Having considered how expensive it was for us to rent an office, we quickly decided that mobile working was the solution for us. As a result we upped sticks and left our London office in 2007 and took the plunge into remote working via the cloud.
Being a company that offers a cloud-based expenses platform, we wanted to practice what we preach and make the most of the technology out there. In fact, the benefits have been huge. Not only have we saved significantly on overheads – up to 15% to be precise – we have also created a work force that is happy and more productive than ever before.
This method of working has intrigued many other businesses. I’m regularly asked how we manage our staff, remain confident that everyone is working in sync and essentially, doing their jobs properly.
Trust is the key here. I firmly believe that engaged staff will use their time effectively. In addition, the flexibility that mobile working unlocks also ensures that staff enjoy a great work/life balance – meaning that they are happier and thus become even more engaged with our business goals. The trust we foster via this way of working also means that we’re incredibly open internally. We encourage the learn-from-your-mistakes philosophy as much as we can.
Just because we are not psychically around each other every day, does not mean we are not in daily contact. We all make the most of our internal social network, Yammer, Google Talk for instant messaging and Skype for internal voice and video calls. Some people may think that it is impossible for us to meet objectives by working in this unorthodox fashion. However we have very efficient management processes which works around 90 day cycles. This works by setting annual goals which we then break up into 90 day chunks. Department heads are given specific things they need to achieve and they then take those 90 day goals and devolve them down to what’s required of their teams. Instead of just one annual staff review, our staff are reviewed at the end of the 90 day cycle which means we can easily keep track of both short and long term progress.
Of course we do meet up face-to-face sometimes as I appreciate that it’s important to do so. We hold quarterly team meetings where we host workshops and exchange information, and each department holds their own face-to-face team meetings when necessary.
Moving all operations to the cloud is a drastic decision for any company to make, but it was one which naturally integrated into our method of working at the time, as cloud technology was already integrated into our daily office processes.
If I was to offer my advice to other companies considering a similar move, I would first start by asking – do all of your employees need to be based in a central office or hub? Perhaps some of your staff do a lot of travelling and are only actually in the office for one day a week or even less. If you have several members of staff who do this, then maybe you could make substantial overhead savings by recreating part of your office virtually – after all what’s the point in renting office space that is too big for your requirements?
In addition, it’s important that you develop a brief when migrating to cloud working which gives you, your employees and your cloud service provider, a clear understanding of what you require from a cloud platform. This will help you to gain the buy-in of your employees, whilst helping you to track the performance of your eventual supplier.
Also, remember that migration to the cloud is a big step for any business. With this in mind, you should ensure your company’s migration to the cloud is at a pace that your organisation and its employees are comfortable with. After all, a hasty, half-baked plan for migration will only lead to disgruntled employees and customers.
Finally, ensuring that your new cloud supplier can provide your business with the support it may need is vital. As we know all too well, time is money, and if you have teething problems, you want to have the peace of mind that any issues will be resolved quickly and effectively.
Some skeptics may see this as a very risky step to take for any business. However, it has proved the making of my company in that it has created a happy, more productive workforce – one that enjoys a great work/life balance. In fact, we have seen the tangible results of this mobile method of working on our bottom line and growth.
Even if you don’t take mobile working as far as we have, you could easily draw on elements of cloud computing to improve the flexibility, happiness and ultimately performance of your current staff.
webexpenses Co-Founder and Managing Director, Sanjay Parekh