Remember Tomorrow’s World? The science-come-futurology TV programme that ran for almost 40 years, treated dreary 1980s Britain to a weekly glimpse into a more exciting future. From outlandish predictions such as bar codes replacing price tags to more eminently sensible innovations, such as the floating bicycle that would save Londoner commuters time & money by gliding down the Thames, Tomorrow’s World predicted our shiny, computerised, automated future of driverless cars and digital everything.
When school introduced computer classes on alternate Wednesday afternoons, the promise of robot hoovers and jet packs seemed very remote from inputting binary onto whirring Amstrads – this wasn’t exciting science at all. But there was one computer-oriented prediction that caught everyone’s imagination: virtual communication. The idea that we could speak to each other through watches, transmit live video links around the world and liberate ourselves from the shackles of physical place and space was dizzying.
People loved the idea of instant connection and disconnection. At the bottom of this, I’d argue, was a rumbling build towards consciousness of the ultimate golden dream – that man, or woman, would never again need to be chained to a desk.
Fast-forward to today and coding’s been translated into technology that’s woven into our daily lives with the knock-on effect that we can, in theory, work anywhere, anyhow. Citrix Systems has predicted that approximately 29% of people in 2020 will work remotely—the majority from home, project sites, and customer/partner premises. Coffee shops, airports, and hotels will also be used while in transit, much as they are today.
We were featured in the Telegraph this week talking about ‘working wherever’. Nine years ago, Caffeine boldly went where few, if any, consultancies had been before – into the Cloud. When Caffeine was founded our virtual model was an anomaly. We were frequently asked, “But where’s your office?” Yet our belief was that the clients we wanted to work with would judge us on the quality of our work and not the size of our office.
Today we continue to serve a raft of clients in blue-chip organizations none of whom care that we don’t have an office. We therefore believe we have some insights into how to make virtual, viable.
Here’s our top three tips for making virtual working pay.
ONE: OFFER A BETTER SERVICE
We are a lean organization made up of people with years of experience. You hire us, you get us – a dedicated team, working at pace on your project. We built Caffeine on three principles:
- We always act out of heart and conscience
- We are “respectfully disrespectful” – we tell our clients what they need to hear not what they want to hear.
- We aim to be quick and to the point. No long meetings, no doorstep documents. Just sharp, concise advice.
And we like to think we are enjoyable to work with too.
TWO: HAVE CONTACTS AND CONTACT
Contacts is what you have when you start out – most people are not going to be happy giving you business if they haven’t met you in the flesh. So, you’re going to have to spend some time on earth before rocketing off to Planet Virtual. Everyone at Caffeine has worked in some of the world’s largest marketing services agencies and been extremely well connected to other big companies before going virtual.
The other is contact.
Firstly, physical contact. For all the benefits of email and Slack, going out and getting it – meeting people in person – is still the most effective way to discover how what you offer can benefit another. Plus it forces you to leave the house and be stimulated by the world outside.
Secondly, virtual contact. The virtual working world requires more, not less, contact with clients. The old-fashioned office phone or face-to-face meeting system allowed us to hide. Now there is no excuse for not replying straight away, even if you see an email in the middle of the night. That’s why clients take on virtual companies. For a higher level of contact and an “always on” approach. You’ve managed to escape that commute – so you have to be prepared to send a work email in a theatre interval every now and then.
No one can hire your business unless they’ve heard of you. And no one will hire your organization unless they’ve “heard” good things about you and seen a little of what you’re about. In the old non-virtual age, if you had a large shiny office, a smart looking, visible, workforce people felt pretty safe in hiring you. The new safe is reputation. You’re good at what you do, so don’t be afraid to ask your clients to recommend you to others. Keep in regular contact with clients past and present and not just when the pipeline is looking a bit thin.
Virtual working is the way of the future. But it is not, of itself, a magic formula.
Exactly the same amount of businesses will rise, fall, grow or fail as before, when non-virtual ruled the earth. Good companies, however, will be empowered to be better. We’re confident that it will continue to transform how we do business, boost efficiency and harness some of the world’s most brilliant minds. The possibilities are truly endless…although I wish the jet pack would hurry up and enter the mainstream.[starbox]
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