Having worked from home for nearly 4 years now I can say with certainty it’s a great way to work. I’ve personally had the good fortune of being able to work with Bondi Beach as the view from my ‘office’ (my office being various cafes around Bondi) and now Pittwater views having moved up to Sydney’s far Northern Beaches.
When talking to interview candidates, the benefits of remote working seem fairly apparent to most people. Removing the daily commute gives you hours back in your day to invest in whatever is important to you. Whether that be exercise, family time, a side business or just more work, for some it can literally be a life-changing opportunity. For me, I’ve been able to spend huge amounts of time with my 4-year old daughter that I would otherwise have missed.
Working from home also allows you to live where you want to live rather than being tied to suburbs that are commutable to the city. Two of our Australia team members have taken full advantage of this and moved with their families to the Sunshine Coast to escape the crazy Sydney property prices and live an amazing lifestyle on the beach in Queensland.
Being a remote business also tends to naturally eliminate a lot of the ‘meetings for meetings sake’ I’ve experienced in other businesses and frees you up to be more productive in your day.
While all of that seems apparent to most people, the question I most often get asked by candidates considering a remote future is “How does it actually work on day-to-day basis?”
To be honest, at the very start it’s a bit weird. Sitting at your desk not knowing what your team-mates are doing, and them not knowing what you’re doing is an odd feeling. Are we all doing what we’re supposed to be doing? Are we slacking off? Who knows?
That feeling is replaced very quickly however with a feeling of ownership and responsibility to your colleagues. You’re fully accountable for you own results and your contribution to the team and for most people that’s a very motivating feeling.
On a practical basis, I believe there are two fundamental elements to making remote working successful. Communication and building a team of people who are internally motivated.
There are many tools out there to help with communication and the main platform we use is Slack. While we all speak on the phone very frequently and still use email, it’s amazing what a difference instant messaging makes in terms of replicating the ad-hoc conversations and information sharing that naturally happen in an office. Although it seems a small thing, the chat and sharing that happens on Slack is at the core of what keeps everyone connected and across the latest updates on their projects. It’s also how we know what each other's pets got up to at the weekend.
There is of course a similar schedule and rhythm to our business the same as any other with regular catch-ups between individuals, teams or the whole business, the only difference they happen predominantly on the phone or video conference.
So communication is key, but before that comes having the right people. In building our team we focus more than anything on people that have a very positive outlook, are intrinsically motivated and will contribute positively to the culture of our remote team. One of the realities of being remote is that you have to work a bit harder and more deliberately to build relationships with colleagues. Where there’s no opportunity for small-talk at the water cooler and you need to pick up the phone and speak to the new recruit to ask about their weekend, it can become a barrier. Finding people that are naturally communicative, curious and understand the value of those relationships is very important to our success.
So remote working is awesome in my opinion, but it isn’t right for everyone. Some people thrive on the autonomy and responsibility it requires while others can’t imagine the idea of spending all that time on their own (I’ve had those moments).
Chris Beales, Managing Director, APAC Events, Corinium Global Intelligence