Posted by Martin Nixon
19 March, 2014

We started our business literally from a kitchen table. It’s grown slowly but steadily over the last 20 years and we now employ 12 FTEs.

We’ve been successful. Largely because we’ve always employed the very best people we can find, and so far we’ve been very lucky. But because Cornwall isn’t the ideal place to live and work for everybody, we struggle to recruit talented new members of our team - not least in tech roles.

So we started to ask ourselves how we could attract great people to relocate. But then we thought: why not let them work remotely? We looked at some successful businesses, not just in the UK but also across the globe, to discover how they solved similar challenges. All those we looked at have grown rapidly by letting their workers work remotely. In other words, they ‘let them go’.

Nowadays it doesn’t matter where your business is located. We’re all connected, thanks to technology. So why do most of us run our businesses in the same way we might have done if we lived 100 years ago?

71% of workers are not engaged in their jobs
Gallup 2011

‘It’s a disaster!’
Scott Berkun

Gina Trapani, Lifehacker

Scott Berkun has written a letter from the future about a new kind of workplace that wasn’t possible before the internet

So what are employers frightened of? Letting go? Here’s some thoughts on why we should take the plunge and explore the world of remote working, but first lets list the main concerns employers often have.

5 reasons not to let go:

  1. Productivity
  2. Distractions
  3. Collaboration
  4. Security
  5. Communication

Productivity

Research indicates that people who work from home are more likely to increase their output; often quite significantly. If you trust your workforce they feel empowered, and this will result in better performance.

Alvin Toffler

The single most antiproductive thing we can do is ship millions of workers back and forth across the landscape every morning and evening.

Distractions

How distracting is your office? Dedicated workers require a dedicated workspace. If you arrange this and provide your employees with stimulating and engaging work, nothing will distract them for long.

‘We saw a 30% higher productivity rate in those working from home compared with those at head office.’
Vittoria Di Martino, International Labour Review (1990)

Collaboration

There are numerous effective ways of enabling your team to collaborate effectively online. But also insist they meet up regularly to build and reinforce great working relationships.

Security

Ensure that security protocols are in place and that they are followed to the letter. This is common sense and good practice even if you are all working in the same office.

Communication

Often, people in offices struggle with communicating with each other. Use technology in a layered fashion to ensure that you ‘over-communicate’ with your team. As ever, never assume anything.

So if you're considering remote working, here are a few golden rules and some wise words from various experienced - and highly successful - advocates of this new way of getting the most out of a working day.

1. Trust your team
‘When you allow employees to work from home you are telling them that you trust them to get the job done. This is a huge statement of confidence in your staff and one that the vast majority of people will respond to.’
Paul Boag

2. Get connected
‘The key to success lies in making sure that remote workers feel included and supported. Good communication technologies are likely to be a vital part of this goal.’
Marieke Guy, University of Bath

3. Home comforts
‘All employees get $2,000 when newly hired to improve their home offices. They can get a desk, chair, whatever they want..’
Matt Mullenweg, CEO at Automattic

4. Talk more
‘Mozilla’s biggest tip for working virtually is to over communicate. Say it once, then email, then IM, then phone, then whatever it takes to be understood’
Greg Hoy, CEO at Happy Cog

5. Take it slowly
‘Start early if you can, but if you can’t start small. Take a tiny step with a few trusted employees. Let them work outside the office for a couple of days a week. See what happens.’
REMOTE- Office not required.
Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

Steve Jobs

Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.

It appears that the time is now right to start to explore new ways of working. The technology is here to allow all of us to reap the benefits of a more balanced relationship between our work and home life. We can also work with talented people regardless of where they live.

In 30 years time, as technology moves forward even further, people are going to look back and wonder why offices ever existed.
Sir Richard Branson

If you’d like to learn more about remote working and how it could transform your working life, there’s a new book released recently by those clever folks at 37 Signals which is a great read. To find out how to get hold of a copy click here.

‘The most talented people in the world don’t all live in the same place’
Jason Fried, 37 Signals

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