I’ve been a remote worker since I joined Chiumento in 2016 and I love it. Back then, pre-covid, I was certainly in the minority and was looked upon with envy and perhaps some suspicion by many of my peers.
Remote/home/flexible working made my life infinitely better. Instead of leaving the house at 6:40 am so I could start work at 8 am and finish by 4 pm. I was able to drop my children to nursery/school and have a very leisurely 30 mins after finishing work to go and pick them both up. No panic, no rush, no sinking feeling when I saw DELAYED plastered across the departure board at London Bridge station, no clock watching from 4 pm so I didn’t get carried away and forget to leave (I did this numerous times, cue frantic, apologetic calls to the nursery). I could be flexible with my hours and make all the school meetings, productions, and assemblies, etc and even better I had a job that I loved. I had won the flexible working jackpot!
The past year most of my office working friends, including my husband, have now experienced, and come to love the remote-working life. All have said they don’t want to return full-time and expect/hope/want some element of remote working to remain. From conversations I’ve had, it would seem that everyone is loving working from home and the office is now a thing of the past. However, I have a very limited view, everyone I’ve spoken to about it is in the same position as me. They’re generally a similar age and most are parents to primary school-age children. It got me thinking, is remote working as attractive to everyone, or does it differ?
Over the past two weeks, I’ve met up with friends, some of whom work in the HR profession. As seems to always be the case at the moment, the conversation turns to covid and the current situation. It is one of these passing conversations that got me thinking about the attractiveness of full-time remote working.
My friend mentioned that she was now joining me as a fully remote worker. Her organisation had taken the decision to simply shut their office and have no plans to reopen it or take on another. She went on to say that it is causing her issues as they have a large proportion of younger, less experienced workers, generally in their early to mid-20s that they are now struggling to retain. In fact, competitors are using the fact that they have an office as a benefit and poaching their staff. Another went on to mention the struggles she is having with training new graduates. The natural, learning by watching others, isn’t happening as they aren’t sat together. How to replicate that remotely is one of their biggest challenges.
I know what I want from a job as a mother of two in my 40s, is very different from what I wanted 20 years ago. Now I want a challenge, the autonomy to make the decisions plus the flexibility to integrate home and work life. Then I wanted an office, the buzz of working in London, being able socialise with friends and colleagues, and the ability to learn both formally and by osmosis, from those more experienced than me. While I’d have loved the opportunity to work from home occasionally, I wouldn’t have wanted to do it full-time.
It’s simple facts like these that highlight why the move to a more flexible working model needs to be a considered decision, and not something that can be taken lightly. When Chiumento made the move in 2017 it wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision. It was one that was seven years in the making. It happened after years of planning and we did it in stages, moving a proportion of our staff remotely, initially retaining a smaller office that could be used, tested we could attract the right people by recruiting team members as fully remote workers before making the move. We considered every impact both positive and negative before moving to a fully remote model.
We made the right decision and are strong advocates of remote working. However, that doesn’t mean it is the right decision for every organisation. As our CEO Ian Gooden describes it ‘Homeworking policy is a bit like personality. There’s no right or wrong – just situational appropriateness. What’s right for your organisation may be wrong for another. You just need to be sure you have considered all the key angles.’
The pandemic has brought the flexible working agenda forward and shown that business doesn’t stop when everyone works from home. But, business leaders need to consider their next move carefully. Look at each and every angle to assess the right move for them, be that a totally remote, hybrid, or traditional office model it needs to work for, and not against them.
‘Does remote working work for everyone?’ was written by Verity Morrish, Marketing Manager.