After a tempestuous journey across the Bay of Biscay and a two-day drive through a country that was in Covid lockdown, in early November 2020 I arrived in Arcos de la Frontera – a hilltop town in the province of Cadiz in southern Spain.
Philip's new home – Arcos de la Frontera in southern Spain.
Equipped with a new laptop and with access to a good wifi connection, I was soon up and running and back at work. As all of us at Maxim were then working from home – marketing and PR people understandably didn’t qualify as essential workers – it made no difference, from a job point of view, whether I was based in Spain or my former home in Tunbridge Wells. On a personal level, though, there was a big upside to having my lunchbreaks on the terrace enjoying the sun rather than gloomily looking out of my kitchen window at a dank, dark winter’s day in the UK.
Philip enjoying his new life.
Three years on, I am happily settled into my new life in the sun and continue to work for Maxim on a part-time basis, with lots of free time to explore my new country. However, with my colleagues now physically back at work – albeit on a hybrid basis – the drawbacks of remote working are beginning to become clearer.
What we do at Maxim is about much more than the written word. My colleagues are out and about the whole time: organising events, running community consultations, talking to politicians, managing the media – whether for a new road opening or a royal visit – meeting clients, giving presentations and making contacts.
I can support them by writing press releases, advising on tactics, preparing annual reports and drafting copy for websites, and because I work from home I can focus on the task in hand with few distractions. I am aware, though, that I can’t deliver the full package of services that Maxim offers.
The arrangement works well because they are on the ground and able to cover my absence but if we were all in my position, it would be a different matter.
A beautiful day in Arcos de la Frontera.
The loss of face-to-face contact is another issue to consider. Video calls work well, whether for a team catch-up or to talk an issue through on a one-to-one basis, but physically being with people is a richer experience. Lots of little things add up to a lot: overhearing a conversation and being able to make a helpful suggestion; having immediate access to a wider team with different skillsets and areas of knowledge; absorbing, almost by osmosis, what’s happening across a range of client accounts; offering a sympathetic ear; and popping to the pub for an occasional drink after work.
Fortunately, we are a close knit team and have worked together for a long time, so strong relationships are already in place. But if we recruited someone new who solely wanted to work remotely, I don’t know how we would inculcate them into our company’s culture. And if that person were a more junior member of staff, how could we provide the ongoing mentoring they need?
Cadiz - better than a gloomy day in Tunbridge Wells?
Then there’s the physical aspect of remote working. When I moved to Tunbridge Wells, I swopped an hour-long rush hour commute by car from Tenterden for a 10-minute walk, which was blissful and saved so much time and money. I’ve now got my commute down to a 15-second stroll along the hall. There are a lot of advantages to working from home but the 10-minute walk was ideal. It was a chance to stretch my legs and think about the day ahead before being in the office, and an opportunity to put the working day behind me on my way home. That physical break in the day no longer exists, which I do occasionally miss.
Finally, I wonder about something that was barely talked about three years ago. If people are not adding value via all the things that are best done in person, with a human touch, how soon will it be before their roles are made redundant by AI?
The centre of Arcos de la Frontera.
posted in: maxim/client news,