Remote Work. Telecommuting. Virtual Teams. Digital Nomad. Distributed Teams
However you want to call it, here at Gr8er Good Games, we’re big fans of that kind of work lifestyle and here’s our take on why we love it, and also some tips on how to avoid the pitfalls that might befall your remote team and why you might not want to go remote.
Flexibility: In a survey by Unify, 43% of people would rather have more flexibility in their work than get a raise in their salary and nearly ⅓ of respondents said that they would change employers if offered flexible work elsewhere. Remote work is the ultimate in flexibility. Each worker has control of their time. If you need to pick up your child from school, or throw that load of laundry in, go for it. There might be some set meetings, but for the most part, your manager isn’t going to be breathing down your neck and checking that you are putting in the hours. We think that this leads to better teams since managers must trust their staff members, and individual employees feel like they have more autonomy and control over their time.
Pitfall 1: Too little work
“But I can’t trust that my employees will be spending the time to do their work!” We realize that remote work isn’t for everyone, nor is it for every team. But we postulate that if you have employees who you can’t trust to work from home, they are probably not getting much done at work in the office right now. You have to hire the right people for remote work, those who thrive in less micromanagement and who default to action and over-communicating. And once you hire them, you have to onboard and train them into the systems and processes that you have in place to make sure that your remote team works (more on this later). They also need to have a great environment to work: whether it be a coworking space, their favorite cafe or a home office that’s well equipped. We’ve heard of companies that pay for their employee’s home office furniture so that they can have a nice desk and office chair to work from home.
Pitfall 2: Too much work
Reports on remote work have shown that remote workers sometimes suffer from not being able to separate life from work, and therefore, overworking and burning out. This comes down to the culture that you’ve established. If everyone answers emails at 4 am, and it’s ok to text team members on Saturday morning for minor issues, then yes, your remote team will have trouble putting down their electronic devices and separating life from work. But if you onboard your team and make sure to establish a culture of having breaks for life, then you can help prevent this. This might include having slack channels to talk about what people did on the weekends or after work, it might include not getting back to that coworker until a reasonable time. Every time you respond to an email, text, or ping, you are training that person that you expect them (and yourself) to be working at that hour or that day.
Saves time: The average American worker lives about 26 minutes away from their workplace. That might not seem so much, but if you multiply that by 5 days a week and 50 work-weeks every year, then the average worker spends 216 hours every year commuting, that’s over 9 days! Say you have a company with 40 employees, that amounts to 8,666 hours (or 361 days) that your employees could be spending doing other things. Whether it be to spend that time on more work or to start a hobby or to just relax at home watching TV, don’t you think that your employees would be happier with control over that time?
Saves money: Remote workers mean that companies don’t have to lease out large office spaces, with cubicles or desks. You don’t need to cater lunch, or to have coffee stocked up to the rafters. You don’t need to pay for a parking lot, security guard, and custodial personnel. This doesn't mean that you can’t gather together if you want or need to. There’s plenty of spaces that you can rent by the hour, day or week on Peerspace, Breather, or Airbnb. And it doesn't mean that everyone has to work from their home. Perhaps you have a co-working space membership or a small office that those who choose to can come to.
Saves money: Remote work not only saves money for the companies, but it also saves money for the remote staff member. They save money on gas, car maintenance, and parking. According to a report by Flexjobs, this can amount to more than $4,000 saved annually for the employee.
Better hires: Think about it, how much better do you think your hires will be if you can pick and choose from literally everyone in the world, as opposed to the maybe a million people in the greater metropolitan area of your offices. Your recruitment field just widened by a couple of thousand times. You might also be able to lower your salary costs, or at the least, be able to hire higher caliber employees who might live far away at the same salary level of someone much less experienced or committed nearby.
So why not go remote?
Although we extol the benefits of going remote, there are reasons, some legit and some not, to not have a remote-based company. Here are some of them:
If you have a site-specific business: Obviously, if you’re running retail or manufacturing, you can’t really have a remote business. Most of the remote businesses that we’ve been talking to are software or information-based businesses. Although, even in a site-specific business, you might have teams that can be remote, such as marketing and finance.
If you can’t trust your staff members: We think that if you can’t trust your team to do the work that they need to do without you looming over their desks, then they probably shouldn’t be on your team, or they might need a lot of re-training.
If you have staff members who wouldn’t thrive in a remote environment: Not everyone likes the idea of flexibility and autonomy. Some people thrive with more structure and feedback. Some people can’t work when they’re stuck by themselves and need others to bounce ideas with. Some people think remote work is isolating and want to have coworkers to have lunch with. And that’s ok, everyone needs a different environment to work. The thing to note is that if you have team members who might not thrive in a remote environment, don’t try to force it.
If you don’t want to put in the work to establish a remote work culture: We’re not going to sugar-coat it, remote work does take time and effort. You can’t just send out a memo on Friday saying “We’re an all remote company now! You don’t have to come in on Monday” and expect it to all work out. You need to fundamentally change the way that you work, that you share, that you communicate. You need to establish systems and processes that help remote workers stay connected. You need to check in with your staff members. You need to think about team-building and your remote company culture. You need to work at being remote.