Working from home a few days a week or even full-time is now the norm in many industries. We’ve seen the birth of the remote marketing agency and the digital nomad – and as global broadband speeds increase, technology advances and attitudes to working change, more and more businesses are making the shift towards flexible arrangements for their employees.
And while the results are spiritedly debated from both sides, there’s no doubt that many feel that working flexibly allows them to be happier and more productive. According to a 2019 survey from Indeed, the top benefits experienced by companies from offering a remote work policy include more productive employees (67%), improved morale (64%), reduced absenteeism and employee turnover (57%) and operational cost savings (51%).
From the employee perspective, almost half (49%) of employees think remote working makes them more productive compared to only 6% who think they are less productive.
How will work change in the 2020s?
Many tools, systems and ways of working have developed to allow entire workforces to live in different cities and never meet in person.
With just a laptop and an internet connection, you can log in and collaborate with your team.
For marketing agencies, there are two main benefits to this way of working:
- Lower overheads, as employers don’t have to pay for expensive office space
- Access to a greater pool of talent who don’t want to commute or have varying time commitments
For the clients of these marketing agencies, this is win-win. The trick is to find a remote marketing agency that is both good at its job (can create and execute a killer marketing campaign) and good at managing and working as a remote team (can communicate well and keep you involved at every step).
How a marketing agency (like us) goes remote (like us)
The functions of an agency dictate which platforms and strategies it’ll use.
Let’s use The Marketing Project as an example. We’re a small remote marketing agency with a crew based in Melbourne and a network of colleagues around the world. We’ll break this up into two parts: technology and people.
We need to be able to:
- Host and send files to each other and our clients,
- Communicate in both a quick chat-based way and a more comprehensive manner – again, with each other and our clients,
- Facilitate video calls where required to brainstorm or talk through tricky issues,
- And have all our projects in one place where they can be viewed, added to and edited by everyone on both sides.
To do this, we have a few tech platforms we use, and a few ‘rules of engagement’ for each platform. We also tweak and optimise our processes constantly to make use of new integrations and keep it fresh for ourselves.
We also need to find the right individuals to fit the plan. There are some amazing creatives and marketing experts out there, but not everyone is suited to a predominantly working remotely. On the people side, here’s what we look for:
- Trustworthy, accountable and self-motivated
- Ok with working alone/not having daily face-to-face interaction (although this can be mitigated with video calls)
- Methodical and thorough with their communication and digital filing
- Good with sticking to detailed communication standards
- Confident speaking to clients directly to interrogate a brief or get more info
What we’re tweaking in 2020
This year we’re focusing on enhancing what works well and removing what doesn’t. The aim is to streamline our workflow, and make it easier for clients to collaborate with us and share our ways of working.
The TMP team looked back on 2019 and got together for a brainstorm about how we can do it better this year. Here’s a sneak peek at what we’re implementing so far:
- Quick (15min) Monday morning video calls to enhance the feeling of togetherness and inclusion amongst the TMP team and simulate a morning catchup in the office
- Redefining what it means to be the ‘owner’ of a project to spread accountability and improve delivery times
- Using Monday.com features like hashtags to help us see more clearly what tasks we’ve got on for the week and their pre-determined priorities
- Automatically turning emails into new tasks within Monday.com using a clever Gmail integration
- New rules around discussion threads on Monday.com to make sure no messages are missed
Can your business get more flexible?
Even traditional businesses can (and should) migrate towards a more flexible working culture, if it aligns with their purpose and makes sense to do it.
Startups have attracted much of the best talent by allowing people to work from home or travel while they work. To compete, more established players need to offer the same level of flexibility to their workers.
And the results do the talking.
The Quarterly Journal of Economics recently reported on the results of a working from home experiment at Ctrip, a 16,000-employee, NASDAQ-listed Chinese travel agency.
Call centre employees who volunteered to work from home were randomly assigned either to work from home or in the office for nine months.
Home working led to a 13% performance increase. Turnover decreased by 50% among those working at home, and those workers took shorter breaks and fewer sick days. The company saved around US$2,000 (A$2,784) per employee on lease costs. Home workers also reported improved work satisfaction.
Here are a few ways you can establish and maintain a flexible working culture:
So while it’s not fool-proof, the benefits are numerous for those agencies who choose to go fully remote (and do it properly), as well as the clients who put their trust in these agencies. The key is to assemble the right people and empower them to be creative, have control and do their best work.
Global trends suggest we’re only going to see more flexible working arrangements – who knows, in a few years it might be the norm to skip the commute and log on from wherever you are! How will our cities and economies change in response?