Entrepreneurship is thriving in the UK with a steady increase in new business start-ups since 2010. By the middle of last year, research from Start Up Britain showed 80 new businesses were being registered every hour. This year, more than 80 thousand are already in operation.
But among the strategic and financial stresses of starting your own venture, how many business leaders are focussing on what it’s like to work for their company? The accessibility of collaborative tools and trend towards flexible working means companies are competing harder than ever on corporate culture. How their employees feel about work has never been more important.
Someone who understands the backlash against traditional corporate drudgery only too well is Dom Jackman, co-founder of Escape the City – a job website that helps people change careers or start their entrepreneurial journey. In 2010, he became one of the new crop of start-ups, when he left his city job for something more fulfilling.
Dom says, “Initially it was all about finding more meaningful careers for people who wanted to escape the 9 to 5. We found there was an incredible appetite from people who felt trapped in jobs they hated. We created a mailing list of inspiring jobs we found online and soon discovered companies would approach us to advertise. From there, over the last seven years we’ve become a global movement – a sort of support group for people who want to escape their jobs – and we now have a mission: to liberate a million people and help them find work that they love.”
Escape the City has ironically become big business itself – Dom’s team is now based in Bank, London (where “everyone wants to escape their job”) and they employ 19 people full time.
So as Dom looks to grow more in 2017 he does so knowing he wants to ensure Escape the City remains the organisation he first sought, when we wanted to escape the city
He says, “Back in 2010, escaping was a pretty fringe idea. Now, thanks to advances in technology and shifts in attitude, flexible working is becoming pretty mainstream. As a result, we have a very flexible working practise at Escape the City, the team work from home if they want. We have team retreats and we ensure our offices are nice places to be – the last thing we want is to be an awful place to work.”
For Escape the City, technology has been key to both their ethos that ‘work can be fulfilling’ and to the growth of the business itself.
“Like a lot of start-ups we use Slack for communication, and then the big important stuff is saved in Dropbox. As we are now expanding abroad it’s become much more about collaboration tools, and how we can use them to help growth. Cloud based services, like Dropbox, which help us share and collaborate on files globally are important because they help us scale our business, at our own pace.”
And the approach is working – with an average employee age of 27, Dom finds everyone is already familiar with the selection of tools on offer, and productivity begins right away. In the future, he envisages a workplace that is location independent.
“How we are working day to day is changing. There are new tools, the internet gets faster and you can do better voice and video conferencing from anywhere. It means collaboration just gets easier and easier which is the main thing. I dream that the future of work will be more location independent. We are on a journey to create an amazing place to work here but that needs to combine digital collaboration with face to face collaboration at the moment.”
To find out more about how technology can improve workplace happiness and productivity, click here.