I have a hard time resisting remote employment opportunity discussions online, due to the fact that I spent several years of my life on a flexible timing and remote work business structure.
Today’s reason is Rarst’s tweet regarding StackExchange:
Why We (Still) Believe in Working Remotely « Blog – Stack Exchange http://t.co/WwMRtao0
— Andrey Savchenko (@Rarst) February 1, 2013
Even though I’m not a regular help guy there, I do try to follow discussions and threads (especially in the WordPress section, as well as Java categories) and I admire their policy of remote working. I was just as impressed by GitHub when two of their employees attended OpenFest and defined their values in their track (the video available here).
Communication is indeed one of the key values to building a successful business. Historically, long before the time of the telephone, computer, Internet and any sort of modern communication, people had to commute and communicate only face to face in order to conduct any sort of activity together. In 2013 there are numerous ways to participate in a community, and being on-site is only one of them.
One might find working in the same office a mandatory requirement (most do, actually). I wouldn’t get as deep into this as I used to do it for a long time, even leading the freelance group of Sofia, forming the Freelance Lodge here, advocating in favor of the consultancy services. I would quote a single sentence from the post above though:
for every one person who is in your location or is happy to move there, there are 100 more who are not.
Preselecting among several thousand experts in your area might be satisfactory, but: 1) not enough, and 2) not always. If you are in the online services industry, looking for developers/designers/content providers/whatever, anything, that could be done online (not assembling computers on the fly, of course), then this could be done professionally from every part of the world.
The only real concern could be time zone differences and terms of communication. The first one is indeed an issue – it’s hard to find the balance, and to cover as many business hours together as possible, residing on different continents. Aside of that there is no valid reason to avoid using the services of an outstanding expert from another part of the world if you are able to decompose assignments and assign particularly and avoid the dependencies as much as possible (just as the regular development principles such as the strong cohesion and loose coupling advise).
I remember sharing an office room with a colleague of mine. I used to prefer darker places, less light, lower temperatures. He was constantly opening all the windows, letting all the sunlight in, which was leading to the temperatures increasing as well. There was hardly a time when both of us were productive together. Even if you could improve the environment by purchasing a nice desk and a chair, the best technical equipment, you need to apply to the standards of your office space. You can’t pick the room, the temperature, the lightness, the position of the desk, sometimes you’re tied to a dress code, need to commute, have to adapt to a local environment (including lunch providers – restaurants and shops in the local area) just for the sake of keeping several guys in the same office. I even had a project for a few months lead entirely by myself in Bulgaria, my management was in Belgium and my client – in Chile. Still, I had to commute for 3 hours a day to the office to meet nobody, but to respect the office culture.
Did it make any sense? No. Did I quit? Yes. Have this made me happy? Certainly.
Researches prove that telecommuters:
- are happier
- work more, as they don’t have to commute and they feel comfortable at home/their own office space
- lead to less expenses to the employer (no extra desks/equipment in the office/electricity bills/transportation costs)
- improve the environment (no commute – greener life)
and much more.
The only reasonable response is the communication concern.
If you are unable to communicate with your employees, then you’re probably not going to do it on-site, but only try to micromanage them. This would lead to the cat and mouse game by you playing the supervisor and your employee stealing time for personal stuff in his unproductive times and not being able to get in action when he is beyond the 9-5 paradigm.
Remote work is just as good. Don’t ignore it and don’t lose experts due to some ancient concerns.