In my last post, I spoke about my plans to work smarter whilst holidaying in the south of France. Now that the trip is over, and I’m back in the UK, I’d like to share what I consider to be the main pros and cons of my experience, as well as briefly mention some of the tools and applications that had either helped or hindered productivity.
The first thing I noticed about being removed from the office environment was my ability to think more abstractly. The beautiful and quiet surroundings meant that I was able to focus on some of the more pressing strategic challenges, which have become increasingly important as Forfusion’s growth has continued to accelerate.
Everyday communications were a lot easier than I had envisaged. I had been working very much as I do when in the UK office; relying on instant messaging (IM) for quick, ad hoc updates and using video/web conferencing for more involved meetings and/or when content sharing was necessary.
Connection is key
Communicating over video wasn’t always perfect; however, I think it’s fair to say that issues weren’t necessarily related to the applications I had been using, moreover a result of terminating equipment in the UK, poor 3G coverage in France, or dips in internet performance (especially in mountainous areas when using satellite). For the most part, I enjoyed a reliable experience communicating across all media, both with team Forfusion and customers, which was extremely reassuring.
Smarter working = excessive accessibility?
In terms of challenges, I would say that allocating family time presented me with the biggest challenge. The main issues weren't related to productivity, team working, or being able to make last minute conference calls with customers, it was knowing when to switch off and when to make myself completely unavailable. Whilst having collaboration tools at my fingertips made it easier to communicate, it also encouraged me to check my smartphone frequently, for example following up on emails as soon as I received them, rather than addressing at the end of the day as originally planned.
The on-the-go office
In order to make my life easier (and for testing purposes) I had been using an array of social media and productivity tools; both on-premises and cloud based products, primarily from Cisco and Microsoft. Applications such as Webex, Spark and Skype for Business as well as social apps such as LinkedIn and Twitter had proven invaluable; they allowed me to collaborate reliably on multiple devices; including my Apple Mac, iPad and iPhone.
Unanticipated benefits of smarter working
A factor I didn’t anticipate evaluating in any great detail is that of family life. During the trip, without being prompted, my other half, Helena, asked “will you be as relaxed and as easy to live with when at home and not in the south of France?” She had noticed a change in my behaviour (for the better). This has even caused me to question living in the UK full time; however, I guess that’s only a question I’d be able to answer if I were to remove the holidaying element entirely and perform a similar experiment over a longer period of time (perhaps three months or so).
It’s fair to say that I enjoyed many aspects of this experience, but above all, I really appreciated the freedom and flexibility. Not only in terms of the hours and days I was able to work, but also the locations. I had been able to work from the poolside, the mountains, the coast; in fact, just about any place of my choosing.
Upon reflection, the main challenge I had to overcome was not related to productivity, or team morale, or even communications for that matter; it was knowing when to switch off and make myself ‘completely’ unavailable and out of contact.
We plan to publish an e-book in the near future, with more details about my experience, the pros and cons of the tools and infrastructure used, and tips for those planning, or already in similar scenarios. Sign up for our newsletter below to receive the e-book when it is published.