After always being interested in the benefits of remote working, we were all keen to trial it to see how it impacted us as a business, personally and as a team.
Here's my roundup of Club's first 'work from anywhere week'. Brace yourself, I've written far more than I thought so I'll split this into 2 sections; work and lifestyle...
After going through and refining our processes at the start of the year, I had total confidence in them but was really keen to see if the way we worked would change depending on our proximity to each other.
Beforehand I thought we used Basecamp really well but during the 'work from anywhere' week I noticed a definite improvement! Messages were more concise, comments were more useful and included actionable ideas, and 'check ins' were far more informative.
I think when you're all in the same room you sometimes presume that the people around you are aware of what you're doing, or the temptation to quickly ask or show someone something means you can be less descriptive the next time it's mentioned, but without those small (and sometimes distracting) interactions we were forced to write far more detailed, rounded, and genuinely useful messages that we could all spend time properly thinking about before replying.
One instant upside of this is was that clients could properly see the full history of how we ended up at a particular solution, which would usually happen offline.
This timeline of decisions should be recorded and made accessible to everyone in future.
End of day check ins (where we summarise what we've worked on) naturally had to be more detailed as we had gone without those little chats across desks during the day. I found I was more reflective and wrote far more openly about what had been done to keep everyone in the loop about my day.
We did any meetings via Google Meets, which has always worked well for us. We still used Slack but more sparingly as all the important messages were being properly recorded in Basecamp.
In general, it felt like our setup was solid and we all worked together really well - just like normal.
Just to give my thoughts here a bit of context; an average work day for me consists of a ~30 minute drive from home to a parking spot in Altrincham. The drive can take anything from 25 minutes on a really good day to up to 2 hours on a bad one. I purposefully park about a 10 minute walk away to get some fresh air.
Usually once I've got to the office and got set up I want to get the most out of the day (especially on the days when the traffic has been bad and I already feel behind) so I'll rarely leave the office at lunch and then head home anywhere between 6pm and 8pm.
During the 'work from anywhere' week I decided to hang up my car keys and work solidly from home to see how my days were affected.
Not needing to think about traffic quickly made me realise how much I must have subconsciously thought about traffic.
It was so odd. I must have always presumed the worst because I'd get stuck 9 times of out 10, so I was often starting the day on a negative. Instead, I used the time I would have spent commuting to do something more productive - I could start the day at a much better pace rather than rushing in thinking, "I'm late!".
Having said this, without needing to go anywhere, I didn't. For the first couple of days I got up and worked and that was about it.
I started to feel really unhealthy so as the week went on I made sure to go for a walk at lunchtime, which meant that I got the exercise I would usually get walking to and from the car. The fresh air and proper break helped.
A couple of the days I went to the gym at lunchtime too, which worked really well to refocus me in the afternoon having done something completely different.
The week definitely helped me to get out of the daft mindset of feeling the need to sit and work every minute of the day between set hours.
As long as the work got done and I was available for any scheduled meetings, I was able to work my hours at times where I knew I was more productive. I could afford to take a walk or go to the gym without that feeling of guilt, and the focussed production hours I worked felt better for it.
Also, and even though the journey to the office is sometimes a pain, I realise now that I the journey home is time to reflect. It's a clear divider between work and home, which I think is important and definitely something to try to replicate somehow regardless of where I work.
So, to try to wrap this up, I'd say that the week for me was overall really revealing. It proved that our processes and communication are key to us working as well as we do - and that our location doesn't impact that negatively at all.
It also proved that my (self imposed) 'normal' routine was quite limiting, and although I enjoy being in the office, it's not something that has to happen every day.
In short, the week has helped me recognise...
- the importance and strength of our processes.
- that good communication is key.
- that we should use our trusted tools to their capacity.
- that we've got a really great team and a strong work ethic.
- that I should recognise when I need a break.
- that I should always try to bookend my day no matter where I work.
- that you don't need to work every minute of a Dolly Parton day.
Who said it needs to be 9 - 5?
Set your working hours around when you know you're most productive and do something else when you know you're not. Your whole day will be much more satisfying for it.
For me, the value of the 'work from anywhere week' is definitely in the option that it affords. We could all come to the office if we wanted, we could all work remotely if it worked better for us that day. It didn't matter. The work still got done. The team still felt like a team.
We could structure our day, and choose where we spent it, based on how we know we work best. As a result, it felt more productive.
I think the reason I've written so much is because I learned a lot. And that's always a good thing.
Try it and let us know how it goes for you!