What is remote work?
The most straightforward explanation of remote work is that there is no requirement to go to a physical location to get your work done. The company does not choose its employees' locations. Working remotely is, of course, better suited for knowledge workers and digital teams.
With offshoring you are setting up a second office in another country or hiring a 3rd party to manage the team, usually because of lower labor costs. This often results in two (or more) separate teams with their own cultures and habits, making for a more difficult collaboration.
Offshoring only makes sense when the team works in an isolated silo where no cross-communication is needed between different teams. Near-shoring is basically the same as offshoring but delegating work to a country nearby.
Mobility issues and competition
Hiring becomes harder when candidates need to be based within a specific radius of an office. There may be no suitable candidates within this area. Why should candidates from another area move to your city if they can find the same job in their hometown (or work remotely)? You will end up limiting the pool of talent and paying more by restricting the supply of talent.
Statistics have shown that companies that score high in diversity and inclusion are, on average, more profitable than their competitors (McKinsey, 2020). Limiting your search radius to one geographical area reduces your chances of building a more diverse and inclusive team. Integrating different nationalities, neurodiverse candidates, or those with reduced mobility is simply less likely in a hybrid or office-based setup.
Many of the best candidates have developed a preference for remote work during the pandemic. When hiring locally, you are not only competing with other local companies but also with companies that offer remote work.
While you are trying to keep employees happy with beer fridges and ping pong tables in the office, people are getting headhunted by the next startup where they can work from their own garden (which might also have a beer fridge and ping pong table).
Offices are also responsible for a massive chunk of operating costs, a liability your remote competitors do not have. This means they can invest more in R&D (people’s salaries) and marketing.
We admit that coming to the office may be "more fun" for certain people, especially when the team has good cohesion. But for others, the cost of commuting may just be too high. Even with a company car, you will never get the hours back that you waste stuck in traffic, not to mention the environmental cost.
A distinct advantage of non-remote work is that information flows faster — or does it? It's easier to just “walk over to your colleague" and ask them a question when you are located in the same physical space. This sounds like a good thing, but it’s a trap!
First, by walking over to your colleague, you are potentially interrupting their deep focus. Second, there is no structured written communication. In a remote environment, you simply have to write down processes and communicate in a traceable manner, thus documenting knowledge that will last.
Company culture is not about presence
Companies that hesitate to go remote or are radically against it use different arguments. Remote working would be wrong for company culture, for example. But company culture is not about presence.
Company culture is what lives among the team members and how much everyone is aware of and engaged in reaching the company's goals. Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO of Airbnb, put it like this: "The stronger the culture, the less corporate process a company needs. When the culture is strong, you can trust everyone to do the right thing."
Another often-heard argument is that people need social contact to feel happy. However, social connection is not limited to physical contact. There is sometimes more communication in remote settings than in traditional office settings.
Team building activities can also happen online. After the pandemic, there has been an enormous increase in leisure activities and games that help your team to relax and strengthen relationships.
Does this mean there is no physical contact at all anymore? Of course not. People can still meet, eat and drink together once in a while, and gather at company-organized retreats. And when it comes to workplace happiness, the key factors are meaningful work, impact, and autonomy. Office not required…
Never leave home
Heavily sales-driven companies must meet their prospects and clients to generate that "special client relationship." But again, working remotely does not mean you no longer leave your home (office).
People in our company are still invited to go to conferences and meetings for networking purposes, but they mostly do that because they want to. If a sale comes out of these moments, the added value of another physical meeting to discuss the details and close the deal is still an option.
A final argument that companies sometimes use is security issues. They fear sensitive information will leak if people work from home in less secure conditions. The same can be true of any environment that does not require all papers and electronic equipment to be isolated on site.
The risk of a security breach is not higher when you have a distributed workforce. There are myriad examples of highly secured corporations that suffered breaches with a significant impact.
So remote work works. Whether you like it or not, it's here to stay. We hope you give it a shot.