With Logitech’s #WorkFromAnywhere campaign in full swing this week, I’ve been musing about what “work from anywhere” actually means for companies today. How do companies embrace it? How do they ensure they have the tools and processes in place to support it? With so many employees working remotely, how can organizations build a culture in this new era of extreme flexibility? As the founder of San Francisco-based BOCA Communications, a PR agency where almost 50% of our employee base is spread across the United States, I am a believer and a proponent of “work from anywhere” for so many business and personal reasons.
A 2019 analysis done by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics found that there has been a massive shift toward remote work. In the span of one year — from 2016 to 2017 — remote work grew 7.9% in the U.S. It grew 44% over the last five years, and 91% over the previous 10 years. The report also highlighted that 80% of respondents stated that, when faced with two similar employment offers, they would turn down the one that didn’t provide flexibility. It’s truly the norm today, but it’s taken a while to get here.
“9 to 5” and the technology revolution
I suppose I was first introduced to modern ideas about workplace flexibility with the 1980 film “9 to 5,” starring Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. In one scene, Tomlin is talking to the big boss about how two women share the same job — a split shift so they can work part time, allowing them to take care of their respective children. This almost 40-year-old movie showcased a form of the Gig Economy, a labor market characterized by short-term contract work or freelancers. If it were filmed today, I am sure #WorkFromAnywhere, mom-preneuers and part-time contractors would be referenced throughout it.
Of course, without today’s technology advancements, we’d still be beholden to the 9-to-5, Monday-through-Friday office life illustrated in the movie. Indeed, the laptop, WiFi, the smartphone, GoogleDocs, DocuSign, Slack — these resources all make it possible for people to work outside the physical constraints of the office walls. Truly, the convergence of technology and a desire for greater flexibility gave birth to the anytime, anywhere workforce.
It’s good for everyone
Many employees enjoy working from their home for a number of reasons, whether it’s maximizing office hours by avoiding a commute, caring for a new baby or being available to pick up the kids from school. However, data suggests that working remotely has more benefits than just the flexibility of meeting personal obligations.
In her Fortune article, “Why Companies Should Let Employees Work Remotely and Travel More,”MeiMei Fox quotes a Gallup report that found that, “workers who spend 60-80% of their time away from the office had the highest rates of engagement. They become more productive in unlikely places.”
Furthermore, Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom ran a two-year study in which he had two control groups — one that went to the office and the other that stayed home. The study found “that the productivity increase among remote workers is equivalent to an extra day per person per week. And remote workers are, on average, less likely to burn out and in many ways more engageable than in-house workers. Additionally, employee attrition decreased by 50 percent among the telecommuters, they took shorter breaks, had fewer sick days, and took less time off.”
While these are solid third-party references, my favorites are from my experiences working my way up the PR career ladder that led to the company I founded.
At one of my last big agency jobs, I learned a lot about what I want and what I don’t want as an employee and employer. I was a 9-to-5 employee in a 20th-floor office in downtown San Francisco. I was having new WiFi installed at home and asked the office GM if I could work from home in the morning, powered by my laptop and cell phone. I would make myself totally available to clients and colleagues, and just needed a few hours to get my home network up and running.
He said no.
I was floored. He went on about corporate policy and that we are an on-site operation. I came back with this was an old way of thinking and that new times required new approaches and greater flexibility. He continued to toe the corporate line and reached my limit. Despite five happy years at that firm, we parted ways. I felt the firm was trapped in the past and I wanted something more progressive. So, I created BOCA.
Culture-building in the #WorkFromAnywhere era
Company culture is vital to maintaining a great work environment. It’s especially true in today’s economy with historically low unemployment rates. To engage and retain employees in this environment, culture is key. And, for BOCA, #WorkfromAnywhere, WorkFromHome is and always will be part of our spirit and soul.
Culture defined by Oxford is “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization.” I love a full fridge and cocktails, but that does not make for a culture.
For me, culture is a feeling — a feeling of being part of something bigger, building something great and working with people I admire, like and trust. Like anyone or anything, a culture can have hiccups, but if it is sound and embedded within the organization, it always finds its true North.
From the very beginning, I wanted to create a PR agency that was very different than the other agencies I’d experienced, especially around culture as it relates to #WorkFromAnywhere.
BOCA was a baby, just starting out. It was basically myself and two contractors with whom I had previously worked at the agency referred to earlier. One had just had her first baby and she didn’t want to get on BART everyday for three-hour daily round-trip commutes. The other contractor was planning her wedding and needed flexibility to meet caterers and do all the fun wedding planning that people enjoy. She wanted to do great work, as long as she didn’t have to be beholden to a 9-to-5 schedule or go to an office.
I had just come out of a 15+ year relationship with B2B, high-tech PR agencies and thought it would be really nice to take a conference call while walking through Buena Vista Park in San Francisco or while visiting my sister in Puerto Vallarta. It was time for new beginnings and a new way I wanted to work. From BOCA’s inception, we were a #WorkFromAnywhere agency. It has been very much ingrained into our culture.
There are so many benefits to working from anywhere, and now that we have the technology tools to enable it, it’s not just a perk. Rather, it’s become part of the fabric of our work experience — the rule rather than the exception. Let’s celebrate Logitech’s #WorkFromAnywhere campaign this week in style — sitting in front of our laptops at home, in Hawaii or poolside in San Diego. That’s where I will be.