The Five Levels of Remote Work — and why you’re probably at Level 2

Steve Glaveski
The Startup
Published in
10 min readMar 29, 2020

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COVID-19 has forced companies the world over to enact — or create — remote working protocols. The likes of Box, Amazon, Airbnb, Facebook, Google and Microsoft have all told their employees some variation of “work from home”.

But so too are more traditional organisations across fields such as real estate, accounting and local government.

Zoom team-selfies, like the one below, taken by giddy corporate executives who have been long-time remote working laggards, are polluting Twitter and LinkedIn feeds.

But like most things worth doing, there are different levels of proficiency and sophistication to scale.

Many newly-remote workers seem to conflate simply downloading Zoom, Slack, and having access to email with having this remote working thing sorted out.

But having a ball and a ring does not an NBA basketballer make.


When it comes to swimming in the deep end of the remote working pool, few companies are doing it better than Automattic — the company behind Wordpress, which powers 35% of all websites on the internet.

Automattic — at the time of writing — has 1,170 employees scattered across more 75 countries, speaking 93 languages. It boasts a company valuation of US$3 billion, and has made several significant acquisitions such as that of WooCommerce and blogging platform, Tumblr.

The company does not have an office, with its employees collaborating almost exclusively online.

Matt Mullenweg

Automattic’s founder, Matt Mullenweg (hence the double t in the company’s name!) recently appeared on Sam Harris’ popular Making Sense podcast (below) to talk what he calls the five levels of distributed teams (he prefers ‘distributed’ to ‘remote’ because the latter implies that there is still a central place of work).

Steve Glaveski
The Startup

CEO of Collective Campus. HBR writer. Author of Time Rich, and Employee to Entrepreneur. Host of Future Squared podcast. Occasional surfer.