Work from anywhere (not hybrid working)

I know there’s already a WFH thread but I wanted to be more specific (and make it all about me, me, me). I listened to an interesting podcast about the benefits of “work from anywhere” (“Work, Eat, Sleep, Repeat”) which essentially refers to working a non-commutable distance from the office (so hybrid working isn’t possible). The premise of the expert interviewed is that this is the future and companies who fail to implement it will lose all their top talent.

I’m slightly sceptical of these interviewees as they’re normally promoting a book and the companies they advise tend to self-select for those that are pre-conditioned to support new ways of working. You never hear from a bestselling author who had a book called “Do nothing. Why companies should choose the staus quo”. So I’m interested in people’s experiences of working from anywhere.

I’m a software consultant and most of my work is now done on Teams with clients, so I get frustrated about having to go the office three days a week where I will often spend the day wearing noise cancelling headphones and talking to nobody. One of the key tenets of work from anywhere according to this expert is that teams should spend between 10 and 25 per cent of their time together, but not working but bonding and team building, and that could be putting everyone up in a hotel for a week every other month. I like this idea. I’ve switched to hybrid working but nothing has changed. The only benefit I really get is I spend lest time in the car and I have better lunch breaks. We haven’t made any changes to the way we work.

I’m thinking of applying for work from anywhere jobs. I like the fact that I can apply to jobs all over the country instead of thinking about how far I would be willing to commute.

How common is it in the UK. Is it really the future. I’m a little cynical but I’m also aware that the people on the anti side famously include Rees-Mogg, Musk, Johnson and Marissa Mayer so there’s an element of if they’re against it it must be good. I have employed someone remotely and he came to the office twice a month for a couple of days and we put him up in a hotel but it never really worked, but maybe that was my fault.

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This is kind of my area of expertise/research. It is becoming more popular but I don’t think it will be the norm any time soon. There are also complex tax implications depending on where the employer is based and the country/countries you work from.

Will add more thoughts later but I’m in an online meeting at the moment.

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Not just tax. Some companies have security issues with working from other countries. One of our IT people was fired on the spot for logging on from abroad without permission.

Until a few weeks ago my team had two members who would be described as working a “non-commutable” distance away, but they still both came down to London once a week roughly, which frankly is more than I manage, and I actually live in London.

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Wonder if there are any long term side effects from so many people working from home or wherever else. It’s a bit of an alien concept to me due to the work I do, but a few of my mates work remotely now and they pretty much all seem less motivated than before, about as stressed, and without exception put away far more units than previously.

It’s a very basic way of looking at it, but the routine of having to get up and showered and out, and having face-to-face conversations with people, and physically moving about over the day is massive for my mental health. If I spent any sort of ongoing period isolated, inactive, and within a few feet of the fridge my head would fall off. I need the discipline of work, as much as I don’t particularly find it fulfilling.

Appreciate it could be a godsend for some people, obviously.

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My set-up is hybrid working but there’s elements of this to it. I live 120 miles and 3.5 hours away from the city where almost all of my team are based; I only met one person from my team in the first 7 months I worked here, but now I go there once a month for the monthly team meeting and stay for a couple of days. This job would not have been open to me a couple of years ago because of the remote working element.

When I go into the office I either have meetings or am socialising - not much work happens when I’m there in terms of writing blogs or whatever - so while I am meant to be working I think it’s really more like what you said about team building and socialising. I didn’t really feel 100% part of the team until I met everyone in person as I’m not sure my sense of humour comes across well on Teams and I felt a bit left out because they were all in a different office to me.

However it’s not quite the same situation as what you’ve mentioned because I do go into the London office once a week, even though only one of my team is based there (and she’s not in that often as she’s the big dog director). I wasn’t really sure what the point was at first but I guess it’s nice to get a change of scenery and chat to people in other departments, and I’ve got work opportunities through being based there because no one else lower down is. But if I actually have to write something I find it very hard to concentrate without headphones on as people want to chat to me so wouldn’t want to go in more than once a week.

Personally I wouldn’t want to permanently WFH though. It’s lonely, makes me feel like a shut-in and means that if I haven’t done my washing up for example it’s always in the back of my mind while I’m working. Then working while travelling is annoying and stressful. It’s like an anchor that you would have to carry everywhere, and anchors are a heavy burden - I don’t know how many people the lack of boundary suits.

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Some thoughts I have on this…

I’ve done multiple roles pre-pandemic that are either hybrid or I am the remote one, and the difference between how people think about this scenario now compared to then is night-and-day. They haven’t actually changed their behaviour all that much, but I think the attitude to it all is what will start instigating the changes, particularly if people start leaving roles because they’re forced back into the office unnecessarily.

One of the things I’ve been shocked at in my current company is the lack of investment into the infrastructure to make hybrid working work. I want to be able to walk into a meeting room in an office, and seamlessly start a meeting which remote people can instantly join, without technical problems and with the audio and video clear enough so that every speaker is seen and every voice is clearly heard. This sounds like a trivial thing, but only one company I’ve ever worked at has taken this seriously, and it was previously the only time I’ve seen remote working actually work. The moment you start faffing around with the sound, people feel the meeting is a waste of time, get distracted, and those at the other end feel less inclined to speak out if they cannot follow what’s going on. The most common flow is: Meeting starts, only one person can be heard, the remote people say “Can you speak up please, or change the mic, we can’t hear you”, the person speaks up for 12 seconds, the meeting continues, the remote people no longer feel like speaking up about the technical problems is OK as they’ve been so quickly dismissed.

One of the things I do worry about is the recruitment processes when we have a more standardised remote working culture in my industry. The last time I looked for work I already had to do long, arduous exercises to “prove” my worth before actually talking to anyone, and it was often very offputting to even bother. The thing is though, I want to get to know what my role will be about in more than the shit that a recruitment consultant has thrown together, so I want to get a chance to talk to the people in my team as early as possible so I can see if this is the sort of work I want to get involved with. The company, who now get hundreds of applications for the role, put these tests in the way as a barrier to filter out the people who are either vastly underqualified or cannot be bothered to deal with the bullshit. I get why they do it, but it does feel like a pain having to do this before I can even get to know if it’s a role I give a shit about. I feel like this will only get worse over time, and the level of trust needed to hire people to be permanently remote will be terrifying to companies where they fear they’re being taken advantage of by pesky employees.

I agree a lot with the OP, and my ideal would be to do a hybrid scenario where I do get a chance to get to know my colleagues but also can work from Portugal / The Netherlands / UK for part of the year. I’m more optimistic than ever that it will eventually be achievable, but I think it’ll take some time yet.

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I’m unlikely to work in a different country to where I live because I need to travel to client sites. Not as much as I used to because the majority of my work is done on Teams, but it still happens. But the idea of living in the north but working for a company based in Surrey, for example, had its appeal, especially as there are more jobs in the South East.

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Personally working fully from home suits me down to the ground, although I agree it needs a certain amount of self-discipline as well as a suitable job. As the slightly more extroverted one in a team of exclusive introverts though I am finding it an increasingly difficult job to carry the burden of keeping us working “as a team” rather than as a bunch of people working in silos. Frankly I’m sick of it. When the manager went on holiday with his family earlier this week it just gradually deteriorated. One particularly secretive team member pretended to have Teams issues on our morning catchup on Monday and then wasn’t seen anywhere on the network for the next three days.

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It is interesting how this way of working will be adopted much more in certain sectors, such as tech. There is a risk that it will increase gig working, especially if companies decide it is too complex to set up properly in terms of facilities (as @ma0sm mentions) and legal and tax implications. Not that the gig economy is always bad but it does have serious downsides and it widens the inequality gap (again, less likely in tech fields but still there).

I personally would happily work a job where I never have to go to a physical workplace. My current set up (and even pre-pandemic) is mainly working from home with perhaps a day a week on campus, but then once teaching has finished for the year it is even less). @carnivalboy I really like the idea of team-building activities every couple of months.

There has been some interesting research in terms of what workers want, and specifically focusing on millennials and Gen Z. Surprisingly (to me, at least) the ‘trend’ is that most want hybrid working and flexibility, rather than fully remote. Deloitte publish a series of research findings on this topic (and more generally on the Future of Work):

Here’s a link to the series:

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An additional complication relating specifcally to jobs previously based in London is the issue of pay. Traditionally pay rates here have been above average for the country, partly due to the higher cost of living here and partly because there have been a lot of job opportunities in the city and wages increased to improve staff retention. How that works when you continue to employ people who still live locally as well as people in more remote locations I do not know. Guess we’ll see, although hopefully not before I retire.

I consider myself an introvert but also think we’re all pack animals who aren’t designed to spend significant parts of our lives working alone.

What resonated most with the podcast was the need to create social situations and team bonding, something which naturally horrifies me but thinking about it I can also understand its importance. Its something I feel has been neglected at my work. I guess like most places we’ve just said people can WFH 2 days a week but have done nothing else to change the culture or to make it work optimally.

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The way I feel about it is that I need the company of other people, it’s just I don’t need those people to be my work colleagues.

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As a software consultant, pre pandemic, I would spend about 20% of my time at client sites, mostly staying in hotels. I’ve spent a total of 2 days on client sites since March 2020. That’s what I miss most, not the office, spending time with clients.

Clients prefer Teams because they don’t have to pay my expenses, but I’m trying to persuade them of the benefits of working face to face

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I move about more wfh. I go for a walk every morning (instead of driving to work) and I’ll do a bit of housework throughout the day to keep myself moving, or wander down the garden to think through a particular work problem, or do some push-ups between meetings (I don’t do this).

At work I sit the car for 90 minutes and sit at my desk without moving for several hours.

Snacking is a problem I struggle with but then at work someone has always brought in cakes or doughnuts.

And if I don’t have time for a shower before work I can just have one in the middle of the day.

My company supports this kind of thing, for some folk. For the rest of us who are mostly remote/hybrid, we can work from anywhere in the world for two weeks a year without needing sign-off or anything.

I think it’s great. We’ve got people in different parts of the UK, in India, in Poland, in the US, in Sweden… and there’s no reason why people can’t be based elsewhere.

The thing that’s struck me about this place compared to others that haven’t been so good with remote working is how uncomplicated it is. Huge, huge caveat that it’s a small company and obvs these things get much more complex as you scale up, but it’s literally just having the attitude that remote calls are just as valid as in person meetings, and having the IT stuff designed (or more accurately: chosen) from the ground up to be remote/cloud-based/etc.

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I started my current job during the pandemic and although a bit weird, I got to know people throughout Europe and America just as well as I got to know my UK based colleagues.

Now we’re drifting back to the office a day or two a week I find myself naturally spending more time with the people based in the same office as me because I feel like I know them a bit better now I’ve met them in person.

Starting a new job in September so will be interesting to see what patterns emerge.

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I feel this is the future. It’s not there yet, and might never truly be for my work, but it’s close.

I joined the company during the pandemic. My notional head and home office is in the city centre glagow, something that i’ve always wanted after decades of working in office parks only accessible by car. now i’ve got this job though, the remote working is so much better.

i have in my arrangement no need to go in to the office; literally zero benefit. i work on nuclear power that i based primiarly in somerset, with a team based in london, bristol, manchester and newcastle. i was hired for my experience, and as such, there is no one near to me and no direct manager in the glasgow office. there is only disadvantages for me to go into the office; no proper set up, a one hour commute, and a lack of flexibility of hours.

working anywhere in the UK, therefore, is the way my manager saw it when they hired me, and as such it works.

internationally is posibly, in certian areas, but not mine - security and export controls mean that i need to be very careful as to what i take where. for example, i’m going to paris in two weeks, and i am not allowed to take my current laptop, as it’s got sensitive material on it that cannot be taken into france. same rules apply when going further afield, to the states. i think that, later this year, i might have three laptops, maybe four, and several login accounts.

and that’s not even considering the tax implications.

it’s the future, but it’s not there, not internationally, anyway.

I work entirely from home

It’s alright but I’m probably deficient in Vitamin D

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Not sure i fully understand the difference between remoting working and this…you could still be called to meetings in places when WFH.

Just here it is routine rather than ad-hoc? Guess i can maybe see the benefits but would need pretty careful planning of what you were doing when you were together. Otherwise, would be seen a waste of time and would de motivate people

I think the difference isn’t massive and does overlap a bit, but that the general point of the OP was work so far away from the main organisation hub that any in-person interaction would be on an infrequent ad hoc basis, rather than a weekly hybrid working pattern. And implicitly that starts to include working from other countries, which does bring a lot of specific other issues into play for the discussion.

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