What do successful tech companies like Github, Zapier, and Invision have in common? They’ve built their businesses with remote teams.
While the majority of companies expect their employees to commute from home to office each day, a sea change is beginning to transform how work gets done. Increasingly, more companies are choosing to leave the office behind and creating remote teams. Others are also allowing flexible semi-remote options for their employee base. A survey of 15,000 adults last year showed that 43 percent of employed Americans said they spent some time working remotely. This is an uptick of 4 percentage points since 2012. A host of communication and collaboration tools have emerged to make this possible, along with reliable, high-speed Internet connections.
The surge in demand for talent is playing a role, too. We’re in a talent crunch right now, with 86% of employers in a recent Indeed survey saying that it’s difficult to hire great technical talent. Employers are increasingly embracing the concept of remote work out of necessity, as they require specialized skills to build their teams.
Remote work helps you attract the best talent.
Building a remote team can attract some of the best talent out there, independent of location. If you hire only local candidates, you’re limiting the potential of your team. For personal reasons, many great employees are often committed to their location. These reasons may include families, culture, social circles, or personal preferences. As a remote employer, you can provide a meaningful perk that doesn’t require them to uproot their lifestyle.
Jason Fried, founder of Basecamp, is a huge advocate for remote teams and has even co-authored the book “Remote: Office Not Required” on the topic. Fried addresses the employer’s search for talent by framing it as a competitive advantage, “I just want to hire great people. They can work wherever they want and it gives me the flexibility to find them and not to be stuck in a zip code or an area code. So, I think it’s a win-win for everybody.” He also ties it to the employee’s benefit. Ultimately, remote work enables each employee to have the flexibility and mobility they want.
Remote work is more cost effective for businesses and employees.
In addition to locating talent, companies often choose to embrace remote work because it offers a cost benefit as well. Establishing a remote work culture can be a significant savings in office costs alone, and provide a competitive advantage for small businesses getting off the ground.
For workers, remote work offers considerable flexibility that often can translates into reduced costs. It’s not just about being able to work from wherever you want, it’s also about saving the time and expense of getting to the office. The average American commute time is at 26.4 minutes, and it keeps getting longer. That translates into 264 minutes per week — or 4.4 hours! — saved for employees to spend on productive work or relaxation.
Strategies for how to make remote work work: pair the right tools with good habits.
Making remote work work doesn’t just happen miraculously, and creating a successful team culture requires a deliberate effort to pair the right tools with good team habits.
Establish expectations early.
Having a reliable Internet connection has enabled a revolution for remote teams, creating an environment where collaboration can take place across geographies. Many companies establish telecommuting policies that establish requirements on connectivity to the Internet. While it’s great to be able to take an international trip, it’s helpful to establish expectations upfront on what that entails from communicating with the rest of the team on availability and ensuring there’s a strong WiFi connection at the destination.
Create a norm around video conferencing.
Video conferencing is one of the most commonly cited tools that remote teams can leverage. Common tool sets that can be used range from Zoom to FaceTime. 92 percent surveyed believe video collaboration technology helps improve relationships and fosters better teamwork.
It’s not enough to just have video conferencing. You need to establish a cultural norm when you get on the video call. Dan Sines, CEO of Traitify, shares how they’ve integrated video calls into his remote team’s work. “We have a policy that if an update requires more than a quick Slack message or email, we get on a video call. Facetime makes it feel similar to being in the same room as your colleagues, but it forces the requestor to think about priority level (Is it urgent? Can it wait until my colleague says she’s free?) and ultimately boosts efficiency.”
Get the right collaboration tools in place.
Teams need to have shared tools to collaborate, ensuring that they’re working on the same page. Real-time chat tools like Slack are popular, creating a sense of camaraderie like you’re in the same room together. Real-time collaboration in documents is also increasing. Emails are quickly being replaced with Google Docs, for example.
Invest in building your company culture.
There are non-technology challenges, too. Without the ability to read body language, facial expressions, or maintain eye contact, it’s easy to miss the nonverbal cues of communication. Teams then make an effort to build good habits from in-person meetings to ones held offsite. This gives teams the chance to get together in person. Working remotely shouldn’t mean people never get the chance to meet up! Many companies are working to address this issue by hosting events. Buffer, a software company, is a great example since the business organizes international retreats for the entire company on a regular basis.
The future of work is remote, which means more opportunities for you.
So, what does this mean for your future? The future will be filled with a greater set of opportunities without the restrictions of geography. Welcome to the global workplace. The future is now.
Ada Chen Rekhi is Founder & COO of Notejoy, a collaborative notes app for teams. Prior to founding Notejoy, she held marketing leadership roles at SurveyMonkey and LinkedIn. Ada is particularly interested in growth, SaaS, and content virality. Follow her on Twitter @adachen.