For all the pros of home working - biscuits on tap, always able to collect deliveries, the list goes on - motivational, and continuity of brand vision amongst co-workers can be a challenge. Maintaining all of that while retaining a homeworking ethos requires thought and actions. And I found out the hard way.
Having started two businesses in the past few years, I know the pros and cons of homeworking. Some people can thrive while others need support and guidance. And that's fine, recognising the need is what's most important.
My second business, Property TV, is a good example of this. As with most entrepreneurs these days, it all began at the kitchen table. Hundreds of phone calls, the occasional Skype meeting and a few trips in the car to various local contacts in Kent were all that we required at the time. Fast-forward two years and there's now a team of 25 scattered across the south of England with a good chunk in London – employed because they’re the best in the business, not because of their location. 12 months ago, I recognised the impact of working in isolation and we had to adapt while remaining dedicated to flexible home working.
Fundamentally, I believe in home working but I felt that the vision and brand goals had been compromised by a lack of interaction amongst the team. Looking back, it's obvious to see why issues arose at the time, but we struggled to find a way to live and breathe the brand as we'd all set out to do.
The key was interaction. I had numerous people reporting in while I was constantly on the go between meetings and making new connections. And of course, I wanted colleagues to speak to each other more and not have to come through me.
We took on a plethora of communications tools and set out a regular face-to-face meeting structure - incentivised with a few alcoholic beverages.
Property TV is now at a stage where having our own messenger systems may still be excessive, while existing apps and online tools are more than adequate to make homeworking practical, while retaining vision and a culture amongst colleagues.
We use dropbox for document hosting and sharing, Trello for a visual record of actions and project flow amongst the entire team, and Skype predominantly for catch-ups and meetings. We are exploring services such as Adobe Connect for conferences as the business grows. While I also use Evernote for note taking while on the go. It works fine, for the size we currently are.
For me, it still remains important to show guidance, dedication, passion and energy in a room full of people. That's what drives trust and belief that the business is building, and everyone is a vital cog in its growth. Therefore we all make efforts to attend a monthly business update meetings accompanied by a few drinks so that everyone not only shares business thoughts, but also gets to know each other better.
And despite catering for many tastes at the meeting, everyone has their favourite biscuit, so homeworking will remain a core aspect of working for property TV.
By Michael Hammond, founder of Property TV (Sky 238)