The Misunderstood Future of Work

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Tech firms like Yahoo and Reddit made headlines as they pulled the plug on support for telecommuting. What does that say about remote staffing?

The Misunderstood Future of Work
Image by Simon Law

While some industry leaders recognize remote staffing as the future of getting things done, others opt to seemingly revert to the Stone Age. Last year, news of a remote staffing halt crashed into Yahoo’s offices. This scene played again, starring Reddit this time, as they told their staff, “move to San Francisco or get fired.”

Now experts are wondering just what the heck is going on, because there’s proof that remote staffing is actually a good thing for companies. PGi’s telecommuting survey showed that remote workers claim to be less stressed and more productive. The same study revealed that a remote staff setup raises employee morale, decreases absenteeism, and encourages higher business volume. These results illustrate existing cases of companies doing well with a staunchly mobile work setup.

So why did companies like Yahoo and Reddit have to do it? What went wrong?

When Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, found that some employees weren’t using their VPN often enough, she knew there was a problem. While Yahoo described this move as a tactic to improve collaboration, some speculated that this was a mass layoff without the costs that come with it. Whichever the purpose was, the move was a response to lack of control.

Michael Templeton, CEO of Citrix, stresses that it could have been remedied if Yahoo communicated their policies better. Even with communication tools there, if the policies weren’t conveyed and enforced well, it’s of no use.

Reddit suffers the same lack of control and, if their critics are right, lack of trust as well. Yishan Wong, company CEO, claimed that the decision was made for optimal teamwork.

David Heinemeier Hansson, founder of Basecamp, points out the drastic measures Reddit’s taking. All for optimal teamwork, Reddit risks losing about half of their entire workforce, majority of them responsible for bringing in company revenue. Instead of using available tools to communicate ideas and collaborate, they’d rather hire new people and offer severance packages to all their employees outside the Bay Area who refuse to move.

Is remote staffing bad for companies then? Not necessarily.

While a work-from-home setup doesn’t always pan out well, that by no means describes remote staffing in its entirety, because the concept of remote staffing has such a vast scope. There are a number of factors to consider for setting up remote work successfully and make remote staffing a good hiring option. These are just a few.

  1. Professional environments.

    Your team outside the office can still work for you. They can even work from you from outside the country, but they need to do it from a professional environment. Sometimes, home doesn’t fit this description. Your remote team might find it ideal to work in offices with equipment they use exclusively for the jobs you’re having them do.

    Key here is learning the culture of the people you’re hiring, and using that as basis to define what a professional work environment is. Once you’ve got that established, you’ll have a better idea of how to keep your team satisfied and productive.

  2. Good communication.

    Take it seriously. It’s important especially when you work with offshore hires. Smooth work demands frictionless conversations. Your recruiter could brief your offshore employees on the job, but the specifics on what you want done should all come from you. That way, your remote teams will be doing the job with your policies and your goals in mind.

    So it’s vital that you reach your remote teams and that they’re transparent. To ensure that, you need to know how they prefer to communicate. You’ll also need to see how open they are to trying new ways to keep in touch. Try some collaboration tools and see if they work for you and your team.

  3. Growth mindset.

    You need to know how fast you want to grow, but more importantly, know the kind of people you want to grow with. A remote setup can certainly help you scale your business, whether you’re growing fast or you’re taking your time, but you have to do it with the right amount of the right people. You could get a recruitment service to help you, but we recommend that you stay involved in the hiring process. Gauge on both skill and personality when hiring to improve your chances of a good fit.

Remote staffing isn’t for everyone, but it’s not bad just because one or two tech companies outlawed it. Yahoo even said that their decision wasn’t so much about their view on remote staffing, but more about what they felt was right for Yahoo at that moment. An effective remote staffing setup is really all a matter of gearing it for success; the right setup would bring you collaboration, professionalism, and productivity much easier.

What’s your take on Yahoo’s and Reddit’s ban on remote staffing? Leave us a comment! We’d love to hear what you think.

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About Bolton Remote

Bolton Remote helps businesses grow with dedicated remote teams. To find out more about remote staffing, visit BoltonRemote.com.

  • Gazoontite

    It's simple... make remote work an earned privilege, or one that can be lost based on output/productivity. As ThomasBurleson mentions - If a resource has demonstrated prior success with remote working, trust them to do likewise. The "collaboration" mantra is bullsh*t, sorry. That's a euphemism for more meetings, most of which could be accomplished with a quick phone call, Skype chat, etc. In my experience being a long-time remote worker, 95% of those doing the work are at least 200% more productive than the on-site workers. Perhaps even more. This isn't the fault of on-site workers, but company cultures that allow nonsensical process that slow down progress.

    • Sorry for the delayed response!

      Culture’s got plenty to do with it. I agree that just like a remote system, an on-site working system needs thought and proper setup for it to work properly. Part of proper setup, I believe, is making it fit with the workers’ mindset and motivation factors, so you need workers who actually do collaborate better when they’re physically together. As an example, we’ve worked with whole marketing teams who like being able to tap each other on the shoulder and talk about relationship building tactics.

      That being said, I hope Yahoo and Reddit have plans to make their current systems work. I’d like to believe they have their reasons for no longer supporting remote systems, and that they have a way to qualify how much of their teams are cut out for on-site collaboration. Perhaps they might even revert to a non-face-to-face setup once they get their systems reestablished.

  • ThomasBurleson

    Remoting works only when you have disciplined and motivated/passionate employees or consultants. The foundation of remoting is to engage experts that the `company` believes will deliver with excellence. Instead of hiring locally or losing potential hire candidates due to relocation requirements, engage remotely those with demonstrated success, communication skills, and experience. Beginners can be used remotely... but only with pairing to an experience `partner`. Ultimately it is the project or work that must inspire the remote staff member...

    So when I hear of companies that are eliminating `remoting`, I interpret this as a company environment where executives have lost faith in their employees and employees have lost faith and inspiration with their leadership and directions.

    Some remote staff work can atrophy and become unproductive or disruptive. Those must be employees must be inspired immediately or excised. But ultimately remoting problems are a sign that EITHER (a) the wrong staff has been assigned to remote projects or (b) the project itself has stalled or is foundering.

    Remoting works really, really well... with the right people and the right leadership.

    • Sorry for the delayed response!

      That’s an interesting way of looking at it. I can imagine loss of faith hitting both Yahoo and Reddit, perhaps due to the lack of control mentioned. How can management, after all, have faith in something they can’t manage? Like you said, if any remote issues (e.g. wrong staff getting assigned remote projects, not enough people using the VPN) surfaced early on, it should have been remedied at once.

      Now that they seem to be doing some sort of remedy to their work system, do you see Yahoo and Reddit reverting to a remote (i.e. not face-to-face) setup once they’ve got their systems reestablished?