To paraphrase US President JFK, Ich bin ein ‘Remoter’! I am fortunate to work for a company, CloudAssist, which has fully embraced Remote Working so I would like to share some insights based on our journey with this new way of working.
Culture – We have all heard that Culture eats Strategy for breakfast and when it comes to Remote Working the right culture is the key starting point, without which the other ingredients will be a waste of effort and cost. For CloudAssist, this is core to our very being which began with our selection as a finalist in the EU Climate LaunchPad competition in Oct 2016 where we proposed a business travel avoidance solution to help enterprises reduce their carbon footprint by ‘nudging’ employee behaviour from travelling to meet in-person to online meetings based on the economics that for every tonne of CO2 saved from not travelling, the business will gain at least 3 days of productivity.
As Culture is ‘behaviour learnt through leadership’ then CloudAssist decided to lead by implementing a ‘no visit rule’ for all meetings including internal ones between our then 3 offices and external ones with customers, suppliers and partners. A bold move and not without its challenges but has absolutely established the culture for Remote Working on which our business strategy is now based. Now, we have only one official office is in Dublin and all other employees work from home offices in Limerick, Galway and Maidenhead in the UK and soon to be Austin, Texas.
The second ingredient is Connectivity. This is the cloud services and user devices that you need to invest in to get your Remoters connected and contributing effectively without the traditional office bound workplace. This is where we went nuts, from deploying the latest cloud solutions from Microsoft Office 365 including Microsoft Teams along with communication devices from wireless headsets to touchscreen collaboration boards such as the Surface Hub to virtual presence units from Double Robotics (This is an iPad on a Segway which can be driven remotely for more interactive collaboration in an office by a Remoter). The purpose of this geek party was to overcome the barriers of working remotely while creating a social connection between our Remoters to our HQ and to our customers. We even employed ideas such as sending Starbucks eVouchers to new clients so we can have virtual coffees together. Lots of great tech out there so choose what is right for your business. I would like to add that there is little point in having state-of-the-art cloud services and UC (Unified Communications) enabled devices without having decent broadband at every point of presence to connect your Remoters to the outside world and to your own office(s) and to other Remoters. The availability of broadband is often outside your control and this is where I would ask the Irish Government to see the strategic importance of broadband for rural towns, villages and homes so we can make Ireland a world leader for Remote Working with all the auxiliary benefits for our rural communities to attract professionals from our congested cities and even from overseas to live and work.
The final key ingredient is Change Management. Don’t underestimate the resistance to change even for techie company like ours. New rules, New tech and New ways of working all need to be incorporated in your Change Management program. If you don’t have one then worth looking at ADKAR from Prosci to understand how to get users to adopt technology based on Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement steps. There is no point developing the leadership and making the investment in the online technology if your users and customers continue to behave as before. Remember, to support Remoter working, everyone needs to change to make it effective and not just the Remoters.
So why go to all this trouble to change the way we do business? Simply put, we are more flexible, scalable and, most importantly, productive where we are no longer limited to attracting new talent to those who are in commuting distance from our office in Dublin. We are no longer limited to clients to which our sales people can drive to. We are no longer limited by the size of client that we can support, and we are more connected and collaborative than we were before starting our journey with Remote Working.
As a case in point, I am writing this blog in Delhi while I travel with my daughter to support the Highest Concert in the Himalayas in aid of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. www.concertsintheclouds.com This is a team of 15 volunteers from 4 different countries who CloudAssist is assisting with Microsoft teams to prepare a concert for a grand piano and harp at 17000ft without ever meeting in-person until we all arrive in Kashmir this week. The instrumentalists ( my daughter is the harper – Proud Dad here ), composers and singers have all created and rehearsed online with the scores centrally stored in the cloud while the logistics of getting the people and instruments from Europe to Northern India was all done without the traditional email storms and ineffective 1:1 phones calls. Most of the volunteers were self proclaimed technophobes however with the right encouragement ( which was to keep project costs to an absolute minimum so we donate more to the charity ) everyone is now a converted Remoter and I will be working away while we acclimatise at 12000ft over the next 5 days before the concert goes ahead.
So, my advice is to begin your journey with this new way of working, once you start then your business will never be the same again and you will have happy Remoters before you know it and you may become one yourself.