The Future of Work is Remote

Before, teams went where work happened — the office. Now, work happens where your team is. This shift is huge. Github, Zapier and Buffer, among others, are paving the path to proving remote teams work and scale.

This is strongly due to the fact that collaboration tools have made the world a smaller place. And it’s only 2017: can you imagine what the future of work holds with the rise of virtual reality & AR?

If this sounds like science fiction to you, check Oculus Rift’s Social VR demos. It’s starting to feel real: deep learning techniques now allow us to reproduce facial expressions in real time. You could basically have high fidelity 3D representations of your teammates’ faces, animated in real time.

The point is that soon you will be able to actually feel like you’re with your colleagues despite the distance.

On top of that, the benefits of remote management for both employees and employers are starting to outnumber the cons. Remote work is the future: it’s time to get on board.

Why remote work is appealing to employees

If remote-first is the future it’s mainly because employees find value in it.

Remote work offers considerable flexibility: you can work from home or go away on an extended weekend and work from there. All you need is your brain, a computer, good internet connection and you’re good to go.

It’s not just about being where you want, when you want, it’s also about saving time and energy by avoiding the hassle of getting to an office every day. The average commute time to work in the US is 25 minutes. So that’s 250 minutes per week spent on getting to and from your office that you could save for rest or hobbies.

It’s not just the commute: the mundane routine office life can get to your nerves, moral and even health: having the freedom of remote let’s you shake things up, while still getting your work done. In fact, a study demonstrated that 80% of employees working from home we’re overall happier.

Remote work doesn’t have to mean working from home. Not everyone’s cut out for that, some people find their energy by being around people. That’s just what coworking office spaces provide remote workers with: flexibility to work out of any city while giving them access to a community.

Why remote work is appealing to employers

There would be no remote work if it wasn’t somehow beneficial to employers too.

The first obvious reason that comes to mind is the lower fixed costs per employees because you’re not paying an office space for them anymore. There are some cold hard facts about this one.

But it’s not just about money, Zapier gave $10,000 to their employees to encourage them to leave the SF headquarters and have the entire team remote. Why? Happier employees and most of all a quicker access to a global pool of talents.

It takes preparation and discipline to manage remote employees but if it’s well executed you could say goodbye to all inefficient interactions you have when you’re sitting next to your team members and hello to super efficient meetings and workflows. Isn’t that an employer’s dream come true?

How to make remote work work

With every great change comes some risk: you’ve hired the right people but how do you ensure your remote employees feel as involved? Follow what they’re working on? Build a strong company culture?

This is especially difficult when you hire junior employees in remote, it’s crucial to successfully give them ownership and responsibility.

It takes a mix of good collaboration tools and good team habits.

Successful teamwork strikes a balance between synchronous and asynchronous collaboration. Teams have synchronous needs such as talking in real time and getting instant answers, which are facilitated and enhanced by chat apps like Slack. But every team also functions asynchronously to work on ongoing projects and structure team knowledge via tools like Slite, a product I’m building with remote teams in mind.

The benefit of having remote employees is that it forces you to think long and hard about which tools you’ll be using, how you’ll be communicating and constantly evaluating the efficiency of your set up. If it’s not working, you’ll know within hours.

Good team habits range from organizing daily and weekly meetings to yearly company offsites. A remote future does not mean company culture and team building will become things of the past.

Plan your weekly meetings to give your team a sense of rhythm and deadlines and set regular one on ones. These are essential to give your team ownership of your company’s goals.

It’s not all work and no play: Zapier has a great pair buddy system to encourage employee bonding, tools like appear.in can let you create rooms so employees can grab virtual coffee breaks with each other & Buffer organizes crazy bi-yearly company wide offsites to fun locations.

Building a team that’s part remote or totally remote requires a lot of planning and iterating about your team’s efficiency. In the end, it forces you to ask yourself questions and tackle crucial collaboration issues you might have put to the side if your team wasn’t remote.

As I said above, all these tips might feel small next to how VR will solve the problems we experience with remote. But they’ll still ring true because in the end the path to reach true happiness at work lies in learning to work as one team and respecting each of your collaborator’s rhythm & need. Remote is an incredible school for teams to achieve this.