Remote First12 Jun 2015
What is a Remote First culture?
It improves the working practices for employees taking into consideration that time and location should not be a barrier to productivity.
Companies that adopt remote first working practices are going to be way ahead in how their brand is ultimately perceived, i.e the opposite of Yahoo, and that is favourably by potential employees who now want to be employed there.
Environment Drives Culture; Culture Drives Brand
Company management, ones with pointy hair, may only see benefits to adopting a remote first culture when an external positive response causes the Company share price to increase rather than it simply makes employees happy/motivated.
What communication problems can be improved when the first assumption is that teams are not co-located?
Remote First adoption by companies means that the weaknesses below are exposed and can be acted on for the benefit of all employees.
- Working at the HQ or working from Home should not be a zero-sum game.
- You may need the flexibility to alternate to the most effective at a given time.
Employees spread across floors or buildings can benefit from the change in Culture.
Senior Management traditionally works together at their local visibility level.
- For employees, attendance does not always equal productivity.
- Traditional company Culture equates Work with just showing up and attending meetings.
Lack of diversity in hiring. Employees must not be sourced from the same location.
Retention of valuable employees is lost if they choose to relocate out of the area.
Lack of knowledge sharing and the assumpution that everyone knows things at the same time.
- Salaries, Rents and Commuting costs increasing in San Francisco/London make remote working more rational and logical.
- Either that or Tech knowledge workers will have to live in conditions next to their place of employment.
- If you are communicating by email then you are effectively remote.
- Do employees read their emails aloud when working side by side?
- Email is an ineffective communication tool to raise tickets and get answers.
- e.g Try contacting your IT Helpdesk - this what it feels like to get answers through an opaque channel.
- Provincial culture - local teams working in Desk Farms - local assumptions.
- Poor knowledge sharing. Ever experienced contacting teams by email to source information? You may as well have sent your email to dev/null.
- Location becomes a single point of failure. Contingency Planning. Disaster recovery. Fire Drill.
- Marching ants can recover.
- Depending on your circumstances the best time for productivity is lost commuting.
As Remote First will raise more questions - what problems are you trying to solve?
It’s about being in control - otherwise you are simply a minion.
When the predominate method of working is online it should be apparent when the team absolutley needs to meet in person.
If teams choose to work in the same location then provide a quality working environment - not Desk Farms.
If one team member is remote, all the team is effectively remote in attitude and dedicated to supporting remote people.
Video technologies allow everyone to show up to meetings equally so they can make decisions too.
Remotes should not lag behind the decision makers because of the perception that speed is the deciding factor.
Do not make distributed teams across timezones work outside of their normal scheduled hours.
- Todays software is built around the idea that you are not co-located - Mobile messaging, VOIP.
- Companies that make this kind of software and are not Remote First, its like saying your products don’t work.
Build a culture around asking questions
- Remote first teams can become increasingly skilful and have better empathy.
- The skill set to acquire in the next few years is distributed working practices.
As discussed, how do you compete for hires?
If you are Apple you can compete by building a big space ship.
A Global Superpower is defined by having an aircraft carrier - a tech superpower has a corporate spaceship campus.
If the perception of your company is still taken from the inertia when it first put Radio on the Internet in 1999, then Remote First offers a methodology and a brand to make it relevant instead of adding ephemeral benefits like ping pong, catered lunches.
Initially, Teams can adopt practices faster than the whole company. Start there.