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Is remote working the model for you?

Wednesday 7 February 2018

Remote working can improve productivity by up to 30%; but how can you make it work for your business?

Businesses of all sizes are looking for alternatives to expensive offices and employers are reducing employment costs with more contractors and flexible working options. Intuit predicts that 40% of workers will be self-employed by 2020 and a study by PwC found that the gig economy will be worth $63 billion globally by 2020, with freelancers accounting for $10 billion of that.


The rise in co-working spaces has made it easier for founders to be less office bound (our members have certainly valued lounge membership from The Office Group). Some members have even used co-working spaces to test remote working with some of their team to see how productive they are.


Tamara Littleton, founder of The Social Element and member of The Supper Club, built her business with a remote worker model and it now has clients in 40 countries with sales over £10m. Tamara says, “I built the business around a remote worker model out of necessity, but I also wanted to do things differently. I had been using online collaboration tools with my team at the BBC and knew the tools were available to build a business this way. 

The Social Element now thrives because of how we use these tools like Trello and Google Hangouts. They support both collaboration and culture. It’s also helped me to build a more internationally diverse workforce who are empowered to work when and how they want to.

- Tamara Littleton, The Social Element


Technology has made remote working more viable for all businesses and driven a growing contractor community. Research commissioned by Vonage found that there are now 2.7 million home based-based businesses in the UK; but it also found that 18% want to move into a professional space.

In total, home businesses looking to move could unlock up to £3.3 billion in profits and employ up to 670,000 additional people,” said Simon Burckhardt, Managing Director of Vonage UK. “Cloud based solutions like Vonage enable cheaper communication and collaboration, but meaningful human connection is vital. Providers of shared workspaces are doing more to facilitate creative collisions between founders, and entrepreneur networks like The Supper Club help founders to connect and learn from each other.

While people tend to be more productive at home, they can feel isolated and need careful direction to ensure the effort is optimised. Having people in different locations also makes it harder to maintain a cohesive culture.

Divyang Mistry, Founder & CEO of Leesman and member of The Supper Club says it’s older generations who want flexible and remote working to balance careers with child or parental care while millennials want more social and stimulating office spaces. “For the younger generation, they want to learn, interact with others, be mentored, and form relationships,” he says. “All those things are very hard when you’re a remote worker.”

Uncertainty over the economic impact of Brexit has made millennials more desirable of stability and security, so founder-led businesses need to engage them with a vision for growth, a clear career path, and workspace that supports the way they want to work – whether that’s in an office, a co-working space, or at home.

In its Open Economy report, Samsung predicts that the ways in which people communicate with each other will change dramatically, integrating everything from conventional mobile devices to new, immersive technologies that recreate physical environments.

We are developing scenarios where your smartphone enables you to work from any screen that’s in front of you, whether it be a monitor, a TV, or a VR headset,” says Nick Dawson, Global Director Knox Strategy at Samsung. “Those scenarios even include items less associated with the word device, such as kitchen and home appliances, but with built-in security, identity authentication, and access to data and services as needed.

While technology is a great enabler of flexibility, it’s important to keep people connected with each other to maintain a balance between autonomy and feeling part of a team. Here are five tips related to remote working from members in our Talent Tactics guide:

  • Remote test: To identify those better suited to remote working, use psychometric tests and interviewing to see if they are likely to work well alone and use co-working spaces to trial them
  • Face time: Maintain regular face to face interaction, whether it’s video conferencing on Skype for regular one to ones or a monthly social to address any conflicts or confusion and re-bond the team
  • Stay social: Members have used Yammer, Facebook, and Google Hangouts to encourage banter and social sharing to prevent isolation
  • Team spirit: Some members have introduced league tables, a monthly/ quarterly magazine, and even company t-shirts to create a sense of community
  • Channel improvement: Create a dedicated Slack channel for ideas that can increase productivity or improve delivery, with recognition and a personalised prize for any that are implemented

The remote working model may not work for everyone but there are aspects of it that can help to increase productivity, expand your talent pool, and reduce employment costs.