Remote Work: Andrew Lynch Of Huckletree On How To Successfully Navigate The Opportunities & Challenges Of Working Remotely Or From Home
An Interview With David Liu
A robust hybrid working strategy. It’s worth dedicating some time, money, and resource to formulating a strategy that lays out a plan for how your business collaborates both remotely, and in person. Addressing questions like: Do you have a central workspace where your team can come together to collaborate? Do you have one day where all the team come to the office? How will your company address the promotional penalty faced by those opting for a more remote approach to working? Which communication tools do you use across the business, and how do you most effectively use them?
As a part of our series about the things you need to successfully work remotely, I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew Lynch.
Andrew Lynch is the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Huckletree, one of Ireland and the UK’s leading workspace and accelerator providers. With six spaces across London, Manchester, and Dublin, Huckletree’s mission is to bring together fast-growth technology and creative companies to help them start, grow and scale internationally in some of the cities’ most iconic buildings.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?
I was born in Ireland but following college I have spent the past decade in London. Having spent time working in the world of private equity and venture capital with J.P Morgan and Cambridge Associates, I traded in my suit and tie to join the coworking sector alongside Huckletree’s Co-founder and CEO Gabriela Hersham in 2015. Through the pandemic, my wife Jen and I decided to move back to Ireland to be closer to our family and raise our two little girls (Edie and Esmé). It’s only a 50 minute flight so I’m back in London for several days almost every week.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
That’s a tough question! By far the most interesting years in my career have been the last two. Covid has turned the world on its head and everything we assumed about consumer behaviour and, I suppose, took somewhat for granted prior to the pandemic has been thrown out the window. We’re now in a phase of normalisation, where businesses are having to start all over again and figure out things fresh. Gaby and I joke that the last 2 years were our real-world MBA; a varied course covering product development, sales, finance, investor relations and, of course, crisis management.
I feel like my career has been one long and steady stream of good fortune (so far!) and being in the right place at the right time. For example, whilst I was working in private equity, I became friendly with a very well-regarded investor by the name of Frederick Court (the founder of Felix Capital). Through him I met his awesome partner Antoine Nussenbaum. In 2014, I started to get itchy feet in my suit and tie so I pulled him for a coffee one evening to see if he thought I’d make a good VC. He said no — with a chuckle — but then introduced me to the founding team at Deliveroo, and also his wife Gaby Hersham. After a lengthy and rigorous process on both sides, I was offered a growth position with Deliveroo and the opportunity to partner up with Gaby on Huckletree. I suppose the rest is history.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I think we can all agree that some of the biggest mistakes we make in life aren’t entirely funny at the time! But, retrospectively, if I had to choose one funny (and hugely embarrassing) moment it would be during a meeting with an investor during my initial few months working at London-based investment firm, Cambridge Associates.
A hedge fund investor visited us with his team for their annual performance update, where several members of our team would usually attend, make comments and ask a few questions on asset allocation, future plans and the team, etc. I was invited along for the experience but ended up getting it into my head that I wanted to make a big impression. With all my misplaced and naive confidence, I peppered the investor with a barrage of embarrassingly basic and misplaced questions, totally frustrating his flow, and generally being an inexperienced pest. It turned out that the investor was Bill Ackman, the billionaire founder of Pershing Square — one of the most successful hedge funds of the last 25 years. I’ve no doubt in the world that he doesn’t remember me, however my ex-colleagues remind me of it every chance they have.
What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees thrive and avoid burnout?
In 2021, Huckletree conducted a survey our members and found that a staggering 75% suffered from burnout when working from home. The importance of a work/life balance cannot be understated and unfortunately this was somewhat depleted with the introduction of working from home. To ensure employees are thriving, we have found that it takes both qualitative and quantitative initiatives to cover all of the emotional needs of our team members in order to keep them secure in their role, incentivised, happy and productive.
Business leaders often overlook the emotional needs of employees, thinking that salary and bonus will always keep people focused and firing. A high degree of emotional intelligence is a vitally important trait for any successful business leader, and in that regard, shouldn’t be overlooked. Putting an arm around someone is often more impactful (and more cost effective for the business!) than giving them a lumpy pay rise.
Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Working remotely can be very different than working with a team that is in front of you. This provides great opportunity but it can also create unique challenges. To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits and opportunities of working remotely?
Firstly, by offering remote working where possible, you’re opening up your company’s access to talent. It’s an immense opportunity for talent acquisition as it instantly widens your talent pool. In order to attract and retain top talent, you need to offer some form of hybrid working. It’s also important for retention; we have noticed that some of our members at Huckletree who used to live in urban cities (Dublin, London, Manchester) have moved over the past two years. We’ve actually partnered with a great company called NoCo to offer our members access to a platform which allows them to book workspace or day passes in coworking spaces all over the UK and Ireland, and not just in the cities where Huckletree is currently operating to help address this issue.
Remote working also allows more flexibility for parents, for those with disabilities or who are neurodiverse. So there’s a really valuable DEI (diversity, equality, inclusion) element to it as well.
We have collectively learnt as we emerge from the pandemic that we all need a more enriching work-life balance. We’re also recognising that different modes of working suit different environments, and that’s different for everyone. Some people need a hub to get their focus work done, some people get this work done better remotely. This way of working not only hugely supports your team’s mental health, but it bolsters productivity, too.
Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding working remotely?
The first challenge is making sure you’re being inclusive across the board when it comes to your remote/hybrid approach. We’re increasingly seeing what is called the promotion penalty for those who are working remotely against those who are coming into the office. Often, the people choosing to work from home are parents, those who are neurodiverse, primary caregivers. So we’re facing a huge danger of going backwards when it comes to DEI efforts which is worrying.
Secondly, it is hard to facilitate impactful collaboration and sustain energy levels with a fully remote workforce. It’s not impossible, as we all know, but the results are not the same. Thirdly, one method of remote working will not be effective for everyone — so expect to have to navigate some challenges in the complexity of hybrid working. Fourthly, it’s going to be really hard to create a sense of belonging and connection within your team, which is likely to impact poorly on mental health, team engagement, and ultimately — the culture you create within your business.
The fifth, and perhaps most important challenge is that you need to formulate a strategy that addresses each of the above, otherwise you could be setting yourself up for disaster in trying to build a strong, resilient culture across a hybrid workforce.
Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? Can you give a story or example for each?
As I mentioned in my last point there, a lot of these issues can actually be solved with one thing: A robust hybrid working strategy. It’s worth dedicating some time, money, and resource to formulating a strategy that lays out a plan for how your business collaborates both remotely, and in person. Addressing questions like: Do you have a central workspace where your team can come together to collaborate? Do you have one day where all the team come to the office? How will your company address the promotional penalty faced by those opting for a more remote approach to working? Which communication tools do you use across the business, and how do you most effectively use them?
All really integral questions, which, if left unanswered, can cause absolute chaos as you attempt to navigate a hybrid approach for your workforce.
Do you have any suggestions specifically for people who work at home? What are a few ways to be most productive when you work at home?
For us, WFH should form part of a diversified workplace strategy. What the hell does that mean — you ask! Well, for Huckletree as a business, no one is WFH 100% of the time. We’re a people business and we think this isn’t conducive to a healthy relationship with your employer/employees, and we’ve seen first hand that it’s not good for us mentally. I personally believe the next crisis is going to be a mental-health related one. People have been caged for so long and we’re not built to be confined like we have.
I’m a big believer in everything in moderation. This goes for working locations too. We promote mixing things up where people are able; including WFH, work from our locations, working (partly) from your trip away to, say, Mexico, and generally a phrase we coined during the pandemic, ‘Work From Anywhere’. But, as importantly, we’re also violently promoting protecting people’s time off, so when you’re off, you’re off.
What do you suggest can be done to create an empowering work culture and team culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?
Honestly? Don’t be remote 100% of the time. It’s simply not conducive to empowering work culture. I believe strongly in the power of people coming together. We see it all the time in the walls of Huckletree — teams coming together for their strategy days, for their deep-dives, for their collaboration sessions or pitch meetings. These moments of coming together is often the catalyst for the empowering work that you then go off to do independently, remotely. But working in silo 100% of the time? There’s not much empowerment in that.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I think you’re being overly kind with that comment, but I’ll go with it! I think we’re living in a world with a huge amount of inequality which has been even further exacerbated by the covid crisis. Whilst I believe in human advancement via technological means, I don’t think that technology — for the sake of it — helps civilisation as a whole. So what does that mean?
Besides the community of workspace, which has seen massive disruption over the last 15 years, two other sectors I’m interested in are childcare and home ownership. Childcare and early-years education is fundamentally stuck in the dark ages and in my view, ripe for disruption.
It’s the same as home ownership. How is it that in the 21st century, we still only have two routes available to putting a roof over our families heads; leasing, dishing out monthly rent to a landlord who solely benefits from that monthly income, and (usually) asset value appreciation over time, or a long-term mortgage, tying ourselves up in debt for the rest of our lives in the hope interest rates stay low and the value increases over 40 years so we have something to pass on to our children.
If I could inspire a movement, it would absolutely be in one of those sectors.
Can you please give us your favourite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Napoleon has been attributed with the quote; “Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go” and I try to live by this on a daily basis, both in my personal and professional life.
In 2019, I ran a marathon — my first — and quickly afterwards became frustrated with the fact that it was ‘only’ 42km, assuming that if I could run 42km then I could surely even out that number to 50km. Whilst I’m sure an element of this was my OCD showing its face, the other part was the life lesson of perspective. Once you set your goal or target, and hit it, it makes the target seem achievable — and even easy — in hindsight. So, two months after my first ever marathon, I ran my first ultra marathon; a 50km trail run around the hills south of London. It was dark at the end of my 7 hour run so I got lost and my day ended up topping 54km… where the OCD kicked in again.
In 2021, I completed the Marathon Des Sables, the 270km, 6-day, self-sufficient ultra-marathon in 56 degree heat across the Moroccan Sahara desert. If that isn’t a life lesson then I’m not sure what is!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Huckletree can be tracked on our Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, as well as our website. My own personal work can be found on my Twitter account -
Thank you for these great insights! We wish you continued success.
Thanks for taking the time to chat.