The notion that we are at our most productive while chained to our desks from 9-5 has long been an out dated one.
A recent British study found that the introduction of a ‘work from anywhere’ culture could save employees £7.1billion in the UK alone in reduced commuting costs, not to mention the half a billion hours they would reclaim in traveling time. In the US, the remote workforce grew by nearly 80% between 2005 and 2012.
It’s not hard to see why. Less meetings, no ringing phones and no distracting water cooler chat means employees are around 70% more productive when out of the office. What’s more, a remote workforce is a great way to cut costs, while also providing access to a much larger pool of talent. So why are most of us still working a fixed 40-hour working week?
Well, Marissa Mayer may have something to do with that. When, in 2013, the Yahoo boss sensationally put a stop to employees working from home (she cited the importance of in-office collaboration as her motivation but there were whispers of a lack of accountability among their remote workforce), Best Buys and Reddit were just two of the companies that quickly followed suit.
So, what’s the answer: an in-office workforce or a remote one? Thankfully Mike Del Ponte, the founder of water filter company Soma, may have come up with the perfect solution – a Work From Anywhere Week.
Due to the collaborative nature of most of their tasks, having a team that worked remotely on a full time basis wasn’t an option for Mike’s company, but there were other times when the same employees needed to work independently. In response, he came up with the idea of a Work From Anywhere Week (WFAW), where, for one week in every quarter, employees are given the opportunity to work where they feel most productive, whether that’s from a café in Singapore or a friend’s sofa.
“Most offices are the average of what works for everyone,” explains Mike. “But they are perfect for no one. If you’re extremely introverted and I’m extremely extroverted, office culture creates something in the middle so neither of us is uncomfortable. But neither of us is at our optimal either.”
Having just had their first ever WFAW, Mike shares the positives that came from the experience:
Instead of having the same fixed working hours, during their WFAW Soma employees had the potential to fit work in around life and the things they love, as opposed to the other way around. What’s more, they were able to work when they were at their most productive which meant they were able to get more done in less time.
“For one of our engineers, that meant starting work early from home, taking a long lunch where he worked out, and then tackling one big project at a cafe before signing off for the day,” Mike says, who spent his own WFAW in Melbourne.
For Mike, another benefit of the WFAW was the creative new insights his employees brought back into the office following their week in a different environment.
“I calculated that if my team members could be 80% as productive as working from the office but come back with new perspectives that would drive innovations for the company’s product, brand, or culture, it would be entirely worth it,” he explains.
In the UK, 70% of workers say they’re more productive when they’re given the opportunity to work whenever and wherever they like, while 38% say that this flexibility makes them more creative.
“Creativity and productivity thrive in uninterrupted time,” agrees Mike. “And I believe both can be supercharged by inspiring environments.”
With the opportunity to create their own perfect working environment, Mike noticed a distinct peak in productivity among his employees during their WFAW.”When people were in new places, they were excited to go out and explore,” he says. “They had inherent FOMO that forced them to prioritize their to-dos. The end result is that they tended to be more productive than they were in the same old desk.”