Against remote? Definitely some valid points but…

I read a good article on Venture Beat a while back called, “Why a remote workforce is bad for start-ups.” Without going into too much of an analysis on remote workers and start-ups (perhaps in a later post), I’d like to discuss one of the author’s (Zaarly’s Shane mac) 7 points as to why Remote is bad for start-ups. (Article found here: http://venturebeat.com/2012/04/11/why-a-remote-workforce-is-bad-for-startups/).

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Point #7 – “Miscommunication causes too many problems”. I get why Remote can be perceived as a more difficult way to communicate (I mean, up until very recently the best we had were telephones and fax machines), but I’d like to suggest that the opposite can in fact be true, when Remote is done properly.

 

In my experience, the same types of productivity and communication issues occur face-to-face as they do remotely, but the paradox of Remote interactions is that they can oftentimes help force good behaviors, and by doing so make Remote communication even more effective.

 

Pros & Cons of Remote Staffing

Advantages definitely outweigh Risks in Offshore Remote Staffing. Image credit: Remote Worker Daily via http://remoteworkerdaily.com/2012/01/23/remote-workforce/

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Think about it. When you work with someone remotely, you are forced into extra documentation. Take for example, in-person meetings – the best practice there is of course to take down meeting minutes during a meeting, but a lot of times (especially in start-ups) this simply doesn’t happen. When you’re in a remote set-up, a much larger proportion of communication occurs over email, chat and hopefully (if you’re into productivity tools like I am), over some great task or project management system like Asana or Basecamp, among others. This discipline of documentation of conversations, action items, agreed on points, etc. is amplified out of necessity when a workforce is spread out remotely – and I’d say for the good.

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As a tangent, let’s even just look at something as simple and basic as doing a meeting over Skype vs. in person. If you’re got a webcam, the only thing you can’t do Remotely that you can do in person is reach out and touch the other person (which, I highly doubt you’d do anyway). Over Skype, however, you can type out something into the

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chat window while you’re talking – let’s say you’re referring to a quote from some past email and you just want to copy/paste it for quick reference… done! Sharing files is easy too. Yes all this can be done huddled around a PC, but it can also be done PC-to-PC effectively and I’d argue, sometimes with much more ease.

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The reason I’m not going after Shane’s other points is because some of the fluffier stuff, like “Hallway conversations are priceless” and “passion in person is contagious” are harder to measure or gauge – and thus its his experience that directs these opinions. But, communication I would argue is just as difficult face-to-face, and much of what we debate, agree on, or chat about in-person can be just as misconstrued or forgotten as any remote interaction.

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Finally, it’s worth noting that there was an article written in direct response to the one I mentioned above (it can be found here: http://gigaom.com/2012/05/16/proofhq-ceo-remote-work-is-bad-for-startups-oh-please/)

 

To quote the article, in which they interview the founder of a start-up who operates nearly exclusively within a remote model:

 

“So did he experience the squeeze on ideas and the less binding company culture that Mac predicts? “From our experience it just simply wasn’t the case,” says Atkinson, who uses constant Skype chats, regular video calls and daily scrums for each area of the business to keep his team collaborating and innovating.”

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All for now. Working from home today :-)

Exploring “Remote”: Some definitions

I’d like to kick off my first post by going over a few definitions. If you’re new to the concept of “Hiring Remote” or are just getting acquainted with what I and many others are referring to as “The Remote Revolution”, then this post is a great starting point.  If you’re not new to the concept, but have been getting pummeled by all the buzzwords surrounding remote workers lately, then I really look forward to your feedback in the comments section on if you think this post makes sense, and what you think of when you hear “Remote”.

 

What is “Remote” and what is it not?

  1. Remote doesn’t have to be synonymous with “work from home.”

Yes, working from home is a major and growing phenomenon and is only possible due to The Remote Revolution, however Remote can also refer to doing a quick video chat with your colleagues in France or China, all of whom are sitting in an office on the other side of the world but communicating as if they were sitting right next to you.  That’s Remote – when not having face-to-face  professional interactions becomes a non-issue.

 

  1. Remote is bigger than online freelancers.

Being an online freelancer or hiring an online freelancer is one way to leverage the power of Remote… but it is not the only way.  The existence of Remote simply means that it has become easier to hire someone without ever meeting them physically and without ever having them show up at your office.  Freelancing is one area that has been revolutionized by Remote, and not the other way around (by heather).  A freelancer that previously was restricted to performing his or her services locally, now has instant access to global clientele.  All because of the power of Remote.

 

  1. Remote doesn’t have to mean far away or in a different country.

A remote worker or remote employee could be down the road from you, or on the other side of the world. The whole point of “Remote” and The Remote Revolution is that work no longer has to be face-to-face, period.  Remote technologies, productivity tools, globalization, the rise of Globish, and of course, at the core of all this, the internet, have enabled us to work and interact in ways that were not even imaginable 20 year ago.  This means that I can Skype with people on my team while I’m at home on a sick day, or it means that I can do a Google Hangout group chat with developers located offshore in the Philippines, India and Poland all at the same time.

 

  1. Remote Workers come in a diverse range of types.

As mentioned earlier, online  freelancers are one way in which you as a business leader can leverage remote, but they are certainly not the only way.  In fact, hiring online freelancers often isn’t an appropriate solution to talent challenges.  Higher levels of risk, task-orientation and multi-client models (I’ll address all of these in later posts) are all reasons to go a different route.  (Disclaimer:  I own and run a Remote Staffing firm in which our workers work inside our offices and support clients on a dedicated and long term basis across business functions such as IT, HR, Finance & Accounting, Procurement, among others.)

 

Other types of Remote Workers include but are not limited to:

  • Professionals who work from home but are full time employees of the company they work for
  • You, whenever you open up your PC or smartphone when you’re not at the office, are a Remote Worker

 

I’ll wrap up this post by quoting a few varied definitions from others out there… I have also included links as I believe the full articles are worth reading:

  • “As an employer, restricting your hiring to a small geographic region means you’re not getting the best people you can.” –> 37 Signals, who as you may realize from a quick Google is extremely pro-Remote (Great article by one of the brilliant 37 signals guys here:  http://37signals.com/svn/posts/3064-stop-whining-and-start-hiring-remote-workers)
  • “…entrepreneurial individuals.  They can operate as a larger company, and search worldwide for talent. And workers [are not tied to] their local economy.” –> Fabio Rosati, CEO, Elance (http://getpocket.com/a/read/302436045)
  • “Remote employment is the practice of hiring employees who perform work for your company from their own location – not within the walls of your office. Remote employees can be freelance workers or exclusive salaried employees who do not contract with anyone else.” – youngentrepreneur.com (http://www.youngentrepreneur.com/blog/the-pros-and-cons-of-hiring-remote-employees/)
  • “Hiring remotely opens you up to an enormous pool of people who can’t move. I can’t stress this enough: for every one person who is in your location or is happy to move there, there are 100 more who are not.” – David Fullerton, StackExchange (http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2013/02/why-we-still-believe-in-working-remotely/)

 

All for now, and welcome to The Remote Revolution blog.

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