Interview: Grow Remote

Grow RemoteWe had the opportunity to interview Rose Barrett, co-founder of Grow Remote. You can follow Rose over Twitter, as well as Grow Remote

1. Can you please introduce you and Grow Remote?

Grow Remote started in a WhatsApp group and while that might sound like a bit of a line, it’s how it started for us.  We have a central dot joiner at the core of this project, Tracy Keogh and she saw the pattern emerging, took out her bat signal and pulled us into this group.  

To say that it snowballed from there would be an understatement.  The people involved are about getting things done, and as efficiently as possible.  We’re all community people at heart and we see remote working as a tool that can enable people to choose to move where they wish.  That might be a rural setting, a smaller regional town or to stay in an urban setting, but it’s about giving people the freedom to choose.

The first project was to host the inaugural remote working conference in Ireland and Tracy had a crazy idea.  We didn’t know where the conference was being held 5 weeks before the event. Communities up and down Ireland were invited to pitch to host and after around 40 applications, Tralee, Co. Kerry won.  Speakers came in from all over globe giving so kindly of their time, we had people from corporate backgrounds, consultants, community people. It was a chance to look at what was happening in a specific company to the day-to-day practicalities of being a remote work.  As the dust was settling on a great event the question now became “How do we scale this?” and that’s where the ideas of chapters came about.

Chapters are about enabling local leaders to do what we were doing but on a grander scale.  While chapters specific goals might differ – some are more about supporting existing remote workers in their area to overcome isolation and grow careers, while another chapter might take on the piece of educating a local community about remote work and its potential.  But what is central to all chapters is the culture of action, of being hands-on, leading with doing, respect and inclusion.

There’s a term in Irish culture called “meitheal” it was where a group of neighbours would come together to help with the harvest or other major work on a farm, in turn the group helped at each of the neighbouring farms.  This is what Grow Remote and the Chapters is all about. We all get to work together, help each other out. That might be a copy writer based in Galway creating case studies to educate people or a community team in Donegal learning how to promote their location with a new audience and then sharing what they’ve learned with others.

Our Chapters are hosting on an amazing portal called ChangeX (which happens to be an Irish initiative) they host community projects to help them scale.  We knew early on that they would be a key part of the success of Grow Remote.

2. How can someone become involved in Grow Remote? 

It will depend on what your needs or goals are but visit our website at GrowRemote.ie and figure out from there how you’d like to engage with us.  For most people it will be a matter of joining their local Chapter but if there currently isn’t a Chapter local to you, you can apply to start a new one.  We are currently onboarding new Chapters and welcome new applications.

We are also keen to engage with others in the remote working space or in related areas so you can get us on Hello@GrowRemote.ie.

3. Which are the biggest challenges you see people face when they want to start working remotely? 

Our experience in Ireland, specifically, is that people don’t even know it exists.  That’s the majority. For those that do many are equating it with the digital nomad movement and don’t see it as viable employment.  For others, they don’t feel they have the skills or the confidence to go for these positions.

But once people are more knowledgeable about remote working the challenges differ.  Some are concerned about their own suitability to work remotely, and I can totally understand this.  It’s taken me years to develop a schedule, processes and even a home office to really enjoy remote working.  We know that remote work won’t be for everyone and don’t want to shy away from conversations around this. It’s possible for some that working from a co-working space will make the most sense and by sharing knowledge and having conversations people are being empowered to figure this question out.

One other challenge that people already in roles that hold potential for remote are facing is in the risk averse middle management.  A friend of mine tells the story of a colleague who requested to go from occasional flexible working to fully remote (which perfectly suited her role) but it took a change in management before it was taken seriously (the new manager couldn’t see how there had been an issue in the first place).  This is certainly a bottleneck to larger organisations embracing remote and one we’re keen to help improve.

4. Which are your top tips for those who are starting to work remotely to have a successful journey? 

Grow Remote MeetingThis will sound extremely “self” serving but I would say find a community, a group, a mentor.  Like any career change or growth, having people to come back to will push you in the good times and support you through the tough.  I’ve been part of a Mastermind group for nearly 5 years now and they have been great mentors and sounding boards for me to help develop me professionally.  But we also give each other support outside of work (which developed over time) and for anyone working remotely, this is so important. Grow Remote is filling that gap for more and more people currently in remote roles, or moving into remote roles.

Develop a routine stick to it.  This might be easier for some roles that might have more defined work times and this is particularly important for those that work from home.  It will also help you to make the most of your down time which will ensure you don’t become burnt out and are more effective coming back to work.

Invest in your workspace.  Whether you are working from a co-working space or home, make sure you have appropriate seating, lighting and get some character in there.

Keep the random interactions.  It’s been shown that those random conversations with the server in the coffee shop or the person in line at the shop are really important to our mental wellbeing, it helps us to feel more part of the society we live in and it’s something that can be greatly reduces for those of us working remotely.  So embrace the light hearted random chats, it’s good for you.

5. Why is remote work not more popular and common nowadays? Which are the biggest issues towards its adoption by companies? 

We’ve been discussing this again recently within the Grow Remote community, particularly the high profile cases of companies bringing their remote workers back into co-located offices.  We’re willing to be corrected on this but the feeling for many of us is that they just didn’t get their culture, communication or processes right and the two most important of those are culture and communication.  We can see the 100% remote companies are fierce about both those pieces and it shows.  

I spoke recently to a Shopify employee in one of our chapters and he said he’s never felt more connected to a team before starting his remote role with the Canadian employer.  I thought that was powerful.

And, again how risk averse different levels of management can be in the corporate setting.  We need to be able to incentivise companies taking those risks and for the teething problems to be worthwhile.  This is where Government can step in to encourage companies to look at this as a serious option.   

6. What would you say to companies who are not yet open to remote work? 

Reach out to businesses like yours who have already embraced remote and have a conversation.  While the cost savings might be very clear cut there are other benefits that might not be so clear on paper.  We know that this was a great time for Grow Remote to come about because one of the biggest challenges facing Irish firms is accessing talent and the talent pool you can access is vastly increased in the area of remote work.

If there any companies who are keen to have a conversation like this please do reach out to us, we are growing a network of partner businesses and many are happy to help other companies to better understand the journey towards remote.

7. Anything else you would like to share with the remoters.net audience? 

I personally have discovered that the “remote work” gif game is extremely weak and would like to start a movement of gifs that both tell the real story and make people sputter coffee into their monitors.  Come join me (ps I might need to learn how some gif development!).

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