Working from Anywhere, est. 2013
Back in July 2020, James wrote a blog on the importance of the office. He clearly hit a nerve with a lot of people. The blog went viral. It was published in the EG and City AM. And the whole Stories team called James an influencer, for about a month.
Now whilst the office is important I admit, it's not quite the same for me. So I wanted to write a response to James. Go viral. Get published. And be called an influencer by 3 other people, for a strictly limited amount of time.
But the thing is, I’d always lacked a catchy phrase describing my relationship with the office, how I work, and why I liked it. I wanted language for the blogosphere.
Then I found Professor Raj Choudhury.
Doing a good job 500 miles away
I've been working ‘remotely’ since 2013. When I started, the idea of doing a good job while living 500 miles away from the office - an office which I only occasionally visited - was met with general bemusement. I always found this slight incredulity a bit weird. It wasn’t like people couldn’t get their heads around it. Or at least parts of it.
Working From Home?
There was the idea of Working from Home (WFH). Sure. And WFH seemed to be particularly effective on Fridays from what I could gather. But on other days of the week too you would see “WFH” in the diary. And stuff was getting done. And if it was August? Well yes. There could be a considerable distance between the (holiday) home of the important person in question and the office. 500miles? South of France to London? Ce n'est pas une problème.
But working from home. 500miles away from the office. On a Tuesday. In February? And you say it is good for you and the company? In 2013, that just seemed mind blowing.
So I have spent the last 8 years thinking about how best to describe the way I work and trying to demonstrate it works for all concerned. Me. My family. My employers.
Full disclosure. I’ve only actually spent a very small part of the last 8 years thinking about this. In fact, most of this pondering was on the sleeper train between the Highlands of Scotland (where I live) and London (where I work). These train journeys were, and indeed are, often described as ‘commuting’. Which always makes me laugh a bit. Commuting? 12hrs one way? Of course that should be described as commuting.
As far as I was concerned the terminology I had at my disposal never quite fitted the situation. Remote working wasn’t a bad description to be honest. And I think it was my go-to phrase. But equally it didn’t really give a sense of the (amazing!) freedom to choose where to base myself. And I thought that was an important part of the setup, which I wanted to get across.
I tested out digital nomad for a bit. But I normally work from the same place. Home. Occasionally I go to a shared workspace, but it is hardly nomadic is it. And in the knowledge economy, so much is digital what was I trying to say there? No. Digital Nomad never stuck.
In Covid I was simply Working-from-Home in a Working-from-Home world. But as soon as returning to the office became a reality, I wanted something else. Another term. Something snappy for the blog which emphasised I wasn’t just a short bus ride away from the office. And I could be, well, anywhere. Then I discovered Professor Raj Choudhury and Working from Anywhere.
Work From Anywhere
Working from Anywhere (WFA) is not a term invented by Professor Choudhury. Showing the depth of my research skills, the definition at the top of a Google search is:
“Work from anywhere (WFA) is a flexible approach to working, where a company or organisation empowers their employees to work productively and autonomously from anywhere, while remaining aligned and connected with company culture and goals.[i]”
Ok. So I had discovered some terminology I liked. It was catchy and eminently bloggable. I was Working-from-Anywhere! That’s right. I have chosen to work from a location where “the weather suits my clothes”. In the case of northern Scotland. A duffle coat, scarf and three hats.
Next question. Is it a good thing? I certainly felt personally my Working-from-Anywhere arrangement was a positive. But what about more broadly. For Stories and for society?
And that is really where Professor Choudhury’s work comes in. Professor Choudhury’s research demonstrates that working from anywhere can make employees more engaged with their work and more productive. It could even help reduce the brain-drain from emerging markets and help families juggling multiple career paths.
I’m not qualified to do justice to Professor Choudhury’s work here. And frankly, if you want a 10 minute summary, just read this article. But I am pleased to have found this research.
Because as the Proclaimers famously sang, ‘I could work (productively) 500 miles (away) and I could work (productively) 500 more (away) from the office.’
Or something like that anyway.