Table with a card titled "welcome to the team" in front of numerous snacks

At Red Tangerine, we all live in different parts of the country, so even before the Coronavirus pandemic, we were already holding our meetings online using tools such as Zoom to communicate, and we use things like Trello and Mural to coordinate on what we are doing. We often used shared office spaces as well. A lot of our public training classes were run in these kinds of work spaces, and our delegates always seemed to love it! The venues have such a cool and positive vibe to them, with lots of great spaces for meetings, places to work, or areas to just hangout. We love these places and hope to be able to return to them soon.

As well as my work with Red Tangerine, I still freelance independently. I’ve been working for around 10 years improving experiences with products and services, and although I’d had the odd day here or there working from home, I had always been office based. That was until my latest job at a digital agency started back in October 2019. It is the first time that my role has been fully remote.

Before I took the role, a lot of people did not hold back on sharing their thoughts;

“You will hate it”
“You won’t have anyone to talk to”
“You will get lonely”
“The novelty will wear off”
“You will get bored”
“You will feel left out”

And I had my worries too. What if I can’t get that needed connection with my teammates? How do you collaborate being remote full-time? What if I can’t focus at home? Will I go stir crazy being in my house all day? And so on. But so far, I’m pleased to say I have experienced none of these feelings.

The welcome I had at this company was the best I’ve ever had, and maybe it’s because everyone is remote that it’s necessary to make the effort to reach out and make everyone feel part of the team. Before I even officially started, the team invited me to get to know them on their casual end of week calls. We spoke about food, weekend plans, food, how the week went, oh and food! It felt like I had got to know them better in those few minutes than it had in several months with previous colleagues at other companies. On the day that I officially started, I received a welcome card from the team along with some personalised snacks!

And, as far as working goes, before the current restrictions, I didn’t have to limit myself to my house. I could go and work at a work café if I wanted to have a buzz around me. I could still meet my colleagues in person at coworking spaces. We would also regularly go and meet clients and the users of our product or service.

So instead of the negative sentiments above, I actually feel like I get a number of benefits with working remotely:

No commute!
I haven’t had to be rushing out of the house while doing my hair to try and miss the rush hour traffic. I feel great; I get up, take the dogs out, have a decent breakfast, get my daughter fed and ready for the day ahead, all before I log on at 8am. It’s amazing how much energy I have without the stress and time of a commute.

Making more of an effort to build connections and show appreciation
I think when working remotely, you do make more of an effort to build a connection with your colleagues and show appreciation for the people you work with. Don’t get me wrong, I felt appreciated in my last role, and I’d always try to give positive feedback where it was due, but a shared sense of appreciation feels to be there even more with this team.

Proper breaks
We all know that it’s important to take regular breaks, get up and away from the computer, walk around, stretch your legs, give your brain a rest and so on. However, I don’t drink coffee or tea, I don’t smoke or have any other similar habits to take me away from my desk which means, when I was in an office, sometimes I overlooked taking a proper break. At home, I can get away for a few minutes by hanging up the washing, packing away toys or playing with my dogs.

You can be around the things that inspire you
I’ve worked mainly in the financial sector which often means strict – and even crazy – rules about your surroundings; nothing to be left on your desk at the end of the day, you cannot stick anything up or personalise your workspace in any way. I’m much more inspired in a work space that I have created. I have all my books, photos, images, personalised desk layout and basically anything I want. This has had a huge impact on my productivity. And before the lockdown, if I needed a change of scenery to get inspired, I could go somewhere else to work (as long as it had good WiFi!).

More time for my family
I get to spend an extra 1.5-2 hours a day with my family compared to my last office based role. My partner is a stay at home dad and my daughter is 2.5 years old. I can now help out more at home and give my partner time to study towards developing his own career. And I get to spend quality time with my little girl without having to rush.

A lot of organisations insist that their teams come into an office and that people work nine to five. Many Agile people will insist that teams are co-located together in the same physical space for the sake of collaboration and face-to-face communication. This is important for the complex work that we carry out in product development. But we are also in a complex world, and as current events are showing us, we never know what is around the corner.

People want flexibility in their lives. Younger people want a better work-life balance than previous generations. With trusting environments, I believe this works both ways, motivated people will be more productive, go the extra mile and give back just as much, if not more, than the times they need to take some time to deal with things in their personal lives. Besides, the number of hours worked is an increasingly meaningless metric; it is the outcomes that matter.

And to get those outcomes, the best talent is needed. Money is only going to incentivise so much. I truly believe that the most successful teams and organisations are going to be made up of individuals that are given flexibility and trust that comes with remote working. At the same time, I see more and more shared work spaces and work cafés being created. More companies are “virtual”, renting office space only by the hours they need.

We are currently in a state of crisis because of Covid-19, but it is temporary and we will get through it. But when the crisis is over, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if how we work is changed forever, with more of us working in the way that I have been for the last few months.

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