Why remote work rocks
OK, Michael, tell me what do you like so much about running a #NoOffice team?
Why work remotely or encourage your boss or your employees to pick up remote work? Why do people on my team love our all-remote working arrangement?
Well, for a few reasons:
Less stress and more saved time
Whenever I’m on a way to a conference in a major city and I’m stuck in a traffic jam I’m sitting there in the car and I’m thinking to myself: “Wow, people have to endure this every day?”
I don’t. I don’t usually experience a traffic jam because my home office is in the same building where I live, just upstairs. No traffic jams on the staircase especially after I’ve sent my three daughters to school.
And how much time is wasted on going to work? If it’s a major city it can take up to 1 hour each way! That’s 2 hours daily… that’s 1/4 of your official 8-hour workday… wasting on what? On moving you to a computer.
That’s right. Most of us these days are knowledge workers, we’re not factory workers cranking widgets. We are paid to be using our brilliant minds to get stuff done. If that’s so, how does it make sense for professionals to be commuting daily from one place to another just to sit in front of the computer? Can’t they have computers at home?
Of course it’s not that simple but we’ll talk in more detail how to set up a perfect working environment for remote workers in their homes later in this book.
Lifestyle choice - where do you really want to live?
One of my favorite examples was when I hired an assistant, Magda, and at that time she was living in the capital city of Poland, Warsaw. She was used to working in a traditional office so when I hired her she was like: “So Michael, where do you want me to go to work for you?”
I responded that she didn’t have to go anywhere - all she needed was a laptop to be able to work with me. That’s all. At first she felt a little strange and uncomfortable but later she got used to it. So much so in fact, that after only 6 months of working together she asked me for a video call and made this very cool request: “Michael, I’ve always wanted to live in France. Now that I work completely remotely, can I move to France and still be a part of our Nozbe team? What do you think?. There was a pause and I had to ask her this very important question: “Do they have Internet in France?”
I assume they do because she moved there and lived for another 2 years in France while still working with me. I didn’t care and didn’t exactly know where she lived in France but she was happy because she didn’t have to sacrifice her lifestyle because of her work. Her job actually supported her new lifestyle.
And we have more stories like this. I remember that at some point in the span of just 6 months we had 7 people moving their main residence to different cities to be closer to their families or loved ones, or just because they could.
Talent choice - hire the best people for the job!
All this works also for the business owner - you can hire people from anywhere. You’re not limited to where they live or where your offices are. Just find the best people for the job!
We have countless stories of really getting fantastic people from very remote cities of Poland and Europe just because they didn’t want to move their residency. They had offers from head-hunters but they never took these offers seriously because this would mean moving away - a complete change of lifestyle for them and their families. Being on our team they have an opportunity to be working on a global product and while earning a competitive salary without raising their costs of living and changing their families’ world completely by moving away from a place they call their home.
Hiring remote workers is not easy though and we’ve learned our lessons there. Later in this book I’ll be outlining our process of hiring new employees to the team. I’ll show you step by step how we find the best people and vet them if they are both intellectual and cultural fit for our team.
Flexible working hours is a must!
This is something any company should be offering whether they’re remote or not. Unfortunately most companies don’t. Not only because people can’t be effective for 8 hours straight, but also because it’s just great to be able to have a break every now and then and work when you’re feeling truly productive and motivated.
Especially in winter things can get depressing. In a country on the northern hemisphere like Poland when you wake up and you go to work it’s dark. Later when you leave your office it’s dark as well. And if you work for a very traditional company, you sit all day in an open office setup with just artificial light.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could take a break in the middle of the day when it’s sunny outside and just go out for a walk or a jog? Or attend your daughter’s recital at school in the middle of the work day and be one of these cool parents who really cares?
Of course it would. Later in the book I’ll give you examples of how people work at our company and how vastly different schedules they have… and how we deal with it in order to be on the same page as a team and stay in touch.
More focused time for your best work!
For me particularly this is the most important argument as a “productivity guy”. You get more focused time because you work in your home office. Much fewer interruptions. People don’t tap you on the shoulder and ask you things because it’s just a more convenient moment for them.
If you want to finish your meaningful work you can basically shut down the Internet and just work. You shut down all the communication channels and there are no push notifications coming to annoy you. You can just work in a completely focused way.
There is this old saying that you don’t get anything done in an office after 10 a.m. because everybody shows up and they talk, interrupt each other, come up with meetings…
And as mentioned above, as knowledge workers we need our focused time. After all we’re paid to be using our brain. Our job is to create the best contribution we can to the company we’re working for and how can we do it if we lack long focused stretches of time?
Later in this book I’ll be presenting our concept of the “Pyramid of Communication” where we’ll give you practical examples of how to get more of focused work for yourself and for your teammates.
The culture of an all-remote team is very different from “traditional” teams.
What’s different? What’s special? Is it all “unicorns and cupcakes”? How does it feel to run a #NoOffice team, really?
People are cool, when they do cool work
In a #NoOffice culture is that you don’t judge people by the way they look or speak, or whether they have a smoke or coffee with you… none of this matters because you’re not in the same physical space. What matters is something much more important.
Your co-workers are cool when they deliver quality work.
That’s right. The only way to show off in an all-remote environment is to do so by delivering great work. By contributing something really important to the team. You think of others as “cool” when they impress you with their work. That’s all that matters.
In a traditional office you can fake work and pass by as “busy”, “contributing” and “cool” by wearing fashionable clothes and faking productivity by attending all the meetings and being loud there and asking questions all the time. In a #NoOffice team your work speaks louder than words.
We are connected through trust and good work
I’ll raise the issue of trust many more times in this book. Trust is key to a great and thriving #NoOffice environment.
I’ve observed that in my team people are more likely to connect and “make friends” with other people who are equally good or better than themselves. Who are really impressing them with amazing work. Who are motivating them to take their skills to a whole new level.
And you can really see that when we meet in person. You can see these friendships there.
We celebrate our #NoOffice team as we meet in person every half a year at least.
Just because we’re an all-remote team, it’s not like we completely don’t see each other. We meet every half a year for a week. Once in the Spring and once in the Fall. We rent a hotel with a big conference room and we spend time together. We hang out, talk, discuss, eat out, drink, play and much more to recharge our batteries for the months to come. It’s a really special time for us.
We call this a “Nozbe Reunion” and we love meeting like this and usually once it’s done we look forward to the next one. There’s an entire chapter in this book where I explain step by step how we organize our reunions. What works, what doesn’t and what is really important to us when we meet in person. How we stay engaged, connected and excited during an intensive week like this. I’ll also share examples from other companies doing similar “off-sites”.
We seek opportunities to meet privately, too!
In the previous section I wrote that we meet every half a year “at least” for a reason. In a #NoOffice environment people go out of their way to meet when they can. If someone is traveling to a city where other co-workers live, they contact them beforehand to meet in person for a coffee, beer or lunch. When there’s a conference in a city nearby, several co-workers try to get together to go.
Sometimes they stay at each other’s places. It’s so much fun when all of the sudden we have a virtual meeting and we see two people show up in front of one camera.
Because people don’t hang out with each other every day, they’re looking forward to being together for a while, but it’s really curious how they work then. To be discussed, as always, later in this book how they do it because #NoOffice co-workers really work differently from people used to being in a traditional office.
We have a better social life because we plan time after work
When people tell me that remote work is for introverts only, I laugh. I’m an extrovert myself and I still prefer #NoOffice work because when I do work, I can focus on my stuff completely and I can get lots done and after work I can plan a social life and have a great one to boot!
I’m an amateur triathlete so I bike a lot, I run and swim. And I play tennis, which has nothing to do with triathlon but I’ve recently discovered this sport and I love it. And the best part, I get to meet new people and have different friends while doing each of these sports. I have a swimming buddy, and completely different running buddies and biking buddies. This also helps me stay grounded as these people have nothing to do with my work but I get to know them and their lives through the sports. I have a chance of getting out of my own “work bubble” and get to know people who are different then me.
The thing is, when people come back from work they’re usually exhausted and want to relax and rest. When I’m done with my work I’m usually excited to spend an afternoon with family and friends. I’m actively planning the time after work because I’m craving more human connection. I get to choose the people I spend time with, unlike in a traditional office where I’m forced to hang out day in and day out with people I wouldn’t necessarily like to be around.
Yes, there’s another chapter in this book dedicated to this. How to plan your “free time”, how to juggle the work-life balance when working from home and how to have a great family life thanks to being a part of a #NoOffice team. There’s lots of nuance there and it takes some skill to do it right so make sure to read it up.
As always, it all comes down to this:
“Work is not a place to go, it’s a thing that you do”
Yes, I’ll be repeating this phrase on and on in this book to make sure it sticks.
Now that we’ve dealt with the basic benefits of being a part of an all-remote team, let’s talk about the dark side of the remote work - its overall perception and the lack of control. It’ll make a perfect closing chapter for an introduction to the #NoOffice book.