Why remote working should be a 24/7/365 concern

 Ed Hallam photo
Ed Hallam
5min read

Bringing the office home with you doesn’t carry as much stigma as it once did. So what are the benefits of remote working, and how can you take advantage of them?

In the wake of concerns over coronavirus, remote working has taken on a new significance. As the UK government asks the populace to self-isolate, companies must prepare for the likelihood that a significant portion of their staff will need to refrain from leaving home.

At 11:FS, we were well-prepared for that likelihood. On March 13, Group CEO David Brear moved the entire team to remote working. Given that many of us already have experience completing tasks from home, we figured the transition would be smooth.

But as they’re wont to do, our entire team really kicked things up to 11.

None of this would have been possible if we hadn’t had remote working processes in place...

It all started on our Monday, when David created a coffee hangout channel in Slack to encourage us to keep supporting one another throughout the pandemic. From there, everyone did their part to put our 11:FS values into action.

Zoe Anstey, our Business Manager, started leading remote yoga classes every day to help everyone stay fit, get the blood pumping and start each morning with some human contact. Our in-house audio engineer and selecta in chief Alex Woodhouse has started putting together daily “coffee break” vinyl-only mixes, giving Elevens a flavour of his extensive and eclectic musical taste.

Everywhere you look on our company Slack, people are taking it upon themselves to stay engaged. Whether they’re sharing tips for working from home, recipes, and even photos of their workspaces and self-isolation fits, each member of our team is doing their part to make an extraordinary circumstance feel a little more normal.

Just one of the workstations posted to our company Slack

Just one of the workstations posted to our company Slack

None of this would have been possible if we hadn’t had remote working processes in place before the crisis hit. That alone should be enough proof to justify the policy. But even in the best of times, our work from home policy has a substantial benefit on our entire team. Here are just a few ways that’s borne out.

It helps with recruitment

There should be little doubt at this point that remote working attracts top talent. In fact, a Zapier report found that 74 percent of respondents would be willing to leave their jobs for a role they can fulfill at home.

Increasingly, remote working policies aren’t just a ‘nice-to-have’ option. Instead, they’re a crucial part of hiring a diverse staff. About 80 percent of women prioritise flexible working, and it can be an essential criterion for candidates with disabilities or medical conditions.

Flexibility may be the key to retaining key staff members as they progress to new stages of their lives

These policies don’t just help with talent acquisition, either. Employees’ circumstances change, and flexibility may be the key to retaining key staff members as they progress to new stages of their lives.

At 11:FS, for example, we have team members who might have moved on if not for our remote working policies. By giving them that option to complete their tasks from home, we’ve created incentives for our staff to grow within the company, both personally and professionally.

It accommodates employees’ needs

Offices can be noisy, distracting places. Try as you might to complete your tasks, you may still get derailed by an unexpected fire drill or a neighbour’s conversation. Often, these conditions aren’t conducive to thoughtful decision-making or attentive conversation.

Remote working offers a more peaceful alternative. Rather than getting diverted by their surroundings, employees can focus and commit fully to tasks that need due care. Indeed, an Airtasker survey found that professionals who work from home reported less unproductive time than their office-based counterparts. In fact, that Zapier report I cited above found that 42 percent of knowledge professionals believe they’re more productive at home than in the office.

There’s no one-size-fits-all environment for optimal performance

Here at 11:FS, I’ve found that the ability to finish tasks remotely has been a tremendous advantage in conducting supplier research. After putting in my due diligence, making a decision in a familiar and comfortable environment can be extremely helpful.

That change of pace – and space – can provide the spark that most knowledge workers need to perform at their best. There’s no one-size-fits-all environment for optimal performance.

Personally, I like having music on when I’m trying to be productive. Being at home lets me spin vinyl without infringing on my colleagues’ aural space. I try to practice the Pomodoro technique, and having a side of vinyl to flip over every 25 minutes is great for organising my time. These are small things, but they each make me a bit more productive in my daily routine. And by working remotely, our company can accommodate each of our little quirks.

It helps teams learn valuable skills

One thing I’ve noticed during my time at 11:FS is that we interact well with clients from different countries. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we also have a robust remote working policy.

We’re exercising the same muscle, so to speak. By taking the occasional work-from-home day, we’ve learned the ins and outs of teleconferencing. Our teams know everything from the proper etiquette on a group call to the technical know-how that keeps a presentation humming along.

Basically, if a company operates internationally, it conducts some form of remote work. By letting employees perform their roles from home, businesses can help them develop the skills they’ll need to excel in a globalised world.

It fosters trust

While remote work has gained more acceptance than ever before, the stigma surrounding it persists. I’ve had previous jobs where managers would immediately assume their employees were scabbing off if they took care of things from home.

The best way to dispel these preconceived notions is to prove them wrong. At 11:FS, our managers have always trusted we’ll achieve the same impact whether we’re at home or in the office. That faith has inspired us in turn. We communicate better when we’re working remotely to ensure we live up to those expectations.

It just goes to show that if you treat your staff like adults, they’ll behave like adults.

So how do you implement remote working?

As with most policies, remote working is most effective when it’s implemented from the top down. Our executives, including our CEO David, Deputy CEO Jason Bates and our Group CTO Ewan Silver frequently work from home, setting a clear example for the rest of the organisation. Executives and managers need to establish clear policies and boundaries and ensure they’re followed.

But the responsibility doesn’t end there. Top-level staff should also model what effective work-from-home habits look like. That way, newer employees can understand what’s expected of them when they spend a day out of the office.

The remote working policy at 11:FS didn’t magically snap into place... But the benefits we’ve seen have been more than worth the effort

Remote working also involves a certain degree of technical accommodation. At 11:FS, some of our departments provide extra laptop chargers or mice so staff doesn’t need to worry about forgetting or losing theirs in transit. They even offered some of us headsets with noise-cancelling microphones to lead to more efficient communication. Software such as Zoom and Miro and processes such as morning stand-ups have also made the job much easier. Providing even the most basic equipment can set remote employees up for success.

The remote working policy at 11:FS didn’t magically snap into place. It took plenty of thought from our executive, People and HR teams to nail the right balance. But the benefits we’ve seen have been more than worth the effort. With the right resources and leadership, you can achieve similar results.