Originally published in October 2014. Updated February 2021.
Between early 2010 and mid 2014, I completed a management buyout and the simultaneous acquisition of one of our largest competitors to create one of the UK’s leading independent mobile telecoms providers. As the company grew, I became acutely focussed on the human aspect of what we were doing, and specifically the phrase / concept / lack of ‘work-life balance’ – a term that had always intrigued me, not least for its very suggestion that work is the antithesis of life. Obviously that is impossible given that we first have to live before we can do anything.
What really interested me (and still does to this day) about the term, and the way people used it, was the view that it was the impossible dream; we chose to see it as another chore, achieving a work-life balance that is acceptable to us as individuals or to others who seemingly have an enviable work-life balance. I have always believed work is something you do (like play, sleep, eat and so on), not somewhere you go – although it can be, just as we can go to the football field to play football, or to a restaurant to eat, a hotel/our homes to sleep and so on. It is a choice that you make – or, importantly these days, your employer may make for you.
Having run a couple of successful businesses and having made a few acquisitions over recent years, I have become more and more focussed on the human element of business. How to create an organisation that people love to work for, engage with, buy from and so on; an organisation that engages and rewards, a business that doesn’t leave people with the Sunday blues as they think of the week ahead.
In creating any organisation, the vision is to typically create a business that doesn’t just create clever solutions. The plan is always to create an organisation that changes the way we do things, that fundamentally challenges the norm and sets about changing the way we live. In my previous business, we did that, but we didn’t go far enough. ISAAC is a totally different concept; we have balanced remote and office work with work-life balance from the get-go. We live and work in a cycle of constant improvement and innovation and as a result, are the proverbial Guinea Pig.
Here’s the secret ingredient – it is all about the people. You must trust the people that you employ. If you don’t, then why employ them in the first place? Once you trust them, then you must enable them to be the best versions of themselves, not just expect them to morph into what you deem ‘suitable’ – truth is, many people cannot and more often than not, will not, conform to that approach any longer. Within my previous company, we created the Weightless Office – a concept that enabled people to work from anywhere, provided they had the right tech in place. Note, this wasn’t (and still isn’t) home working, nor is this BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) which is, in my book, a flawed, little thought out acronym for something nobody really has a clue how to manage well.
The Weightless Office combined cloud based technologies to enable access to company systems from any connected device – you didn’t even need YOUR device, just a device that is connected. No more lugging round heavy and expensive laptops, in fact most tablet devices will more than suffice (I originally wrote this article from the Ardennes region of Belgium on an iPad mini. Thanks to Covid, I am editing it in my kitchen in SW London) – if I had superhero sight, and minuscule fingers, I could even have written it from my iPhone. Something I can easily do now, and not because my fingers have shrunk or my eyesight improved! But the really beautiful thing about this story, is what it did for our employees…
Each of them were enabled with their own Weightless Office, essentially a collaborative solution that consisted of a virtual desktop solution, a mobile / landline converged connectivity solution, Microsoft Lync (now Teams) and SharePoint – all fully managed and secured with MDM. This meant they could work from anywhere. In fact they were positively encouraged to do so. We trusted each of our employees to ensure they were the best versions of themselves – they all clearly knew their roles and what was expected of them. Here are some real life examples from almost 10 years ago…
. Lisa, Project Manager
[After we moved offices in Scotland, the new location was a bit far to travel to which would have taken too much time and money.. I was left with no choice but to leave the business, however I was given the option to become a remote worker which is allowing me to work pretty much anywhere I like. The company has given me the resources I need to work effectively and efficiently from home so it hasn’t impacted my work at all, if anything is has made me more productive than ever. Not only have I been able to retain my job, but as a single parent, I now have so much more valuable time to spend at home with my son.]
Case 2. Jo, Pre Sales Consultant
[Weightless Office has allowed me to work from any location, whilst staying contactable and accessing all my documents and emails, on any device. Being totally office based between 9 – 5.30pm, and catching the rush hour traffic daily, I became increasingly stressed and too tired to do anything with my family by the time I arrived home. Now, I am still able to carry out my job responsibilities, whilst the time saved on travelling to and from the office means I can spend more quality time with my family. I am happier and have more energy to partake in daily family activities, such as taking my son to his swimming lessons and don’t feel like I miss out on valuable time with them, even when I am a full time working mum!]
. Christine, Finance Team
[My mother is disabled and housebound so spending enough time with her and giving her the care support she needs is so important to me. Now that we have the technology in place to work remotely, I have the option to work from her home a couple of times a week, using the time I would normally spend travelling to the office, giving her some company which would make such a difference. Not only has Weightless Office changed my way of living, but has changed my mother’s too.]
Each of these humbling real life cases were possible because we chose to make them possible. Sure, we had the technology that enabled this type of working, but we as a business, took the decision to allow this to happen – to empower each of our people to be the best they can be. At the time I always said that, if our legacy is that we enabled our employees to be more effective and efficient and to work smarter, which even just went someway to helping them live better more fulfilled lives with their loved ones, then that is something way more than revenue, way more than profit, way more than being the market leader, that would be life changing… that is life changing.
As Covid did its best to unravel society as we knew it, we literally switched overnight from being office based (because we enjoyed the social side of it) to home working. Every single one of our customers did the same. There was no drama, no stress, just a pragmatic approach to staying safe and continuing to work as we had always done. Our data was where it always is (in the cloud) and we were safe in the knowledge that our entire tech infrastructure was secure and accessible from anywhere. it’s what we do after all.
ISAAC provide 100% cloud based Remote & Flexible Working solutions. All are human-centric and developed through years of experience to adapt to the way your business operates. Our flagship solution – The Oxygen Digital Workplace – manages everything from processes to people. Our Complete Remote Working Solution is a quick-start series of options designed to securely enable all of your employees to do their job, from anywhere for one single payment per user, per month.
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