruptions.
Fast forward to 2019 and virtual working is now the norm in many businesses. These clearly see the benefits of having staff working remotely.
Here at blueumbrella we never forget how fortunate we are to have the skills and technology which enables us to work remotely and integrate seamlessly into our client's business.
Working remotely could be in our home office, in a client’s office or even the local coffee shop. It could also be somewhere more unusual. I recently asked the team for the most unusual places they have worked and the answers varied from sending invoices and hosting a conference call on top of a mountain in Yosemite and arranging meetings on the beach in the Maldives to planning an event in a tent. In the last few days, I even spoke to one of the team who was working at an open-air pool – perfect in a heatwave. At all times the client (or their clients) were completely unaware of our location.
There are some things that people struggle with if they aren’t working in the office with the rest of the team. A way of easing that feeling of isolation is having a ‘virtual coffee machine’ where people can chat, ask advice, share information or let off steam. We have a WhatsApp group that everyone belongs to that makes us feel like we are part of a team. Having video calls rather than just phone calls can also help remote workers to feel more involved e.g. Zoom or Google Hangouts.
Working remotely also calls for discipline. Setting a schedule for your day/week can help (factoring in breaks as it can be easy to just sit and work all day). If you are working on something that requires complete concentration then mark yourself ‘unavailable’.
But most of all enjoy the freedom that virtual working brings.