The past year has seen so many of us catapulted into some form of remote working. We’ve quickly had to learn to become more flexible, more adaptable, and more efficient, all while maintaining productivity and staying connected without face-to-face contact.
We sat down with successful small business owners to talk all things remote working, including the ups, the downs and the challenges we’ve all faced over the past year.
Take a look at the conversation below, featuring Rudy Bandiera, co-founder of NetPropaganda, Hendrik Gottschalk, CEO of GetBaff, Carl Reader, author and small business champion, Barbara Labate, CEO of ReStore and Juan Merodio, CEO of the TEKDI Institute.
What’s your top tip for staying productive while remote working?
Carl Reader: I'm a big believer that, where possible, you should set your work environment up for success. If you have the ability to (and I appreciate that not everyone has), create a devoted corner of a room or use a spare room as an office. Even if you can just devote a particular chair to work in, or a particular laptop, I think it’s really important to do so. That then has a natural knock-on effect to productivity.
Juan Merodio: For me, it’s all about tasks, roles, milestones and objectives. I’m not concerned if employees are online at a certain time, as long as they do what they have to do to meet their goals satisfactorily.
Obviously, there are certain times that are marked for meetings with a certain schedule and we all respect that, but for the most part we allow everyone to manage their time in a way that is most productive and comfortable for them. In the end, I think it's all about trust. If you surround yourself with good people you trust, you don't have to worry about controlling whether they do their job.
After more than a year of ‘remote working’, how do you make sure your team stays connected?
Hendrick Gottschalk: Our working week starts on Mondays with a 30-minute team call where we outline the most important points and tasks for the new week. After that, we split off into smaller, specific teams. We have also recreated our GetBaff office, meaning that our employees can communicate and ‘run into each other’ virtually.
What’s your favourite thing (and least favourite thing) about remote working?
Barbara Labate: My favourite thing is that I don’t always have to formally dress for work. If I want to start work in my pyjamas, I can! I also like the fact that you can cook for yourself, and it’s easier to be healthier.
Juan: I’d say my favourite aspect of remote work is the ability to better combine your personal and professional life by adjusting the schedules to your daily needs and having greater flexibility.
Rudy: Flexibility is a big one for me. The best aspect is the flexibility, and the worst, in my opinion, is the fusion of our home and work environments. Our house is so much more than just a dwelling. In our head, the home means family, protection, safety, relaxation. I don't work there.
The fusion of our home and work environment brings us nicely onto our next question, how do you maintain a healthy work/life balance while remote working?
Barbara: As we keep our minds active with work, I think we can sometimes forget that we have bodies we need to keep active, too. I’ll work out in the morning before work, and I do yoga after work. Staying active is very important for work/life balance.
Carl: I try to carve out times in the week where I can get involved with the family, rather than allowing the day to be filled up with work. It’s very easy to work every hour that you have. So, I try to deliberately block books of time to ensure this doesn’t happen.
Hendrick: I think routine can help. I try to plan and structure each workday and separate my workspace from the rest of my living area in order to maintain a balance. I get up around 7am in the morning and dedicate the first 2 hours of the day to myself. I eat breakfast, read, write and work through personal to dos.
Carl: I do something similar. I have two mobile phones and I do my very best to leave my work phone upstairs when I’m not using it.
Rudy: I like to say that phone notifications are evil, and the pandemic has reinforced that for me. My phone is constantly on silent, I have no notifications other than for calls and private messages (not groups) where I am shown a simple popup without sounds or vibrations. That's enough!
The past year has changed the way we work, most likely for good. In an ideal world, how would you split your time between home and your workplace once the pandemic is over?
Juan I would say 70% remote working, and 30% face-to-face work in the office. That 30% will allow us to cover the social part of our roles. For me, online or remote working does not offer the same capabilities when it comes to things such as brainstorming sessions. The "magic" that is generated in a face-to-face session is much more powerful than that done in an online session.
Barbara: We are now doing two days at home and three in the office. I personally think that's the best balance between the two.
Rudy: I personally think that the concept of 'half a day' is extraordinarily effective. Today, I work half the day in the office and the other half from home, or from the park… or in the evening, or whenever I want!
If I don't have scheduled events, why do I have to adhere to precise times? I believe that the concept of half a day should be reassessed, and that it could be a good way forward for the future of work.