Resources For Change
Resources for Change (R4C) is a sustainable development consultancy founded in Llanymynech, Powys.
- The absence of a commute achieved through remote working can make employment accessible until a later age.
- Remote teams can reduce costs and increase the talent pool that is available.
- Utilising data sharing packages that can be worked on offline eliminates some reliability of connection issues.
- It is important to consider the broadband access of clients and customers when designing interactions.
Overview of the business
Established in 1997 with a rural focus, the consultancy now works within sustainable development in rural, urban, valleys and peri-urban areas, with a reputation for making the links between grassroots and strategy. The core services include organisational development, capacity building and training, project delivery support, engagement and consultation, design and delivery, evaluation, and facilitation.
In recent years, the business has undergone important changes. In 2010, the consultancy took the decision to become an employee-owned company, coordinated by four company directors. These directors are supported by a further four employees. The directors are based across the United Kingdom in Montgomery, Sussex, Yorkshire, and Welshpool. A further change was the decision to sell the physical premises. The whole team now work remotely, relying on digital technologies for everyday organisation, communication and dissemination of business processes.
Resources for Change information flow diagram
Highlighting the internal and external communication flows of the business.
Superfast broadband adoption
Since the move toward remote working, each team member is responsible for obtaining his or her own broadband provisions. There are notable variations in adoption speeds and costs across the multiple locations. In Welshpool, standard broadband costs £36 per month, inclusive of line rental and landline calls. The team members based in Shropshire, Sussex and Yorkshire have Superfast broadband, as does the member from Montgomery who pays £50 per month plus phone calls.
Reliability of connection is essential for the everyday operation of the business, especially since team working is central to the business’ success. There have been great difficulties experienced by some of the team, with days of work being lost due to no or unreliable connection.
IT skills capacity
Predominately all day-to-day IT is managed internally by the virtual administrator. Given the integral importance of digital competencies for the continued success of the business, all directors and employees possess advanced knowledge of IT and the digital functioning of the business processes. If IT problems persist, these are managed externally.
Use of digital technologies
Digital technology is integral to this remote-working consultancy team, who meet in person around 3 to 4 times a year. However, to keep working collaboratively, Skype is a core function that is used to have weekly team meetings and all joint discussions. Significantly, R4C find that many of their clients, particularly in the public sector, do not use Skype. WhatsApp is also frequently used by the team as it has a range of functionalities and excellent conference call capabilities.
After utilising Office 365 and OneDrive for a period of time, the business decided that several issues made it unsuitable. Instead they now use Dropbox, which enables the team to work on documents offline and save them with a coding system to always know which the latest draft is and who it was edited by. Trello is also used which is a web-based project management application.
The business’ website is in the process of being renewed, they do not use social media with the view that it must be updated daily in order for it to be effective. The consultancy does, however, use social media on behalf of their clients in order to gain opinions and promote their clients’ work. SurveyMonkey is used but can have limited success, particularly due to broadband access of respondents – for example contact with stakeholders who often do not have smartphones can be challenging.
Recruitment of the administrator was undertaken virtually, the job was advertised through LinkedIn and team member’s networks, interviews were undertaken utilising Skype and only once the successful candidate had been chosen did they meet in person. R4C’s administrator works virtually, finding potential bids and tenders on websites such as Tracker, Sell to Wales, and Skillfare.
These opportunities are accessed daily and communicated to the team who then filter the opportunities and meet via Skype should any be of particular interest. The administrator also undertakes all day-to-day invoicing, payments, financial management and online banking.
In making the decision to become a remote-working team, many costs were cut from the business - office space with the associated management and administration, and the team became paperless. Broadband costs were also eliminated as Wi-Fi connection is the responsibility of individual staff members, who now work from their homes. Furthermore, a virtual administrator was appointed and the available pool of talent widened as the business is not fixed to one physical location.
The flexibility of remote working is considered essential, allowing some team members to set up other businesses and others to work past retirement age due to the elimination of the time and energy required to commute. This work-life balance can be disturbed when connection is lost as the work must be done at another time, this can mean that planned time off can be lost.
These losses in connectivity also decrease the wages of staff, bids are submitted with a daily rate and fixed budget, extra work must be undertaken to compensate for loss of internet access. However, working as a team and through communal saving on DropBox it can be possible for other team-members to work on a project in their place should a consultant have prolonged lack of access to reliable broadband.