In conversation with Mark Renney, Commercial Director of Wubbleyou, about remote working
Please tell us a bit more about Wubbleyou, and your role within the company.
Wubbleyou builds software for businesses that helps them to grow. We work with a lot of scaling businesses to empower customer growth, automation and efficiency. We build software and web platforms that fit each businesses individual needs, with a clear understanding how our project will deliver a return on investment for the client’s budget.
We actually started the business during the UK’s last recession in 2010. Wubbleyou began as a web design company but we pivoted the business when that market became saturated. Since then we’ve seen an average of 50% growth year on year.
I’m Commercial Director of Wubbleyou and one of its cofounders.
What impact has the COVID-19 crisis had on Wubbleyou?
Operationally it’s had little to no impact. Because of how our business operates and its structure, we were able to go fully remote very quickly.
We’ve definitely seen some challenges. Commercially Q1 wasn’t the best quarter but I think that’s been the same for a lot of businesses. Thankfully we have seen that bounce back and this quarter and the next are looking good.
We’ve also taken on some new staff during lockdown and they’ve experienced a very different introduction to the company. It can be hard to settle in if you’ve not had a chance to meet everyone you’re working with. Some of those cultural changes have definitely had an impact.
Wubbleyou has recently cancelled its office lease. Why have you decided to become a fully remote working business?
Ultimately we hadn’t used the office since the 16 March. We hung on to it as the lockdown situation was unclear but it became apparent it was a significant cost to the business with no return.
The main question for us was; why wouldn’t we cancel the lease? Staff supported the idea of remote working, and during lockdown we saw no drop in productivity.
We do foresee having some kind of shared space in the future; a high-quality, smaller space where staff can meet to collaborate on projects and discuss ideas.
Looking back we actually had a lot of wasted space in our office as a lot of our staff work remotely for part of the working week anyway.
If anyone would like to know more about our decision to go ‘remote first’, please read my blog on the topic.
What are the benefits of remote working?
Personally, I like to sit and focus on the job in hand without a lot of distraction around me. I think it’s quite easy to be distracted in an office environment.
Flexibility is another major benefit. Some people in our company like to work early in the morning and others are more productive later in the day. By accommodating people’s different working patterns we’ve actually seen an improvement in our customer service offering. We’re not a 9-5 business anymore; clients can contact us early in the morning, or later in the evening. It works for our staff and it works for our clients too.
Our staff are happier working from home as well, which means they’re more productive and less likely to leave. Many of them travelled to the office from across the North East so not only are they saving time on travel, they’re saving money too.
There are obvious financial benefits for the company as well. Some businesses can be paying upwards of £50k a year for a high quality office space.
Are there any downsides, and how have you addressed them?
I think loneliness and isolation can be an issue for some people. We’ve tried to combat that by having daily check-ins with staff, and we also have an optional afternoon call if people want to chat through a particular issue, or just have a catch up.
Everyone has a monthly one to one, which is not just about discussing performance, it’s also a chance to find out how people are getting on generally.
Now that some lockdown restrictions have been relaxed, we’re planning a team get together. Not being in the same space does mean you can’t be as spontaneous; you can’t just pop out for lunch together, or grab a drink after work.
I do think that collaboration is better in person, which is why we’re still keen to have some kind of shared space for staff. In our previous office we had big boards where we could get creative and plan work. We can still be creative and collaborate effectively working remotely, but the experience is different. It feels more natural in person.
Mental health and wellbeing is an area a lot of businesses struggle with and unfortunately it’s an issue that’s on the rise, particularly due to the pressures a lot of people are facing because of the coronavirus pandemic. As employers we have a responsibility to look after our staff’s health and wellbeing and I think that’s become even more important now we’re all working remotely.
What advice would you give to any businesses considering moving to a remote working model?
From a practical point of view I would say invest in processes and technology.
I think a lot of businesses have found that existing processes are orientated to office working, if they’re documented at all, and the move to remote working has been hard.
Some have opened up their existing systems to allow people to work from home, but that brings with it a host of security risks. A short-term solution could lead to a bigger problem.
Other businesses have invested in Virtual Private Networks (VPN) and some have migrated their systems onto cloud-based technology, like Dropbox or Microsoft OneDrive.
Wubbleyou has been working with businesses to integrate and automate their processes for the last 10 years.
If your business is new to remote working, or you would like advice on how to improve its efficiency and productivity using digital technology, feel free to get in touch – [email protected].
For more information about Wubbleyou, visit www.wubbleyou.co.uk.
Wubbleyou also publishes a lot of helpful content for businesses on its blog too, visit www.wubbleyou.co.uk/blog.