What I’ve learnt about embracing remote working and building the right culture for success
I won’t lie. I was oscillating between feeling anxious and excited. As the weeks went by, I knew I’d made the right decision, but it didn’t stop the roller coaster of emotions I felt. The big day arrived.
The morning routine started normally: I had a standoff with my 4-year old about putting on his shoes, and I took the children to school. Then, instead of commuting to work, I walked home, opened my shiny, new laptop and connected with my new job for the first time. From home. At my dining room table. The postman even delivered a personalised box full of new stationery, a selection of inspiring reading material and a hand-written note from my new employer.
It felt strange. I have spent most of my professional life in office buildings and at client sites. I have had to endure the commute; the traffic jams, the cancelled trains, and feeling that heightened sense of ‘cutting it fine’ between my personal and work life. It also felt good. I suddenly realised that I could continue with my career, which I have worked so hard to achieve, whilst having the flexibility to be around for my children. I could continue to hold my personal value, utilise my experience and expertise, and work in a way that was supportive of my family circumstances too.
Now two months into my role I feel more connected and engaged with my team and work than I have in recent years. I am more focused and productive, and feel more resilient and in control. Even though I don’t physically interact with my colleagues on a day-to-day basis, my new crew have strived hard to ensure the right culture is in place for successful remote working.
Fundamentally they have done two important things. Firstly, created a welcome, inclusive and open environment, and secondly, set me up to succeed at work from the get-go.
My induction was one of the most comprehensive experiences I have encountered, and mostly through the power of technology. I met most of my team over Google Hangouts, something I found very uncomfortable to use in the beginning. I’m slowly getting used to answering spontaneous calls in my gym gear, and now compare this way of collaborating as if I were visiting a colleague at their desk. I met my buddy first online and then eventually at our monthly “On Tour” day. It was good to meet my team in person and to sit and work with them for a day. This regular check-in each month, supported by technology interactions in between, has helped me build and maintain healthy, high-trust relationships quickly.
We have several WhatsApp groups – some work related and some just for “office banter” – and I choose when to engage with these. We have instant messenger tools. We have “Elevenses” each Monday morning where the whole team connects together; it’s a crazy one-hour and slightly over-whelming meeting, but I’ve come to enjoy the informality of this online hangout and the banter that is interspersed with business. I have been up skilled in collaboration tools I didn’t know existed and given the right level of support to enable me to add value to the team and clients quickly. I’m clear on what is expected of me and I’m given the freedom to deliver outcomes in my own way. I connect with my founders sub-team regularly to make sure everything is working well for me, and to ask for help if I need it.
All these elements have created an inclusive and welcoming environment for me to not only to be myself, but also to be the best version of myself. My confidence in my ability has improved and I feel energised and empowered to do great work.
I’m excited to “go to work” each day and feel I have found a way to embrace all aspects of my life with equal passion, motivation and dedication.
I have been given the tools, the support and love of a community of like-minded people to succeed at work and life.
Sometimes I have to pinch myself to believe I have a job where remote working is embraced whole-heartedly, flexibility is a given, and colleagues and I seem more happy, motivated and productive. But we’re not alone. The trend of remote working seems set to continue; the Office of National Statistics (ONS) suggests that 50% of the UK workforce will work remotely by 2020 in some capacity. We all understand the benefits associated with remote working for employees and an organisation, for example, greater efficiency, reduced stress, fewer overhead costs, and a better work life balance. It’s here to stay.
We have to acknowledge it isn’t for everyone though: some companies aren’t able to offer such type of working due to their business circumstances; and others, like IBM in recent years, are now encouraging employees to consider returning to an office regularly to support better collaboration and team-working, reduce the feeling of isolation and set clearer boundaries between work and personal life. It has to be done in the right way and for the right result.
For me having recently transitioned fully into remote working, it’s about how an organisation creates the right environment for their employees to flourish and be successful quickly. I have been lucky enough to experience this first hand in recent weeks, and when it works, it’s magic!
So, I leave you with a few questions, especially if you are either considering remote working for your business, or if you already have this in place but it’s not working as well as it could:
How do you create a welcome, inclusive and open environment, which is indicative to your culture and purpose as a business?
How do you set up new starters to succeed at work from the get-go?
What practical things need to be in place?
What support networks and relationships need to be created and maintained?
How can you engage your employees on a regular basis to maintain inclusivity and to avoid loneliness?
What things can you do to build an “office culture” with “office banter”?
What help can you give to set clearer expectations and boundaries, to reduce a blurred work/personal life?
How will you know when you’ve succeeded?