Back in 2009 when I founded Chop Dawg, working remote was still a new concept. I was intrigued, but I jumped on forming a remote team mostly out of necessity. At the time, I was only in high school and still living with my parents, so it just made the most logistical sense.
I mean really, who was going to rent out business space to a sixteen-year-old, anyway?
But to me, that was the beauty of working in the internet and tech startup space: having the ability to run a company out of my home in between school and homework.
Fast forward ten years, and the Chop Dawg you know today is very different from the bedroom enterprise I’d started initially at sixteen (for one thing, we started off building websites, not apps).
We employ twenty, some of whom travel frequently or live in other states or countries.
But one thing hasn’t changed, and that’s the fact that we are a remote-based team.
Why is remote work is on the rise?
Even on paper, the future of remote work looks good.
A Gallup poll from 2017 found that 37% of American workers have worked virtually. This is a four-fold increase since 1995.
The World Economic Forum even called flexible work, including virtual teams, “one of the biggest drivers of workplace transformation.”
To many of us reading this today, this is no surprise, as for the past ten years, those living a nomadic lifestyle while working remotely has become more commonplace.
It’s somewhat of a digital revolution all to itself, and it’s not limited to just millennials. That’s a misconception that I see quite a bit about people’s thoughts on remote work.
It’s a global phenomenon, as worldwide, seventy-nine percent of knowledge workers surveyed by PGI said they work from home. This includes anyone from developers, designers, lawyers, analysts, and engineers.
I’ve found over the years of doing this that it’s taken a while to come up with the perfect remote team formula.
When it comes to getting things done and done well as a remote team it comes down to team trust and chemistry, pure and simple.
In my mind, as long as each task within each project happens on time, then my employees are productive. And a remote team needs to have good chemistry, or the work you put out will never be exceptional even if it gets done.
That’s where our process comes in. As long as we stick to the process, I am happy and so are our clients.
There’s a sense of camaraderie that trickles into each our interactions, and it’s part of how we market our services to potential clients. Most of our clients start to feel like we’re part of their team, and that’s how it should be.
Productivity as a remote employee looks very different than say, someone who shows up to a brick and mortar business for a straight eight hours each day.
For them, the expectations start at the door and end when they leave.
How we’ve made a remote setup work for us
In my experience, having flexibility and freedom is key to the creative process.
Having a more structured, formal work environment might be great for productivity, but it can also be stifling.
My designers and developers enjoy the freedom of working from wherever they want. The key here, however, is it’s not necessarily whenever.
We insist on scheduling calls/ video conferences with each of our clients every one to two weeks. The designer or developer for each project, including the project manager, are all present for these calls to ensure we’re all on the same page.
Besides email, we use Slack for all internal communications — with all the constant alerts I get to my computer throughout the day from messages from various team members, you’d think you were in an arcade. But I am always available to my employees.
Unlike with a traditional 9–5 job where there are set hours, my employees are usually available at a moment’s notice (within reason, of course). Having a remote, flexible position requires a certain level of commitment that doesn’t exist with a traditional setup at a brick and mortar business.
At the same time, all of my employees make their schedules outside of scheduled calls and meetings. The weekly or bi-weekly meetings not only keep our clients in the loop on their app’s project but also introduces an extra layer of accountability to make sure we are all on track.
While we may handle a lot of client interaction via phone, email and video conferencing, our open door policy when it comes to communication facilitate a close working relationship with each of our clients.
I believe that working together in-person is great has its advantages. We have small clusters of my team working together in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Seattle, for example. I provide them with a workspace that they can utilize in each location, but they don’t have to feel chained. They can work off each other or do their own thing, but I’ve found that having these home bases is also advantageous from a client perspective.
And a few times a year I’ll fly everyone up to Philadelphia to catch up, strategize about the bigger picture for the company and generally get our creative juices flowing.
I know I can always reach one of my employees, day or night if the situation ever arose.
And that’s an important distinction from a brick and mortar business in most cases. Not only that, but many people say they work more productively when they’re alone. Working remotely means you don’t have to contend with any loud coworkers, water cooler gossip, or department meetings. I would argue our remote team at Chop Dawg is better for it.
There’s also the fact that operating a business remotely significantly decreases your overhead, allowing you to focus instead on growing your company.
Also, think about it: if more people worked from home, rush hour traffic could become a thing of the past. And what a beautiful world that would be!
Finally, the flexibility and relaxing work environment can lead to better morale and less employee turnover overall. I’ve personally witnessed this with my team.
Are You Ready To Run Your Business Remotely?
I bet within the next ten years, the way we view the traditional workplace will be different. More and more roles will transition into part-time or even full-time remote positions.
The question for you as a business owner or employee now is, are you going to be a part of the remote movement?