Let’s clear two things up before we kick off this controversial topic, in conversation with Tom Hillman, Head of Performance Marketing at Qatalog, and Arran Rice, Founder of Simple Flying.
One, there’s a big difference between being a remote-first business, and one that says: ‘you can work from home’.
Two, being a remote-first business doesn’t mean we can’t or don’t have face-to-face meetings, or that we don’t place value on in-person interactions.
Remote-first working is better than flexible working
- It removes the bias to the loud people in meetings
Compared to traditional meetings or ‘brainstorming’ sessions, using tools, like Miro and Slack, to generate and work through ideas levels the playing field and provides a platform for more people to contribute, challenge and feed back. “It’s easier for everyone to contribute ideas. When you’re writing feedback, rather than giving it in a meeting, you’re not up against other people, or the time constraints of the meeting.” – Tom Hillman, Qatalog
- Rapid idea development means teams fail fast
People will argue that remote-first working means missing out on those spontaneous moments of inspiration that come from a chat in the office or an overheard conversation.
But those moments can still happen, in cafes, co-working spaces, telephone conversations, and perhaps most significantly, because you have to work through ideas more thoroughly when you’re documenting them, rather than just sharing them verbally. By doing this, your initial idea will spark other ideas as you research and develop it.
- Individuals and teams are forced to produce accessible company resources
Being remote-first means it’s critical to get into the habit of thoroughly documenting processes, status, and actions. This means that information is stored and accessible centrally, not just in people’s heads. This is great for everyone and reduces risk for businesses.
There are two main benefits: 1. Anyone can see why and how things are happening; they don’t need to chase. This is also great for new joiners. 2. Projects and accompanying resources are all in one place; easy to follow and refer to.
- It encourages us to use the powerful tools that help build context among otherwise disparate teams
In large organisations, trying to get context is incredibly difficult, especially across time zones and when some are working in the office, and some aren’t. Corporate businesses are notoriously siloed, particularly between functions like marketing, sales and product development, all of which need to be joined up. Tools like Qatalog help to change all that.
“In true remote-first businesses, meetings are secondary, and you remove the need for meetings by having an asynchronous thread, affording everyone context on every project and business decision, regardless of role, involvement, or time zone” – Tom Hillman, Qatalog
- Remote-first businesses rely on fewer variables to be efficient, operationally
Remote-first businesses rely on excellent communication and tools, instead of those things plus the much-less controllable elements, like: decent train networks, good parking availability, desk space, and meeting rooms.
- Done right, you’ll have fewer meetings about meetings
Using central tools means everyone has context at their fingertips, which means people can clear their diaries of meetings about meetings.
“Starting a new project, I sit, and I write out that plan and that helps me frame what I’m doing. This is great for developing written content skills, it helps you to work through things in a much more thorough way, and ultimately it saves a lot of time on meetings.” – Tom Hillman, Qatalog
- It fosters focus on getting stuff done
Working remotely, and knowing that’s the majority of your working time, means people are a lot more focused on getting stuff done, with fewer distractions. “It’s worth the trade off with those quick chats in the office, because when you do come together face-to-face, you make it count” – Arran Rice, Simple Flying
“By encouraging people to think, write, and work through their ideas using centralising tools will give you more valuable, well-constructed ideas than those water cooler moments. You’re forced to think through your ideas more.” – Tom Hillman, Qatalog
- No permanent office space = lower costs
And that’s not only good for business, but it also means the pot is bigger for making those face-to-face interactions meaningful and productive. “Our cost-base is lower, this has allowed us to scale. We’re more efficient and leaner as a result” – Arran Rice, Simple Flying
- Opportunities can come from anywhere, any time
You can’t rely on organisations having the best ideas in one meeting, with an isolated group. “How many opportunities have been lost because the person who had or would’ve had them isn’t in the room?” Tom Hillman, Qatalog
Some of the best ideas come when people have time off in the day and their mindset changes briefly. This can’t happen when you’re in the office; when you’re still in the “work” context, so remote-first working can be great for idea generation.
- The talent pool is global, and your business can be 24 hours
“With news happening 24 hours a day across the world, if we were just UK-based, we’d either have a 12-hour gap in that news, or we’d have people working overnight, which I wouldn’t want to do” – Arran Rice, Simple Flying.
Remote-first working is not better than flexible working
- It’s difficult to read people’s emotions virtually
“You can understand people’s emotions face to face – it can be hard to decipher that remotely. It’s possible, it’s just a lot harder. Me having to pick up the phone and ask probing questions is a real challenge. On the plus side, it’s nice to see the comeback of the impromptu phone call – it’s nice to call and ask a quick question.” – Arran Rice, Simple Flying
- Potential team disparity if people don’t know when their colleagues are ‘on’ and ‘off’
“I suck working between 1 & 3pm – I can’t think or focus as well, so I’ll take that time to do something else, like a long bike ride. It means I work at different times, times when my input and output is better. It’s about self-restraint, no change of environment can help that.” – Tom Hillman, Qatalog
- Some will struggle to take responsibility for their work life balance
And this means they’ll need tailored support from their employer to keep the lines sharp between work and time off, and which they might not get, or they might not respond to.
- You miss out on office banter
In an office, things happen that break up the working day, or diffuse a bad day, something funny might happen, someone might say something funny. With remote-first working, you’ll rely on this happening on a call or in a café.
For us, the benefits of being a remote-first business outweigh the drawbacks. Fishing from a global talent pool, and playing a part in unlocking the hidden workforce, outweigh the benefits of commuting to an office regularly for meetings, lunches, and banter.
Qatalog is a work hub; a set of tools to coordinate across teams and get context, particularly in large organisations where there is so much noise, chaos, and information, making it very hard for people to get context on how decisions had been made.
Simple Flying is a one-stop, digital-first, independent content hub for all key, global aviation news.