Does Working Remotely Remotely Work?

  • Date Published
  • Categories Blog
  • Reading Time 7-Minute Read

The trend of telecommunication and how it impacts our business.

I run a digital product development company, King Tide, headquartered in Los Angeles. We have a satellite office in Mexico City with 7 full-time employees and growing. We have a flexible vacation and work remote policy, and a few independent contractors that work entirely remote. I don’t say this as a humble brag, but because I’m often asked how we manage remote employees and how it affects our business workflow.

In our not-too-distant past, working remote was hardly possible. Poor internet connection, old business practices and lack of oversight prevented employees from working in the comfort of their home.

Today, working remote is becoming a common practice, with 47% of people claiming they work remote at least a few days a week. With the advancements in technology and internet speed, paired with tools that allow for deep collaboration like Asana (project management), Slack (communication), and Toggl (time tracking), managing remote employees has become much more “manageable”. It isn’t just becoming an accepted practice, it’s an expected practice. As the millennial generation entered the workforce, they brought the expectation that people should have the ability and freedom to work remotely and not be confined to an office setting or desk. “If we’re getting our work done, why do I need to come into the office?” — Millennial

By 2020, it is expected that nearly three-quarters of the U.S. workforce will work remotely. As if the internet and social media hasn’t already pushed people apart while “bringing them together”, now we’ll spend most of the day working alone?

The point of this article is not to make a strong case supporting a work remote design for a business, but to explain the pros and cons so you can decide if it’s right for your business. Like me, you’ll probably land somewhere in the middle with a flexible work remote model, and if that’s the case, I’ll outline some good ways to ensure working remote works!

Benefits of Working Remote

Lower Overhead

Whether you’re a big or small-medium size company, managing your costs is one of your highest priorities as an employer. Having employees work remote will decrease your overhead. You’ll save money on small things like food & water, janitorial services, furniture, equipment and even rent. Global Workplace Analytics estimates that a typical business can save on average $11,000 annually. Large corporations like Aetna and American Express have saved $15 — $78 million annually.

Improving Productivity

All men are created equal, but health and productivity varies among employees. Some people have peak hours in the early morning or late evening, and the typical 9–5 workday can miss these peak hours to get productive work done. Office environments also come with a lot of distractions, and it is estimated that employers in the US lose $1.8 trillion a year in productivity from gossip, excessive commuting, and health problems among others.

More Freedom and Happiness

Employees are happiest when they have more freedom. Without a strict office schedule, you get to chose where you work. You can work from your home office, couch, on a hammock, in a coffee shop, at the beach.. you get the idea. You can work when you want. Early mornings, spend a few hours surfing, have dinner, and hop back online. The flexibility leads to happier employees, and happier employees become harder working and more loyal. According to a study by British researchers at the University of Cardiff, people who work remote were more likely to clock in more hours than the normal work day.

“We like to give people the freedom to work where they want, safe in the knowledge that they have the drive and expertise to perform excellently, whether they are at their desk or in their kitchen. Yours truly has never worked out of an office, and never will.” — Richard Branson

Image showing the team

The Brutal Truth You Need to Hear

While working remote has proven to be a valuable and oftentimes more productive way of working, it simply does not, and never will, replace the value of being present with someone in person.

  • Collaboration: There is no advancement in technology that can match the perfect environment for collaboration than being physically present with your peers. Sure, you can get on a video conference if you need a face-to-face, Google docs to share information, or even Invision to sketch on a digital whiteboard, but you can’t have off-the-cuff conversations or spontaneously start white-boarding ideas.
  • Team Lunches or Happy Hour: Some of the most meaningful connections we make in the office are the happy hours and lunches we take out of the office. This is when co-workers become friends, and where one-on-one meetings become therapy sessions.
  • Out of Loop: As an employer, it’s difficult to keep remote workers or contractors in the loop with the things that happen throughout the day. I have to make a special conscious effort to update them if I had a great meeting or call, found a new candidate, or met with a potentially big lead. This information is vital to share the day-to-day health of a business.

Image of people eating food with smoothie emblazoned with earth bar logo

Keys to a Productive Work Remote Policy

Use Tools to Manage Your Business

  • Slack — If you have two or more people on your team and you’re not using Slack yet, go to right now and create your business account. Slack is the fastest growing business app of all time for a reason, and the best way to communicate internally as a team. (Here’s how they did it)
  • Asana — A project management tool is a must-have for almost every business. There are hundreds of options, but Asana is a great tool for small-medium sized businesses. This allows you to create projects, assign tasks, and communicate on specific items within a cloud-based tool. (BasecampJiraTrelloWrikeAccelo to name a few others)
  • Toggl — You cannot improve what you can’t measure, and time tracking is the first step in measuring yourself. This was a tough process to integrate for our business, but now we track everything, and the results have literally re-shaped our business.

Have Weekly (or Daily) Standups

Every Monday morning, we standup as a team for 15–20 minutes and do a weekly check-in to align everyone, create transparency, and become more efficient and productive. It looks like this:

  • Wins: What did you accomplish last week?
  • Goals: What are you working on this week?
  • Challenges: What is getting in your way or holding you back?
  • Gratitude: What are you grateful for?

Reward Performance Over Presence

As an employer managing a remote team, it is more important to reward performance over presence. While coming into the office everyday should count for something, if an employee is happier working remotely, and they do a great job, you need to reward them.

  • Documenting metrics (projects/tasks completed): If you properly set weekly goals for employees, you should have visibility how much work they are getting done by using your PM tools.
  • Kudos: Give shoutouts to your team during your updates or check-ins to show appreciation for their work.