The COVID-19 outbreak is a global tragedy that will impact our lives in many ways for decades to come. The loss of life and ensuing economic slow down is forcing business leader to re-evaluate how they build and operate their businesses. There were already trends towards remote work, but the current scenario has accelerated them. Many companies that had never considered or were not ready to implement work from home initiatives have been forced to build the processes and infrastructure necessary within an impossible time frame. Those teams that successfully maintain or even improve productivity with remote work strategies will need to seriously consider whether there is a need to go back to the status quo.
The Cost Of Building Your Business In Tech Hubs Is Expensive
Payroll and office space in the most important US tech hubs is exceptionally expensive. It is no secret that The Bay Area and New York, among the most expensive, have exorbitant costs for hiring and housing local talent. This is part of the reason why startups in those cities have found a new home in other startup hubs like Austin, San Diego, Atlanta, Denver, Chicago, Etc. So why do people stay? Well, a lot of great reasons. Access to capital, access to talent, government regulations, serendipity are just a few reasons. Even though there are still great benefits to being in a startup ecosystem there are also great reasons for having all or at least a portion of your team work remote.
Building that network is already hard and it is almost impossible to do from a small beach town where the biggest business is the local watering hole. That sounds like a great life, but might not be the best place to hustle when you have never built a startup before or a network before. That being said, once you have built that network and know-how to find the people that you need you can then look at other ways to grow your business. This is where remote work comes in to play, especially for software product and engineering teams.
With Great Leadership You Can Find Talent Anywhere
Your leadership plays an important part in the growth of your business. Having the know-how to hire, train, motivate and succeed with a great team is a valuable skill set that you will likely find in a place where companies have been successful in the past, like a startup ecosystem. Once you have those C-level and VP level leaders it is time to consider ways to get more out of your budget. With the right leadership you can be sure that you will find the right talent and skills no matter where in the country, or even the world, they are located.
“half of the U.S. workforce specifically could be remote by 2020 – up from 39% in 2012https://venturebeat.com/2019/05/03/stripes-remote-engineering-hub-shows-how-distributed-workforces-can-thrive/
If Stripe Can Do It, Your Can Do It
Stripe is a $20 billion company with about 2500 employees and offices in San Francisco, Seattle, Dublin, and Singapore. I know, this does not sound like a remote company. That is because it is not a 100% remote company. Stripe is developing a new purely remote product development office. This may not be making a lot of sense as having a remote development office is an oxymoron. I’ll let the CTO of Stripe explain:
“We are doing this to situate product development closer to our customers, improve our ability to tap the 99.74% of talented engineers living outside the metro areas of our first four hubs, and further our mission of increasing the GDP of the internet,”David Singleton, Stripe CTO
The difference is that even though Stripe has always had remote workers, this is the first time they disconnect those remote workers from a specific physical location. Previously remote engineers reported into engineering leads or managers at a fixed location. With the Remote Hub, Stripe engineers will work within the remote infrastructure with purely remote processes and reporting to remote managers. This is an important note for any remote team as it puts remote workers on an equal footing to in-office employees and managers. Now team members can grow within the remote infrastructure and not risk losing out on opportunities that might have otherwise gone to in-office employees. This is how Stripe will attract the best.
Do Individuals Get To Know Each Other Outside Of Their Teams At The Office?
Let’s be honest with ourselves, we do not know the name of the guy in the cubicle in between the photocopier and the water cooler. We walk by that set of cubicles every day and we do not ever engage with them unless they show up to an interoffice happy hour set up by HR. And if they are not in their 20s without kids, they are likely not attending the happy hour.
I realize this sounds pessimistic and antisocial, but employees in office environments are there to do their work and reach their goals. Work friends aside, you are there for your career not to build a bigger social network. Being in an office environment will help you work closely with your manager and on-site team members but it will not create a social utopia where individuals in adjacent cubicles become best friends.
Covid-19 Has Done The Hardest Part For You
The current pandemic is changing the way we work. With most cities in North America implementing requirements for non-essential workers to stay at home, it has forced teams to attempt working from home. This means driving new behaviors around communication, project management, feedback, goal setting, team building, networking, culture, etc. All of these different aspects of remote work require a new software infrastructure that supports those processes.
The biggest reason that employers are hesitant to implement work from home strategies is setup and training. The new work environment is forcing leaders to consider ways to setup and train remote teams. After the pandemic has slowed and life can continue to be more normal there will be a new found comfort in remote work. Many business leaders believe that things will not become normal until a vaccine is created, which could be months away. So even if political leaders open up the economy with fewer restrictions, there will still be an enormous amount of risk when working in an office environment where asymptomatic team members can continue to spread the disease.
The change has already happened for the worst reason possible. That does not change the fact that leadership teams have been forced to make an investment in remote work. Many companies, just like Stripe, already saw the need to build a solid remote team infrastructure to be closer to customers and access more talent. By improving the processes to adapt to remote teams there have been entirely new opportunities created to lower costs, improve productivity and create exceptional cultures, where top performers get the best opportunities for growth no matter where they are.