Why supporting people and productivity matters most

FanFinders’ CEO and co-founder Alec Dobbie discusses changes in ‘where’ we work and why we focus on outputs, not inputs.

In the past, I have occasionally been accused of living my life in a bubble, concentrating only on those things around me and not seeing the world at large.

I suspect this is a common state, especially for those who run a business and have young kids, because those two take up a decent chunk of time. 

The bubble struck again recently. I’d jumped in the car to go down to the local town and during the pandemic, I haven’t been driving much at all.

I almost immediately hit a load of traffic and sat in it for a bit getting quite confused as to why it was there, completely ignoring the fact it was 8:30am and that I usually did this journey two hours earlier when the roads are clear. 

As I’m sure most reading are aware, I was simply sat in normal rush hour traffic. However, to me, this is far from normal.

I work from home and have done for well over 10 years, and I simply forget that 9-5 commuting exists. For lots of occupations, this desire for everyone to meet all of the time has always struck me as a massive lack of common sense.  

Happier = better

If you do the maths, it’s even more alarming. Assuming a 1-hour commute each way, 5 days a week, gives us 10 hours a week commuting.

In a 46-week working year, that’s 460 hours or a solid 20 full days a year, sat crammed into trains, tubes, buses and cars. Most of the time, no-one wins from this time, it’s mostly unproductive, annoying and expensive.

At FanFinders, we have recently taken the decision to close our office and work 100% remotely with post-COVID sessions together as and when needed.

When I talk to my colleagues about this, they are for the most part very happy.

There are naturally some concerns in feedback about the importance of human contact, but these mostly stem from the current lockdown restrictions at the time of writing this. 

We have had a much larger amount of positive responses. One colleague has been able to buy a house with savings from not commuting across London daily and another has moved to an idyllic countryside location, saving money compared to living in the city centre.

There is a common theme around this time saving being turned into other things. We have loads of DIY going on, lots of walking in the countryside and a general happier feel. 

This obviously not only pays dividends for our staff, but to us as a business as well. I’ve long been of the opinion that happier people make better employees and are willing to go above and beyond in fabulous ways.

Focus on outputs, not inputs

This approach has multiple roots. Beyond the aim to create happiness, we are interested in outputs, not inputs.

I explained this to my near-teenage child recently when he was, in grand Kevin and Perry style, not wanting to clean his room and asked me how long he had to spend cleaning it.

We had a decent chat about the output, a tidy room, being much more important than the input, the time spend tidying the room (or gazing out of the window as often happens).

This is how knowledge-based businesses like ours work. We need measurable outcomes, not as one of my co-founders puts it: “fluffy” ones.

If you are concentrating on what people produce, not 100% when they produce it, you end up with a better end product.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have decent core hours or still have some staff needing to work within a 9-5 like our commercial functions do, but I am saying you need to look at the outputs that are created regardless, to some extent, of where they are created or how long they took.   

Our aims through remote working if we look past the obvious cost savings, are happier people who are willing to give more and by doing so, create better work.

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