There seems to be a recurring question that continually needs to be answered about the workplace: Should you co-locate and centralize in tech hubs or have a dispersed, remote workforce? Over the years, I’ve seen the answer shift back and forth between the two. There are many advantages to having a team all working together in agile workspaces where space and function drive collaboration. However, in this article, I plan to cover the perks of having a remote workforce, as I believe this type of model can be just as productive and, at times, drive a better product.
One of the biggest advantages of having a remote and dispersed team is diversity. When you limit your talent pool to a single geographic area, you tend to limit the diverse aspects that come with having a team from many parts of the country and world. Having managed large, globally diverse teams, I’ve been able to see firsthand how location can impact perspectives and ideas.
The geographic difference doesn’t even need to be global — it can also be seen in various regions of a country. An individual in New York may see things very differently than an individual living in California. When you mash together the varied innovative ideas that have been brought forth by individuals of different cultures and backgrounds, this tends to lend itself to coming up with great ideas.
In the end, you get a product that encompasses the ideas of many versus the few. Companies spend enormous amounts of money doing research to ensure that products cover the ideas and needs of the masses, but what better way to ensure these ideas are built into a product than to have a diverse team.
Talent Pool Access
Another vital advantage of having a telecommuting workforce is talent pool access. You want the best team possible, but what happens when the best doesn’t live in your city and they do not wish to relocate? Having your talent pool open to areas outside of where your office is geographically located gives you access to people you normally wouldn’t be able to reach.
This becomes particularly important when looking for that technician with the niche skill set that is desperately needed but may not be readily available in your part of the country. I’ve found that when I’m limited to a specific geographic area, I occasionally end up settling for the best of what is available and not the best of what I could get. With a remote setup, you open up the opportunity to find the perfect fit. You can get that special someone you need to help move the needle and get the team and company to the next level of success you are looking to achieve.
The last advantage I’ll talk through is flexibility and coverage. IT isn’t a 9-to-5 job. There are many occasions when technicians are working 24/7 for development, support and to meet release and project schedules. Having a local technician who understands the culture and needs of the region/area and having a person the business is able to contact on their own time is a huge win. It tends to lead to better support practices and a greater ability to meet the needs of the business — both of which tend to helps drive a better overall product.
Let’s also touch on the growth of the millennial workforce. It’s no secret that this generation of workers is choosy and expects flexibility in the workplace. But let’s not forget those from Generation X and the baby boomers. Flexibility plays a big role in trying to achieve a somewhat stable work-life balance. I have found that having employees be able to work from their desired location allows them to be able to fulfill personal duties while also tackling work projects and delivering with success.
Remote Work Done Right
Working remotely has to be set up properly and done well. Ensuring you have the right employees who can thrive in this type of model is only a part of the battle. Here are some other tips and ideas on how to make remote working work to your advantage:
• Culture: Having a culture that values and understands the importance of dispersed teams is important. Ensure the company is supportive of telecommuting team members. Meetings should always include a dial-in and video conference information.
• Good collaboration tools: Tools like Skype, Google Meet, Slack and various other tools that allow you and your remote teams to connect with ease are critical. With the simple click of a button, employees from different parts of the country can use collaboration technology to ensure they are active, engaged participants.
• Good peripherals: Along with the right collaboration software, cameras and headsets that work well are important. Bringing people together requires the parties involved to be able to properly see and hear each other. Having cameras always on is a good way to bring geographically dispersed teams together and make everyone feel engaged.
• Dedicated workspace: Having a place that is dedicated to work is best (but not always necessary). Be sure to have your desired workspace designed for your needs. Nothing can make remote working more difficult than not having the setup you need to get the job done efficiently.
Obviously, choosing whether a company implements and follows a telecommuting/remote model is dependant on how the company feels it can achieve success. However, ensuring you have the right people makes getting to that success a whole lot easier. Establishing a remote workforce will help ensure your team is more diverse, that it’s assembled with the most talented people and that it will add more flexibility.