In December last year, British billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson wrote an article about the changing nature of work. Increasingly powerful technology will lead to a decrease in the number of jobs. He says that this could either be interpreted as simply bad news, or as an opportunity to think about the way we work today and the way we want to work tomorrow.
As it stands, the majority of full-time US employees still have a 9 to 5 job. But, as observed by Dolly Parton in 1980 already, this can be enough to drive you 🎵 crazy if you let it 🎵.
As such, the amount of remote workers is on the rise. A comprehensive Gallup survey indicated that 43% of employed Americans do at least some work remotely, a 4% increase from 2012 to 2016. Particularly for Millennials and Gen Z, flexible scheduling and work-from-home opportunities play an important role in choosing an employer.
The changing nature of work has also given rise to digital nomads: people who don't conform to the scripted life of job, house, garden, but who travel the world and earn money freelancing on the Internet.
The Advantages of Remote Work
This is all good news for employers. First of all, you don't have to provide a space for employees to work from home 🏠, which means a lower fixed cost per employee and more money to spend elsewhere.
Secondly, you can source talent from all over the world 🌍. No longer are you confined to a one-hour perimeter around your physical location. You can employ brilliant people from India, the Philippines, Brazil, or from wherever you want. Your company can be international from the get-go.
Thirdly, remote employees are more productive 📈. They don't need to spend time and energy commuting anywhere, and there are generally fewer distractions, as well as no loud colleagues or impromptu meetings.
Fourthly, having a remote workforce significantly reduces the carbon footprint of a company, as employees don't spend time in traffic, which indirectly leads to less oil extraction, fewer greenhouse gases, and fewer traffic jams.
The Disadvantages of Remote Work
But not everyone would agree that offering remote working arrangements to employees is generally a good idea. 40% of IBM's 386,000 employees worked remotely in 2009. But, in March 2017, the company reversed its remote working policy and ordered its US employees to either come to the office or leave the company. Harsh.
IBM believes that the pace of innovation is slower when people work remotely. Humans are social animals, and we like to work collaboratively, which goes better when we're physically together in an office. Additionally, communication between people is easier when it's face to face. Through online chat and even through video-conferencing, it's all too easy to miss out on the crucial non-verbal cues that can dictate how someone feels about something 🤨.
These are certainly valid arguments to make. But we believe that they're not necessarily reasons to stop people from working remotely. Instead, they're challenges you can overcome by adapting your remote work policy, not by reversing the policy altogether.
Three Remote Work Tips
X-Team is a fully remote company. This meant we had to give the idea of working remotely some serious thought. After all, we could have faced the same roadblocks as IBM if we hadn't properly thought about the challenges of remote working and how we would overcome them.
This isn't to say we're smarter than IBM. We're a different company. We're not 386,000 employees. We're a group of developers 👩💻. Writing code is a relatively asynchronous task. There's less of a need for us to be physically present somewhere or be active during a certain amount of hours. We don't need to be in the hospital to perform brain surgery or at the airport to help people check in.
So what we're about to say might not work for every business. But if you have employees that could work remotely, here are three important tips to make sure you get it right.
Hire Great People
If you're a remote company, you need to specifically look for proactive, highly driven people. No slackers. After all, you're hiring people you'll almost never physically see. How can you trust them? How do you know they're doing good work?
Along with people posting daily updates in their Slack journal, we realized that finding the right type of people helps enormously in trusting them. You're looking for people who are hungry, who have energy, who enjoy learning, and who show initiative.
Make it Special
Creating a company culture happens organically when people are physically together. While it's important for any company to steer that culture in the direction you want, it's far more important to do so when you're a remote company.
After all, if you don't actively create a culture, if you don't actively create the feeling that people are part of a community, you won't have any culture at all, and your Slack will be all desert and no juice.
X-Team's community is its beating heart 💌. If you read through our blog, you can get a good idea of how we keep our community as vibrant and alive as it is today. From Slack games to the X-Outpost, we want every X-Teamer to feel as if they're part of a unique experience.
Exploit the Benefits
It's actually surprisingly easy for a company to go remote and not take advantage of the many benefits it can bring. For example, you should try to hire in such a way that you have a 24-hour workflow. That's an advantage over competitors who aren't remote, because you can get clients from other countries as well as serve clients from a variety of time zones.
The above is an obvious benefit, but there are hidden benefits as well. If you're remote, you pretty much have no choice but to document everything. It should all be recorded on email, Slack, Google Drive, Dropbox, or whatever other platform you use for your content and communication.
That might look like a drag initially, but it actually helps to keep everyone accountable, track progress, solve problems, and a whole host of other benefits that wouldn't be there if things went undocumented.
That's from the employer's side. But you also have to think of the benefits that remote work brings from the employee's side. Remote work means freedom. So don't oblige your employees around the world to attend daily stand-ups at 10 AM PST. And don't just allow for, but encourage asynchronous communication. People shouldn't be pressurized explicitly or implicitly into replying immediately.
And, as said in point two, try to make it special. This cannot be emphasized enough. Don't use the money you save on rent to line your own pockets, but use it to create a community that people want to be a part of.
More and more people will start working remotely or want to start working remotely. Future-proof your organization by thinking about a remote work policy that will create a thriving community of people continuously delivering value for your clients. The above three tips will put you on the right track.