“If technology can work 5 miles away, why not 500?”
Niki is a great example of what is possible. Here, she shares her story of how she was able to relocate to Scotland but remain in a role she loves.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I moved to Scotland in December 2018 and now divide my time each month between there and Somerset. The flexible working arrangement meant I was able to keep my job, a role I love, with Somerset County Council. I’m sharing my story of how we made it work thanks to technology, fortnightly return visits & very forward-thinking leadership.
Having graduated with a BA Hons History Degree, I was accepted onto Somerset County Council’s Graduate Development Scheme in 2008. I worked my way up through the organisation, initially employed within children’s services, and now work as a Strategic Manager within Adult Services, responsible for Quality & Performance.
Previously, I always worked 9 to 5 from a central office base. In the autumn of 2018, following my husband securing a new role on the west coast of Scotland, I applied for a flexible working arrangement, which was approved. I was keen to find a way to maintain continuity for both my staff and I and stay in a job I love.
What works well?
The support and trust shown by my Director, peers and colleagues was fantastic. Initially, we set a short-term trial period to test the suitability and effectiveness of the new arrangements and had more frequent catch ups during this transition period.
Key to the success was having a shared commitment to making it work, the right technology, planning and scheduling to reflect the demands of the job, and encouraging and being receptive to feedback. I do feel that I am more effective as fewer distractions and interruptions mean I am able to progress work more efficiently.
What are the challenges?
It can feel isolating not having colleagues physically around during the day. And dividing my time between Scotland and Somerset means I am living away from home regularly each month.
There remains some stigma attached to home-working, although this is improving; similarly, it is not always feasible or practical for everyone and needs to be balanced with organisational needs.
What are your top tips for remote working?
- Be open-minded. The way we work is changing and can change.
- Attend your office base, when you can, to benefit from the aspects you miss while you’re away and to maintain a physical presence.
- Although never flattering, do embrace the video function on Skype. It’s much more inclusive and engaging to see people and be seen.
- Be disciplined and set boundaries: I’ve found it really helpful to maintain a clear routine to my day, so I still get up at the same time as I would have done previously and I continue to dress professionally to receive video calls. It helps to feel in ‘work mode’ and have a structure when working from home but is also important to ‘shut the door’ on a day’s work, even when technology allows you to be accessible 24/7.
I really hope this blog has helped people reflect on the art of the possible.