The unvarnished truth of remote working at a tech consultancy

Over the past year, remote working has been our only way of working at 345.  

In this article, we’ll lift the lid on what it’s really like for the novelty of remote working to become our everyday experience. 

There will be no pretending that it’s all shiny and brilliant and that every video call is perfectly lit and not interrupted by pets, kids and Amazon deliveries. 

Organised chaos

We’re more organised than before. We used to talk about work-life balance as though they were separate things, but now they are literally mixed. If you don’t get yourself organised then you’ve no chance of being an effective worker or an effective … lifer.  

You need way more patience when that knotty IT problem needs to be fixed while there’s an uncontrollable dog around who doesn’t give two hoots about your compile errors.  

On the flipside, the obvious upside is binning the commute and spending that time doing something better, like enjoying moments with said uncontrollable dog (or child/partner/relative/nosey neighbour…). 

A year of remote working
The unvarnished truth of remote working at a tech consultancy

Talking to a screen

Communications are better in the way that you can use messaging tools to interrupt people only when you need to rather than rocking up at their desk just because that’s what you’ve always done.  

On the other hand, there’s something missing about the personal interactions where there isn’t some technical agenda and yet you end up learning something useful anyway.  

Remote working makes this hard to replace, and it’s not easily quantified. You can’t just program in 17% more serendipitous conversations. Where would that fit in your online calendar?  

Actually, we now do regular Keep in Touch (KIT) calls, which are strictly no-work zones where we take turns to host and pose the group a question such as “what’s your favourite memory, your first car, your first pet?” This might feel a little more forced than unplanned in-person conversations but it works pretty well. 

Most people’s internet connections are good enough that online communications can be done as video calls. That’s convenient and feels more human but then we have to keep in mind that we’re prone to forgetting things. Saying “I’m sure we spoke about that on a Teams call 3 weeks ago” doesn’t really help when a project’s been delayed because there’s no direct message exchange written down. Some kind of audit trail is still important. 

Lip-syncing from the same hymn sheet

For taking up new business practices or adjusting old ways of working, getting everyone to do the same thing straightaway used to be easier, because you could get everyone in a room and agree on what was going to happen.  

Doing it remotely, you rely on people reading the memo (as it were) and getting themselves in order. There can be a bit of a lag, perhaps because you don’t have people around you all doing whatever the new or updated thing is. 

We’ll probably get better at this. Or rather, we won’t have much excuse if we don’t. 

Tracksuits and tea

A load of IT and data enthusiasts wouldn’t be known for dressing to impress anyway but working remotely means that all efforts to bother with “professional” clothing no longer seem relevant. What matters is that we can get our tasks done.  

Sometimes, we let our work slide into evenings, but that’s OK if it means cosy morning lie-ins, tea breaks when we want them or sunbathing breaks when the weather permits. And no doubt you’ve heard all the other good things about working from home: taking home deliveries, being there for school pickups, reducing the exhaust fumes pumped into the environment. 

Anyway, what we look like and when we work doesn’t matter. What we do and what results we get does. 

None of this matters without trust

Working remotely wouldn’t actually work if we didn’t trust each other from the outset. It seems obvious that you need to trust the people you work with but the truth is that not every organisation has that, especially when you get up to the higher levels (people with power have their agendas and views on the right way of doing things).  

In our case, the directors have had faith in each other from day one.  

So, whatever the ups and downs have been of getting on with our jobs while being physically apart, it’s still worked because that glue of trust has always been there. 

And we will be doing our damnedest to make sure it always stays that way.   

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