If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that non-essential workers have the ability to work from anywhere. With office spaces quickly becoming a thing of the past, any entrepreneur can successfully launch their startup while hiring employees remotely. Prithwiraj (Raj) Choudhury, associate professor at Harvard Business School, has been studying the rise of remote work since long before the pandemic began and attests to this. He has spoken to various organizations practicing remote work, has analyzed the costs and benefits, and even has tips for how it can continue to run smoothly in the future.
Work-From-Anywhere VS Work-From-Home
According to Raj, work-from-anywhere is an emerging form of remote work that offers geographic flexibility. People who work from home get control over how they spend their time, such as commuting, scheduling, and which work space they would like to use. Work-from-anywhere offers all these benefits, but goes a step further by allowing workers, interns, and CEOs the flexibility to decide where they want to live. This includes different countries where an employee’s company has no physical offices. “It’s really about living and working anywhere the worker prefers.”
Raj first began observing remote work in 2015 while doing research with the United States Patent Office. He stumbled across a program called TEEP that allowed workers to work from anywhere back in 2012. Intrigued by how that affected the productivity of workers, he noticed that smaller companies were more likely to push the idea of remote work than larger corporations. This is not surprising if you considering that bigger companies are more set in their ways and startups are more likely to take risks and try something new. Now the pandemic has accelerated the trend of practicing remote work by 10 years. Recently, several startups have reached out to Raj to inform him they have adopted this business model with close to 100% of employees being remote.
How can Work-From-Anywhere Benefit Companies?
Perhaps the most obvious reason is the save in real estate cost. In New York, the average cost to rent an office is $14,800 per employee. However, the largest reason to embrace work-from-anywhere is that it allows companies a way to attract and retain the best talent. If this becomes a more prevalent form of flexibility, then the best workers are going to demand companies offer the option to work-from-anywhere. Companies that do not offer the flexibility to work-from-anywhere are at risk of losing their most talented employees. Parents who are now helping their kids with remote learning have solid reason to make this a requirement for choosing which company to work for.
During his research, Raj also noticed a 4.4% increase in productivity when employees switched from a traditional work-from-home regime to work-from-anywhere. While there is no guarantee that all companies will see the same increase in productivity across the board, Raj reiterates it will allow companies to attract and retain the best talent from anywhere in the world.
How to Maintain Company Culture Remotely
From what Raj has learned studying organizations that practice work-from-anywhere options, in order to maintain culture, socializing needs to be robust. Just because you don’t see employees every day that doesn’t mean they don’t need to feel like they are still part of a company’s culture. Before the pandemic began, it was highly unlikely that two people working on different floors within the same company would ever meet. If they worked in completely different buildings, then they probably did not know the other existed. What work-from-anywhere companies are doing is redesigning their socialization processes by creating virtual water coolers which bring random workers together. Now employees have a chance to meet and chat with different people, no matter where they fall within a company’ hierarchy.
Through research, Raj has also learned that culture is less about physical features, like break rooms and gyms, and more about shared values. For example, GitLab’s most important value is practicing transparency. They include a handbook of their hiring processes and salaries on their website so that anyone can view it. For them, this is how they share their views with their employees and the rest of the world. Companies working remotely need to adapt by presenting their values in a way that employees in two completely different states or countries can understand and identify with them.
The idea of working remotely isn’t just a trend. It is vital to a company’s growth and survival in today’s age. So the question companies shouldn’t be asking is if they should consider offering remote work, but how they can take their current business model and adapt to employee’s needs so they can work from anywhere. Those that don’t are likely to suffer in the future.
What experience do you have working from anywhere? Let us know down in the comments.
This article originally published on GREY Journal.