The positives and negatives of remote working

 |  By: Kate Jones

Remote working

If you're currently deciding whether or not permanent remote working could be right for your agency, here are some factors to consider.

People who like it noisy are generally extroverts. They are outgoing and enjoy external stimulation. They talk more, like to make quick decisions, and are oriented to action. To recharge their batteries, they like to meet people.

In contrast, people who like working in the quiet are generally introverts. They tend to be more observant, more reflective and self-aware, want conversations to be with only one person at a time, and recharge their batteries by quietly thinking.

Workplace noise is therefore more problematic for the introverts in the team. They don't enjoy open plan offices, which are pretty much ubiquitous in the workplace today. Open plan has always been frustrating and distracting for them. As a result, when lockdown came and everybody had to work from home, it was a golden time for many during which they could focus and immerse without interruption. Not so for extroverts, who craved the company of others.

But these are generalities. Not everybody has quiet workspaces at home, for example. And not everybody is at the extremes of the spectrum -- most people are more moderate, having a general leaning one way or the other. Note that there are slightly more introverts than extroverts in the world.

Work vs productive work

There can be few industries that rely on focused, productive work more than agencies. Just think of the mix: Tight deadlines. Demanding clients. Creative work. Inspiration. Analysis. Insights. Planning. Budgets. Project complexity. Multiple client juggling. Shortage of resources. It's a challenging life that agencies have chosen. But then, if it was easy your clients would be doing the work themselves.

In the first year of the pandemic, one in four remote workers revealed that the opportunity for deep focus time grew massively when they were based in their home. They found that they often had six uninterrupted hours per day when working from home. In contrast, a mere nine percent of office workers could say that.

Did that mean that home workers worked fewer hours? No. They said they ended up working more hours, but felt less stressed doing so. Another report said 65% of people working from home said they were more productive.

Why did home workers work more hours? Perhaps they wanted to prove beyond doubt that they were putting in the effort. Or perhaps they enjoyed the element of trust and autonomy that goes with the arrangement.

Hunting down new talent

There always seems to be a shortage of good talent in the agency world. Creating a work-from-home culture blows away the geographical barriers at a stroke, widening the potential pool to absolutely anywhere. That's a game changer for agencies who are based in locations where talent is fiercely fought over (i.e. in major cities) or scarce (in rural locations).

It's also great from the candidates' viewpoint. Talented and highly motivated workers keen to return to work after family commitments can suddenly get a good job yet still be at home. That's practically a dream come true for many.

Is hybrid working the obvious answer?

The media assumes that hybrid is the solution. People would work some days at the office and some at home. But is it as simple as that?

There's a growing argument that it's not quite right, because everybody assume 'hybrid' really means 'office comes first, but we're prepared to let people work from home for a few days per week to keep them happy.' But how much sense is that approach if home productivity is proven to be far superior to office-working anyway? Add rapidly rising costs of commuting, not to mention the environmental aspects of using unnecessary fuel, and the argument founders. Instead, a neutral case-by-case approach makes most sense. Not 'hybrid working' then, but 'smart working'.

Office working

But what are the negatives of working from home?

1. Bonding

It's hard for someone new to quickly absorb the agency's culture remotely. But a lot can be done to mitigate this. Here's a quick checklist of online actions we've come across that agencies can create:

  • Special-interest groups
  • Quizzes with prizes
  • Unusual challenges with awards / prizes
  • Sharing of music playlists and book clubs
  • Mentoring and buddying
  • Caption competitions, photo competitions, or one-page short story (flash fiction) competitions

2. Huge numbers of applicants

Large numbers of CVs can feel overwhelming to evaluate and process. The easy way is make shortlists based on key words and direct experience matching. But although digging deeper takes longer, remember that applicants with the slickest search-friendly CVs will also get the most job offers from your competitors. The long-term stayers are more likely to be the ones with the right motivation, outlook, drive, attitude, sense of humour and resilience. Those are hard to discern from CVs.

But the payoff for finding the right people is so great that recruitment is the one thing you can't easily shortcut.

3. Potential lack of visibility and control

No matter how hard you work, you can't pull everything together if you have a weak system. Unconnected tools, spreadsheets and obsolete programs leave you particularly exposed when your team is scattered. You'll get bad surprises all the time.

You need something to depend on to let you know that everybody's working on the right projects every day and knows exactly what their priorities and deadlines are. There's no time for people to waste precious time scrambling to find up-to-date information and specs. And if something starts to slip, the team needs to know right away while there's time to fix it. Plus when decisions have to be made about a project's resourcing and cost levels you want the person at the front line to know all the facts to let them steer the job to a profitable conclusion.

Synergist is the complete agency management system, bringing together people, projects and financials in one singular view. If you want to find out more about all the features that enable smooth home working, then why not check out our remote working page, where you can learn how Synergist agency management system can support your homeworking, and all the benefits it brings.