Lessons from a company that’s been doing this for 28 years…
A recent survey published on BBC News found that most office workers will never return full-time to the office. This was quickly demonstrated by a decision from PWC when they announced their plans for full-time remote working. While for some this might be a blow, in many cases this is a welcome shift in the working world.
So, let’s summarise the pros and cons and look at the lessons learned over a quarter of a century of experience!
Many of the team here at Europa have worked remotely for most of the working week since we started in 1994. We have members spread around the globe who have contributed effectively to our team dynamic since the dawn of the web, and now more recently via video conferencing platforms. With the increase in tech collaboration, we can’t see any reason to be in the office 5 days a week. We just know that we are more productive when most of our working week is based from home.
There are so many that most of us are now wondering why as a society we didn’t do it sooner?
Financial savings – Perhaps the most rewarding result of remote working is the financial savings for everyone! The FD loses corporate costs – team members living further away (or nearer) save on fuel, permits … you name it!
Eco-benefits – the reduction in travel: the reduced need for a large office space: the reduced corporate carbon footprint. We closed ours as an expensive irrelevance!
Time-saving – Staff can gain hours of precious time to spend on the important things in life! Why sit in a train/bus/queue for hours a day?
Staff retention – Excellent staff leave companies due to relocation. But when remote working is on offer – no need to rehire!
Prioritised childcare – Businesses now have a wider pool of candidates with parents/guardians of children who need to fit in the school run! Many ideal candidates miss out due to high childcare costs etc. This is something we’re passionate about at Europa with some staff members having young families to workaround.
Just being at home! – The pre-pandemic societal paradigm had us bound to a five-day week – just to fund a two-day weekend with the odd holiday. But working from home allows the team to enjoy those hard-earned surroundings for longer. What a morale booster!
Given that, there must be downsides…
Potential for isolation – The pandemic made many feel isolated. Humans are designed to engage socially and an easy way to achieve this is in the workplace. Some only thrive when surrounded by others.
Doesn’t suit everyone – Some don’t thrive in a remote environment. Recognising that people have different needs within a work environment isn’t something to take lightly. We don’t all live in an inspiring home environment and we know some struggle with setting up a dedicated workspace within their home.
Increased home costs – Shifting the responsibility for facilities to the team could see a potential rise in costs that weren’t their responsibility. The government offered a ‘working from home grant’ through 2020 to help those who found this. Perhaps there is a happy medium to be found where companies supplement household bills for use during work hours?
Home time management – The maturity and experience of your workforce matters – are they able to manage their workflow and motivation from home? Are there issues about supporting them in that journey?
Lack of in-person training – On-boarding can be difficult without the readily available wisdom of experienced staff. While Teams offers a good alternative, it’s not quite the same.
Disused office space – What happens to the purpose-built offices with so many fewer companies requiring them? Our old offices were turned into apartments – that’s one solution!
Lessons from Europa
We’ve spent many years developing our own methodology which each new team member is fully trained in to understand the requirements of everyone in the company. This criterion inspires accountability in our work and holds us all to a high standard. Our confidence in the process is so high that after constant refining, last year we closed our company office.
Everyone unanimously agreed that they were happy to be working from home and embraced the positives that this change would bring. We have team members working across the UK, as well as in Europe and Canada! This allows us to have a more diverse workforce as well as a larger range of languages on offer for our clients.
But how do we manage team morale and encourage a sense of community? We have regular meetings throughout the week which are as much about catching up and hearing about how weekends went, as they are about what projects everyone is working on. We promote a ‘trust’ environment where we don’t analyse productivity reports or time spent ‘online’, instead we focus on the quality of work done and the overall growth and success of the company.
No micromanaging here! Our employees know that their personal wellbeing is equally as important to us as their work life.
Our advice for companies considering making the leap to remote working?
Trust in your team and know that you won’t necessarily have all the steps in place to make it work seamlessly when you first make the switch.
Build a management methodology you and they and your clients/customers can rely on.
Give a certain degree of flexibility, which is key, as is building a sense of community – albeit via a screen.
Don’t micromanage – ultimately give the freedom of remote working which will allow a company to become scalable quicker and cheaper to suit demand.