What’s remote working all about?

2013. Marissa Mayer communicates that Yahoo will no longer allow employees to work from home. By this time, what was a silently discussed topic between some communities became an emerging subject around a variety of news outlets and major corporations.

The fact is remote working, a.k.a. Telecommuting has had a steady growth since 2005 until around 2011, when we saw a boom of companies going remote, some being born as remote-first organisations and many more becoming remote-friendly.

This may range from allowing team members to work from home or having a team partially distributed. And it was never this easy to work from anywhere:

  1. Technology enabled us to create portable offices;
  2. High-speed internet connection is pretty much all over the globe;
  3. Online socialisation is the norm now.

We can’t ignore remote working anymore! Either because you’re doing it, your colleagues, friends or family are doing it, or you simply wish you’d be doing it.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Exactly what is remote work and how can we define all its different approaches? Why does it work for some and for others doesn’t?

Simply put, remote work can be defined as work done in any environment which is not the office where your day-to-day work would commonly be done. However, we can break this down in many different formats.

 

Types of remote working approaches:

Remote-first: Normally fully distributed, more commonly a startup-like culture with a team of people working across a wide range of time-zones. (Ex. Automattic and Buffer)

Going Full-Remote: Transition state between having a localised team in offices, usually remote-friendly, towards a remote-first approach. (Ex. Reedsy, Hotjar or GitHub)

Distributed teams: Can range from large to small companies. Usually headquartered in one location but with people working from a variety of places. Most common form of remote companies. (Ex. N26, DefinedCrowd or Trello)

Remote-friendly: Usually big corporations who normally have several offices around the world and occasionally open remote offers for specific jobs. It’s also common for these companies to have friendly remote work policies for some of their workforce. (Ex. Adobe, AllCloud or Amplexor)

Digital Nomadism: Has both a business and a personal side to it. This is when the entire company or individual decide to change homebase every now and then. Sometimes due to strategic business decisions. (ex. Remote year)

Good old Freelancing: Individuals working independently for specific projects in a company. Most common with developers, designers, copywriters and social media managers.

 

Although we named all these types, this is not an exhaustive list and there’s plenty of companies who choose to have a hybrid approach. Also, if you choose to outsource your services to external providers, that too can be considered a form of remote work.

 

Thinking of transitioning?

Faced with the dreadful thought “Should I be addressing this remote thing?”, the answer is: hell yeah! But hey, we’re not telling you to go to work tomorrow and tell everyone: “Hey people! From now on, we all work from home” We know, it’s tempting, there’s an incredible feeling of freedom associated with managing remote teams, but on the other hand, there’s also an increased responsibility that goes along with it.

Keep in mind, If you’re an established office-centric team, drastically changing to remote first  would be a recipe for disaster. Like everything in life, there should be a balance and a fit for your company needs to be found, if you wish to meet your employee and business requirements.

As the founder of FlexJobs, Sara Fell, explains, “Balancing best practices with a focus on company-specific situations and goals is what allows successful remote work programs to support both employee wellness AND business objectives

 

Is remote work for your company?

Cars need to be assembled and roads need to be paved. Though, the reality is we can see the previously explained types of remote work in a huge variety of industries. From accounting to software development, film production to hardware, advertising to insurance; both big and small companies are taking serious advantage of what work technology allows to distribute.

For example, IBM has a workforce of nearly 400k and around 40% of them work remotely. From 1995 to 2009, they were able to save 100M dollars due to office space. Now that’s a number that will make you think twice. Another great example is Zapier: they started with 3 founders and are now over 40 people, having crossed the 1M users’ mark in just 3 years.

From working from home to working in coffee shops or coworking spaces, there are really no boundaries to where work can be done. However, we know of a place where complex and creative work might not be happening: your very own shiny office.

We’re sorry, not sorry, to break the news to you. When surveyed about when and where they like to get things done, people never sayat my desk, in my normal working hours” and there’s a reason for it. Short interruptions make it hard to get in the zone to get meaningful work done and quick meetings that fall into the schedule take away a big chunk of your employees’ working days.

To top it off, not only the office is where work isn’t happening, having everyone working in the same place is costing you money. According to a study ran by Hubspot, business executives believe 67% of meetings are unproductive, which in turn are amplified by the office environment.

 

The good, the bad and the ugly

Let’s take a look at the perks of having a policy for remote work:

  1. If you’re not bound by a geographical border when it comes to hiring people, your pool of candidates gets bigger. Not only that, you also have the chance to retain more talent;
  2. It is proven your employees will be happier and healthier without commuting to work every day;
  3. As you’ve seen with IBM’s example, you can save a lot of money on office costs alone;
  4. Your employees will be more productive. An experiment from Stanford University proved that people who work from home are much more productive, comparing to working commuters.

 

So these are cool, but I have to say not everything is fun and games when it comes to remote work, and you don’t have your team together:

  1. Even with all the new tools to work online, communication is still the main problem seen by people when it comes to remote work. Things like different time zones and asynchronous communications may make it a challenge to keep everyone in sync;
  2. Culture scares people as well when thinking of remote working, especially taking into consideration that companies with “performance-enhancing cultures” raised 682% their revenue growth, as proven by James Heskett, a Harvard Business School professor;
  3. Loss of ideas, recognition and brainstorming are other aspects that derive from the difficulties in communication.

 

How to build a remote team?

There is no “remote recipe” you can simply apply to your company. Most times it’s a mix of trial-and-error with tools and ways of working. What we’ve seen, either in companies we work with or even at Landing.jobs, is they’re usually adopters of the Agile Manifesto. And it introduces two substantial things to think about: Mindset and Operations.

Mindset is the way of understanding if the entire company is on the same page with its remote policy. Operations are the processes you implement to get things done. The way you choose to communicate, or how to follow-up with your specific “business as usual” tasks.

When thinking about going remote, it’s important to not only have the interests of the company in mind but also the mindset of people already working for you. Additionally when hiring, search for people who understand the implications of remote work and have the right characteristics to succeed at it.

 

Conclusion

As we could see, there are several factors that impact the decision of introducing remote work. The weight you attribute to each one of them will determine if it’s better for you to go full remote with your team, or start with solutions lighter in commitment.

If you still have questions on what solution works best for you, join us in our Remote Work Meetup, where companies that went through the same pains are getting together in healthy debate. You can also drop us an email, and someone from our team will be happy to help!


Read Next:
Remote is where the heart is
Remote work: Reedsy tells it like it is