Remote working: from the minority to the majority

Picture a time when remote working was only for the few, pandemics only happened in 1920 and we were all free to travel where we like.

Well, back in January 2020, I considered myself one of the lucky ones. I moved full-time into my self-built campervan and set off on a European adventure, whilst still working remotely part-time for HOME. It was a first for the agency, allowing an employee to live and work in this nature.

Little did I know what the next 18 months would hold!

My living arrangement

I live in a van, with my partner (and now Spanish rescue dog named Sally, but that’s a story for another day) and have since October 2019. We don’t have a house, we live, work and travel in it full-time. Our bright orange van is called DeeDee and is a Long Wheelbase Sprinter.

This is us parked next to the Gorge du Verdon in France (no editing necessary here, the water really is that colour!)

My working arrangement

Before I get into the way things have changed, it is probably worth outlining how I work from the road.

My previous part-time hours meant working Monday – Wednesday 09:00 – 17:30, giving me a long weekend to explore the delights Europe has to offer whilst still allowing me enough office time for clients and colleagues.

This has now changed to working every day from 08:30 – 13:00. This suits both me and HOME better, facilitating daily client contact whilst still giving me the afternoons to explore.

Imperia, Italy – working with a view of the Med!

Back in January 2020, this was an idea not well explored. It had certainly never been done before at HOME and with 99% of Homies still office bound, I was an outlier. This undoubtedly threw up some obstacles. But as we now know, come March 2020, this was about to drastically change.

The good stuff…

During the first few months of remote working and travelling, I felt a lot of responsibility to not be the reason I missed out on work and tried to be available to everyone at all times. That feeling, whilst still there, has diminished spectacularly. I’ve learned that it’s okay to be updated on developments when I’m not in, people aren’t annoyed that I’ve been out of the office having a good time, in fact, they want to know what I’ve been up to!

The adoption of remote working has forced everyone to change how they think about their work/life balance, and the same goes for me. The increased flexibility, freedom and trust that has come with the past 18 months of remote working has had a really positive impact on my wellbeing and overall job satisfaction.

A fairly obvious advantage to this flexible working approach is the time I’ve had available to me to enjoy life more than I would if I was working full time in one location. I’ve been able to spend weekdays exploring gorges, paddle boarding rivers, getting lost in Europe and drinking lots (and lots) of cheap French wine (other drinks are available). Whilst this benefit is unique to me, it is something that I think others can take confidence from in that there are other ways to enjoy life other than the traditional route we’re made aware of, it’s all about finding that balance.

The not so good stuff…

Technology can’t replace everything. As good as Teams is (and it is very good), it isn’t a full replacement for face-to-face meetings. When I first set off, the adoption of Teams was still new and not everyone was using it for communication, so it was tricky to get a hold of people when I could no longer pop my head into their room.

Plus, meeting etiquette was slightly uncouth! With everyone in the actual room and technology lacking, multiple voices turned into white noise for remote attendees like me. I’m happy to say that 18 months on, virtual meeting etiquette is now exceptional!

Since April, I’ve been back working from the road in this country and have realised that 4G signal is generally much better in Europe than the UK. This is frustrating, as parking in National Parks is a favourite pastime, but not practical if I’ve got a long video call.

Technology aside, one of the biggest adjustments I’ve experienced is the forced remote working every other person has had to unexpectedly adapt to. Whilst this accelerated the acceptance of remote working, I had to remember that remote working wasn’t a choice for everyone else, they hadn’t had time to prepare for it like I had.

This also taught me that sometimes it isn’t the best idea to ‘show off’ your office view every day! Whilst on the whole people enjoyed seeing my different backdrops, this one from Portugal was met with real anger from my team, as it was February and about four degrees back in the UK at the time… #Sorrynotsorry

A flexible future for all?

I think so, but then again, I’m biased! I want everyone to see the benefits of not needing to be in one location to work and the amazing opportunities that it can present for both employees and employers.

Sure, we had a global pandemic to deal with and a severe lockdown in Spain, but we still managed to experience so much, travelling through nine countries in total and all whilst working 22 hours a week! It’s totally possible to have conference calls from a wildflower field in the Czech Republic in the morning, then go digging for Moldavite and other precious gemstones in the afternoon (yes, that did happen).

I realise I’m in a very fortunate position to work for a company that said yes to my van life proposal and have been supportive of me not just being away from the office, but often not being in the country too. However, as more people realise employees are just as productive when you can’t see them, these opportunities should hopefully open up to more and more people.

So, I’ll see you on the road then yeah?

If you want to find out more about our travels, you can find us on Instagram & YouTube.

Written by:

James Mechan Senior Strategic Search Consultant


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