Remote working trend gathers pace
Where you work used to have a lot to do with where you live.
But Chris Evans, co-founder of software start-up Flyt Limited, believes that may soon change.
“There is this huge trend happening where remote work is becoming the new norm,” Mr Evans told a Bermuda Tech Summit audience at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club. “It doesn't matter where you live any more.”
He moved his family to Bermuda from Los Angeles in May, mostly for the Atlantic time zone.
Working remotely in Los Angeles, he'd struggled with the eight-hour time zone difference between himself and the company's offices in London.
“If I had a 9am in London, that was 1am in Los Angeles,” he said. “And I was working all through the night for eight hours. Then my kids woke up in the morning. I said this doesn't make any sense, what am I doing?”
But it wasn't just the time zone that made Bermuda appealing to the Evans family. They had two young children and wanted somewhere free of viruses like Zika. They had also learnt to love the sun in California.
“My wife has become solar powered,” Mr Evans joked.
His birthplace Australia was Bermuda's prime contender, but Mrs Evans didn't want to move there.
When they arrived in Bermuda they found a welcoming and hospitable community. Mrs Evans joined local parenting group Mama Bermuda.
“On any given day 18 mothers and babies can show up,” Mr Evans said. “My wife will say it's my turn to host the playgroup.”
When they first decided to move to the island, the hardest thing was just knowing if they could.
“It might be time for Bermuda to consider implementing a remote worker or digital nomad visa,” Mr Evans said.
He said remote workers bring a lot of benefit to a community without actually taking away local jobs.
But now that his family have settled down they don't really know how long they'll be allowed to stay.
Telecommunications has also presented a challenge for Mr Evans.
When he arrived, he had a fantasy about directing his teams in Canada and Europe, while working remotely from the beach, or beside a pool, but that hasn't always worked out well.
“At the moment that is challenging,” he said. “Getting on wi-fi in certain places is fine, but the mobile network is good, but not good enough. When you try to do a video conference call on the beach and it is cutting in and out, that makes you sigh.”
He first decided to work remotely when he moved to California in 2018, to save on the expense of an office. He liked it so much he allowed all of his staff to work remotely, as long as they were all within four time zones of each other. A few of his staff chose to work from an office, but most chose to work at home.
This helped to solve a problem he'd been battling with since the Brexit vote in 2016; it was hard to find new hires who were willing to brave the uncertainty and move to London.
“After Brexit was announced we had no applicants coming through and the quality level of hires dropped dramatically,” he said. “Now that we are remote, the pool of who we could hire was so much bigger. Our time to hire in London was about 120 days. Now, with remote access, we are down to 21 days. That means you can wait longer before you have to think about who you are going to hire.”
One of his concerns about working remotely was maintaining the cohesion of the team. How do you trust your coworkers if you don't work side by side with them?
“We found that working remotely actually gives you more advantages,” he said. “You have this budget to pull people together to have experiences. My team came to Bermuda last week for a week. They got to be in the sunshine. Some of them were from Winnipeg and Toronto, places where it is snowing. They were like wow, this is the greatest company we've worked for. We went out on the boat together and went to the Dog House together. It's those experiences that creates a team.”
In December he sold Flyt, which offers software for restaurants and restaurant suppliers, to Just Eat, another British takeout and delivery company, for £22 million ($28 million). As per agreement with Just Eat, he lays down the reins at the end of this year.
“I promised my wife I would take six months off,” he said. “We plan to spend that here.”
After that, he's looking at another start-up maybe to do with working remotely.