However, just because other Silicon Valley companies have implemented remote work arrangements, that doesn’t mean every company allowing working from home takes a completely hands-free approach to the act, simply installing an IP telephony system and telling their employees to do their work whenever they want, wherever they want, as long as they get it done. In fact, the most successful companies with the most successful remote work arrangements tend to build their workforce from the ground up with remote-oriented employees, or they place firm boundaries on their remote working policies, or they give their employees all the freedom they could ever want while simultaneously incentivizing them to spend every waking hour at the offices.
Essentially, the most successful forward-thinking companies use work arrangements as an addition to traditional work structures instead of as a substitution. Not only that, these companies think through and organize their remote work structures with a lot of care, a lot of thought, and a lot of oversight, something to keep in mind when implementing your own remote work policies.
Virtual From the Ground Up
Take the way Matt Mullenweg, the founder of WordPress, reacted to news of Yahoo!’s ban on remote work arrangements. Mullenweg stated:
“For anyone who enjoys working from wherever they like in the world, and is interested in WordPress, Automattic is 100% committed to being distributed. 130 of our 150 people are outside San Francisco.”
Was Mullenweg simply trying to poach top freedom-minded employees from Yahoo!, or was he hinting at something even deeper? Probably a little of both. I’m sure Mullenweg and his peers will pick up some great employees from Yahoo!’s decision, but the fact 130 out of his 150 employees aren’t just working out of the office but are actually working and located outside of his office’s city, Mullenweg makes it clear he created a business from the ground up with remote work as a cornerstone of its corporate structure.
Not only does Mullenweg demonstrate one way an organization can structure itself in order to take advantage of modern remote work arrangements, his example also helps to showcase something so problematic about Yahoo!’s decision- the fact the company originally offered the benefit then took it away, which is much worse than never offering remote working arrangements in the first place.
Google’s Open Doors and Welcoming Home
The 800-pound gorilla of Silicon Valley, Google, has no formal policy surrounding remote working and instead leaves it up to its employee’s judgment, yet the company still prefers to keep employees on-site and incentivizes them to do so by offering free food day and night in addition to plenty of other cushy office-bound perks that result in many employees showing up every day, and many employees staying well past the normal 9-5 hours, even though they don’t have to.
Google’s CEO cites the company’s attempts to make its workplace appealing to employees as a key reason why the company is so successful, citing the “magic” that occurs when people work together in the same proximity, when people share meals, and when people generally spend their lives together working towards a shared (corporate) cause.
By making the office somewhere people want to be, combined with a little oversight, Google is able to allow a hands-free, low-management remote work agreement with employees without worrying people won’t show up or won’t do their jobs. Yahoo!’s CEO attempted a similar feat, providing food and smartphones for her employees, but it appeared the company was too far gone down a negative path for these incentives to produce much of an effect, further demonstrating the absolute importance of setting down the right remote work policies, including systems of management and oversight, before things go beyond repair and drastic measures become the only course of action you can take to reset your company’s trajectory.