Can remote working enhance your agency?
YouGov UK recently stated that 30% of UK office workers are more productive when working remotely.
They positioned this as a positive statistic to suggest we shouldn’t fear those workers that we can’t keep a beady eye on. But the same survey disclosed that 54% of employees have the opportunity to work remotely. So if only 30% of these are more productive, where does this leave the other 24%? And if you use a lot of freelancers then you potentially have even more remote workers, so this soon becomes a worry.
To me, this suggests that companies want to offer remote working but in practice aren’t quite getting it right. Which is a shame because there are a number of prolific benefits to letting your core team, not just your freelancers, work outside the office occasionally, including:
- Flexibility - helping make it work for your employees will ultimately help you retain your best people.
- It’s cheaper to have employees out the office – especially those who drink all the coffee
- People won’t drag themselves in and share their germs when ill but they may still hit that deadline.
- You’re not geographically limited when recruiting.
- If someone wants to work remotely, and you can make it work, wonderful.
In some respects the agency world should have a head start on managing remote workers, as using remote freelancers is something agencies have done since the dawn of time. In this blog, we offer advice on making remote working, work. Helping you harness what is no doubt already in place or should come naturally to your team, so you can really reap the benefits.
Unsurprisingly, communication tops our list of things to get straight before you let your workforce loose in their living rooms. And not just communication in relation to checking they’re actually logged on, but how you communicate with remote workers.
It’s crucial that the in-office team doesn’t forget they’re there. Of course, this is made infinitely easier with communication tools like Slack. People are no longer left off emails or out the project loop because they’re not at their desk. Snappy updates are available for anyone in the channel.
Similarly, remote workers need to communicate back, which means sharing their movements with the team so people know they’re not in the office.
A side benefit to having your team occasionally or more permanently work remotely is that you can learn a lot about how your agency communicates outside your four walls. Things as simple as team members not responding when they’ve received something or perhaps your office joker is hilarious when you’re sat next to him, but it doesn’t really translate on the end of an email. Understanding how it feels to communicate with your agency from outside the office, can really improve relationships with clients and freelancers, and having a remote working team can really help you see this.
Technology has been a game-changer when it comes to changing attitudes towards remote working and creating a culture whereby more agencies allow it.
Thanks to WhatsApp Skype and Google Hangouts (to name a few) it's no longer expensive to make international calls. They make video-calling so simple it’s ingrained in agency culture, which means if your remote working from Alton Towers you’ll soon get caught – unless you allow that of course. And better wifi ties all this together.
But these technologies make it possible, what’s really made it productive is browser-based technologies that enable collaborative working. Not only can teams work on the same document at one time but it’s no longer necessary to report back, the team can see what’s been/being done in real time.
Also, using one complete project management software system, such as Synergist, means that the whole team can see what everyone is working on. A shared schedule that’s linked to timesheets makes it easy to see who’s working on what and how far along they are. If someone is working remotely, and they’re not progressing with their tasks, you’ll soon see. With Synergist you can also add attachments to calendar bookings, so you’ll feel confident that each team member has the resources they need for the job, no matter where they are.
You’ll never get this visibility and will struggle to embrace remote working if you’re still working off spreadsheets - even worse if said spreadsheets are stored on a central drive that isn’t accessible outside the office.
In some ways, company culture is linked to communication. If you want to harness the benefits of home-working you need to have an inclusive and embracing culture. Again, as with communication, developing this culture will allow you to have more successful relationships with everyone not just your remote workers.
Unfortunately, some agencies think culture can be achieved with a ping pong table and a ‘bring your dog to work’ policy, but having a remote workforce encourages you to think a little deeper about your company culture and how you want your employees to be treated and behave.
Some simple examples of this are, if you have a Monday morning meeting, make sure your remote workers are involved too via video. If the meeting is canceled or running late, think about your remote workers and let them know. If your agency likes to go out for ad hoc drinks, mix it up a little so you don’t always do it on a Wednesday when Bob’s not in.
And again culture is a two-way street. You can create a culture inside your office and push it out but your remote workers have a responsibility to embrace it. It’s important that remote worker are told what’s expected of them in same way as those that are in the office. Make it clear how people at your agency behave and what is and isn’t acceptable.
If you want a shining example of how to make a remote working culture really enhance your agency, look no further than Modern Tribe
Our partners, The Agency Works are currently running a survey about wellbeing within agency workplaces. If you have 2 minutes they’d love your thoughts. Here's the short survey.
And if you’d like to know more about Synergist, then there are a few ways you can get in touch. You can drop us a note, book yourself a 15-minute one-to-one demo or you can give our implementation partners the agency works a call on 01455 553246. We’d love to see if we can help.