James Mayes

Rugby, remote working and ISDN lines…

In Personal Development, Recruitment, Rugby, Start-ups on April 1, 2010 at 1:52 pm

I’ve been mulling over a number of topics for blog posts for the last few weeks and there’s one which just won’t go away. I’m not convinced it’s a polished article just yet – but this isn’t about copy-writing. It’s a blog, it’s MY blog and I’d like to hear opinions!

As you may know, I’m a rugby fan. Not the type who has followed a local club since school-days and played regularly, just one who appreciates the game and (generally) the nature of the people who play it. My main interest is clearly the England internationals – whether it be a friendly tour or something more heated like the recent 6 Nations – and over the years, I’ve noticed a recurrent theme. It’s been widely reported on by sports hacks in the press, so I can’t claim a first with this, but anyway….

It’s the “constant club versus country” argument. Clubs pay player salaries, relying on them to support the club’s winning ambitions (and thus commercial success) – but everyone wants to see the national team do well. The balance hasn’t been right for a long time (still isn’t) – and the result is that the national squad tend to improve dramatically over the duration of a tournament. They play several matches over a short period, train intensively together and as a result perform better as a unit. The perfect example would be the RWC2003 – and in most series since then, the improvement over a series has been demonstrable, even if it’s not been capped with a trophy.

Now we arrive at the point where I am qualified to comment: remote working. I worked for a company during 1999/2000 who chose to close my branch office. They wanted to keep me, I wanted to stay with them. All good. Their nearest office though, was not a realistic commute. It took some effort, but we eventually agreed a remote working plan which involved a couple of days a week in the office, the rest of the time at home (back in the days of 64k ISDN lines and home-working not being something a corporate tended to consider).

Since then, every role I’ve been in has had an element of working from home – and I’ve seen a lot of other people move into this kind of pattern too. It’s convenient, technology supports it, it’s greener, it supports work-life balance – we all know the arguments. Over the years, it’s become far more acceptable to all sorts of organisations. Long may it continue, I think it’s a great thing. The rub? It’s akin to the rugby – teams of people come together when really needed to work intensively together, then separate again. Sometimes they’re going to peak as a unit at just the right time – but more likely they’re going to struggle.

That first remote working experience of mine was probably one of the most successful. The company was nervous about doing it. I was keen but inexperienced. As a result, the working pattern was incredibly structured from the outset. A heavier level of reporting and management interaction than one might experience now. More focus on ensuring quality team interaction on the days when I was present in the office. The result of this wasn’t clear to me then, but it certainly is now. As a team, we didn’t just work as individuals, coming together for major events. The bonds were good, the communication was great and we were ready to front up to a challenge whenever it landed – we didn’t need time to get back into being a team.

As always, thoughts and comments welcome. Remote working is certainly here to stay, so let’s make sure it delivers trophies!

  1. Hi James,

    I like blogs with sport themes.

    In January the snow stopped as all going from work, but Jobsite was fully functional and as a team we communicated using messenger, email and organise calls.

    Several years ago when I was working in Barcelona, the communication was less organised and therefore I never really felt like part of the team.

    So I agree with you, a certain structure and discipline is needed and I believe also a certain amoutn of face to face or team time. Luckily, technology has evolved and with solutions such as Trypad & co, home working will grow with a team spirit that is strong and intact.


  2. I work from home and live around 900 miles from the office. I thought this was a great post and we are considering having me spend 1 week a month in DC. It seems like it would be a good idea.

  3. I like the analogy, and good post.

    Unfortunately for English rugby, the main reason it doesn’t work is the inability for the RFU to get on with the professional clubs and agree on how to centralise the contracts of our top players. And as such, the players themselves are not fully focussed on the task in hand.

    The Welsh & Irish Rugby Unions have had it sorted for a few years now, and the improvement in their national game is very noticeable, as well as their club teams dominating European Rugby.

    The moral of which can be transfered to your example. If a company organises and draws up a remote working strategy, knows each of it’s employees that are likely to use it and communicates with them on a regular basis then it will work smoothly and efficiently.

    However, to use the RFU as an example, if you don’t talk to your staff, don’t agree on pay, allow too many outside influences to interfere and don’t see it as a valuable and vital part of working life, you won’t see the benefits as an employer!

    • Hi Rob – I knew you’d have a strong opinion on this one – thanks for adding a level of rugby insight! I had the gut-feel, but not the detail.

      Brian – glad you enjoyed the read. Hope it helps with organising your working pattern, but if you want to talk anytime, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

  4. A good story. That company was very forward thinking, and I’m impressed. Many companies are moving this direction in order to keep their top talent. Mobile phones, wifi, and laptops allow us to work virtually anywhere. As an entrepreneur I work from my home office and am always working but I’m livin’ the dream.



  5. Great use of analogy! I really like it!
    Recently I started posting interestnig analogies I found on the web on blog.ygolana.com. I thought it could be a good idea to create a place where people can share useful analogies. Check it out!

  6. I think that each way of working needs to be organized and handled differently. And even when there’s not much to organize, just be aware of it.

    And if people want to work together and make the effort to communicate, all methods can be productive and enjoyable.

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