More companies should be embracing remote work – to fuel their organizations with new perspectives and energy, and to attract new talent. Remote work can mean a lot of different things – working remotely all the time, a few days a week, or making occasional trips to work from another place for a period of time. It’s about the freedom to decide yourself where you want to work from at the moment and where you feel the most engaged; be it at home, a local café, a co-working space or a different country entirely. Studies claim that allowing employees to work from home increases productivity, creativity and happiness.
A Gallup report on the State of the American Workplace found that 43% of the employed US workforce work remotely at least some of the time. The same report also found that flexible work scheduling and the opportunity to work-from-home plays a big role in a person’s decision to take or leave a job.
Yet today we are seeing big tech companies like IBM suddenly calling their remote workers back; claiming that not spending time in the office with your co-workers decreases the level of innovation. There are also many corporations that have not even started looking into the possibility – sticking with the traditional 9-to-5 at the office scheme.
Your future career: remote
Yesterday I was part of the ”Why aren’t companies pushing for remote?”-panel at Landing Careers Festival in Lisbon, a career festival hosted by Landing.Jobs, together with Cate Hutson from Automattic, Job van der Voort from GitLab, Luís Rodrigues from Seedstars and André Oliveira from Pixelmatters.
GitLab work with remote teams only, allowing their employees to work from wherever best fits them. Every morning starts with a video call to get the team together, and three times a year they do physical meetups somewhere in the world; recently flying over the whole team to Mexico. Job van der Voort said using video for calls is key to truly connecting with the team remotely. He also stressed the importance of working asynchronously – not being reliant on anyone else in the team to get your tasks done, and also writing the things you are doing down using communication tools that your team can access. (Read GitLab’s Remote Manifesto on their blog.)
Today the technology is in place to allow and make possible remote work. Job van der Voort and Luís Rodrigues talked about Zoom being the ultimate tool if you are a bigger team and everyone needs to be on the video call at the same time. Otherwise tools like Skype or Google Hangouts can be used for effective communication. Slack is great for having both business related and more casual conversations with the team, and Trello for keeping track of tasks and processes.
But to make it work organizations also need to find ways to restructure themselves, and to allow all workflows to be done remotely, agreed everyone on the panel.
People get more work done remotely
A recent survey found that 91% of remote workers feel they “get more work done when working remotely“. The survey also showed that those working remotely feel more valued at work – maybe because someone is putting the trust in them to do their work regardless of where they are, without counting the hours spent at the office?
Today, many companies are trying to attract a global audience – but how do you understand that global audience if you are just working locally? Allowing your employees to travel and work remotely, full time or part time, means that you organization is getting fed with new perspectives and cultural insights, while the employees themselves are also given the opportunity to grow as individuals.
Cate Hutson from Automatic, earlier at Google, talked about that although giving employees free food in the office is a nice perk, it can also mean that the team isn’t getting out and interacting with the outside world. And gaining that outside perspective is important.
How companies are taking steps to be more remote-friendly
Making the transition to becoming a remote-friendly company can take time, and it’s something that will effect the whole company culture. That’s why it’s important to go through the process together as a team, and to offer the support that different individuals will need. It is also important to remember that everyone might not be as open to the possibility, and it’s important to see to those people as well. An interesting read is the QZ article “Turns out there’s a downside for companies that allow working from home, too” that explores the backside of the employees that “stay behind” in the old, now empty office.
A friend of mine, Maria Stylianou, works at Honeycomb.tv that are pro-remote but also make sure that their development team meets at the office every Thursday to work together face-to-face. It’s important to explore together with your team what set-up would work best for you.
Other all-remote companies, or companies with remote offices, talk about the importance of doing a few physical meetups a year to get the team together.
In Sweden, companies have started creating more open work spaces, where offices are structured to reflect different moods and no one has a fixed desk anymore; you just pick your place for the day when you arrive in the morning. Other bigger companies have made deals with co-working spaces, allowing employees who wish to do so to work from a different environment for the day. At global organizations like Microsoft, it’s possible to go work from a Microsoft office in another country for a few days if you please.
Work-life-balance – a greater freedom
Being a digital nomad myself and having worked remotely for the past 3+ years, keeping in contact with my clients in Sweden, the UK and USA digitally, I feel an amazing sense of gratitude towards my work situation. Being able to travel and work at the same time. Not limiting myself to the same office, the same morning commute and the same lunch restaurant. Today, remote might be easier to grasp for those who are freelancers or entrepreneurs, since they are often more in control of themselves, but the push for remote employees at companies across all industries is growing.
Having co-founded the Swedish digital nomad community Svenska Nomader I am in contact with all types of people daily who are looking for ways to work, and live, remotely.
Remote can give people better work-life-balance. A recent NY Times article explores how remote work can help close the gender-gap, allowing women with small children to work from home or schedule their working days around when to pick their kids up. Also allowing people to stay at home and work if a child is sick, or they need to tend to an older parent. If one partner was to get a job in a different city or country, the other partner could also move and continue working as usual from the new location. This might also be the key to keep people or allow people to move to the countryside, away from crammed cities. There’s also the aspect of people feeling less stressed when not forced to stand in the same full tube train during early morning commutes. Remote work can increase general well-being.
Years ago it was said that owning an expensive car or a designer handbag was a status symbol. Today, status lies in personal development and growing as a person. By allowing your employees to travel and work as best fits them, you are giving them the space to grow and explore. That will fuel your organization with new perspectives, and it will also make your employees more satisfied with you as an employer, making them even better brand ambassadors.
[Link to panel discussion will be added when live]