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Remote control

Kelvin Newman, founder of Rough Agenda and the BrightonSEO conference, on the remote revolution.


I got an out of the blue message from an old university friend the other day on Facebook. First it made me feel old. It’s more appropriate to measure the time since we last spoke in decades rather than years.

She was looking to start working after a maternity break. Despite a great set of skills and an amazing CV, she wasn’t going back to her old job. They weren’t keen for her to work part-time or from home a few days a week.

It’s bonkers to have to go out and find someone new when you’ve already got the perfect candidate. Just because they don’t quite fit your cookie cutter idea of 9-5, five days a week in the office.

In my day job I organise a conference and exhibition. It started out as a pub meet-up. Now twice a year thousands of people from around the world come to Brighton to meet and learn in order to do their jobs a bit better.

Like most events it power comes from getting like minded people together in a room. There’s something special about people getting together. Despite that love for face-to-face networking, most of the year me and the team work remotely and flexibly.

I’m amazed more events don’t work like this. Making their team traipse to the office eating into the time and good mood of all their staff. Plus open plan offices and meetings are great for micromanagement, but terrible for actually getting meaningful work done.

We have a small core team of employees and freelancers that grows temporarily in the run-up to each event. Everyone involved in putting together the event works remotely. Often the only time we see each other in person is at the conference itself.

We experimented with having an office for a while. We realised that no one enjoyed their commute. We scrapped the office and I moved into an office in my garden so my daily commute is a lot easier. Plus I like being in charge of choosing the music for my office.

People can do their jobs from wherever it suits them best, whenever it suits them best. Technology makes it easy to stay in touch and share information. Why drag people into the same room every day if you don’t need to?