Remote work is all-the-rage.
As of 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 23% of the workforce reportedly worked remotely. Since then, collaboration tools such as Slack, Github, RemoteHQ, and others have made remote work even easier — converting 16% of global companies to work remotely (Owl Labs). Point being, remote work is on the rise.
Those who work remotely at least once per month are 24% more likely to be happy and productive in their roles than those who can’t or don’t work remotely. (Owl Labs)
As is the case with any type of work, remote or in-person, there are advantages and disadvantages. However, with advancements and a clear trend towards remote work apparent on a global scale, many of the disadvantages associated with remote work have easy fixes that you can implement as a company today or in the near future.
Increased Flexibility (and Productivity)
The flexibility checkbox is ticked in a few ways as a remote worker, and these checkboxes have to lead to 24% of remote workers being happier and more productive (Owl Labs).
The best part about remote work is the fact that, in a lot of ways, the where, when, and [even] how to structure your work is entirely up to your discretion. For many in corporate offices, it is often surprising how much time is wasted on just “face time” that is non-productive.
Gone are the days of sitting next to the same people every day in the office…because you don’t even have an office. You’re free to work from the local coffee shop, your house, an empty room on a local campus, the world is your oyster. Having the freedom to work anywhere means you don’t have to miss out on a lot of what life has to offer.
You can schedule and attend any meeting, you can visit home, you can make it to the gym. Why? Because those are all workable spaces as well. Increased focus & productivity are key reasons that employees work from home (Owl Labs). Imagine if you could maximize focus & productivity every day, that’s remote work.
Choosing where to work is only the first step in the freedom remote work grants you. Sure, you can always decide where you want to work, but did you know a lot of the time you can also decide when? Not only do you recoup the time you would spend commuting, but you’re also free to build a schedule that suits you. This, of course, is contingent on you getting work done.
As it turns out, there’s flexibility in one more aspect of remote work that’s easy to ignore, the how. Your ‘office’ becomes what fits in your backpack driving your work costs to go down and efficiency upwards. The freedom to ditch the suit & tie look for the clothing you rolled out of bed and put on is another huge driver. Many folks find that a comfortable work environment boosts productivity. Having the freedom, or the ‘how’, to build that environment is a recipe for success.
Finally, there is also the subtext of meritocracy in remote teams — deliverables, not office politics, are all/most that matter (more below). As long as your work gets done, where, when, and how are entirely up to you.\
A Stronger Team Overall
If your team isn’t remote, your location can be a limiting factor when it comes to finding talent and new hires. Imagine though, that your talent pool wasn’t limited, because you weren’t limited by a location. That’s the power of remote work.
Sure, the hiring process might be a bit more complex, but it isn’t difficult to vet candidates more thoroughly. The added complexity is moot when compared to the talent you’ve opened your company up to hire from across the world.
At RemoteHQ our motto has always been “Work together from anywhere”. We understand the talent, solution, or potential that you may be looking for isn’t always down the road. With remote work, you open your company up to new degrees of success. Go where the talent is. In the end, this leaves you with a stronger team, and your company better-off.
As a company, your biggest cost savings would be office leases, which usually are signed on 3-to-5 year terms. If your team is smaller, you may leverage co-working spaces which still adds up:
- Office Space: $4,000–24,000 per employee per year, depending on your location and multi-year lease / on-demand co-working space. This adds up real fast if you have lots of bodies
- Incidentals: There are a myriad of other incidental expenses (stocking the fridge, cleaning service, etc.) that add too
As a remote worker, you recoup any of the traditional commuting costs. While those costs might seem menial at the moment, they can break down as follows:
- Public Transportation: $2,600 to $4,500 a year depending on cost per trip (CNN)
- Driving-to-Work: $725 per mile every year account for wages lost per mile (Strongtowns)
Without even accounting for smaller cost savings the travel expenses saved are astronomical. There are also smaller, daily, costs you might not even realize begin to add up as well:
- Second Charger for Computer: Approx. $50
- Second Charger for Phone: Approx. $50
- Store Bought Coffee (Daily): Approx. $7/cup
The list of small cost savings you recoup as a remote worker varies from person-to-person, heck I don’t even drink coffee, but the net-net is that you save a ton of money.
It’s a Powerful Growing Experience
As an employee, you’re driven to create a successful work environment — this is true whether you work remotely or work from a dedicated office space. The key difference, however, is that in a dedicated office space you have significantly less flexibility — this translates to less accountability as well.
As a remote worker, you’re accountable for your own work. That being the case, when a difficult situation arises and since you’re accountable, you only have two options: fail to accomplish your task or learn to adapt. This inevitably drives you to be a better, stronger employee and worker.
An entrepreneur is defined as “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk” (Dictionary.com). Remote work and the accountability that comes with it effectively makes everyone an entrepreneur. This mindset helps to drive your company forward as a whole, with Remote.co reporting that this entrepreneurial mindset ultimately led “30% [of respondents] said that telecommuting allowed them to accomplish more in less time”.
Unfortunately, despite the benefits of a remote team, there are always going to be downsides to everything you do as well. At RemoteHQ we’ve not only been able to identify some of those downsides, but we’ve also successfully come up with solutions that help discard of them as well.
Fewer Team Touchpoints
While being a remote worker can be a huge growing experience, those who aren’t adept at working without management may ultimately fall by the wayside. In a traditional work environment, those employees would be managed by their peers and supervisors and, based off of those touchpoints, they’d be able to make the most of each day. Accountability is a surprisingly important part of working both remotely and traditionally, but not everyone is able to track tasks and be accountable for the work at hand without guidance/a work environment.
How We Solve It: At RemoteHQ we’ve successfully managed to overcome the hurdles associated with team touchpoints by ensuring we do daily, virtual, face-to-face standups. Daily standups have become increasingly popular for teams over the past few years, and part of the reason why is the accountability that comes with announcing your work to everyone else. As a team, this is something we’re incredibly aware of. Our daily stand-ups are kept brief, as we want to get work done, but we each tell the rest of the team what we’ve accomplished in the past day and what we intend on accomplishing in the day ahead. Adding this accountability pushes us each to perform the tasks we’ve promised so that, in our next stand-up, we can report success.
Any great team shares bonding experiences, and those can be difficult to come by when your team is entirely remote. The value in team bonding doesn’t stem from the fact that it makes your product or service any better, but rather that it strengthens how sticky and cohesive your team is together.
How We Solve It: It’s important to recognize that while your team is remote, budgeting time for team members who live near each other to grab a coffee, is incredibly important. Being able to meet up with some, not even all, members of your team even once a month is a great way to bond and get to know each other. If your team is entirely remote, try scheduling a work trip where you can all work together, but from the same location!
Not being in the physical space reduces serendipitous, random conversations in the corridor that promotes teamwork. In remote, the default nature is silo-ed distributed people. This is one of the key social challenges. Random people collisions have to be engineered.
How We Solve It: Slack helps a lot but in and of itself, is not sufficient. It is optimized for short-form communication. We needed a simple, easy way for people to jump in and out of real-time video or voice call. In some ways, this has been very meta and has informed us how we built RemoteHQ to solve our own needs first — we use it to jump and in out video calls as needed. Since a meeting room is tied to a URL with an intelligible name (and not a random string of characters), everyone knows where to go. This is what we have found helpful too — Sometimes, as an always-on channel, we just stay in the room and mute our audio and pause the webcam. If anyone needs to talk to the group, he can just unmute the mic and start speaking. This alone has made our work cadence smooth and simple.
“If one person on the team is remote then the whole team is remote” (Lisette Sutherland)
Suddenly flipping the switch and “making your team remote”, while beneficial, is incredibly difficult. It’s important to keep in mind, you can always start building a remote team out slowly. As Lisette Sutherland, a well-known influencer in the remote-working world has said: “If one person on the team is remote then the whole team is remote”.