Remote working has become quite popular. Telecommuting has been around for long to accommodate some workers in companies. This last evolution of the trend is quite different. Let's explore that and see how as a company we can leverage the best out of it.
Remote Working: a recent trend
The generation of Millennials has been in a quest for finding their life a purpose. They want to be out there, see the world, discover new culture, new languages. They don't fit anymore to the existing corporate models. A solution to meet their needs is Remote Working. It is about getting paid to work from a remote location for all or part on the year. New kind of initiatives are emerging to help workers find contracts and/or jobs remotely (Remotive.io, Remote.com to name a few). Some companies are starting to use remote working to access a better talent pool (like Automattic, GitHub, Buffer for the most famous startups...).
Need for a cultural fit
When building a company, you want to benefit from these talented people willing to work remotely. You need to pay attention to a few things.
You have to focus on hiring well skilled communicators. Not sharing the same office is tricky. Sometimes, even when you share the same office, communication problems happen anyway. Remote amplifies that. Using chat, email or Skype might not be enough to avoid communication problems. You need to hire people who have a high sense of communication. You need people who care about being sure the right message is delivered on the other side.
Something mentioned by Erik Meijer in his talk about the Hacker Culture at Facebook caught my attention. Having a "push culture". Those familiar with version control will know what's it about. It is a comparison of communication in the team with pushing and pulling the code. Employees have to agree with that when you set it up or it will not work. You're not going to go pull information from your coworkers. It's them, delivering the information to you and keeping you posted about what they are doing. They are responsible to "push" the information back to you.
This autonomy given to people must be agreed on and monitored by giving feedback to people. Pulling information should be avoided. It helps maximize a better communication and a good sense of flexibility among the team.
You don't want Remote Working to be just a perk but a whole approach to work and company culture.
Finding the right tools for you
I am not only talking about communication tools. It is also the process you put together so people can work efficiently.
Tools like Email are great for communication, some prefer Slack for the real time vibe. You need to stick with something that people agree on. Be aware that Slack can sometimes get noisy so information gets dropped. If you need help right away, that could be a good solution. Don't hesitate to hop on a voice or video call with the other person. And why not with screen sharing to improve productivity?
To synchronize the team, you can use tools as Trello to manage tasks.
I'm a big fan of Google Docs for a lot of things. The collaboration features are good and you can share and change documents quite easily.
I'm still looking for the right coding tool with shared screen to let a remote team share code. We do use version control a lot but I'm more looking as a shared IDE letting people do remote pair programming. I found a great article to help me do that with VIM: http://hamvocke.com/blog/remote-pair-programming-with-tmux/.
Accessing a bigger Talent Pool
Ultimately, the best advantage I'm seeing in this trend is not a personal one for working from wherever I want. As a startup founder, it is the access to a bigger pool of happier talented people.
I'm based in London and Brexit is going to be a problem. People from all around Europe and the world used to come to London as it is a big Tech Hub and access to funding is easy. It was easy for people of the 27 countries of Europe to move to UK and work there. Now with Brexit, it's more of problem. I don't need, as a startup founder, to spend time filling out papers. We have limited time and money and we need things to get done quickly. There is already a lot of paperwork for a startup to run and we don't need more.
I want to help people be more fulfilled in there lives. I want to help them choose wherever they want to work from because they are happier and more productive. This way, they can reach a higher potential because they got rid of useless anxiety.
I want to be able to pick and choose from the best talents in the world. It's not because people don't live in a tech hub that they are not skilled. Sometimes, they don't want to leave their family or friends. Maybe they also want to help develop their country or region and encourage a better distribution of wealth. Some don't like living in big cities or where people have a skewed vision of a given market.
The cost of these people living in many different parts of the world will vary. You'll be able to give somebody a better life somewhere else with a smaller amount of money.
Question for you
Thanks for reading and let me ask you question before leaving you to the comments : If you practice Remote Working, what kind of tools do you use to make your experience easier? Hit me up on twitter @sMorac