Work is a thing you do, not a place you go. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Actually it’s an easy phrase to say but can be tricky to really make it work. Tricky, but not impossible…
According to a report from The Work Foundation the UK is on the verge of a mobile working “tipping point” when working away from the office becomes more common that working solely from a desk. This report also identified remote working as being top of many employees’ wish list when choosing their next career move.
When I set up Perceptive Communicators 10 years ago, most employees were still chained to their desks. We were exploring and discussing locations for a city centre office when my thought process was completely disrupted by one of our first clients, Gordon Thomson of Cisco who looked as me as though I was mad and said: “You need to think differently. Work is a thing you do, not a place you go.”
From the start I wanted to break the mould with Perceptive and that got me thinking. Having seen the benefits of flexible working at Cisco, I thought there was an opportunity to rethink that the traditional communications agency approach. My hunch was by offering flexible working, we could attract better quality employees, which ultimately would lead to better service for clients and a better business.
From the very beginning, we’ve offered our employees both remote and flexible working, an arrangement which works exceptionally well both for staff and clients, and has supported substantial business growth. Many bosses are reluctant to embrace the idea, but I can tell you first-hand that it’s not just employees who win with a remote working arrangement, employers do too, with fewer overheads, a happier and healthier team and – contrary to the fears of many – increased productivity.
Big companies like IBM and Amazon are topping the charts for offering remote working as an option, and in fact a recent study by Dell showed that 35-50% of people now work away from their offices on a regular basis. New research by Lancaster University and software firm Citrix predicts that more than half of businesses will have adopted flexible working by 2017. So far from being a nice but crazy idea that would never really work in practice, it’s fast becoming very normal to work from remotely.
Perceptive currently has a team of nine, all of whom work remotely most of the time. We have learnt a lot along the way, including the importance of using a combination of technology such as WebEx and Skype to have brainstorms and catch-ups supplemented with regular face to face meetings.
Team spirit has never been an issue and the benefits are fantastic. We don’t have so much ‘dead time’ commuting to the office during rush hour – instead, we’re using the extra time to achieve results for our clients. Our employees save a small fortune on fuel or train tickets. They are ill less often. The parents on the team can drop their children off at school in the morning and attend that nativity play. Any long hours that need to be done to meet deadlines don’t seem so bad when done from the comfort of your home office, rather than facing the prospect of a long, late commute home in the dark. Another additional and important benefit is that our company’s carbon footprint is significantly smaller than most.
Clearly there are some jobs where remote and flexible working are more difficult or indeed impossible and it isn’t for everyone. However if someone like me who was used to a very traditional working environment of big corporates can make it work, maybe it’s worth giving some thought to how this could work for your organisation? If work is a thing you do, not a place you go, what could that mean for you?
Julie McLauchlan is managing director of Glasgow PR agency Perceptive Communicators and shortlisted in the Family Friendly and Flexible Working Director of the Year category at the Institute of Directors Awards 2016.