Everyone has had enough of coronavirus. Despite slowly creeping back towards normality, there is still the ever-present risk of a virus and the subsequent loss of life. An incredibly sad and taxing first six months of the new decade. We have all had enough of being in ‘unprecedented times’ and many people will happily never quiz or ‘zoom’ again. Another typically COVID term is the ‘rethink.’ At some point, most of us will have had the conversation: “it’s really made me rethink about this” or “do I really need to do that?” The pandemic has undoubtedly shed light on a number of things that we could do without; that could with changing; and that we do well. These conversations have taken place between employees. And there is now pressure on employers to listen and make the necessary changes.
Again, this is a case of the same old COVID narrative: we will adapt and make changes. Many businesses including the property and recruitment industry have introduced short-term initiatives, and it must be said, the general effort to make working from home accessible has been commendable. But as things hopefully get back to normal, the question still remains: who is willing to make real changes? Staff welfare is paramount, and making long-term changes to accommodate this is – we feel – incredibly necessary for both now and the foreseeable future.
At Oyster Partnership we are putting these changes in place. We understand how difficult this period has been for all of our employees, and feel that as a business we should modify our operation around them. We’re a business with both our clients and employees at the heart of everything we do – we pride ourselves on this. So, in response to the new working world and our employees’ needs, we have launched our new ‘working from anywhere’ initiative. We have seen the positive effect of working from home on our employees’ productivity and general happiness. As a business, the office is still our home. But for our employees, home is now the office. It is an optional initiative, and of course, there are a number of circumstances where this simply wouldn’t work. For instance, if you lived in Australia, getting into work ‘on time’ might be a slight issue. It is a program we have had in the works for quite some time; coronavirus provided us with the window of opportunity. In this blog, we speak to a few of our recruitment consultants to see how it’s gone so far.
The Importance of Employee Happiness
Before we go on, it’s worth mentioning just why we are so passionate about these sorts of initiatives. As a forward-thinking company, we are always conscious of how our employees are really feeling. We feel strongly about staff mental health and believe that a happy workplace, is a productive one. When an employee is happy at work, they feel at home. If you care about them, they care about you and your business. They feel invested and part of something special, and of course all of this boosts productivity. A recent study by Oxford University revealed that happy workers are, in fact, 13% more productive. The issue is, despite 79% of organisations prioritising mental health for staff, only 47% feel they deal with it effectively. At Oyster Partnership, we want to get this right, which is why we’ve introduced ‘working from anywhere.’
Working from Anywhere Initiative
After much thought and planning, we finally introduced this plan at the start of the financial year. Despite our base in London, we have an incredibly diverse group of employees. Many work and live in London, but home is often in a completely different country – sometimes even continent. We’ve caught up with three members of our team who are currently working through the initiative. Here we find out all about their working experience during lockdown; the ups and downs; and what it means to them, for Oyster Partnership to introduce this.
Where are you living/working from, right now?
Kane: ‘I’m currently in Ramberg, Germany, where I will be staying for about a month.’
Sohan: ‘Bit eventful to say the least, I started lockdown and still currently work in North West London but, I have just returned from a 3-week stint working from Phoenix, Arizona!’
Jamie: ‘I am currently based in Fethiye, Turkey.’
How has your experience of ‘working from anywhere’ been so far?
Kane: ‘My experience has been excellent. There has been no major change to my working day as Germany is only an hour ahead. If anything, it’s nice to start at 9.30 am as I’m usually awake at 7 am due to my body clock. So I now have a fair bit of extra time in the morning to either go for a run or cycle. It’s great to have the flexibility and trust to work from a different country.’
Sohan: ‘I must say it was challenging but I was lucky that Oyster were so understanding; not to mention our remote desktop system helped facilitate the arrangement. It’s very different working in Arizona. The 8 hour time difference meant that the daily management meeting at 8 am UK time is at 12 am Arizona time; trying to show that it could work and repay my companies generosity, I did ensure I was present at all of them! The time difference was the hardest thing to adjust to. After finishing morning meetings and catching up with clients and candidates, I would normally get to bed at around 2 am to go on to start again at 6 am (Arizona time). In the UK at that time, everyone is finishing lunch, so in that sense, it was quite strange and took some time to adjust to. The heat was intense! 47 degrees is not enjoyable (thank goodness for air-con). I have been wearing jumpers continuously since being back. Apart from that, it was great to be with my mother-in-law during the lockdown, and I know she appreciated me being allowed to work out there and keep her company during their lockdown period!’
Jamie: “So far, it’s been very positive apart from a few interferences. My father arranged a portable WiFi box before I arrived and I used the weekend of my arrival to establish 2/3 working spaces close to family where I could work from. The time difference – +2 hours BST – creates no challenge in working normal hours. I am able to hold and attend meetings as per usual and speaking with candidates and clients is as easy as in the office with our remote phone app. I have found some of my evenings can be lost, finishing up at 21:00 and my environments can be pretty noisy but these are all controllable(s). Motivation has been a challenge when this job is sales based and you’re not with colleagues you love being in company with but I’ve also learnt a lot about relationship management and bargaining power from the culture out here. Additionally family can be a distraction with the barrage of 101 questions/conversations they’ve been dying to share/have with you.
Having said that the weather (low’s of 24, high’s of 35 C), food and scenery are massive bonuses when you’ve been used to working from a box-room in North London with bi-polar forecasts.
Whilst I’ve definitely seen an imminent improvement in my mental health, I’m convinced I’m still in the ‘honeymoon’ period having only worked out here for a week and only time will tell how this changes.
I am blessed and very grateful that Sohan and Sasza have been accepting of this opportunity to spend significant time – even with working normal hours – with close family whom I’d otherwise see for days of the year.”
What do you miss/ don’t miss about working in London?
Kane: ‘I live in London and am used to the hectic roads and constant noise and now I am surrounded by mountains and forests and countless wineries which I am able to pop to after work for dinner with some great tasting wine. It’s very tranquil and very much feels as though I am hardly working at all.’
Sohan: ‘One big thing, I do not and did not miss was the morning commute – the Bakerloo line does give me flashbacks of being outside in Arizona during the day. The weather is a big plus in England (who thought I would ever be able to say that!). Being able to go for a walk or even step outside is something I do not take for granted now that I am back! I have always and will always miss the team comradery in the office – I still can’t get over the eeriness of not hearing my team around me helping our candidates and clients. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone again.’
Jamie: ‘I miss the company the most – friends, family, and colleagues. The buzz, support, jokes, and motivation are things you can’t replace easily. I do miss my daily walks and having recently borrowed a road bike from a colleague – cheers, Kane (the irony of it not being put to use by us both) – I miss touring around North London and Hertfordshire with my mates. I’m really going to miss the 4th July but I’ll have a few Gin and Tonics in celebration. Basically all the social stuff. I can’t say I share the same emotions for the weather, the underground, the congestion of central London, and my ability to over-spend on coffee’s, Whole Foods, and snacks I assume I deserve. Which I definitely do.
How has it affected your productivity?
Kane: ‘The change of scenery has given me a new boost of energy as I was predominately stuck in my flat for 3 months which was starting to get tedious (not an advocate for home working until now). As I have more time to run and keep fit, I feel I can plan my day a lot better and generally get more work done.’
Sohan: ‘I have always been quite self-disciplined when it comes to work so I felt very productive. I know some don’t enjoy working from home, and at the beginning, I struggled (in Arizona and UK). I did find that as long as I have the right surroundings then I am putting myself on the front foot and I have already conquered half the battle. When I was abroad, the team was considerate of my time zone differences although I did get calls from candidates in the middle of the night. However, after informing all, everyone was so understanding, it made the arrangement fairly simple.’
Jamie: I certainly feel a lot more awake with access to vitamin d, a morning coastal cycle, fresh food, and cleaner air. Some of the environments I‘ve been working in have hindered my productivity at times – mostly with loud background noise.
Would you be happy to carry on working through this initiative?
Kane: ‘Should this continue being a success I would very much like to take advantage of the ‘working from anywhere’ as it could give me the opportunity to work in an array of different countries with similar time zones. Benefits include; being able to see my girlfriend after just over 4 months, a so-called new lease of life during lockdown times, knowing the company I work for trusts the output I give in my day to day to allow to vacate to another country.’
Sohan: ‘For me, as long as we are safe, I do want to promote a safe return to the office. I think there is much we have learnt during this time; the benefits of being with our loved ones, appreciating time as a commodity for example. However, there are other aspects that I feel we have not benefited from; and if it was to continue for too long, we could regress as individuals. I think we learn and grow a lot by surrounding ourselves with other people. We grow and get better by the ideas you bounce around with your colleagues. Additionally, getting out of the house and instilling routine is always beneficial and as time goes on, home should be home and at worst, a happy balance should prevail. Not to mention to lose some much-needed weight that lockdown has added.’
Jamie: ‘Definitely, but in moderation and depending on the circumstance/condition. I think it would have short-term positive benefits as an individual although it could really detriment the performance/growth of teams, organizations, and jobs which are very much team-based. Not to mention, it can have both positive and negatives effects on your relationships. I think the introduction of it is a testament to the trust an organisation has and it can be used to bolster/contribute to a positive culture but it also has scope to be taken advantage of. Sometimes we need a change of scenery but don’t necessarily need a change in daily habits/practice. Other times, we need the support around us. I will certainly look to utilize this initiative again but not at the detriment of the growth of myself, my team, division, and my relationships back home.’
We’re delighted with the feedback we’ve had from our recruitment consultants. It’s great to hear how the working from anywhere initiative has helped them and moving forward how they’d all feel comfortable. Again, if they are feeling good, our business is feeling good. We hope other businesses within the recruitment industry and beyond see the benefits of this initiative and hopefully make the most of this opportunity.
If you would like to get in touch with one of our consultants you can do that here.