The Future of the Workplace is Remote
Joshua Davidson wrote this article
Back in 2009 when Chop Dawg was founded, working remotely was a new and intriguing concept to me borne mostly out of necessity.
At the time, I was only in high school and still living with my parents, so it just made the most logistical sense.
I mean really, who was going to rent out business space to a sixteen-year old, anyway?
But to me, that was the beauty of working in the internet and tech startup space: having the ability to run a company out of my home in between school and homework.
Fast forward ten years, and the Chop Dawg you know today is very different from the bedroom enterprise I’d originally started at sixteen (for one thing, we started off building websites, not apps). We also have six locations, recently adding Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles to our roster.
We employ over fifty, some of whom travel frequently living a digital nomad lifestyle, with the rest scattered all across the US.
But one thing hasn’t changed, and that’s the fact that we are a remote-first team.
Remote Work is on the Rise
Even on paper, the future of remote work looks good.
A Gallup poll from 2017 found that 37% of American workers have worked virtually. This is a four-fold increase since 1995.
The World Economic Forum even called flexible work, including virtual teams, “one of the biggest drivers of workplace transformation.”
To many of us reading this today, this is no surprise, as for the past ten years, those living a nomadic lifestyle while working remotely has become more commonplace.
It’s somewhat of a digital revolution all to itself, and it’s not limited to just millennials.
It’s a global phenomenon, as worldwide, seventy-nine percent of ‘knowledge workers’ surveyed by PGI said they work from home. This includes individuals ranging in positions as developers, designers, lawyers, analysts, and engineers.
Basically, anyone who ‘thinks’ for a living.
At the same time, in a recent study more than 93% of part-time workers said they would work longer hours if they had flexible work arrangements, and 40% of respondents who aren’t currently working said they would take up full-time work.
That same study discovered implementing flexible work options would impact individuals who are unemployed or unable to work due to physical conditions the most.
If that group were to have the option of remote work, it could result in more than $2 trillion in total economic gains every single year.
The Benefits of Remote Work for Employees and Businesses
There’s a laundry list of reasons why remote, flexible work is beneficial to both businesses and their employees.
But one’s biggest concern might be productivity.
I mean, how are you supposed to ensure your employees are getting anything done?
Most of that comes down to trust, pure and simple.
In my mind, as long as each task within each project happens on time, then my employees are being productive.
That’s where our process comes in. As long as we stick to the process, I am happy and so are our clients.
Productivity as a remote employee simply looks different than say, someone who shows up to a brick and mortar business for a straight eight hours each day.
For them, the expectations start at the door and end when they leave.
At Chop Dawg, we are essentially on the clock 24-7. I know I can always reach one of my employees, day or night, if the situation ever arose.
And that’s an important distinction from a brick and mortar business in most cases. Not only that, but many people say they work more productively when they’re alone. Working remotely means you don’t have to contend with any loud coworkers, water cooler gossip, or department meetings. I would argue our remote team at Chop Dawg is better for it.
There’s also the fact that operating a business remotely significantly decreases your overhead, allowing you to focus instead on growing your company.
And better yet, the ecological impact (or lack thereof). There’s no brick and mortar business creating an additional environmental footprint. Employees who work remotely or from home aren’t forced to commute each day, cutting down on carbon emissions.
Think about it: if more people worked from home, rush hour traffic could become a thing of the past.
And what a beautiful world that would be.
Finally, the flexibility and relaxing work environment leads to better morale and less employee turnover overall. I’ve personally witnessed this with my team.
How We Make Remote Work for Us
In my experience, having flexibility and freedom is key to the creative process.
Having a more structured, formal work environment might be great for productivity, but it can also be stifling.
My designers and developers enjoy the freedom of working from wherever they want. The key here, however, is it’s not necessarily whenever.
We insist on scheduling calls and video conferences with each of our clients every one to two weeks. The designer for each project, and project manager, are all present for these calls to ensure we’re all on the same page.
Besides email, we use Slack for all internal communications — with all the constant alerts I get to my computer throughout the day from messages from various team members, you’d think you were in an arcade. But I am always available to my employees.
Unlike with a traditional 9-5 job where there are set hours, my employees are usually available at a moment’s notice (within reason, of course). Having a remote, flexible position requires a certain level of commitment that doesn’t exist with a traditional setup at a brick-and mortar-business.
At the same time, all of my employees make their own schedules outside of scheduled calls and meetings. The weekly or bi-weekly meetings not only keep our clients in the loop on their app’s project, but also introduces an extra layer of accountability to make sure we are all on track.
While we may handle a lot of client interaction via phone, email and video conferencing, our open door policy when it comes to communication facilitates a close working relationship with each of our clients.
After all, Chop Dawg is a technical partner, not an agency.
While ‘in-person’ is great (and don’t get me wrong; we attend our fair share of in-person meetings in and around Philadelphia, Atlanta, Seattle, Boston and now, Washington, D.C. and LA — we have small clusters of employees in each of those cities by design), the truth is, it’s simply a luxury in this day and age.
With this much technology at our fingertips to organize our workflow and team interactions, and also to stay in touch with clients, we’re not missing anything and neither are our clients..
How to Run Your Business Remotely
My advice to anyone running a remote team is to ensure your team has chemistry.
Even a remote team needs to have good chemistry, or the work you put out will never be exceptional.
It will always be harder to coordinate if there’s no chemistry between your remote teammates.
My team members at Chop Dawg know each other very well, thanks to our visits a couple times a year and our daily interactions with each other, and as I mentioned before, we have several employees who live in the same city to ensure if needed, they can meet up every now and again in person and put their heads together.
The chemistry that we have as a team here at Chop Dawg affects all of our client relationships in a good way. There’s a sense of camaraderie that trickles into each our interactions, and it’s part of how we market our services to potential clients.
We know it’s not easy to work with an outside agency, so Chop Dawg’s goal is to bridge the gap by becoming your technical partner instead. Most of our clients start to feel like we’re part of their team, and that’s how it should be.
I bet within the next ten years, the way we view the traditional workplace will be totally different. More and more roles will transition into part-time or even full-time remote positions.
The question for you as a business owner or employee now is, are you going to be a part of the remote movement?
Since 2009, we have helped create over 300+ web and mobile apps for startups, Fortune 500s, growing businesses, and non-profits from around the globe. Think of us not as your agency, but as your technical partner.
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