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The rise of the remote workforce

Faith Benson

Oct 5, 2018 9:00:00 AM

This is Chapter One of the five-part series:
"Ultimate Guide for Building & Managing Remote Technical Teams."


You’ve likely been trapped under the water cooler for the last decade if the idea of the remote economy is new to you. But you haven't, and you're aware that entire companies are operated out of kitchens, coffee shops, and hammocks in Bali these days, and it’s not just millennials taking advantage of this new wave of location flexibility - an entire remote workforce has emerged. But what’s the incentive for companies to forgo a traditional office culture for the Great Unknown of remote work?

Some statistics on the remote economy:

There is a literal mountain of stats around this subject that can be unearthed with nothing more complicated than a rudimentary Google search. We won't belabor the full-breadth of them here. What we do want to emphasize are two realities that you must acknowledge if you lead a remote engineering team, are looking into building a remote team, or are thinking of giving your current team the option to work from home from time-to-time, or full-time:

  • More developers entering the workforce actually desire—and most even expect—the option to work remote.

  • A fully-functional remote engineering workforce will save you a boatload of cash in overhead, lost-productivity and other human capital costs.

  • A Gallup report published in 2017 reported that 43% of 15,000 survey respondents said they spent at least some of the previous year working from home—a four percent increase from a similar study taken in 2012.

  • in 2007, the number of people reporting that they were working from home was only 9%.

  • In just ten years, the percentage of people saying they work away from the office at least some—or all—of the time increased by 34%.

Incidentally, that 43% data point from that 2017 Gallup poll represents a workforce of around 4 million people.

Why such growth? The answer is not supernatural—commuting to work sucks.

pexels-photo-1445653Having to move to a new town, state or country just to take a job is a massive pain in the ass. A person can actually save money when they work remotely, and (for the environmentally conscientious) driving less is good for the planet.

Some stats say a person can save anywhere from $2,000 to $7,000 annually by working remotely. Our opinion? There are WAY too many variables to try to pin a number on that benefit. Suffice it to say, if a talented developer living in Portland can score a level 2 engineer's salary and not have to pay Silicon Valley level housing costs, then that's a no-brainer for them—they’re going to opt for the remote option.

The office environment of the 9 to 5 is going the way of the dinosaur—and the people of the remote workforce are the ones driving the extinction. And you know what, this is a GREAT THING if you're a business owner willing to evolve with the times. Or, you can resist this trend and sink into a tarpit of talent-debt like a blind Tyrannosaur. Up to you.

Benefits of having a (good) remote team

Disclaimer:'s position on remote workers and teams is that it's a very good idea, if done correctly. That's why we do what we do.

We have to tread very lightly here. There are lots of benefits of a good remote team: from the economics, to the potential increase in productivity, to access to talent and cost savings on certain human capital factors that go into running an office—the list goes on and on and on.

However, we have to be absolutely clear: these benefits only outweigh the risks if you hire correctly and put together a "good" remote team. For examples of teams doing it well, check out Chapter Four in this series "How Three Companies Are Crushing It Using Remote Teams."

If you have a "bad" remote product team (or even just a couple of bad developers who backfill crucial roles) you will be in for a headache—if not an entire world of pain that consumes your life and all your free-time until you end up like Richard Hendricks from the TV show ‘Silicon Valley’ constantly vacillating between panic, depression and blind rage wondering how the hell you got yourself into this mess, and how you're going to get out of it. But, we're not there yet, and (hopefully) neither are you.

Here's some good news:

highfiveThe average cost savings a business can enjoy by allowing employees to go remote is $11,000 per employee, per year. This statistic comes from somewhere within the dregs of Global Workplace Analytics white paper repository. It's probably true.

But, honestly, when you think of just the basic things you can cut from your overhead by going fully remote—snacks, coffee machines, parking, a lease on office space (that’s a BIG one), furniture & decorations, a systems team, computers & desks for everyone! That $11,000 ballpark figure may even be a bit on the lowball side—depending on the size, location and complexity of your company.

However, think about what could be done with that extra capital if you have the right remote engineering team in place? $11k a year is a pretty decent Facebook re-marketing budget for a new product line. At the very least it’s more than enough to do a decent smoke test on whether or not you’ve got product-market fit through a channel like Adwords. Or, that cash could buy you extra server time, a more robust subscription-based CRM, more runway to get your product off the ground without having to claw for funding. And that’s just an average saving, on one employee, from a single survey. If you’re very smart about it, you’ll probably be able to save even more.

However, once again, we must stress that these efficiency gains and business benefits of running a remote operation go right out the window if you hire the wrong people for crucial roles, your team is inefficient, or both—and the latter frequently follows the former. Choose wisely - or allow us to help you meet the right folks

Check out the other chapters of our Ultimate Guide To Remote Work 
for tips and suggestions on how to build and lead a productive remote engineering team. 



Written By:

Faith Benson

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