May 01

I worked remotely today!

One of the benefits of being an owner of your own business is that you do not have to rush against the traffic jam and waste your best prime time of the day sitting in traffic. As a business owner your mind is always busy entertaining great new ideas or busy managing work on your mind. Being able to use my time efficiently is a great arrangement that I feel privileged to have and allows me to succeed, feel free to make best use of and in control of my time. It allows me as a business owner to feel more in control over my work and for those of us who are able to, allows us to choose to work whenever you want and can.

This kind of flexibility benefit is traditionally kept as a privilege that is only available to those who are the bosses or those who are blessed with some kind of special treatment in the company. In law it is typically the case that people must come to the office to physically work at their desk, hopefully sitting there long enough that they will be noticed or remembered for any promotion or performance reviews as they fall due. It is not clear to me why this has not changed a bit over the past few years despite our ability to use cloud based solutions, or smart devices to keep us connected more easily and readily.

With the fact of that daily traffic has become worse and worse in almost every city in the world, and the standard work hours are the same for most businesses, we are quietly suffering from wasting our best hours in the morning and the most sacred hours for our family in the evening on the task of commuting, which does not benefit anyone. I have become very every concerned for my team who have to battle against the traffic when many of them who I know very well will be able to do so much more during 7 to 9am in the morning instead of sitting in the traffic. I also envisage the better use of the evening commute time on making dinner, settling children, and spending time with loved ones, while everyone is at home and awake instead of using that to sit through the afternoon traffic.

I did not find any useful research from my weekly reading about Teams and People Management that justifies why the privilege of working remotely or working in one’s best hours and conditions should be something we only keep for those special few in the top of the organisation. If anything is good for efficiency and productivity I think they should first be made applicable to our hardworking team.

As an experiment, I decided to start a trial by giving everyone in my team flexible working hours initially by allowing people to choose when to come in without wasting more time than necessary for their commute. We also gave them the flexibility to attend to up to 2 hours of personal needs in each work day without taking annual leave on the basis that they could find other times in the day to make up for the work progress required. Those trials were received well and executed without having any clients to feel negatively affected. In fact the clients were touched to get a follow up email / call / text when the staff used their after dinner time or at breakfast to finalise the progress as scheduled in their case.

We then introduced the options of working remotely from court rooms, client sites, or cafes near where our other engagements are for days that do not need to be wasted on racing back to offices. This also meant if someone had to work from home for the day to be most productive and optimal for them to focus on the tasks and not worried about losing time and energy on commuting then that is what we will work with. We found out by trialing this experiment that all these ideas worked! We had staff that felt more in control of their life, and therefore more readily able to do their best for the hours they set for their work.

How did it work? These are some of the tips I could share:

  1. Let the staff decide when and where to work.
  2. Trust their decision.
  3. When they decide to change based on their experience, trust them again.

It has been as simple as that. We simply had to learn to trust and let them manage. They are highly qualified and conscientious people who take pride in their work and professional development. When they make best decisions for themselves we all benefit and in particular the clients get the immediate benefit of a more efficient and productive progress on their brief.

It worked for us. We also enjoy other benefits that are too long to be listed here. All this from a little bit of common sense thinking and letting go of some of our own pre-conceptual thinking around how we should work, by putting some autonomy into our team members hands to find the best way they could work more efficiently. I hope you may find a way to enjoy this way too.