Remote and virtual working: implications for the digital workforce – Adam Harris, Fresh Mindset – Nottingham Digital Summit

Posted on 04/07/2019 by Team Hallam

Next up is Adam Harris from Fresh Mindset who discussed the implications of remote and virtual working. He shared tips, tools and techniques he’s learnt from a series of conversations with online businesses owners over the last 18 months. 

Adam opened with a quote from Richard Branson: “one-day offices will be a thing of the past”. Businesses are changing, moving and evolving quickly and all of the time, and according to Adam, the traditional workforce is not what it was previously. His presentation considered what is important for us as individuals, what impact remote working has on the business, and finding a unique approach for every single individual. 

The future of teams

Adam began by discussing the future of teams. He suggested that just like the advancement of technology, the workforce is advancing at a fast rate. For example, a lot of people now work from home. Other organisations have no physical office; they just connect online. This is known as a distributed team, whereby employees can be located anywhere in the world. Distributed teams utilize online technology to communicate and typically board meetings take place via online calls. So where will this go moving forward?

By alluding to research conducted in 1998, Adam introduced the 50-foot rule. This is the concept that if you work more than 50ft away from somebody, communication with that individual is minimal. And when we take into consideration teams that work on different floors, according to this theory, there is hardly any communication between co-workers.

However, Adam outlined many advantages of remote working. For example, the flexibility of being able to work to your own time scales and exercise individual control increases productivity. Remote working enables individuals to consider when they work best (i.e. whether that be morning or evening), and this leads to productive, successful work. 

Remote working impacts businesses leaders massively, therefore it is vital for leaders to communicate effectively and understand what is happening and where.

Building the right team and how you can fit in

Adam stated that normal interviews don’t usually work for remote workers. He, therefore, suggested introducing the ‘rule of three’. By conducting three different interviews in three different locations with three different interviewers, employers are given a great opportunity to more deeply observe potential employees relationships, personalities and skills.

Adam also suggested that however you communicate and work with individuals, clarity is vital. For business leaders, clarity on the relationship and the working environment is necessary. This is a two-way-street whereby employees and employers must work together and always remain open to listening to one another. Staying curious is another key factor for Adam, who believes that questioning the answer, is more important than answering the question. Finally, having accountability ensures demands are met whether you are the employee or employer. 

Rhythm and Routine

According to Adam, rhythm offers consistency. The regular standup is what is known as a scrum. Adam argues that it is vital to communicate with everyone in the business. Small sharp conversations are key because it keeps the connectivity up and moving forward. 

Regular team meetings are key in any business, but especially when you are working online. It is absolutely necessary for leaders of online businesses to have a clear plan of the next steps for the team and to clearly define and understand the culture of the business.

Adam suggests that if you don’t have clarity, then you have ambiguity, and this is risky for online businesses.


Understanding what will work for the individual and the organisation needs time, effort and energy. Adam suggests that it is necessary to get into a rhythm of sitting with individuals and their discussing needs so you don’t fall into the void of making uninformed assumptions. 

Making conscious efforts to understand each employee’s unique needs is vital.

Key takeaways

As leaders of remote and distributed businesses, it is necessary to understand your place within it. Focussing on organising the culture and rhythms of a business is vital. It is necessary to make sure you have the right processes in place in order to empower the team around the world. 

Being able to utilise and leverage technology is key in this respect. Developing the ability to use the tools available to you and be able to adapt and change to new tools is very important. 

Ultimately, it is all about people, patterns and communication. Adam suggests that no matter where you work from, make sure you are on scope, on budget and on time. It is important as an organisation to set employees up to win.

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Remote and virtual working: implications for the digital workforce – Adam Harris, Fresh Mindset – Nottingham Digital Summit

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