Remote working as a consultant
✅ Better access to great talent
✅ Family life
❎ Life through a screen
❎ ‘Zoom fatigue’
❎ Physical connection
❎ Sales opportunities through ‘water cooler’ talk
I tried avoiding creating another COVID post because there are enough out there, but I’ve failed.
My take on the remote working experiencing is that we go to work (the physical location) not because we need to, but because we want to. This pandemic has proven that the knowledge worker can do their job just as well, if not better, from home, no matter how simple or complex the project is. We have distributed teams of 100+ delivering complex projects without missing a beat in productivity, in many cases where this was measured through story points, the amount delivered went up.
Still, I don’t think it’s want we want to be working forever, stuck behind a screen with no real human interaction. I like getting a coffee with a colleague or client and the energy of the city. The reality is that this isn’t a requirement for quality of work or outcome, it’s a more human requirement.
I’m one of the lucky ones, I’ve kept my job for now, and my clients still need me. I’m treating the sales side of my job as critical and ensuring that I deliver better than ever for our clients.
Location, Location, Location… doesn’t matter at all
For project delivery, there have been great benefits and comprises. On the positive side, staffing a consultant with the right skillset, in the right location has always been very challenging. Several of our projects now have people from multiple cities working and they’re not having to travel. They’re able to spend time with their families and work on interesting projects. This is a big deal. The project doesn’t have to cost in travel, they get access to the best people, and they don’t have to sacrifice family time.
No work distractions at work… and it can be exhausting
On the project day to day, working from home has some great benefits in it’s simplicity. I cover several clients and would usually do about 15,000 steps per day, every day just walking between office buildings in the Melbourne CBD. That walk has been replaced with just switching to the next MS Teams meeting. It’s simpler, I like having more time for actual work but I absolutely miss those walks in the beautiful city. It recharges you, the energy of the city and taking phone calls whilst walking. I invested in a Jabra Evolve 75 years ago which isolates your voice in the microphone so for the person on the other end it still sounds crystal clear and as if you’re in the office.
Building relationships without the serendipity
On the sales side, this is a challenge I’m still evolving. A tremendous amount of influence and opportunity just comes from being around your clients. It’s the whole ‘water cooler’ thing. Melbourne is the coffee capital and you can practically ask any client at any time if they want to walk and get a coffee. In these moments you build relationships and talk about things outside the scope of your current work. This is where you share advice and listen to problems and loop in your experts from other areas. It also recharges you. Currently work is between me and a glass screen all day, I miss the sensory experience of coffee, conversation and connection that is such a fundamental part of our work day. I don’t think it’s necessary for the work, but it’s necessary for me.
Commute swapped with trampoline time
The family benefits are excellent also, and also not. I see my kids all the time, which is great, and I also get interrupted every 20 minutes, which is less than great. In the middle of a client meeting having a toddler walk in and throw a tantrum for ‘cheerios and milk’ is not uncommon.
The goldilocks zone
So I think we’ve just experimented with the opposite extreme. We want from mostly working at work, and work being defined as a location instead of an activity. To mostly working from anywhere and work being defined as an activity instead of a location. I think where we’ll land up is somewhere that has the best of both worlds.
The major benefits for our clients is that excellent talent is now more accessible. No longer will location dictate who you have working on a project, it’ll simply be ‘the best person available in a timezone that makes sense’. For us as individuals we are now able to have more rounded lifestyles. The environmental benefits are obvious. There’s still a long way to go into figuring just how you make use of the new ways of working, currently we are just doing what we did in the office, but from home, and the net result is a ton of virtual meetings, and the day has definitely gotten longer, or at the very least feels longer.
I expect that we’ll shift from calling out ‘working from home’ days to calling out ‘office’ days. Instead of saying “I’m working from home on Thursday”, it’ll be “I’m working from the office on Thursday”. The primary location would have changed. I initially was worried that we’ll slip into bad habits, social norms that reward presenteeism and not output and we would all end up heading back into the office like the pre covid days. I doubt this will happen because of the lack of office space. There will be a marked reduction in the commercial real estate offices take up. Companies that occupy 10 floors will drop to 7, 2 drop to 1.
Ultimately for me it’s absolutely a blend that works for me. I like working from work, I like working from home, and the permission to fluidly move between both with what works for the individual is exciting. There’s still work to do, we can’t be spending all day on MS Teams meetings, there has to be a better way, but some lessons from this tragedy is forcing us at least one step forward.