I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about remote work. It’s been over 3 years since I’ve gone remote and wanted to share the good, the bad and my general thoughts. I plan to create a series of posts, but for now will lay out the groundwork while I figure out how to structure them.
Remote is Uncharted Territory
The fact is remote work is new. The guidelines aren’t defined, the tools aren’t there, it’s still early in the adoption phase.
To simplify talking about remote, I like to break remote workplaces into two categories:
- Hybrid – some ratio of onsite and remote employees
- 100% Remote / Fully remote – no onsite employees
Fully remote is becoming much more popular (see Toptal, Buffer, Gitlab, Close.io, etc ). These companies have no home base, they are fully distributed.
To be fully remote you have to be extremely dedicated and deliberate about it. Any culture takes work, but being fully remote is greenfield. There is no book to follow on how to do it right. Everyone is just figuring it out as they go. You will too.
Out of the two options, fully remote seems to be the easier or more successful option. It is the kind of move that requires a deliberate decision at the early stages. Opting to diverge from the norm requires conviction and in order to do that it’s going to need driven by the top down. Obviously fully remote comes with it’s own challenges, but assuming the founders have made a deliberate choice to make remote work, I feel it has a much better chance of working well.
- Less overhead (rent, supplies, etc)
- Boundless hiring
- No commuting
- Logistics can be annoying
- Need to over communicate
- Culture will be harder to create
- Need more trust
This is a company that was all onsite at some point and then due to some need (hiring, timezones, employees relocating) they have created a hybrid remote culture. The mix can be quite variable. My last team fluctuated between 10-30% being remote.
This path is more common, but in my opinion tends to be the harder to do successfully. This is because of the significant culture shift that remote introduces and it usually causes a fracture. Strong cultures can adapt easier than weaker ones, but it all takes time. I also find that companies will limp into practicing remote by adding a remote person, but they don’t take the time to assimilate the existing culture into remote.
- More hiring opportunities
- Less of a hurdle than 100% remote
- Multi timezone support (clients, software)
- Fractured culture
- Logistically requires additional equipment
- Can create a rift between onsite/remote employees
- Timezone juggling
As I continue to write about my experience with remote, I will be focusing on the perspective of the employee. Stay tuned for more articles. If you’re interested follow me on twitter @igrabill.