Since moving from central Manchester, our studio in Altrincham has been our base since 2015 and our working week has consisted of four days in the office with Friday being a work-from-home day.
Whilst this has worked well for us, we recognise that remote working is an increasingly popular option. With this in mind, we were keen to see how our current workflow would hold up when the team were working away from the office.
We also know that a successful trial week of remote working could help to open up the following benefits to the Club team going forward:
- Boost productivity amongst the team - offices can be distracting environments.
- Make the commute easier (or remove it all together) - flexible working hours allows you to make your commute outside of peak hours. Or if you’ve eliminated the commute all-together, you can use the time saved more productively.
- Remove the location barrier when hiring - we can cast our net far wider when recruiting new talent.
- Offer more flexibility - team members can choose where they work from and have flexibility over when the hours they need to work start and end.
We like to give people the freedom to work where they want, safe in the knowledge that they have the drive and expertise to perform excellently, whether they are at their desk or in their kitchen.
The essential tools
When working remotely it is essential that there is a solid structure in place to support collaboration whilst also allowing sufficient autonomy in which to make the most of remote working.
Slack, Basecamp and G-Suite (Drives, Docs, Sheets and Meets) form the basis of our communication at Club. We use these tools both internally and with clients and we’re confident that this current setup is robust enough to not require the whole team to be present in the office.
Slack is ubiquitous within the industry and is used for both informal chat and client-related discussion. It also has the added benefit of letting you know who is online and whether they’re available to speak to.
Basecamp acts a hub for all tasks and projects currently scheduled for completion. Each member of the team has their own list of assigned tasks and discussion can take place within these tasks both with other members of the team also invited clients.
If something design-related is a work-in-progress we’ll use Basecamp to drop in screenshots, gifs or external links in order to get feedback both internally and from clients.
A useful feature of Basecamp (which is ideal for remote teams) is ‘Check-ins’ - we’ve used this feature for a while here at Club, but working remotely it has become even more important in summarising and communicating to the rest of the team what you have worked on in that day.
G-Suite makes collaboration across the team much easier (you can read more about how we organise projects with G-Suite here).
G-Suite gives everyone on the team access to the files and resources they need, when they need then. Google Meet takes on an extra importance with remote working as it allows any member of the team to drop onto a call for longer form discussion. We also use Meet for our Monday morning huddle where we discuss the week ahead.
So what did the team think?
I’ve long been a fan of working remotely and in particular from coffee shops. I’ve found it gives me something of a productivity boost and based on this post it looks like there might be a good reason for that.
Fortunately, one thing Altrincham is not short of is fantastic, independent coffee shops - many of which have fitted accessible power outlets and fast wifi in anticipation of the influx of coffee-shop-workers like myself.
And so as part of our remote trial week, I divided my time between the office, coffee shops and home. I was keen to head into the office as normal on Monday morning, as I thought it would help condition my brain for work following the weekend. The rest of my time was divided between coffee shops and home - I find a morning in a coffee shop followed by the afternoon at home or in the office to be a good balance.
If you find yourself getting distracted when away from the office, a useful tool is Focus for Mac (but there are plenty of similar apps) - it blocks specific websites and apps according to your preferences and even includes a pomodoro timer if you’re keen on that way of working.
Our ‘Work from anywhere week’ was a fun experiment. We already knew we had tools in place so that we could work remotely and the comfort that our setup had already served us well every Friday. We just needed to put it to the test for a whole week and, if it went well, potentially longer periods in the future.
Come Monday morning, we all attended our usual Monday morning huddle (this time via Google Hangouts) and worked out what we all needed to focus on during the week. After that, we wished each other luck in the great unknown that lay before us and ended the call. At that point Hannah could have flown to France, or Ollie to Spain! It didn’t matter, we knew how to get in touch with each other if we needed something.
Interestingly, the way I handled “needing something” during the week changed. Instead of signalling to someone in the office (probably interrupting them mid-thought) and running a half-baked idea past them, I ended up sending messages to the team in Basecamp that were already more formed and considered just because of having to write it down. Much better!
I definitely felt more productive over the course of the week, but I think it’s important to mention that the goal wasn’t to replace ‘wasted’ time with more working time. No, we just wanted to see whether it had a positive impact on our day-to-day, both personally and as part of the team at Club. Based on the feedback so far, I’d say it did.
The biggest downside was that I had a tendency to snack more than I would have done in the office. If nobody is around to see me eat the biscuit, did it really happen?
Bring on ‘work from anywhere year’!
This week definitely confirmed a few things and revealed a lot for me.
Having just spent a few weeks refining our processes and reviewing the tools we use, I had no concerns about how well we could take what we would usually do offline, online. Communication was really smooth across the tools we use and being forced to properly type things out had some brilliant unexpected benefits - questions, thoughts and decisions were properly recorded in Basecamp and any replies could be properly considered instead of being so on-the-spot or preceded by an apology for interrupting someone.
The week has definitely served as a reminder that it's good to try new things.
I think it's only when you stop doing something that you start to ask yourself why you started doing it that way in first place. Why do I work between set hours? Why am I travelling in rush hour? Why do I feel guilty if I'm not at my desk by 8:30am? The week made me question every bit of my 'normal' routine and I would definitely encourage anyone else to do the same.
For the majority of the week I worked from home and used the time that I would usually spend commuting (in a traffic-induced "I'm late!" panic) to setup for the day. It was really refreshing. Being at home I definitely moved less, spoke less, and ate more - but I think with some tweaks, and splitting my week between home and the studio, there's a heathy and less unnecessarily stressful routine to trial.
For me, the biggest revelation of the 'work from anywhere week' is in the options that it presents you with. We could all come to the office if we wanted, we could all work remotely if it suited us better that day. Regardless of what we chose, the work still got done and our team still felt like a team.
The trial 'work from anywhere week' confirmed to us what we already suspected - that our way of communicating and current workflow makes it possible for the team to be distributed.
Going forward we have peace of mind that we can be away from the office and it won't compromise our output both as individuals or as team.
All in all, our experimental week of remote working was a worthwhile trial and a big success!