Categories
Blog

The Shift: Issue #17

Job hunting, The Social Dilemma, a history of Silicon Valley, slow journalism, how do we live ‘a good life’ in 2020?

I had a chat with two recruitment agents this week. Things are picking up – briefs are coming in and companies are hiring–mostly remote work. Employers are investing in remote training for staff and reassessing office space, so remote working is here to stay. Both were furloughed and are just back at work.

It’s good news for multi-skilled freelancers – we’ll be more in demand as employers may want fewer people on the payroll. We’re also flexible, agile, and used to working remotely.

Skills check–MS Office, Photoshop, InDesign (you can download the free trial for 30 days and do a YouTube tutorial to learn the basics). Google Analytics, HTML, SEO, & social media.

I made a one-page CV on Canva–wasn’t sure if it’s long enough, but they liked it. “It’s good to have it condensed on one page and you can expand as required.” Read more.


Categories
Blog

Remote working – an end to the office as we know it? 

Office workers have been catapulted into the biggest ever remote working experiment during the global pandemic. How are employees adapting to the new normal of working from home full time – and how can we fine-tune our workstyle to avoid a new phenomenon: Death by Conference Call?

New research reveals productivity, happiness and office culture are booming with the shape of the office set to change forever:

  • Almost 3/4 (71%) of office bosses are pleasantly surprised by team productivity during lockdown despite more than half (54%) being nervous about their teams remote working before the Covid-19 pandemic
  • Over half (52%) say their organisations are MORE productive remote working than in an office – a surprise to almost 3/4 of bosses
  • Nearly 2/3 (58%) of office workers say remote working provides them with more autonomy to do their job in a way that suits them
  • 1/4 (25%) believe they’ll remote work at least half the time after the pandemic is over (compared to 10% before)
  • 70% of business owners and 78% of senior management agree ‘remote working is the future of my organisation’. 34% of business owners are considering moving to an entirely remote office

Nice to have some good news, especially as the lockdown measures (and remote working) look set to continue indefinitely. The study, conducted by Hoxby, a virtual agency and consultancy on the future of work, also found:

Effective Working: 71% of office workers think their employer is well set up for remote working. Almost 2/3 (58%) say remote working provides them with more autonomy to do their job in a way that suits them, rising to 63% of those in a managerial position. Only 19% say they prefer being in an office.

Happiness: 57% of managers think remote working is good for mental health, with only 14% recognising any adverse effects. Two-thirds of office workers agree that though the current situation is challenging in other ways, they are enjoying the fact that remote work means they can spend more time with their family, rising to 72% of those with young children. Only 8% say teams seem unhappy as a result of remote working.

Office culture: Over half (55%) of office managers say office culture is just as strong as ever, with office chat continuing just in a different form. Only 18% of office remote workers have seen any negative impact. 

The future is now
So, will this signal the end of 9-5 office culture? 1/4 of workers think they will remote work at least half the time after the outbreak, compared with just 10% before and 12% of the workforce say they’ll be working entirely remotely after the outbreak, compared to 4% previously.

Before the pandemic, 45% of office workers surveyed were required to be in the office ‘at all times.’ This is expected to fall to just 27%.

How might UK offices change shape?
70% of business owners and 78% of senior management agree that “remote working is the future of my organisation.” The lockdown has led to many reviewing how their businesses are structured. 42% plan to reduce the amount of office space they need. 49% think they’ll encourage more remote working. 34% are considering moving to an entirely remote office.

We still need to fine-tune remote working
48% of office workers admit they’re relying on conference calls too much and would like to learn more about other working practices rising to 63% amongst business leaders. 44% of workers are on conference calls “most of the day”, 54% of those who are managers. Junior team members need more support with set up.

Stuck in the 9-5
It seems we’re stuck in the 9-5 mentality, a throwback from the industrial age. 77% of business leaders expect their teams to work similar hours. Only 12% are trying to buck this trend for their teams, i.e. trying to escape the shackles of presenteeism. 34% of senior managers said remote working was something they wanted to do more of but felt they should be ‘seen’ to be in the office.

Great to see such positive outcomes after just five weeks of lockdown – with no practice run! I hope companies take this on board and rethink how they operate. As the founders of Hoxby, Lizzie & Alex point out, “Changing working practices is about putting people, their lives, their work, their mental health, all of these things centre stage… To avoid the ‘death by conference call phenomenon’ and ‘coat on the back of the chair’ expectations of presenteeism… “Organisations need to keep a watch on remote working practices and evolve and better them by gaining a deeper understanding of technology and virtual leadership.”

It’s time to leave the industrial age behind and adopt digital age working methods to improve diversity, productivity, and wellbeing – happy workers tend to be loyal ones. This shows remote is the future of work and there’s no going back, so it’s just a matter of fine-tuning our methods. It’s is an opportunity for companies to trailblaze with workstyles that are more flexible, more productive, and more enjoyable.

Use this time to get your head around new technologies, build online communities, and do things differently. There are more effective ways of working that may cost less. If it’s working well why would we want to go back to the old way of doing things?

Hoxby has a #RemoteAgainstCoronavirus campaign for a better remote working strategy. I recommend these articles:

Recognise that Remote Working is not the Same as Working from Home

Focus on wellbeing and mental health – The importance of, and practical tips for, looking after your mental health during the crisis.

Don’t be paranoid and start to view success based on output – five rules for leading remote teams.

The importance of building virtual communities and community engagement.

Hoxby’s remote working strategic approach.

Censuswide researched 1,003 office workers currently working through the pandemic between 22/4 – 27/4/20. 

Photo by Georgie Clarke.

 

 

 

 

Categories
Blog

Corona Diaries: How to Keep Your Business on Track

I’ve just finished six months of voluntary self-isolation writing a book, so it’s bizarre to find myself facing another one with COVID-19. Major new measures have been announced to protect people at highest risk of coronavirus, so I’ll be getting a letter this week asking me to stay at home for at least 12 weeks, as I take immuno-suppressants for rheumatoid arthritis. I work from home so it’s not a huge change to my daily routine, but I am feeling anxious about the lack of financial support for freelancers, and how I’m going to work and home-school a teenager in a small flat. I washed her school uniform last night – “Bin it!” she said gleefully, “I won’t be needing it.” 

One freelance colleague has lost £1,000 of photography bookings. Another, an events manager, has had all of her work cancelled. I’m lucky that I can work remotely for clients but some of my work has fallen off. I was due to start a three-month part-time contract to finish off the book – not heard a peep, and other work – also events-based, has stalled. I’ve put money aside for tax and other contingencies, but it’s not enough to see me through months of upheaval. Last week the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced various measures to help companies and employees. Still, there’s not much support for creative freelancers and the five million self-employed in the UK. 

Employees have a guaranteed 80% of their income, up to £2,500 a month. In contrast, the self-employed have so far been advised to claim Statutory Sick Pay at £94.25 a week or Universal Credit, which is a minefield when you have unpredictable earnings. The eligibility criteria for UC include savings, which means those who set aside money for tax may be ineligible. Oliver Heald MP has said that Sunak will make a statement on the self-employed on Monday. Fingers crossed as so many of my freelancer friends are worried sick. 

The National Union of Journalists is lobbying for support for freelance workers. It has some policy recommendations here, e.g. that the 80% rule be extended to the self-employed, based on recent tax returns along with a temporary cancellation of the savings rule for UC. This would help freelance members at the bottom of the earnings scale. It seems to strengthen the case for a Universal Basic Income going forward! 

I can’t control the big stuff – my heart goes out to Italy – almost 800 deaths yesterday, and it’s heartbreaking to see a country brought to its knees. So, I’m focusing on the things I can control – my environment, self-care, online chats and campaigning, and using this unexpected pause to read, study online, and do some business planning.  

Here’s what I’ve been doing to keep my business on track during COVID-19. 

MONEY – I’ve given myself a pay cut. I have a limited company and pay myself a monthly salary, so I’ve reduced this for now. I can cut back to the essentials as I won’t be travelling to London, doing coffees with clients, using hot desk space etc. I’m reviewing all my subscriptions and memberships and cancelling those I can do without. I’ve been using Xero for my accounting, which is expensive – £36 a month as I had EUR payments coming in, so I’m switching to Free Agent, which offers a 30-day free trial and seems more contractor-friendly. I’ve found a cheaper online accountant who specialises in creative businesses. I’ll do my tax return at the end of this month to get it out of the way, so I know what tax I have to pay next year. 

Some guidance from HMRC for small businesses and the self-employed and from The Guardian.

TIME TO HUSTLE – I rent my home, so will speak to my agency to see what help is available and haggling with utility providers and suppliers to see what they can do. I’ve applied for a grant from the Society of Authors contingency fund for authors and journalists and joined the Creative Industries Federation (they are offering free six-month membership for all freelancers and microbusinesses). There are small grants available from various charities, so see what’s available in your field. Facebook is offering cash grants and ad credits for small businesses.

TRAINING – I’ve signed up for some online courses and webinars to learn new skills. AllBright, a club and community that celebrates and connects women at work, is running 20 digital courses at 2 pm every day, so an excellent opportunity to dip my toe in and see what they offer. FEU Training has a digital learning centre for creative freelancers (free to NUJ/union members). Also, check out Skillshare.

ONLINE WORK – it’s a good time to update the CV. I use Indeed, We Work Remotely, Hoxby Collective, Yuno Juno, The Dots, Freelance Alliance, and LinkedIn to find remote work. Search hashtags: #remotejobs #remotework #workingfromhome #JournoJobs. I also subscribe to newsletters that list writing jobs, e.g. The Professional Freelancer, Journo Resources, Freelance Writing Jobs

OPPORTUNITY/MINDSET – things are going to be very different over the next few months, so I will use this opportunity to think, review my business and what I want to do next. As Debbie Wosskow, co-founder of AllBright, said, “It’s an unexpected pause. I’ve never spent any time in my own home, and now I’m here!” Make the most of it and enjoy family time. Small businesses might need more online content and social media to stay connected while they’re shut, so I’ll pitch my services around locally.

DIGITALISE YOUR BUSINESS – What income streams can you digitalise? I’ve seen yoga teachers, fitness instructors and nutritionists doing online classes via Zoom. I wrote a book a few years ago which got pulled, so a good time to publish it as an e-Book. What digital products can you create now for future passive income? I use Free Conference Call for team calls, Skype, WeChat groups, Trello for planning, Twitter and LinkedIn to share work.

SELF-CARE – It’s tempting to scroll the newsfeed all day, but it makes me feel anxious and unable to concentrate, so time to stop. It’s also easy to spend all day on your laptop when you work from home and not take proper breaks. It’s spring and the weather’s changing so I’ll go for walks and jogs to clear my head. Check out online fitness classes, and the Headspace app for meditation. 

COMMUNITY – This is a war on a virus, and there’s been nothing like it in my lifetime, so we are having to rethink how we live, work and interact. We’re in this together and need to help each other. I’ve joined Nextdoor to find out what’s going on in my neighbourhood, and AllBright Connect – they asked for volunteers to do skills swaps so a good opportunity to make new contacts. Follow hashtags on Twitter like #SupportFreelancers and local Coronavirus groups on Facebook to find out what’s going on in your area.

CAMPAIGNING – I’ve signed and shared several petitions to support freelancers and the self-employed: 

Don’t Leave Freelancers Behind in the Coronavirus Crisis

Self-employed in Statutory Sick Pay

Self-employed 80% of Their Median Salary During the Coronavirus Pandemic

I’ve written to my MP calling for the benefit to be extended immediately to the self-employed. Here’s a template letter from the NUJ which you can adapt. I’m also following various MPs on Twitter like Tracy Brabin, John McDonnell, and Keir Starmer who are campaigning to help the self-employed. 

Keep calm, carry on. We can survive, we will thrive! Let’s see what happens next week. I hope more measures are introduced to help the self-employed. Celebrate your achievements and have a virtual glass of vino with your colleagues to help each other through this crisis. If you’re home-schooling – there are some great ideas here. This is an opportunity to do things differently, and it will lead to a more creative and connected way of living.

Stay safe, keep well, and look after those around you! 

What are you doing to keep your business on track? Send me your tips and follow me on Twitter @niccitalbot, I’d love to hear from you. 

Clear messaging (& tone of voice) is crucial at all times – not just during coronavirus!

Enjoy reading this?

If you need a little help with your marketing activity in the coming weeks – get in touch today. Nicci@niccitalbot.com.