When Scrapinghub came into the world in 2010, one thing we wanted was for it to be a company which could be powered by a global workforce, each individual working remotely from anywhere in the world.
Reduced commuting time and as a consequence increased family time were the primary reasons for this. In Uruguay, Pablo was commuting long distances to do work which realistically could have be done just as easily from home, and Shane wanted to divide his time between Ireland, London and Japan. Having a regular office space was never going to work out for these guys.
Where we are based!
The Pitfalls of Open Plan
From the employee’s point of view, as well as eliminating the daily commute and wiping out the associated costs - fuel, parking, tax and insurance if you own a car, or bus/train fares if relying on public transport - remote working allows you to work in an office space of your choosing. You decorate and fit out your own space to your own tastes. No more putting up with the pitfalls of open plan, with distractions and interruptions possible every minute of the day. No more complaining about air con or lack thereof. How often have you picked up a cold or flu from a sick co-worker? The spread of colds and other illnesses is a huge disadvantage to a shared working space.
Yes an open plan environment is good for collaboration but with the likes of Skype and Google Hangouts, we get all the benefits of face-to-face communication in an instant. All you need is a webcam, mic and a Google+ or Skype account. Simple! We can hold meetings, conduct interviews, brainstorm and share presentations.
For real time messaging, HipChat and Slack are the primary team communication tools used by remote companies. In Scrapinghub, we use Slack as a platform to bring all of our communication together in one place. It’s great for real-time messaging, as well as sharing and archiving documents. It encourages daily intercommunication and significantly reduces the amount of emails sent.
From an employer’s point of view, a major benefit of a fully remote company is huge cost savings on office rent. This in particular is important for small start-ups who might be tight on initial cashflow. Other benefits include having wider access to talent and the fact that remote working is a huge selling point to potential hires.
The big downside of remote working from an employers’ perspective is obviously productivity or a worry of reduced productivity if an employee works unsupervised from home. Research by Harvard Business Review shows that productivity will actually increase when people are trusted by their company to work remotely. This is mainly due to a quieter environment. Some employers are very slow to change from a traditional workplace to remote working because of productivity worries.
Whether productivity increases or decreases completely depends on the inner workings of the individual business, and if a culture of creativity, trust and motivation exists, then it’s the perfect working model.
Scrapinghub regularly holds a virtual office tour day. So often we have meetings via Hangouts and we get little glimpses into our colleagues' offices often on the other side of the world. A poster or book spine might catch the eye, and these virtual office tour days are a way of learning more about each other, stepping into our colleague's space for just a minute and seeing what it's like on their end.
Social interaction is also encouraged through the use of an off topic channel on Slack and different communities on Google+ such as Scholars, Book Club and Technology. Scrapinghubbers can discuss non-work related issues this way and many team members meet up with their colleagues from around the world when they are travelling.
Top Tips for Remote Working
- Routine: If your working hours are self-monitored, try to work the same hours every day. Set your alarm clock and get up at the same time each morning. Create a work schedule and set yourself a tea break and lunch break to give your day structure.
- Work space: Ensure you have a defined work space in your home, preferably with a door so you can close it if there are children, guests or pets that may distract you.
- Health: Sitting at a computer for hours on end isn’t healthy for the body. Try to get up from your computer every 30 minutes or so and walk around. Stretch your arms above your head and take some deep breaths. This short time will also give your eyes a break from the screen.
- Social: If you find working from home lonely, then why not look into co-working? This involves people from different organisations using a shared work environment.
- Focus: It’s very tempting to check your personal email and social media when working from home. This is hugely distracting so use an app like Self Control to block distracting sites for a set period of time.