Remote working firsthand

Dalibor Šumiga Behavioral marketing/Neuromarketing, Marketing

The whole Promosapiens team has been working from home for the past four years. In this blog, I will try to share our experience with you, what led to it and what are the pros and cons of remote working.

HOW DID WE DECIDE TO STAY HOME?

The first reason was to reduce the time we spend commuting to and from work. The second reason was to find out if we were increasing our productivity and creativity by working from home. After we asked out team members if they wanted to go back to the office, approximately 20% said yes, therefore, the majority decided that we were all staying home.

About a year later, when we asked the same question, nobody wanted to go back to the office, moreover, some of them clearly stated that they wouldn’t have been happy at all if we had opened the office again.

WHAT ARE THE CONS OF REMOTE WORKING?

First of all, we must know that it’s impossible for some companies to have a total remote working system because of the nature of their work.

We, as a digital agency, don’t have such a problem, and when it comes to neuromarketing research, we conduct those in a neutral environment where we try to minimize all the external stimuli, and a noisy and colorful office certainly isn’t a neutral space.

The biggest problem in remote working is if employees don’t have a space where they can isolate themselves from the rest of the household.

The second problem is the discipline; remote working isn’t for those who like to fool around while working.

Although you might think that it’s easy to avoid tasks that must be done when working from home, the truth is actually quite different – idlers have a hard time hiding if the system is well set, because no matter how you charge your services to your clients, you actually sell your knowledge in a certain period of time. Time is a resource that can never be restored, and that has to be measured in every work. Not even the best worker in the world can work 25 hours a day unless he figured out how to travel through time…

Employees who malinger out of work on purpose and are late with the projects, soon show their true colors.

The problem that can occur from the start is having to deal with other members of the household. Even if you have your own separate space, they have to get used to the fact that, even if they see you, you are actually at work. I had this problem at the beginning, until I had a family meeting where I explained in what period of time I do not exist, although they see me or hear me. Now, even after hours, if I am focused on reading a book or writing notes or emails, it has become normal in my household for my family to wait until I shift my attention to them.

WHAT ARE THE PROS OF REMOTE WORKING?

Even though it seemed at the beginning that the most important pro will be saving time we would usually spend on commuting, something else turned out to be even more important – productivity and balancing private and professional life.

Yes, work is an important aspect of our lives, but most of us don’t live to work, but rather work to live.

Having the possibility to plan your day, balance your private obligations, and at the same time manage deadlines for project delivery is priceless.

This is where the question of productivity comes into play. Everyone of us is different, everyone has its peak of productivity at a certain time of the day. I am a morning type, but we have colleagues who are evening types, but also those who work “split-shift”. Thus, everyone can estimate at what time of the day they will be most productive. Some may work all night long, and the next day not work at all.

As long as the tasks are being done on time, everyone should be the master of their time. In that way, the employees don’t feel like they’re working for “someone”, but working for themselves.

I repeat, remote working is good exclusively for people who have high moral values and are responsible, but isn’t this the type of people you would like to have in your company anyways?

Have we had any bad experiences in our remote working experiment so far?

Of course we have – from people who openly admitted they couldn’t work that way, to people who knowingly tried to “hack” the system by inflating the number of working hours, avoiding duties and missing deadlines because they tried to do something else “on the side.” The most common excuse they had in these situations was that they had to be at disposal all the time. This argument is not valid when you have a system in which employees themselves set deadlines and hours required to complete a project.

Everyone is the master of their time. Even if there are projects that require a prompt reaction, they are an exception, rather than a rule and in such situations, it is of key importance that the team members agree on it and are awarded for extra hours.

WHAT ABOUT TEAMWORK?

This time in isolation certainly showed you how many meetings could have been just emails or video conferences. That is, at the same time, the answer to the question from the title – in order to have teamwork, we don’t have to be next to each other, but rather to know how to communicate.

Research has shown that group brainstorming isn’t the most efficient method for developing new ideas, but individual brainstorming with an occasional exchange of ideas.

Our team shares ideas all the time through cloud solutions in one document in such a way that everyone can see ideas of other team members which can automatically be a catalyst for his/her own new ideas.

Group brainstorming in a glass office, where the loudest, and not necessarily the most creative ones have the say is the same as a group of 10 people trying to solve the Rubik’s cube at the same time.

WHAT ABOUT HUMAN CONTACT?

Research conducted in the UK has shown that we are productive for 2 hours and 23 minutes during one working day with these 10 being the top distractions at work:

As you can see above, you spend the least time working in the office, and most time that is spent, you could have actually spent it with your friends and family. Let’s be realistic; your coworkers are not your best friends, and even if they are, isn’t it better if you spent time with them after work by taking a walk together in the park or going for drinks or dinner, instead of gossiping by the water machine?

CAN WE EVEN BUILD A TEAM OUT OF PEOPLE WHO DO NOT HANG OUT AT ALL?

Of course you can. Our team communicates on a daily basis, exchanges both work information and memes in closed groups, and even communicates privately when they want to.

The key fact is that they can choose whether they want to hang out with their coworkers, which is really not the case in the office.

Once a month, when everyone receives their payroll, we organize a gathering that we call “Class meeting.”

The gathering takes place in a restaurant chosen by the team; there is no agenda, just good food, drinks and exchange of anecdotes and ideas (both private and professional).

Other than that, we organize at least one team building a year.

The best of all is that, since they don’t have to spend 8 hours a day together, they look forward to seeing each other, since it only happens once a month.

WHAT CAN WE CONCLUDE?

A few years ago I heard an anecdote about a lecturer who, at a conference, asked the audience to raise their hand if they were using any type of technology (cellphones, email…). Everyone raised their hand.

Then he asked how many of them communicated with other people on a daily basis. Again everyone raised their hand.

The next question was how many of them had problems communicating with their coworkers and clients; most of them raised their hands (at least the honest ones).

The last question was how many of them thought that technology was the cause of the problem in communication – none of them raised their hand…

Therefore, the problem doesn’t have anything to do with where we are sitting and how far we are one from another, but how well we communicate…