This week, we’re thrilled to be welcoming Richard Lloyd-Williams, MD at Flavor Sampling to guest write on our blog! In this post, Richard discusses the steps that Flavor took to decide if a Remote Working Model was right for them. Here, he shares everything that you should consider if you are planning on taking your work remotely.
As we grew and developed our agency, we found that we had the opportunity to reflect on the best way of working, in turn reviewing if a Remote Working Model was right for us as an agency.
Fortunately there have been a plethora of articles and opinion pieces that offered insight into the positives and negatives of Remote Working.
We investigated these thoroughly, as well as surveying our own team, to gather genuine opinions about what they like and don’t like about Remote Working to help us decide the best course and model for our growing agency.
HOW WE MADE OUR DECISION
Taking everything into consideration, we decided that Remote Working was the best option for us as a business. Below are some of the primary reasons for making this decision:
- Offer greater value to clients (as we don’t need to pass on bulky operating costs)
- Be flexible around our clients’ needs
- Improve our team’s quality of life
- Set up to work anywhere
- Recruit the best talent without location restrictions
However, this wasn’t as straight forward a decision as it may have sounded. After surveying our team, there were inherent challenges from running purely a remote working model.
After going through the process of researching, internal and external discussions, we wanted to outline the key internal conversations that we had, the logic in our thinking, and the solutions that were implemented to get to our decision of remaining 100% Remote Working in the aim that it might help other agencies who are going through a similar decision.
Below are the important questions we asked ourselves…
- Who are our team, and what’s important to them?
- What are the pros and cons of Remote Working?
- Is a Hybrid model the best of both worlds?
- How motivated is the team?
- What have we learnt and how do we move forward?
1. WHO ARE OUR TEAM, AND WHAT’S IMPORTANT TO THEM?
During lockdown our team grew from two hopeful founders to eight full time members of staff. We recruited this team with a remote working model in mind, with the current team are based in locations spread across the country – from Lancashire to the Isle of Wight. Several team members are actively taking advantage of the flexibility that remote working offers by setting up in places like Lisbon and Dubai on occasion.
With our team having such varied locations, a full time office that everyone would go to on a daily basis was not really an option.
However, it was still important to be cognisant of the other varying needs of our team. For instance, the different ages of our team brings about different needs from a workplace. Notably, the priorities of those who are entering the workplace for the first time will be different to those in their late twenties and thirties.
Additionally, we are continuing to grow as an agency, and so future recruitment was also a consideration; What makes us attractive to candidates for different levels and roles, where will they want to be working from, what gives us the greatest flexibility, where are the best candidates going to be based?
2. WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF REMOTE WORKING?
To genuinely look at what the good and bad things about Remote Working are, we adapted a SWOT analysis – see below. All answers have been collated from survey responses that our existing team completed.
As you can see from the below, there are plenty of positive feelings towards Remote Working with ‘Freedom‘, ‘Flexibility‘, and ‘More Time‘ being the most frequent points fed back.
It’s also really interesting to see that the team highlighted and valued the opportunities that Remote Working could bring to the business (not just personal) beyond financial savings. As a business owner this is great to see as it means that as individuals, they are bought into a Remote Working Model, and that overall they see it as a positive way of working.
The negatives were fewer in quantity, but consistent in themes – talking about missing out on the benefits like ‘seeing colleagues face to face‘ and ‘building genuine relationships‘ with peers.
No matter the benefits of Remote Working, these inherent shortcomings of the RW model is why so many businesses have reverted back to office space or Hybrid Models (working from home but having an office space that people can come in and work from as well).
We were conscious that these shortcomings have to be proactively addressed to create a positive remote working environment.
3. IS A HYBRID MODEL THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS?
When reviewing the business’ working model, we did seriously consider a hybrid model.
There were a lot of businesses actively promoting this way of working (at the time of us researching) as the perfect balance between being able to enjoy home comforts and meeting up with colleagues in the office as well.
As we looked into it, the reality was that it was very difficult to get that balance right. More often than not a hybrid model lead to the following issues:
- Lack of direction and clarity around what model you are running
- Very little cost savings – as at least a semi-permanent office space is still needed
- Individuals frequently end up working in an empty office
- Lack of consistency and freedom for the team
- Can lead to frustrations from employees with different preferences of workplace
- Minimises opportunity to recruit outside of office location
If we had an existing office space, proven examples of an in-office culture, or were more advanced in terms of our growth, this would have been a more difficult decision. In Flavor’s current set up though, Hybrid wasn’t a good fit for our needs.
4. HOW MOTIVATED IS THE TEAM?
In the 2 years Flavor has been running, we have been very conscious of managing and maintaining motivation.
The below is an overview of the values that we wanted to be at the core of our agency, and how we have tried to make this happen to date…
Trust vs. Control
In my opinion, Trust is THE most important factor of successfully running a business, and in particular with a Remote Working model.
If there is too much focus on control, then micro-management will take over. This will lead to holding meetings for sake of meetings, doubling up on jobs and an unmotivated team.
Our trust starts in our recruitment, and belief in ourselves that we are bringing the right people into the team. If you have this then you can feel confident enough to empower the team as competent and capable individuals that have the business’ and each other’s best interest at heart.
The trust we have in our team is embodied by us actively encouraging our team to have side hustles whilst working for Flavor. We trust that as capable and honest individuals they can manage their own time. Some of the side hustles of our team include property businesses, cake making, shoe design, and an eco-cosmetic brand.
Keep Communication Flowing
Making communication between each other easy and unrestrictive – an extension of how we would normally communicate.
In the early days of the business we looked at a variety of workflow systems and (Slack-like) apps to manage and control how communication and projects were managed. The more we built a team and worked out how we liked to work, the more we realised that following through with the trust we had in the team, and keeping communication simple was how we worked best.
To help with this communication mantra, we developed a simple 6 point ethos.
- Use mediums you use in life anyway, how you would normally use them – Phone, Email, WhatsApp, video calls – so there aren’t any barriers in communication
- If you’re struggling to write that email, call instead – chatting something through can solve a problem, or build an idea infinitely quicker than an email anyway.
- Trust and support your colleagues – everyone is awesome!
- Keep project meetings separate – to keep it focused, optimise time, and avoid confusion.
- Weekly company-wide meetings – so everyone can see what’s going on.
- Weekly management meetings – to make sure we are looking at the big picture.
Appreciation + Compassion
With all of the team having worked in a variety of types of working environments, we have learnt just as much from the negatives in those workplaces as we did the positives.
Because of this, when we were setting up the agency, we were determined to build an environment where the successes were celebrated and the mistakes were supported. We aim to follow the below points to maintain this type of environment.
- Give constant opportunity for celebration and progression – rewarding doing a job to a high standard just as much as going above and beyond.
- Mistakes are part of the learning process, and should be shared without fear of reprimand.
- We’re in a non-competitive environment designed to encourage and support of each other. If we don’t sweat the small stuff we can work together to make the big stuff amazing!
We all live by these values and ways of working on a day-to-day basis, and try to pass them on to new recruits through training and our behaviour as a team.
5. WHAT WE LEARNT, AND HOW WE MOVED FORWARD
Overall Remote Working is both beneficial to us as a business (fits with our company values, cost efficient and flexible), and appreciated by our team (work/life balance and freedom).
Trust is at the centre of making this model work – but there are still innate characteristics of Remote Working that can develop into major issues if left unmanaged.
Quick fixes aren’t going to plaster over the issues around personal contact and peer relationships.
So, alongside our mantra of putting trust at the centre of our working environment and trying to create an environment where people are open + honest – the learnings from listening to what is important to our team has led us to implement and integrate a number of policies focused on making our Remote Working Model as beneficial as possible.
Richard Lloyd-Williams, Managing Director at Flavor Sampling
Richard is an expert in experiential strategy, planning and measurement, with over 10 years of leading integrated experiential & sampling campaigns for a range of brands; from Bear Nibbles to Belvita, Coty to Coca-Cola, and Green & Black’s to Guinness, he’s led the way in understanding the true effectiveness of integrated sampling. He now shares his skills as MD of Flavour., an integrated sampling agency.