Guest blog: Remote without the disconnect - By Steve Bryne, CEO, Travel Counsellors.

Guest blog: Remote without the disconnect - By Steve Bryne, CEO, Travel Counsellors.

Steve Byrne, CEO at global independent travel company, Travel Counsellors, says self-development doesn’t have to take a back seat when working smarter.

Records show that the number of UK homeworkers has increased by nearly 50% over the last two decades, and out of a UK working population of 32.5m people, four million have decided to take the opportunity to back themselves and run their own business.

With these numbers set to increase, and the next generation of talent around the corner who are well-versed in the benefits of smarter working, I’m reminded of Microsoft Corporation founder Bill Gates’ view: "As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others."

Empowering people to work smarter requires a tangible level of trust. It requires trust between the company, as the enabler, and their employees, or in Travel Counsellors case, over 1800 franchise owners across the globe who run their own corporate and leisure travel businesses from home.

Nurturing trusted relationships between employer and employee must go hand-in-hand with creating a strong sense of community across an organisation - a community of people that supports and champions each other to achieve their personal and professional goals, backed by a technology platform that ensures that they feel constantly engaged and digitally connected. The result, in Travel Counsellors case, is a global group of hundreds of professionals, sharing knowledge, support and expertise to provide their customers with the best travel experiences possible. Afterall, you are only ever one Skype call away from a helping hand.

Being trusted to do your job to the very best of your ability is an incredibly powerful tool. Not only for the good of individual and collective business growth, but for the betterment of a person’s self-belief and self-development, both in and out of the workplace.  To quote the American educator Booker T. Washington, “Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him know that you trust him.”

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Guest blog: Developing online communities in the workplace - By Katie Joyce, Senior Lecturer in Organisation Studies at Bristol Business School, University of the West of England

Guest blog: Developing online communities in the workplace - By Katie Joyce, Senior Lecturer in Organisation Studies at Bristol Business School, University of the West of England

In this guest blog, I reflect back on my recent research findings into the emerging field of ‘Virtual Coaching’.[1] I share some thoughts and ask questions in the hope of stimulating ideas around the development of online communities in the workplace.

Love it or hate it, technology is changing how we communicate with each other.  Internet based communicative platforms have become increasingly central to both our social and professional lives. How many times has a form of ‘virtual’ communication* you’ve engaged with had a direct impact on your thoughts for that day?   Executed successfully, positive interactions via, for example, email/text/tweet/blog may put a spring in your step for the rest of your day; but handled poorly, a brief exchange of words, displayed only as text on a screen, may leave you feeling confused, dejected and possibly isolated. 

 A meme on Twitter caught my attention, it claimed: “Culture cannot be changed through emails and memos, only through relationships, one conversation at a time.” [2]  Indeed, I consider this sentiment to carry great importance and absolutely believe human contact and connection is a priority and something we should never lose sight of.  A lively debate certainly exists in the field of ‘Computer Mediated Communication’ as to whether remote technology acts as a barrier to effective human communication.[3] Some authors consider it a cold and impersonal medium and claim emotions are difficult to express.[4]  Concerns largely stem from the absence of emotional embodiment and one’s verbal and visual cues when using non face-to-face communication methods.  However, other studies have found any such barriers dissolve over time and claim emotional communication online and offline to be surprisingly similar.[5] 

Research I completed in the field of ‘Virtual Coaching’ practice, provides empirical evidence supporting this latter view.  I developed an online blog community for newly qualified clinicians in the NHS, featuring the presence of a ‘virtual coach’.  As a coach myself, I was keen to explore if a remote coaching intervention could help to develop early career potential.  This is typically a time of intense transition and often results in significant performativity pressures for employees.  I opted for blogs as my communication medium because they are said to: “Offer an intriguing platform for personal communication, reflection and expression, creating space for emotional and informational release.”[6]  Participants blogged on a diverse selection of professional development topics linked to their early career transition experiences. 

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Guest blog: Working from home has increased, but why so slow? - By Frances O'Grady - General Secretary of the TUC

Guest blog: Working from home has increased, but why so slow? - By Frances O'Grady - General Secretary of the TUC

 New TUC research to mark Work Wise UK’s National Work from Home Day shows employee homeworking has increased during the past decade. But we are still a long way from fulfilling the promise of positive flexible working. 

There are 373 thousand more employees working from home than 10 years ago, a 27% increase.

But not enough bosses are giving their workers the option of homeworking – even though it could help people to see more of their family and improve their work-life balance.

Work practices are often stuck in the past

We have the best educated population that we have ever seen. They are particularly adept at using computers and mobiles. Most younger people starting work have been used to independent study and working to deadlines.

Yet far too many employers still rely on a factory-style model, managing by attendance, even when it’s a poor fit.

They are missing a trick. We estimate that 4 million more people want to work from home at least some of the time but aren’t given the chance.

Lack of sufficient trust in employees is bound to have a negative impact on motivation and morale.

This bites even more when the jobs market is tight. With employment rates at record levels employers need to focus on attracting and keeping good people. Offering well-organised homeworking for those who want it would help many employers as well as staff.

What is holding back homeworking?

In many cases its simply outmoded managerial attitudes.

The General Data Protection Regulation is also sometimes cited by employers, but this can be easily dealt with by taking simple common-sense measures.   

There are some other constraints that are the responsibility of government.

Lack of access to fast and reliable broadband is still a problem in parts of the UK

The decline of home ownership – down by more than a million since the crash – is also a factor. People who own their property are 73% more likely to work from home than renters.

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Guest blog: Home is where the Heart is - By Paul Wilson - Founder of Catalyst Recruitment

Guest blog: Home is where the Heart is - By Paul Wilson  - Founder of Catalyst Recruitment

National Work From Home Day?!  It’s that time of year again where, as long-time advocates of smarter, flexible working, I take a moment to reflect – to think about Work Wise UK, its activities and ours in the context of the day, the issues of our time, the last couple of years and, just as importantly, the future.  So where do we begin…? 

Well, let’s cut straight to the chase and get the B word out there.  Brexit.  Love it or loathe it, it’s with us.  What does the post Brexit future look like?  Will there be a Brexit?  When?  Will it be hard or will it be soft?  What do we do about it?  How will we need to adapt? 

When I look at these questions I imagine worst case scenarios.  Not because I’m a pessimist – quite the opposite – but because I want my recruitment business, Catalyst, my family and friends, the UK and the world, to survive and prosper, come what may.  At almost 15 years in business, granted with a long, long way to go, we seem to have managed that pretty successfully so far and, if I’m honest, I’ve created bigger challenges for the business and myself than any “external forces”, Financial Crisis included.  That makes me think two or three things – “you can’t control these forces – they’re way bigger than you”, “the worst case is probably not as bad as your worst experience”, and so, “you can probably deal with it”, and, “you will learn a great deal”.  Accepting our history, our challenges, past and present, we’re all very, very lucky to be British – to call Britain our home - and I, like very many, from hugely diverse backgrounds, am incredibly thankful for that.  That’s what I focus on, when I think about Brexit – equally that where there is change there is opportunity to improve, however challenging it may feel to look at things that way.  Am I with Nigel, Boris and Jacob?  Only as much as with, say, Grace Blakeley.  It’s all about balance. 

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Guest blog: Do you check your email first thing in the morning...... By Dr Stefanie Reissner - Newcastle University & Dr Michal Izak - University of Roehampton

Do you check your email first thing in the morning………. or last thing at night? Then you are not alone. Our research, funded by the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust, shows that flexible workers operating in multiple spaces and at non-traditional times often get involuntarily ‘sucked into’ checking their work email at almost all hours of the day. On the one hand, the flexibility to work (almost) whenever and wherever is part of the appeal of flexible working. On the other hand, it can easily morph into ‘working at all times’, and constantly checking one’s email can be a symptom of limited work-life balance. Hence, in this guest blog, we want to explore the checking of email at unusual hours a bit more critically and suggest ways to avoid the temptations of getting ‘sucked in’. 

First and foremost, flexible working allows us to work around other commitments or lifestyle choices, making time for family or caring commitments, for volunteering, meeting friends or simply some ‘me time’. But this also means spreading work across a longer ‘working’ day or week, catching up on work on the weekend or working on the move. Mobile devices such as tablet computers or smart phones have an important role here: they allow us to stay connected with work whenever and wherever. With so much of our lives nowadays taking place on smart phones, it is easy to just click into our work email first thing in the morning, last thing at night, during weekends or whilst on leave and then spending time and energy on work when, actually, we should be resting and relaxing. 

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