Passing on the Crown

Last Thursday Shirley Pickford, from Oakenholt in Flintshire was announced as the 2010 winner of The Microsoft Remote Worker Award at Remote Employment Remote Worker Awards held at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London.

James McCarthy from Microsoft and Paula Wynne from Remote Employment (right) celebrate with Shirley Pickford after she won The Microsoft Remote Worker Award.

Many of you will know that to my surprise I won this award in 2009. Winning the award has significantly improved the profile of my remote worker work and has helped me spread the word, the prizes weren’t bad either! ;-)

Shirley is a very worthy successor. She is a university lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University (based in Cambridge and Chelmsford) but she never actually meets her students. Shirley’s desk is in Oakenholt, Flint, and she tutors undergraduates using the Internet. All the students are in work, so the course is designed to fit around their working lives. Shirley uses the flexibility of remote work to combine a challenging profession with family commitments, mirroring the experience of her students.

A typical working day for Shirley starts by greeting colleagues in an online forum. Morning coffee is enjoyed with a phone call to remote lecturers in Liverpool, Spain or Newry to discuss issues raised by students. There are video conferences with university staff based on campus. Shirley advises students in web-based discussions.

Remote working has been a particular advantage for Shirley and for her employers during a difficult year. Swine flu struck in the first weeks of the academic year and although Shirley needed a few days off work, she did not need to worry about passing it on to colleagues or students. She was also able to care for a sister frail with cancer who needed companionship by working from home. A major project to deliver new courses was largely uninterrupted by domestic events and student feedback at the end of the academic year has demonstrated success.

Shirley explains on the Remote Employment Web site: “I’ve enjoyed working remotely as a lecturer, keeping in touch with students through online discussions and using everything from blogs to wikis to publish journeys in learning. I can set up an office anywhere by opening my laptop. Everybody wins in managing projects – me, my students, colleagues and my employer.”

The Judges were impressed with the benefits remote working gives to both her and her employer, Anglia Ruskin University. Exploring the use of new technologies and social media to work with staff and students has increased Shirley’s productive work time. Remote lecturing has its rewards communicating and collaborating with people, regardless of geographical location. The support of Anglia Ruskin University has been crucial in developing an approach that is successful for Shirley and her students.

Shirley said: “It’s thrilling to gain recognition of developments in remote working for myself and for Anglia Ruskin University. I am so excited to be credited for the new innovative ways in which remote working contributes to my student’s well being and learning.

Congratulations to Shirley and hope you enjoy holding the crown as much as I did!

Will the Remote Worker Winner Please Stand Up!

I’ve only gone and won it! :-) I won my category (Remote Worker Award) at the remote worker awards yesterday (the prizes are listed on the Web site). Needless to say I’m really pleased and very grateful to everyone who has supported me along the way (especially UKOLN). Not only did I win my category but I was also presented with a special award (the Cliveden House award) for my work. The prize for this one is a spa weekend at the amazing Cliveden house. How fantastic is that!! Apparently you can’t take children!! Yay! ;-)

I didn’t win the garden office (The vivid green award) but that would have just been greedy! ;-)

Cliveden House

Cliveden House

Anyway I had a great day. I meet a lot of interesting and motivated people and really enjoyed hearing about their remote working experiences – lots of fodder for the blog! The ceremony took place at the beautiful Cliveden house and we started off with a champagne reception. There followed a welcome address and some stats (11% of the UK workforce are now remote workers, 3.5 million work remotely and 60% of all new businesses last year were launched from home) from hosts Paula Wynne and Ken Sheridan, co-founders of Remote Employment and organisers of the awards. Stephen Dodman from von Essen Hotels also welcomed us to the venue, Cliveden house, in the 1960′s it was setting for some of the Profumo affair naughtiness.

Ken Sheridan opens the awards

Ken Sheridan opens the awards

The Remote Working Revolution

Bob Bissell, Partnership Manager for BT Business gave a brief key note on the business case for remote Working. After Bob had joked that he should really be giving his talk from his own home, logged on to broadband – but the luxurious venue had too strong a pull, he picked on a few key positives for remote working. He explained that good remote working practices are now allowing companies to win business from competitors. They are also allowing companies to attract talented people from all over the country. This year three key elements had demonstrated the need for remote working set ups: the snow early in the year, the GM summit which had prevented 40% of London staff getting to work, and swine flu. Remote working has cost benefits for employers and employees alike, for example people working from home saved on average £250 that they would have needed to spend on business clothes! We were left with a picture of home workers in their pyjamas!

Unlocking People Potential

The next keynote was given by Karen Darby, a highly successful entrepeneur responsible for the SimplySwitch site which she sold to the Daily Mail for £22 million in 2006. Karen was a really inspirational and fun speaker. She called on us to do something that makes us uncomfortable every now and then. Being successful requires positive thinking, channelling our energies and anger and sometimes hypnotism! Karen is now working on Call Britannia, an attempt to positively discriminate towards people who are the most disadvantaged in the labour market and create 10,000 jobs.

The Awards

After the keynotes the first awards were presented:

  • The Remote Worker Award
  • The Home Worker Award
  • The Netmums Work From Home Award
  • The BT Home Business Award

Marieke Guy won The Remote Worker Award and receives her prize from Rob Fox of Toshiba and Ken Sheridan of Remote Employment. Photo by ECP Studio.

After a quick break, though no coffee, (someone I was with bought a glass of wine from the bar at a cost of £10!!) we launched back into it.

The ‘Spirit of Winning’

The last keynote speaker was Jackie Brennan, founder of FreshIdeas Events. She urged us to feel positive about winning. Forget that British tendency to play down our accomplishments and be vocal about what you’ve achieved! Jackie also talked about the art of mentoring, an activity that seems to work really well in business.

The final awards were:

  • The Freelance Consultant Award
  • The Open University Skills Award
  • The Helen O’ Grady Special Award
  • The Remote Employer Award
  • The Vivid Green Award – this was the garden shed/home office, everyone held their breath for this one!

After thanks and a few final messages from Paula Wynne and Ken Sheridan we had our photos taken then tucked into a finger buffet and admired the fantastic view.

View from the drinks reception balcony

View from the drinks reception balcony

I can’t complain!

More information on the winners is available on the Remote Employment site.

awards-winner (2)

Remote Worker Awards

I’ve entered the Remote Worker Awards organised by Remote Employment.

The awards are open to anyone who works remotely or from home and any employer who employs remote workers. Prizes include a £15k home based franchise and a Garden Home Office worth £10k. Why not have a go!

There are several categories:

  • The Home Worker Award – Employees currently working predominantly from home.
  • The Remote Worker Award – Employees currently working remotely, out of office, field or mobile based.
  • Work From Home Award – Anybody who wants to work from home but is currently not doing so.
  • Freelance Consultant Award – Anyone working as a freelance consultant.
  • Helen O’ Grady Special Award – Anyone looking for a life changing career.
  • The Open University Skills Award – Anyone looking to re-train or re-skill possibly following redundancy.
  • The BT Home Business Award – Anyone running a Home Business, large or small.
  • The Vivid Green Award – All entrants are automatically entered.
  • The Remote Employer Award – Companies who have remote or home based workers included in their workforce.

Now I’m not one to enter myself in competitions but this one had my name written all over it!
;-)

It’s also a really great opportunity for me to talk more about the support I’ve received from my employers (UKOLN), the support framework we want to share with other remote workers and to enthuse on the positive side of remote working (such as environmental factors and achieving that work-life balance).

Remote Employment recently sent out a press release to my local paper (Melksham Independant News) which led to many people I know (and don’t know) asking me more about my situation. A pretty common reaction was “Aren’t you lucky, I’d love to work from home“. It isn’t all plain sailing but I’m the first to admit that in my situation (a working mum) it really means I can give as much as possible to my two (very different) worlds, which makes me pretty lucky. It also means my children and my work get the best out of me – so they are lucky too!!

Melksham News

You can’t vote for the awards, there is a team of judges who’ll make the decision in late September. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed! That home office would look great in my garden! Not only that it would be an ideal place to hide from my family when the going gets tough!
;-)