Far Out is the remote work newsletter from Ashore, providing data, insights and other good stuff about remote work, straight into your inbox.
Before we release our first edition, we wrote this guide to provide another perspective on remote work through the lens of our COO's experiences. There's also some more details near the end about our new beta product, Ashore Partners.
Confession time: I am the co-founder of a remote working business, but I didn't really like remote working - at first.
Like many people, I was properly introduced to remote work by the pandemic - out of necessity, rather than because of a progressive employer's remote working policies.
But, pre-lockdown, my remote work experience was mostly powered by work travel.
In pre-Ashore life, I was in enterprise sales, which meant I was frequently on the road for customer visits and internal office visits.
On the road, it was tough to get an appropriate desk or chair, connect to the wi-fi, coordinate time zones, and to truly get s*&% done (GSD) at hotels and short-term rentals, so "remote work" during that time was mostly a struggle.
In case you're rolling your eyes at this point ("was your glamorous work travel hard, Steph?!"), I thought I'd detour from the blog and share one of my worst work travel memories with you.
In summer 2017, I was due to lead a pitch to a procurement team at a large UK-based pharmaceutical company, but had to travel from London to Palo Alto for a separate work trip, and could not get the customer to change the time they wished to meet.
Not only was I jet-lagged, I also managed to come down with some nasty food poisoning from a visit to a shrimp stand in Half Moon Bay the day I landed.
I arrived (after the ill-fated shrimp van visit) at the short-term rental I'd booked, which turned out to be a two-room shed in a suburban garden. A desk was out of the question - there was a sofa with a TV in one room, and a bed in the other.
So for the pitch, I ended up lying on the floor of the shed, at 5am, camera off, being peppered with detailed security questions about my company's software, trying not to be sick.
At the twenty-minute mark of the call, the shed's internet connection cut out.
So yes - remote work...didn't work for me. The freedom of having a laptop usually felt like a bit of a trap - I was beholden to other people's schedules, I didn't feel like I was doing my best work, and it reduced my own sense of agency in my day-to-day life.
But gradually, I got better at remote working. I learned to set boundaries. I gave myself the opportunity to build my own schedule, and communicate with my teammates about when to expect me for what. I actually started to like it - I could GSD in a way that worked for me.
At the same time, the world got better at remote working. We have better tools and - at least in knowledge work - have now enabled a whole new generation to meaningfully fit work into their lives, if given the right structure.
HR teams I worked with in my previous career often felt stuck when handling remote working, and how best to enable their teams to make the most out of it.
But just as employees felt pushed into remote work, employers had to respond to the pandemic at lightspeed and conjure remote working policies out of thin air. Even now, leadership teams are trying to navigate the extremely thorny topic of "going back to the office", and what that might mean, almost three years since lockdown began in the UK. At the same time, 84% of HR leaders consider flexible and remote working a cornerstone of their employee retention strategy (Forbes Human Resources Council).
There are, of course, incredibly successful remote-only businesses here in the UK, but it's very rare for a company to pivot to total remote working if it's not programmed into your company's DNA, so many employers are in a floating middle.
At Ashore, our thesis is that getting out of the city into a beautiful space allows us to do our best work. It's the benefit of being "not-quite nomads" - still having a permanent place to be, but with the freedom to seek out inspiration in new places.
That's why we started Ashore Partners - to help businesses offer this as a perk to employees. Not only does this buttressing the employers' commitment to flexible working, an Ashore stay reduces burnout and increases overall employee engagement.
We're just getting started with a small beta programme of a few forward-thinking employers with remote working policies already, who we will announce in the next few weeks - and we have lots of exciting plans for the future.
I'll also be writing a monthly newsletter about remote work called Far Out - you can subscribe here on LinkedIn, or even better, pop your email into the box on this page to stay in touch with us directly.
It should be a useful monthly set of remote work trends for anyone who works in a hybrid or remote role, and is interested in the ever-evolving future of work.