The vast majority of us are now working from home across the entirety of the United Kingdom. Amidst such uncertainty and in a world of unknowns, getting remote working right, is essential. Marcus Evans, co-founder and Managing Director of Nutbourne, a leading IT services and project consultant in London, has taken the time to share his thoughts on remote working, and how it’s been going for him so far…
“It’s been a long time since Nutbourne started. We used to, work in my loft, Patrick, Paul and I. Since then we have had three offices, of which the most recent houses 30 of us, with room for another 15. So it’s fair to say working from home isn’t something I’ve thought about a lot. Very occasionally, when the trains were broken, it would be something we would do, but mostly it was good to get into the office, see everyone, and resolve most issues face-to-face.
So it’s quite interesting being back to where I was seven years and some change ago before we got our first office. It’s a shed and not a loft, and the WIFI is probably better, but it’s been exactly the same day one. Its all coming back to me now, as Meatloaf would have it.”
“The first thing to do if you are going to work remotely, or have team members who will do so is to test it with a limited sample of people. Eight years ago that wasn’t a problem. Patrick and I lived together and Paul would drop by. It was also naturally staggered with Patrick going first and then Paul and then myself. Now, with 30 people, we have to do it a bit differently, especially in light of the current circumstances.
From observing what was happening in Europe, we anticipated that social distancing would be introduced in the UK. So, we drew up a phase plan of the people to be out of the office, and started from phase one, which I was in - anyone with serious underlying health conditions (www.spleniclymphoma.com). Phase two will be milder conditions, but still health-related problems, such as Asthma and Hypertension. Then phase three will be people in positions who have never been off before, so that we can try rotating everyone in the organisation working from home. Finally, the BCP full initialisation is that everyone would be working from home and we shut the office.
We can go through those steps as quickly or slowly as we need, and I expect we might even skip one or two if we had an incidence of the coronavirus in our office. Even so, by the end of the trial periods we will have a fully operational team working remotely for Nutbourne, having trialled it all.”
Keeping it together
“Once the company is all working from home, then I have an even bigger job. Keeping it together. Back in the old days, it was pretty easy, we all saw each other every day and there were only three of us. Now if we have 30 people all isolated from each other, how do we get them to work well together and make sure that efficiency continues to be high? The worst case is that things drop between people as communication breaks down and we have to pick it up. Hopefully, we can avoid that.
Then there is the intangible, how do we keep our company feel? As a company, Nutbourne works hard to keep people integrated together and to share a similar mindset. Half of that is recruiting the right people in the first place, people with the same agendas as us, who think the same way. In a working from home situation we will need to rely on this culture of diligence and purpose. If people need to make decisions without input they need to apply Nutbourne’s company values and make sure they are right. If you take a decision on a clear value, you rarely go wrong.
That’s one half of it, recruitment. Not much you can do about that now though, and this is where the second part comes in. Company spirit. Simple things like video one on ones with all the team, so that they keep the facetime, even remotely. A phone call is very different to a face to face conversation. Additionally, an all-team chat programme like teams is super important, as it means there is a forum to continue talking, work on problems that each person finds, and ultimately keep in constant communication with each other.”
“This is the other big hurdle. How do we keep the level of quality up that our clients deserve and have come to expect from Nutbourne? It’s a tough one for some teams, easier for others. For example out onsite team often work from client sites and so are very good at operating from a remote base. In comparison the service desk team is made up of three dispatchers, who take the calls and sift the emails. They then pass out tickets to the analysts who add them to their queue and work on them. The analysts will be working on anywhere between 15-25 issues at the same time. Finally the engineers pick up things that the analysts can’t do, or they sit with them and help. This second part is crucial and something that will be very tough to replicate. How do you get people to sit next to each other remotely?
Ultimately this structure needs great communication, inter and intra team. Technology is the answer to this one. Our ticketing system www.Connectwise.com is great for sharing tickets and keeping track of queues. We use something called www.brightgauge.com to keep track of all the metrics on one screen. Finally we use teams as the great social bond between the team. It allows chats, video conferences and ultimately good communication.
Finally we use our phones a lot, so we examined a remote handling company, who could take calls and pass them across, as well as a soft phone version of our desk-phones. We went for the latter and it has proved pretty good. People can talk as if they were on their extensions and this has allowed us to pass calls for each other and to use overflow if we have the problem of too many continuous calls coming in that need to be fielded.
As you can see we have found a lot of ways to address delivery. All of them required trialling. We suggest that if you plan on doing the same, you do it in a rolling. None of us knows how long it will last after all!”
So, if you’d like to find out more about how Nutbourne have implemented remote working into their project consultant set up, then get in touch! Call today on 0203 137 7273.