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  • We are Café Commuters!

    Posted on June 8th, 2009 Marieke Guy 1 comment

    In the past few months we’ve talked about remote working, remoter remote working (from Canada), working beyond the office and working just about anywhere in the world!

    For those less hell bent on travel, working from your local coffee shop can be a very relaxing and therapeutic alternative to the hum drum of office life. Lori Thiessen and Gregg Taylor of Coffee Shop Office, Vancouver have perfected the art!

    Gregg and I were delighted when Marieke Guy of UKOLN asked us to write a guest post for her blog. Like Marieke, we are advocates of remote working. Upon Marieke’s suggestion, we will tell you a little about our café commuting experiences.

    Gregg and Lori at Esquires on the launch day of their project

    Gregg and Lori at Esquires on the launch day of their project

    Gregg Taylor is an award-winning career coach and employment trends expert in Vancouver, British Columbia. For almost 20 years, Gregg has been the President of Transitions Career and Business Consultants. As his company has grown, office space has become somewhat cramped and the noise levels have increased. Gregg began to take ‘out-of-office’ work days in order to focus on specific projects outside of the hectic pull of his office.

    Unfortunately, Gregg didn’t have internet access from his home so he began using his local coffee shop which did. What was also great about working from the coffee shop was that there weren’t the distractions found at home like the Kilimanjaro-sized pile of laundry. And the coffee was always piping hot and the staff handled the clean-up.

    One day Gregg was looking around the coffee shop and he saw that other people were hovering over their laptops like he was. He struck up conversations with different ones and politely asked what they were working on. Some were students working on homework. Others were business people taking an ‘out-of-office’ work day. Still others were writers working on their latest creation.

    //www.flickr.com/photos/latteart/2547757031/ by confusedbeeOver time, Gregg developed friendships with some of these fellow cafe commuters. In fact, Gregg has enlisted the help of a couple of these cafe commuter colleagues (a marketing person and a self-publishing specialist) for the Coffee Shop Office project.

    His friends and colleagues are now so familiar with Gregg’s alternate office, the Esquires on West 16th and Oak in Vancouver that they will ask him if he is going to be at the head office, the satellite office or his coffee shop office. He’s even held staff meetings at the coffee shop because it is a half way point between his two offices and it is easier for the managers to meet in the middle.

    My experience as a café commuter was pretty much nil until Gregg asked me to help him with the Coffee Shop Office project. I was intrigued with the idea though and I knew that the coffeehouses of 18th century London were often used by their patrons for conducting their own business. Lloyd’s of London, the international marine insurance company, began during this time in Edward Lloyd’s coffeehouse in London’s dockyards. The idea of investigating the current remote working trend sounded very interesting and great fun so I was excited to join Gregg in this venture.

    Most of my work history consists of administrative jobs that required me to be in the office supporting the work of others so I’ve had little opportunity to sample the café commuter life. When I was a student, I was generally too financially embarrassed to splash out on several coffees a week and I didn’t want to sit in a café nursing one small coffee for several hours at a time. The café owner needs to make a living too.

    Since 2007, however, I’ve taken the plunge into the entrepreneurial world. Scriptorium Ink is my little concern and I do writing, editing and research. I’ve met with a few prospective clients at the coffee shop because I don’t have a ‘proper’ office and my home office is, well, in my home. Until I bought a laptop, I was chained, or rather cabled, to my home office. With the laptop came the freedom to work from virtually wherever I chose.

    Gregg and I conduct most of our project meetings at the Esquires coffee shop. The barista/owner knows us very well by now as do most of Gregg’s coffee shop office colleagues. They are very kind and often inquire about the progress of the project.

    One of the hazards of being with this project is the urge to eavesdrop on conversations in coffee shops. I’m so curious to know what other cafe commuters are doing around me that my ears are continually flapping. I’ve heard an accountant advising a client, someone being instructed in Hebrew, a wardrobe consultant conducting a first interview with her client, and a photographer discussing some creative ideas with his assistant just to name a few.

    Gregg and I are proud to be part of this diverse and wide-spread community. We are also pleased to network with other café commuters to exchange stories as well as share information to make remote working easier and viable for more and more people.

    Thank you, Marieke, for this opportunity to share our café commuting stories.


  • A week of Remote Working

    Posted on May 15th, 2009 Marieke Guy 2 comments

    logo-smlAre you working from home as you read this? Work Wise UK, a not-for-profit initiative which aims to make the UK one of the most progressive economies in the world by encouraging the widespread adoption of smarter working practices, have been running their annual Work Wise Week and today is National Work from Home Day.

    The week runs from Tuesday, May 12, until Monday, May 18. This skewed ‘week’ is to emphasise the need for flexible working practices. There are a number of themed days:

    Mobile Office Day (Tuesday, May 12) - encouraging people to work while on the move, instead of travelling to a central office.

    Remote Office Day (Wednesday, May 13) – encouraging people to use remote offices instead of travelling to a central office. These would include serviced office space, touch down centres or even hot spots such as coffee shops.

    Virtual Meeting Day (Thursday, May 14) – encouraging people to conduct meetings by audio or video conferencing or go online instead of travelling to meetings. BT.com have been offering organisations the opportunity to take part with a free trial of its WebEx virtual meeting service.

    National Work from Home Day (Friday, May 15) – this will be the fourth time this day has been run. It will encourage people to work from home instead of commuting to their usual place of work.

    Smarter Travel Day (Monday, May 18) – the concluding day of the week will encourage people to travel outside peak times. Coming into work an hour early, and then leaving an hour early at the end of the day, or going an hour later, and leaving an hour later. This will reduce the peak rush hour, and make the commuting experience far more bearable for many.

    Slipped the Net Here at UKOLN

    Somehow the Work Wise Week details had managed to avoid my daily trawl for remote working information. I have a feeling that last year the National Work from Home Day was bigger business, maybe the recession has had some effect on enthusiasm to try out new things. Or maybe it’s just me that’s missed it? We haven’t managed to organise anything here at UKOLN but it might be a bit like preaching to the converted as UKOLN already supports flexible and remote working. It’s some of the bigger ‘more conservative’ businesses who could do with a bit of gentle persuasion that remote working is good for business.

    Has your organisation or company been doing anything special for Work Wise Week?

  • Remote Gardening

    Posted on April 30th, 2009 Marieke Guy 5 comments

    Last Saturday’s Guardian ran a bring the garden into your office theme for its Work section. The cover story was on the phenomena of shedworking (working from your garden shed). Famous shedworkers listed included writers Philip Pulman, Roald Dahl and Henry Thoreau.

    shed from Flickr (Peter Astn)

    The main spread provided some great colour photos of garden ‘office’ buildings. People are increasingly running businesses and working from home and are looking for extra space in which to do it. A shed is quite often the answer. The article writer Alex Johnson, blog author of Shedworking talked about the miniaturisation of the office workplace:

    A cramped outbuilding which once housed lawnmowers and pots can now comfortably be insulated from the cold, fitted with its own electrics, and link you to anywhere in the world. It’s an alternative workplace revolution.”

    It is a lot greener to move words, number and ideas than it is to move people” commented Lloyd Alter, architecture expert at treehugger.com.

    Another article in the section talks about how office workers can create their own office allotment by bringing the outdoors in and having some plants on their desk. Surrounding yourself with greenery can reduce tiredness and improve concentration. Enterprise Nation also opts for a Nature suggestion: “One of the joys of working from home is that you can decorate and design your home office in any way you like“.

    Anyway all this talk of gardens and greenery has inspired me to share my own ‘remote gardening’ experience with you.

    We have a really great garden. It’s contained, spacious and full of lovely looking plants and flowers. It also has lots of really interesting nooks and crannies. Someone must have put a lot of effort into it before we arrived. Having 3 children and jobs to do we don’t get a lot of time for gardening. Growing vegetables has always been a dream of mine but while before I didn’t have the space to do it I now don’t have the time. We have a perfect little patch at the back of the garden and until recently I spent many a minute (while hanging the washing up) looking at it and wishing I could do something with it.

    I’ve mentioned before that I’m a member of the Melksham Climate friendly group. While at a group meeting many moons back I mentioned my dilemma (space to grow things but no time), another member of the group then mentioned his dilemma (time to grow things but no space). Apparently there is a real shortage of allotments locally, people can end up with their name on the list for years before they get allocated a patch. Anyway a deal was done. My friend could come and tend the patch and use the green house and we would share the offerings. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall stumbled on the same idea not long after (!) and started promoting his Landshare project on his River Cottage programme.

    Our little veg patch

    PotsMy friend now has a key to the back gate and we see him down at the veg patch every couple of days. If I’m about, maybe having my lunch in the garden, I say hello and make him a coffee. Every now and then we have a chat about how things are coming along and I make sure he has all the things he needs. He’s quite new to gardening and is ‘trying lots of things out’ so we share ideas. We’re trying out everything. We’ve having a go at lettuce, radishes, potatoes, carrots, squash, all types of beans, rhubarb, onions, and much much more. We’ve now started on a row of pots to the side of the greenhouse and may be on the hunt for more space.

    After the initial excitement the children are pretty used to him now and say how great it is that we’ve got our ‘own gardener’. My next door neighbour has even offered him some space in her garden too. It won’t be long before he’s got the whole street covered!

    So I’m pretty lucky. While working I get to look out on a fantastic garden and in my breaks I can pop out to see how my magical vegetable patch is doing! It’s a hard life isn’t it!

    View from my window

  • 6 Months of Remote Worker blogging

    Posted on March 18th, 2009 Marieke Guy 7 comments

    Can you believe it?! Yes, I’ve been writing this blog for 6 months now…

    So what have I learnt?

    It’s quality not quantity that counts

    I’ve now written over 50 posts…so am averaging on about 2 posts a week. I don’t want to just churn stuff out though so try really hard to only blog about stuff that is relevant (to remote working) and of interest to me. I’m not saying that the end result is that great, but if I didn’t stick to these rules it could be a lot worse!

    My Colleague Paul Walk, who writes a really readable blog (inspiringly titled paul walk’s weblog ;-) ) (probably so readable because he doesn’t post that often) asked a while back if it mattered to me if anyone read my posts. That’s a tricky one. Of course it matters and I’d really like people to read the blog and comment (I won’t bore you with stats here), but it doesn’t matter as much to me as I thought it would. I actually enjoy writing the blog now and often find myself referring back to past posts, so it’s almost become a kind of content management system for my thoughts on remote working.

    Blogs lead to bigger things

    I’ve found that writing my blog has helped inform me about remote working issues and technologies because I now have a reason to find out about them. It’s sort of a chicken and egg situation. I find out about stuff to write about on the blog, people send in comments, I know more things about stuff so I end up writing more about stuff!

    I’ve also learnt a lot about blogging, which is good as I often run workshops on it!

    I’ve had emails from people about remote working (for example this one on VPNs, Management and Emails from Canada), I’ve participated in Webinars (for RSC Eastern) and will hopefully be giving a talk at a Flexible working event later this year (more on that in the future). I’ve also submitted something to Internet Librarian on remote working.

    I’ve been able to network with other remote workers (using the blog as an excuse), have published two guest blog posts so far (Monica Duke and Paul Boag), got more people lined up for guest blog posts and have been able to use the blog in my role as remote worker champion.

    What’s successful can be surprising

    The most successful posts are about technology (Twitter!), something silly (like the Top 10 Remote Worker Lunches) or something that for some reason gets on a list somewhere. But I’ve also enjoyed blogging about my family, my town, the snow and bad employers!

    And my final thoughts…

    Well firstly it’s a good job my husband doesn’t read my blog (at least I think he doesn’t)…

    Secondly I’ve got a lot more out of blogging than I thought I would. I’ve found it a really reflective, useful activity and it doesn’t take up that much time when you get going.

    So if you’ve got this far in my post…thanks for reading! :-)

    Me, working remotely

    I’m not sure what my intentions for the future are. I guess more of the same with some more guest blog posts, more horizon scanning and more user input (more comments please!). I’d like to jazz up the blog a bit when I get time – maybe add a few more widgets. I suppose it would also be nice to get more readers. It’s all a work in progress….

    Anyway here are my own favourite posts (in no particular order):



    Any ideas on what you’d like me to blog on? Any suggestions? What about your first 6 months of blogging?

  • The Reality of Home Working

    Posted on March 16th, 2009 Marieke Guy 2 comments

    Time for another guest blog post. I’ve managed to persuade Paul Boag, user experience designer and founding partner of Web design agency Headscape, to share with us his experience of being a remote worker. Paul is a keen blogger and runs the boagworld.com community for people who run Web sites. Enjoy!!


    Paul BoagAn increasing number of people are trading in the cubicle for home working. It is seen by many as the ultimate perk. However, is home working really everything it is cracked up to be? I share what I have discovered after 7 years of home working.

    Like many people starting a new business, we begun Headscape working from home. It was a great way to keep costs low and ensure those long hours required when starting a business were more bearable. However the real appeal of home working, was the feeling it provided more flexibility.

    The dream becomes a nightmare

    To begin with it felt like being set free. I could work in my pyjamas, no longer worry about day time deliveries and get to see my new born son whenever I wanted. Unfortunately, like everything, the honeymoon period eventually wore off.

    It did not take long for the presence of my new born child to turn from a blessing to a curse. His constant crying made work difficult and my loud conference calls often brought the wrath of my wife because they disturbed ‘nap time’.

    I also found myself craving human interaction. Although my wife and son were around, I found I could go days (or in some cases even longer) without seeing another human sole. In fact there was a period of time when I rarely left the house.

    Things weren’t much better when friends and family did come to visit. They seemed unable to grasp that I was at work and I suffered from constant interruptions.

    Suffering from a lack of self control

    However the biggest problem with my new found freedom was that it required a lot of self control. Many people suffer from a lack motivation when they start home working. They become get distracted by day time TV or making ‘yet another cup of tea’. However, I suffered from the opposite problem.

    With work so easily accessible and a new business to worry about I found myself constantly drawn back into the office. For a considerable time all I did in my life was work and sleep. It was damaging to both myself and my relationship with the family. Something had to change.

    What didn’t work

    I decided that what I missed was the structure of office life. I therefore decided to recreate this structure at home. I started work at 9AM and finished at 5.30PM (at least that was the theory). I even dressed for work and at the end of the business day got changed into my casual clothes.

    I set rigid boundaries for friends and family too. While I was at work I was off limits and simply would not interact with others. However, I did try and overcome my feels of isolation by experimenting with a plethora of communication tools. My aim was to enable better communication with other members of Headscape.

    However ultimately all of these techniques failed. They failed to acknowledge the very nature of home working and left me with the worst aspects of both home and office.

    I became increasingly irritable with family, annoyed by the constant interruptions created by the comms tools I had put in place, and trapped by the rigid routine of the 9 to 5.

    The secret to home working

    At this point you probably suspect I return to office life. However, that is not the case. In fact where most of Headscape now work in an office, I am one of the few hold outs who refuse to give up home working. I love it. It just took me a while to work out how to make it work.

    The secret to home working is finding a balance. You need to put boundaries in place that ensure you strike the right work/home balance. However you must also ensure those ‘rules’ are not so restrictive they suck the pleasure out of home working.

    Take for example working hours. I required boundaries. On one hand I needed to limit the hours I worked. However, I also had to overcome the guilt I felt when I believed I wasn’t working hard enough.

    The answer wasn’t working 9AM to 5PM. This simply imposed an office model on a home environment. Rather I started tracking my time. Each day I work an 8 hour day. However rarely is that in normal business hours.

    I tend to start around 9ish, but as anybody who follows me on Twitter knows I often take a nap in the afternoon. This suits my body clock and takes full advantage of my home working environment.

    I also feel free to stop when friends or family come around. I often go for coffee or even see a movie with my wife. I then make up the time in evenings or weekends. Because I track the time, I do not need to feel guilty about these distractions.

    I know what you are thinking- what if one of my colleagues needs something from me when I am out? Well, I always ensure I am instantly contactable. I have my iphone and will always answer it even if that means walking out of the movie. Also, I normally carry my laptop and 3G modem so I can act on things immediately if they are urgent.

    Of course, I am not naive. If you work in customer support or as part of a closely knit team then this would not be possible. However if you do, then home working is probably not ideal anyway.

    I think that is the problem with a lot of home working articles. They fail to take into account the huge variety of factors that can affect how you work from home. It is impossible to tell anybody how they should work from home because…

    • We all have different characters
    • We all have different job requirements
    • We all work in different home working environments

    That said, I do think there is at least some advice I can give in regards to working environment.

    Your working environment

    When I first started home working we converted our dining room into an office. I did at least get one thing right. I realised the importance of having a dedicated working environment. You cannot work from your kitchen table when the room is also being used by the family. It just doesn’t work.

    However, what I got wrong was the room I picked. Our dinning room was right in the middle of our house, between the kitchen and living room. Only a partition wall divided it from the living room and so I could hear everything happening in the house and vice versa.

    Now my office is a converted garage adjoining the house. Its only link is through a heavy fire door and utility room. It is essentially a separate area exclusively for my work.


    Pick your working environment carefully. Ensure you have a room away from the rest of the house. It will make a world of difference. Also, spend time and money to ensure it is as nice a place to work as possible. Lots of daylight is the key for me. That and nice furniture. If you don’t make your home office a nice place to work, it will become a prison you learn to hate.

    Of course, no matter how nice your home office it will eventually drive you crazy. When you work and live in one place, you eventually feel the need to get out. That is where I am grateful we have a company office too. I have found myself really enjoying the change of environment and the opportunity to speak to real live human beings!

    If you don’t have an office, then try working from a coffee shop or even break free from the office model entirely.

    Beyond the office

    While most companies are considering allowing their employees to home work I am beginning to experiment with leaving the idea of an office behind entirely.

    The realisation that there is no need for me to be constrained by any kind of office first struck me when reading ‘The 4 Hour Work Week‘. Although there is a lot in that book I disagree with, I do think it gets one thing right – most of the work we do does not need to be constrained to a particular location.

    Take for example this post. I am currently flying at 30,000 feet over the Atlantic on my way to SXSW. I can still blog. In fact Dave and Craig (two of our developers at Headscape) are sitting in front of me installing .net on a mac and Marcus is sitting beside me building a wireframe. As long as we have a computer, we can work anywhere.

    This is even easier when I am on the ground! For £15 per month I have a 3G modem that allows me web access too. Combined with my iphone and laptop, I have a complete mobile office. I could work from anywhere.

    Of course this approach is not without its challenges. My modem may give me web access in the UK, but using it abroad is expensive. That said, there are a growing number of wifi spots internationally so it is a problem that is diminishing.

    As with home working the more significant barrier is a mental one. In the same way I had problems working out how best to work from home, I am also having problems knowing the best approach while travelling.

    Over the summer I did an experiment in ‘road’ working when I went on holiday to the Highlands of Scotland with the family. I took a week’s holiday and decided to work for a week too, as an experiment. I have to say it didn’t go well. The temptations of the great outdoors and family fun was just too great. I did my weeks work but only just and it was not a pleasurable experience.


    That said, I know of others who have got it working for them. I just need to find the right way for me. Perhaps I should get up early but stop after lunch. Perhaps I should take a long siesta in the middle of the day and work later into the evening. The possibilities are endless and one of them will strike the right balance between working and living the life I want to live.

    What I am convinced of is that mobile computing has opened up limitless opportunities to work where we want and how we want. All that is holding us back is the status quo and outdated ideologies.

  • Know Thyself: The UKOLN Remote Worker Workshop

    Posted on March 13th, 2009 Marieke Guy 2 comments

    Yesterday we had our second UKOLN remote worker workshop. This was an all-day workshop run by an external trainer for our internal remote workers only.

    What can I say? I think we all had a fab day (despite feeling a bit ropey after all going out for a meal and a few drinks the night before!) The day, for me, was actually quite emotional. There was a lot of introspection and trying to understand yourself. I’m not a particularly huggy-feely person but I do believe some time spent trying to understand yourself will end up being be time well invested. As the ancient Greek aphorism states “know thyself”.

    Sylvia Vacher from Objectives training does a great job of getting to the root of a problem and making sure you take a solutions based approach, so you are left with very practical advice that you can go away and apply.

    UKOLN Remote Workers

    UKOLN Remote Workers

    The main themes for the day were time management and motivation. These were the two problem areas we’d identified as being the most significant to us as remote workers. We also looked at creativity quite a bit because much of our work at UKOLN involves innovation and ideas.

    Our spec outline included:

    Time management
    How can we use our time more effectively?
    How can we change ingrained patterns of behaviour?
    How can we stop ourselves procrastinating?
    What can be done to avoid distractions -both online and off?
    How can we improve our concentration (given that when at home many stimulus (like people to chat to) are not there)?
    What different time management systems apply for different personalities?
    What motivates us as individuals?
    How can we encourage motivation when, at times, we are not getting this from the work we are carrying out?
    How can we set our own goals when our work targets are sometimes unclear?
    How can we stimulate creative thinking when alone?
    How can we increase interaction with colleagues (be they UKOLN or external)?
    How can we maintain momentum in this communication?

    I think some of the key things that I took away from the day include:

    The Importance of Feedback

    The isolation of remote working means that you need feedback much more than an on-site worker. If you aren’t getting this feedback you need to ask for it. This feedback could take the form of peer support, a coach, mentor or any other support. Some of the other remote workers (who live near to Manchester) have agreed to meet up once a month for a coffee, a chat and a ‘bit of support’.

    Taking a Risk is good.

    Broadening your horizon can only be a good thing. As a working Mum I tend to want to keep things safe and stay at home as much as possible, yet I crave the stimulus of going to events and meeting people. Although getting out can be a pain it’s an essential part of making you a rounded person and a key factor in creativity. I need to do more of it.

    Be positive

    I’m just not, but it’s the only way to be. You need to fill your life with the things you want to do and then enjoy them.

    Our trainer Sylvia Vacher

    Our trainer Sylvia Vacher

    A few of my favourite motivators were:

    • Know what makes you tick and try to get more of it
    • Think of the positives – deal with the negatives in a solution based way
    • Keep your stimulators (things/books etc. that get you thinking) in a folder and get them out when you’re stuck

    As for time keeping I liked:

    • If in doubt throw it out – try having a “Phucket bucket” – I hope I won’t get in trouble for this one, it just really sticks!
    • Chunk stuff up
    • Turn everything off (technology wise), now and then
    • You don’t have to respond straight away to everything
    • Don’t let someone take all your pie (i.e. time) if you don’t want them to
    • Your best working time is between 10 – 12 so do something constructive then (i.e. don’t answer emails in it)

    A few interesting resources from the day that I intend to follow up are:

    All of this was great but probably the most exciting thing about the day was that we are really gelling as a team. Although we all work on different areas we have a lot of common ground. If we can support each other then we are going to be more motivated and ultimately work more effectively. It’s a win win situation….now I really am starting to sound like an American pop-psychologist!! ;-)

  • Happy Families: A Day in the Life

    Posted on March 9th, 2009 Marieke Guy 3 comments

    I love my children. They are exhausting, challenging and fantastic, all at the same time. I really enjoy spending time with them.

    But….I don’t think children and work mix.

    I like to keep my work time separate from my children and they go to school and after-school club or nursery when I’m working. Remote working is great because the time I save on travel means I can drop my older children off at school, a luxury I wouldn’t have if I was expected to be at Bath University for 9am.

    In the first Ariadne article I wrote on remote working I said

    It is also true that there are actually fewer distractions at home than at work, aiding concentration. Those who work alone from home are likely to be in a quieter environment with no colleagues around to chat with, no company coffee breaks and no ‘unnecessary’ meetings. That is, unless they have young children; in which case, reliable, consistent childcare arrangements are indispensable.

    I think this has just come back to haunt me!

    My husband and I have recently had a bit of a shift around of our working schedules and at the moment I am working 4 days a week (I used to work 3). On the extra day I work my husband looks after the children.

    What happens on Thursdays is a new experience for me. I work from home while my children are in the house! I’m not looking after them but they are still there…making a racket, knocking on my door and asking me for things (that really my husband should be sorting out for them). I’m sure things will settle into a routine but it’s been a bit of a strange one. Firstly my husband has had to start acting like the one in control. Now my husband is great…but he’s the complete opposite of me. While I’m a total control freak who likes to ‘get things done’ he just isn’t. Secondly I’ve had to let go, which has actually been really difficult.


    Anyway it has been a bit of a learning process for all of us, but we are getting there slowly. I think the hundred times my husband has shouted “Mummy’s at work” has now started to filter through – at least for the older two. (People have suggested putting a lock on the door but this isn’t a prison and the children need to learn to listen to us.) My husband has been pretty good at taking the youngest out. Being the only Daddy at singing group doesn’t seem to bother him. I think he likes the attention!

    I guess this is all part of us trying out new ways of working, the whole life/work balance. Although I’ve found things tricky I wouldn’t want it any other way. If I have to work that extra day then the redeeming feature is that we can all have dinner together as a family (not normally possible due to my husband’s hours) and I can at least see their smiling faces during my breaks.

    All the arguments and cleaning up….well that’s someone else’s job now!

  • Your Most Valuable Asset

    Posted on February 23rd, 2009 Marieke Guy 4 comments

    It seems that announcements of job loses are becoming an every day part of our lives as the recession picks up speed.

    This week alone I’ve heard about people being made redundant by phone, redundant by an A4 message taped in the shop window and redundant an hour before their shift ends. Lack of money should not be an excuse for lack of manners!

    Employers are pretty keen to rid themselves of dead wood as soon as things look a little bleak, but maybe sometimes they are a little too hasty. When things get better, and they will get better, they may find themselves loaded with a huge recruitment cost.

    Lots of employers are looking at different ways to keep staff in work. Many car manufacturers have implemented 4 day weeks or ‘work holidays’. The Honda factory in Swindon has closed for 4 months. My husband’s employer has decided to cut all staff pay by 20% (I have to say this wouldn’t have been my reduction of choice!)

    How companies deal with the recession will have a big impact on what happens later down the line and maybe some organisations need to give some though to being more understanding and more flexible. Employees are an organisation’s most valuable asset and recognising this (by listening to them) will help weather the storm.

    The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) last year offered a 9 point strategy for staff retention.

    All are pretty useful but the ones that stand out in the current economic climate are:

    • Consult employees – ensure wherever possible that employees have a ‘voice’ through consultative bodies, regular appraisals, attitude surveys and grievance systems. This will provide dissatisfied employees with a number of mechanisms to sort out problems before resigning. Where there is no opportunity to voice dissatisfaction, resigning is the only option.
    • Be flexible – wherever possible accommodate individual preferences on working hours and times. Where people are forced to work hours that do not suit their domestic responsibilities they will invariably be looking for another job which can offer such hours.
    • Avoid the development of a culture of ‘presenteeism’ - where people feel obliged to work longer hours than are necessary simply to impress management. Evaluation of individual commitment should be based on results achieved and not on hours put in.
    • Job security – provide as much job security as possible. Employees who are made to feel that their jobs are precarious may put a great deal of effort in to impress, but they are also likely to be looking out for more secure employment at the same time. Security and stability are greatly valued by most employees.
    • Treat people fairly – never discriminate against employees. A perception of unfairness, whatever the reality when seen from a management point of view, is a major cause of voluntary resignations. While the overall level of pay is unlikely to play a major role unless it is way below the market rate, perceived unfairness in the distribution of rewards is very likely to lead

    My husband has now managed to negotiate a 4 day week which means he can look after the children while I can do extra work. Other employees have encouraged their staff to get second jobs, work from home and work flexible hours.

    Keeping staff motivated is also an issue when people are struggling with ‘bigger problems’ at home. Last year HR Zone wrote a useful article on Crunch time: Retaining staff through motivation.

    A lack of motivation doesn’t just impact productivity and retention. Philips points out that in the instantly accessible web world we’re now part of, disgruntled employees have more online outlets to vent their frustrations, such as blogs and social networking sites. A bad reputation soon seeps out from behind closed doors, possibly damaging brand and even recruitment if employees look you up, warts and all.

    No need to moan here. I am lucky enough to work for what I believe to be a transparent organisation whom supports its staff, where ever they work.

    And I’d just like “Thanks“.

  • Can’t be Bothered with Motivation?

    Posted on January 26th, 2009 Marieke Guy No comments

    I’ve mentioned before that I am the ‘Remote Worker Champion’ at UKOLN. (This doesn’t involve me winning medals or being good at anything, it’s just about me supporting the UKOLN remote workers). We are currently planning a one-day internal workshop tackling remote worker issues. After chatting to people it hasn’t been that surprising to discover that the number one issue they have as remote workers is motivation.

    Sometimes it’s just difficult to get motivated. It’s even more difficult when:

    • You’re not sure what you are supposed to be doing at work
    • You’ve got other things that need doing and are quite straightforward (like the washing up)
    • There is no-one there to inspire you
    • There is no-one there to watch you and check you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing
    • You’re bored

    no motivation
    Although I don’t have the answers yet (the hope is that the workshop will help here) it is obvious that one of the main problems is not having a clear vision (sorry for the management speak).

    The fact that much of my work (and other people’s, especially in academia) doesn’t have an obvious point, was initially a big shock to me. It’s taken me a while to realise that sometimes the things you do don’t make sense till later down the line, and sometimes they don’t make sense at all…. This doesn’t mean that they are pointless.

    Unfortunately that doesn’t really help you feel motivated. :-(

    What I’ve found helps is to make sure I have the point of what I’m doing (no matter how small or long term it is) clear in my mind. Just remember that we can’t all be doctors and nurses but what you do can make a small difference. Eight years in and I think I’m pretty good at setting my own goals and creating my own vision.

    Of course if that doesn’t work…there’s always the fact that your job pays the bills. There’s no better motivator than money! ;-)

    I’ll get back to you with some tips on getting motivated!

  • Time to Switch Off?

    Posted on October 15th, 2008 Marieke Guy No comments

    I am currently sat in a tiny hotel room near Euston Train station. I’m in London to present at Internet Librarian International Conference. Today I ran blogging workshop with my colleague Ann Chapman and tomorrow I’m giving a presentation on preserving Web resources.

    Anyway that’s by the by, I wanted to blog because this is a bit of a landmark occasion being the first time I’ve updated my blog as a remote worker away from my home office desk.

    I feel like a real remote worker. A remote remote worker!!

    The wifi in this hotel is pretty easy to use and as wifi becomes more mainstream I can see that for some people it becomes hard to draw the line between work and play. I have a colleague (who will remain nameless!) who seems unable to go to a pub unless there’s wireless. Possibly one step to far?

    So when do you switch off?

    Light Switch

    This blog post by Phillipa Hammond on Remote working using Wi-fi explores this.

    She comes to the conclusion “I’m still not sure if work/life balance can truly exist when you’re freelance, or whether it’s just that your life and your work become intertwined”. I guess the same applies to anyone who works from home.

    Interestingly one of the people commenting says:

    “I used to do a lot of remote working, using the combination of my laptop and mobile phone. I’ve worked from mountain campsites and tropical beaches. For the first couple of years, I thought it was great because it allowed me to take more vacations. After a while though, it started to get old, and a family rebellion convinced me to make great efforts to leave all work at home when vacationing. Even though I was spending only 10% or so of my time working, I found that not having any work at all makes for a much more pleasant vacation.”

    So what do we do? When do we draw the line? Having small children I doubt if I’d get a chance to do my work while on holiday, and even if I could I don’t think I’d want to.

    Maybe that’s just me. What do people think?