FIRA Barcelona, Gran Vía
1-4 February 2022

RISE CultureThe business of working from home

Amy Cronshaw

Amy Cronshaw founded Beyond Workplace Consulting, which helps companies to get the most from their remote workforce, after she was made redundant due to the Covid crisis. We talk to her about some of the issues around managing and motivating home-based teams.

Tell us a bit about your new venture – Beyond Workplace Consulting – and how your career in AV led has you to this point.

Beyond Workplace Consulting helps organisations build their virtual community. We believe that companies can continue to look after their employees, strengthen their company culture and get the best out of a remote workforce without everyone being in the office. Using a range of services from building WFH technology strategies and standards to the provision of engaging virtual content, we are your turn-key community management consultancy.

My career in AV started at AVMI where I worked in a range of roles from co-ordinating global pricing, consultative business development and account management. After a long tenure, I moved across to consulting at Macom UK where I ended up as their UK operations manager and principal consultant. I then had a brief stint at JP Morgan as a multimedia project manager managing its Europe-wide projects. When COVID hit I was made redundant and after considering all the parts of previous jobs that I have loved and other opportunities that were available, I decided to start Beyond – a truly end-user focused consultancy company.

COVID-19 has provided a catalyst for collective home working. What do you think the long-term benefits of a non-office-based workforce could be for businesses?

If the proper attention is given to setting up a well-thought-out and well-connected remote workforce, there are a huge number of benefits to employers. The most obvious financial benefit is that rent and utility bills are removed; however, I believe the biggest benefit will be access to a wider workforce that could not previously apply for office-based working, due to main caregiving responsibilities or other commitments. This is a huge untapped market of resource that without a fixed expectation on hours worked or location is available to become part of the team.

The challenges of the ‘new normal’ work situation are also well-documented. What can businesses do to support distributed teams and maintain motivation?

The key thing to do is to stay connected. Ensure the working environment is one that is led by empathy. This can be done by encouraging management to be emotionally intelligent in their interactions with their teams and making sure they are considering individuals’ needs beyond their working commitments. When staying connected we need to make sure that some of our communications are deeper, whilst having ten meetings a day can mean you are talking to lots of different people if none of those meetings proves productive or engaging it won’t help those suffering from feelings of loneliness and disconnection. Ensure any virtual content you provide is tailored to the interests of your staff – everyone has had enough of Zoom quizzes for a lifetime!

Some companies have adopted surveillance technologies to monitor employee productivity when working from home. As an advocate for ‘trust-based’ working, can you offer advice for employers concerned about productivity?

For those concerned about productivity, I can assure you that micro-managing your employees will only lead to frustration and unhappiness in a workforce. We employ people because we believe that they can do their job well.
By moving from presenteeism culture to output based productivity management we can give employees the freedom to work when it works best for them (even if it’s just the freedom to pick the kids up from school or walk the dog) and see the levels of productivity rise as employees feel trusted and valued.

Are there any new technologies, or developments of existing ones, that you would like to see, to make remote working easier, more productive or better in other ways?

When moving into a hybrid working environment, any technologies that allow those in the office and those working remotely to have the same standard of interaction and collaboration will be the ones that win the user vote. If companies give those in the office an advantage over those working from home, remote users will feel less valued. Any technology that allows this equality of access and the same user experience I think will be the ones to thrive in the next few years.

Is the future of work virtual?

As human beings, we will always crave face to face interaction so no, I do not believe the future of work is completely virtual; however in the same vein I do not believe we will ever return to the ‘office’ as it once was. I think the future is a hybrid of home and office, less fixed hours but still some core; more inclusion for those that cannot work in a traditional office space; and offices becoming more of a social space for connecting and enriching company community than for a full working day at a desk.