With increased use of technology in the workplace, most employers now offer much more flexible working options such as a virtual office than in the past. Some companies have even progressed to a state that no longer requires a central location to base its workforce from. This allows for two key advantages, firstly, for the employee it means no more commuting and greater work-life balance. And secondly, for the employer, it allows access to the widest and most talented candidate pool available without geographic restriction.
A lot of the focus up until now has been on the first aspect and what it means for the employee. But it is worth noting that employers could now be the primary beneficiaries of decentralising the modern workplace. Without the need to physically enter an office, the talent recruiting pool available is now expanded from people that live within 70km of the office to anyone with a stable internet connection.
Over in the US, tech startup Zapier has announced a $10,000 “de-location bonus” for employees to leave Silicon Valley. So far it has been very well received with many employees concerned about the cost of living in the Bay Area considering taking positions in more affordable areas. By introducing the progressive policy of de-locating, Zapier has not only retained its talented workforce, but also added some impressive candidates that it previously would not have access to.
The concept of de-locating has been made possible by forward thinking companies that are investing heavily in team collaboration apps, virtual meeting rooms and video conferencing spaces. The integration of Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, Sharepoint and a stable internet connection can now allow organisations to transcend the physical limitations of brick and mortar rented office spaces. This could well be the beginning of agile and interstate workforces who rarely or never actually sit in the same room.
However, not everyone believes that this is the future of work, with Yahoo CEO Melissa Mayer sensationally banning remote working a few years ago, citing the need for physical collaboration in the office. So it seems there are some very important challenges to consider before more companies are willing to consider de-locating their workforce.
Firstly, keeping consistent communications between a team can be hard when everyone is remote, which is why face-to-face video calls and conferences are so important. And the use of more informal instant messaging apps can keep the conversation flowing outside of meetings.
Secondly, building trust is a difficult task with a remote team that may never meet, and unfortunately this is best done during the hiring process. Hiring a great employee and hiring a great remote employee are two different things, and employers must look for and value previous remote work experience to find those that can stay motivated and self-driven. And the last challenge is to build a strong corporate culture. Having a strong culture in an organisation is even more important with a remote workforce. To do this successfully, everyone in the team must learn how everyone else works best – knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each employee will allow for greater collaboration and connectivity.
Remote teams and de-located organisations are changing the way start-ups launch and operate. The subsequent effect will be on larger organisations and how they adapt to these young and agile workforces competing against them. There are challenges along the way, but the reward for those employees brave enough to implement such a strategy seems to be gaining traction and paying off.
Rob Dell, Managing Director, IComm