Status of the Remote Industry

The remote industry is thriving. That is a fact. But what is rising more? Supply or demand? Remote jobs or remote workers? Are there platforms? What is the most important new job? This post will answer that.

Actual Status

If you are curios what the remote industry is, have a look at my blog post ‘What is remote work, a digital nomad or even a remote-first company?‘. If you are still wondering why so many people are talking about remote work, just read this: ‘The Ultimate List of Remote Work Pros and Cons‘.

I would summarize the status of the remote industry as follows:

  • there are lots of willing workers (this is also shown by many surveys, i.e. ‘State of the American Workplace Report 2017‘ by Gallup)
  • we have now all technological possibilities for collaboration (and the future will bring cheaper virtual reality devices on top)
  • there are best practices and knowledge bases
  • we have not enough job offers and career opportunities / too less long-time engagements,  mostly gigs (the quality and diversity of jobs should be the same as with on-site jobs)
Knowledge Bases

Lets have a closer look at the knowledge bases associated with remote work. They are a little scattered over the following fields with often overlapping topics:

 

Remote Work Consultants

What is this new job about? These consultants are advising people who want to work remotely, what kind of skills they need, which hard- and software they will need and how to find a job. But, they are also advising managers to enhance their traditional companies with remote work. That goes from letting people work from home some days, over changing companies culture, processes and tool all over to creating new teams or divisions which are completely remote.

Conclusion

Exactly with that, the remote work consultants are able to increase the number of remote positions, are spreading the word of remote work to more industries and are lobbying for remote work in our complete society including local and global politics. So that is the most important new job about remote work.

And because these consultants are gathering all the knowledge over remote work, they can establish the missing overall platforms for remote work, which will combine the important topics from the long list above.

The listed examples can never be complete. Did I miss an important service? Or am I wrong with my argumentation? Please let us know in the comments section.

Remote Work Will Save Small Towns

The struggling small towns, which lost so many people, first and foremost the young talented ones, to the big cities, will be thriving again with the already started wave of remote work.

Status quo

The entire world is in a long phase of urbanization (see also these UN report: 2014 Revision of World Urbanization Prospects from my post How remote work supports the health of our planet). But it is not only the movement from rural landscapes to cities – it is especially the skilled people, who have to move from small towns to the big cities to get proper jobs. That is the same in the US, North and Latin America, Europe, Asia, Australia and even Africa. And there are also some decreasing metropolitan areas; to name only two examples: the Rust Belt in the US and the Ruhr area in Germany, which were strong in coal mining and steel industry.

You can see the same pattern everywhere: Young people move away from home after finishing high school or studying to find higher education and work in big cities. And everywhere you see the big travel movement for christmas, chinese new year or the other big holiday breaks, when singles, couples and young families are travelling to their families to be together for a few days.

Future

But why will that change? Because of the advent of remote work. I am explaining the rise of remote work in all my other posts, but take this as summary: The Ultimate List of Remote Work Pros and Cons. Because it effects so many parts of our lifes, we should name it a new industry. With so many known advantages, it is clear that the remote industry will introduce itself even faster than the digital revolution.

Everyone with a location independed job can choose a place to live and work. There will be people, who want to live at their home town, at the place where relatives live (if it is not the same) or they will choose a ‘nice’ spot. Some will stay in big cities, because of amenities like good travel connections or cultural offerings. But the big movement will go from overcrowded cities where housing is expensive, the air is polluted and traffic is a nightmare to small towns, while some of them are already looking like ghost towns.

Home towns

We all need communities, and nearly all of us love the community of family, friends and neighbours where we grew up. So it is easy to guess, that a lot of people will move back to their home towns. And the returning inhabitants bring demand for services and spending capacity which will not only keep some dying small community alive, these towns will be literally reinvigorated.

Imagine the young high potential graduate who can still take care of an elderly family member and start a significant job from home. Or imagine a young family with remote working mom and dad, who are enabled to live in their small home town, neighbouring parents and other relatives to give their children the same feeling of ‘home’ like they experienced years before.

Vacation spots

All the others, who are not tied or not tied yet will choose a nice spot, which is affordable, has good weather and other amenities like security. In general that will be the holiday regions. There will also be much movement between these areas, because the migration will start again when the locations get crowded, which ends the quite and also rises living costs and traffic.

The vacation spots will get nomads, who are passing by on the one hand and new residents, who are settling down, on the other hand. It is important to grow the infrastructure to handle them in a balance with minimal destruction of the nature to keep the place attractive.

Responsibility of towns

The towns have to stop trying to attract big companies or manufactoring jobs. That will be a waste of time and money. Fred Perrotta explains it well with an US example here: No Jobs are Coming: How Remote Work Can Save Small Towns. Also the comments by Kristi E. DePaul, Michael DeHart and Deb Dutton are very well said.

The better way is attracting remote workers to move (back) to the town and reorganizing the infrastructure for the new situation. There will be an increase in service jobs if the population is growing again. But the actual residents should not rely on only that. They should be trained in the use of remote work tools and how to get a digital job with their capabilities.

Responsibility of big cities

First of all, the cities have to take it seriously. Lots of them are highly dependent on a few big companies (be it blue or white collar jobs), which is very dangerous. Germany has a number of cities which are highly dependent on big car manufacturers. Take Wolfsburg with Volkswagen for example. The treasurer of Wolfsburg declared a spending freeze at the day ‘Dieselgate’ went public, because they knew that VW whould not pay extensive taxes anymore.  They will have to deal with unemployment soon, because of the radical shift to electric cars, where Volkswagen will loose market share and lots of employees.

It is way better for cities to have a huge bulk of remote employees which work for many companies in different industries and even different countries. That is the best insurance against economic risk. Cities are still attracting big companies to get new jobs, but soon they will try to attract remote workers.

Big cities have to reinvent themself to keep a meaning. They have to take care of air pollution, traffic, security and they have to spend a lot for green infrastructure, parks and entertainment to be attractive in a very new competition.

If you are able to choose: Do you want to live in a big city or in a town? Let us know in the comments section!

The Ultimate List of Remote Work Pros and Cons

No matter who you want to convince, your boss, your employees, your partner or just yourself, here are the ultimate arguments for remote work.

For Employees

pros

  • no time for commuting
  • no money for commuting (fuel, car, insurance, parking, train tickets)
  • lower stress and reduced possibity of accidents while commuting
  • improved health due to lower stress through commuting and busy city centers
  • more productive work in less time
  • no distractions by collegues and loudly cubical farms
  • no long water cooler talks
  • no useless face-to-face meetings
  • work where and when you are most productive
  • you are managing your schedule, that is not done by your manager
  • you are measured by accomplished work and not hours spend at the office
  • you can’t be micro-managed by your manager
  • more time for family and hobbies
  • time and flexibility to take care for family members (the young, old or disabled)

cons

  • risk of loneliness and isolation
  • the need for self-motivation (which is easier if your job fits to you and hard if not)
  • sometimes lack of good communication tools
  • no short water cooler talks
For Employers

pros

  • infinite talent pool / higher qualified employees and saved time while hiring
  • the skill shortage in your region will not slow your business down
  • you will get self-motivated people instead of bored 9-to-5-staff
  • good employees will most likely not relocate if you are a startup or a small company
  • you are getting work done by the employees and not hours spend at your office
  • your employees are spread over lots of different markets – so you get a lot of market information and trail opportunities for your products
  • relaxed employees, because they have no commuting or office stress and better work flexibility (for collecting kids, doctors appointments, dog walks, etc.)
  • more productive work in less time
  • possibility of an easy around the clock customer service
  • save cost on office space, furniture, energy, cleaning service, janitor
  • availability of divers cultures which can be respected at creating products
  • availability of native speakers of different languages while finding a name for your product or creating user documents
  • products are better specified and documented, because the remote work requires it
  • you are disaster ready: you are still online, if there is an internet or power blackout, flooding, snow storm or flu season at one location

cons

  • work in different time zones need to be managed
  • misunderstandings because of too less or bad communication
  • you need good remote project managers to create a successful product or service
For the Environment

pros

  • no pollution through commuting
  • less demand for new freeways and railroads

cons

  • pollution from travelling of digital nomads

So it is no surprise that the remote movement is unstoppable. My personal opinion is, that it will even accelerate and that we will find empty office towers in big cities and flourishing small towns and co-working hubs spreaded all over the counties. That will increase companies efficiency and our all quality of life.

Please let me know what pro or con I have missed in the comment section. Thanks!

Is remote work just possible for software and marketing companies?

Let’s resume at first the difference between partly and fully remote companies (read also that blog post: What is remote work, a digital nomad or even a remote-first company?). The partly remote company has offices with co-located workers on one hand and remote workers on the other hand. The fully remote company consists only of remote workers, also if some are co-working. The term ‘remote worker’ includes permanent employees, freelancers or contractors and is independent of their location (remote office, home, co-working or travelling).

Partly remote company

You can imagine every traditional company here, because a lot of them are enabling their workers to work from home partially. Needless to say, that this is not possible for people who are using tools or other equipment which is located at the companies property. So remote work is possible for everyone who needs only internet, laptop and phone for work. There are also positions where you need equipment only at some days. Imagine a tester, who is setting up a test jig at some days and programming test sequences and running tests with online access to its already functioning test rack on other days.

The companies are sending all their workers home these days, may it be engineers, accountants, lawyers, purchasers, managers, marketers and authors for sure. But is it even possible to have a fully remote company beyond software, marketing and journalism? My optinion is clearly yes!

Fully remote company

We said before, that everyone who just needs internet, laptop and phone can work remotely. So every company which employs more than 80% of those workers can go fully remote. Why are still so many people co-located at offices? The biggest point is, that the manager (middle and top management) are not used to it and are afraid of losing power over their staff.

But it is possible nowadays – the famous examples are showing it: Basecamp, 99 designs, Buffer, Trello and others. That are all software companies? Is the headline right in the end? No! My theory goes like this: it is much easier to build a fully remote company from scratch than transform an existing one. And with that knowledge ask yourself, which industry is fast growing and creates lots of new firms?

Thought Experiment

We will soon see fully remote companies in every industry. Lets make a thought experiment with a company which develops and produces components for construction machines.

A sales person will maintain contacts to customers remotely and personally like in the past. He or she will make an offer after consulting engineering and production people. After getting the order, a remote project manager will clarify all the open points with engineering, production and the customer and will start the developing. Mechanical engineers have a 3D-printer for fast samples or will get printed parts overnight.

Electronical engineers are soldering easy parts by their own or get SMT assembled modules in a few days (to wherever they work). Software engineers are developing inside simulations and can get hardware in a few days, as well. The industrial engineer, who manages sourcing, the kinds of manufacturing steps and the grade of automation can also work remotely. The only one who is linked to a location is the assembly guy. He is the one who manages prototype assembly and organizes everything for series assembly, may it be manually or partly or fully automated.

If you make something completely new, it will help if you arrange face-to-face integration weeks, where mechanical parts, electronical modules and software will be integrated by the developers. It also helps to work closely with the test laboratory which conducts mechanical and electrical environmental tests to avoid extra loops.

And of course it is great to meet the customer with the key people of the team. All the rest of the work – and I am pretty sure here – is possible remotely.

Please question yourself: how many of your tasks can you do from home?

For sure everything I write needs proper remote project management and very good collaboration and has trade-offs on top – but the benefits are clear (Why your company has to go remote). You have simply not the best talents for your jobs next to your office. If you are an employer, deal with that and start the transition of your company (How to start the transition to a remote company) or start your own fully remote company now. If you like to be employed, look around for remote work opportunities.

Please use the comment section for any suggestions or objections. And if you need a remote project manager for the scenario above, please let me know.

 

The benefits of remote working for startups and small companies

There are so many general benefits of remote work, that it is hard to address them all. You can also have a look at this post: ‘Why your company has to go remote‘. This post here is about the special situation at a startup or a small company.

What characterices startups and small companies? You have a small number of permanent employees, you will have limited financial resources and a very dynamic environment relating to the market and the potentially growth of the company.

Employees

It is clear, that the best talent is spread over the entire planet. If you try to attract them as onsite employees to your small company you will fail, because they simply will not move into insecurity. That is the reason, why potential founders moved to Silicon Valley or other startup hubs before. With letting your staff work remotely, only your work and your team counts while hiring and not the location!

If you have spread your employees over different markets, you have the valuable possibility to get important information for your product management, i.e. if your product is likely to work in that market or not.

Budget

We said before, that small companies and startups have tiny budgets. How to save that liquidity – which is essential for your small company – with remote work:

We all know that the worldwide average salaries for your employees are not as high as in the few big startup hubs around the globe. Sound like ‘wage dumping’, but that is not a must. You can pay your employees according to their work and enable them a high living standard wherever they are located and be under the San Francisco wage anyway.

The other cost impact is the saving of offices, furniture, IT infrastructure, energy, janitor service and cleaning personnel. To rent conference rooms for your bi-annual project meetings is definetly the cheaper alternative. It comes with the great idea to change location with every meeting to ‘visit’ your employees at their locations with the entire team.

Efficiency

With a small number of people, you will experience that their level of efficiency will be directly visible at the companies results. You will boost the efficiency by letting your employees work remote, because ‘work doesn’t happen at work’ like lots of authors are explaining (i.e. Remote by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson). The key points are less useless meetings, less distraction of crowded offices and collegues who work like ‘ask a collegue is better than think for myself’. Probably you know what I am talking of.

You should let your workforce not only work where they want, but also when they want, because only they know where and when they are most productive. For sure there is some overlap time needed for video calls, but the rest of the time should remain flexible.

Time Zones

Having workers in different time zones is first of all an obstacle. But imagine around the clock coding-testing-coding or overnight bug fixing for happy clients or even a 24/7 help desk with just a handful employees. That is a really big boost for the customer service.

If you work remotely just from the beginning, you are avoiding problems with turning your existing company to a remote one. That includes normally discussions about processes, tools, collaboration with and behaviour of single remote workers. See more in the post ‘How to start the transition to a remote company’.

Remote work has lots of advantages, especially for startups and small companies. What are your experiences? Let us know in the comment section.