OmniSpotlight: Lucy Ashenhurst
"I don't work remote, I work connected" - Lucy, General Counsel at Omnipresent, on how she gained freedom by going remote-first.
In a world increasingly polarized politically, terrorized by extreme weather and overwhelmed with a pandemic, connection is more important than ever: with our loved ones, with the world around us and to people who share our values and our vision. That’s why I work for Omnipresent.
What? Omnipresent is single-handedly curing COVID and uniting the planet?! Well… not the COVID thing… but yes, it kind of is uniting the planet. Omnipresent brings people together who traditionally would never have met let alone formed a team. It stands for a global mindset and for meritocracy over proximity. And because it embodies the values it stands for, it is also a fully distributed company with team members all over the world working together, from home. Including me!
But working from home doesn’t mean I work remote, it means I work connected. Connected with my colleagues, connected with my children and connected with the pile of washing up I now have time to tackle between calls…oh… Well, it can’t all be sunshine and roses.
I started my career in BigLaw in London and then Singapore at cutthroat corporate firms where working 36 hours without sleeping was a badge of honour, but there was no expectation of connection with anything other than the carpet under your desk. I paid my dues and got incredible experience, but I could never understand why they happily paid 6 figure salaries but didn’t trust their staff to work from home occasionally! So, in 2015 I left to set up my own consultancy because I couldn’t see a way to be myself and be a corporate lawyer at the same time. Thankfully we have come a long way since then.
Recent years have seen a gradual shift towards flexible working but while the recent pandemic has been heartbreaking, it has also accelerated the remote working trend by proving that if employees are trusted, supported and happy, they actually work more, not less.
Productivity has increased significantly in the major firms who have been tracking it since lockdown: people are more focused when they are working, and happier to work hard because they know they can break for lunch and catch up with their kids, or their partner, or sit in the garden in the sunshine for 45 minutes. They feel a part of their teams and the world around them. I have two little girls who are only 4 and 5 years old, and we live on a little island called the Isle of Wight off the south coast of England, surrounded by rolling green hills and stunning beaches. It’s a personal choice we made to be closer to my mum after she lost her husband recently but it also means I am 3 hours from London, which would mean long hours commuting, and being resigned to being a weekend-only mum, wife and daughter. Frankly, it would have broken my heart. Instead I have converted the kids playroom into my home office (sorry ladies!) and I still manage to do 8+ hour days without missing out on the school run, reading a story or popping into the garden to see the “super cool slug we found Mummy!” (oh…great…). Connection is everything.
I started at Omnipresent in the middle of the COVID crisis, I shouldn’t know let alone be bonded with my new colleagues, but I can genuinely say I haven’t felt this close to my team professionally and personally since I was a junior lawyer, merrily expensing jägerbombs (teambuilding, right?!) and bonding over backbreaking work, psychopathic mentors and dreams of corporate stardom.
Times really have changed, and while I am sadly no longer a fresh faced 22-year-old, they have definitely changed for the better. We have incredible communication platforms and collaboration tools which make working from multiple countries and time zones simple, and at Omnipresent we are blessed with a management team who lead from the front in keeping comms focused, meetings running to time, and a spirit of adventure which means we feel like colleagues and friends. I am part of a vision I am passionate about, a dynamic team I adore, and still a central part of my day to day family life. I work, live and play, completely connected.