Prepare for the Remote Work Tsunami

The digital nomads, who are portraying themselves in the internet these days, are only the spearhead of the movement. Most of them are internet marketers, travel blogger, self-taught digital nomad trainers, WordPress experts or organizers of coworking retreats.

But this is only the beginning, they are only the first row of the protest march. The already raising big mass behind are the silent ones, who do full- or part-time telecommuting or are part of the worldwide freelancing force, which feeds big companies. See details in Diana Mulcahys book ‘The Gig Economy‘.

Why is remote work an incoming tsunami?

Latest since 2011 we all know the characteristics of a tsunami. Small waves out in the ocean are indicating the problem, but you cannot imagine the impact, they will have at the coast. Only next to the coastline, where the water is shallow, the waves will pile up and get their disastrous force.

The remote work movement is in the phase of the small waves out in the sea. The big wave will hit companies and workers in the near future. The obstacle with that is, that humans are not made for fast changes. Mankind is highly adaptable, but only over generations and not in just some years.

What makes it even more complicated, is the raising automation of jobs. What started in the manufacturing industry decades ago, will continue there and will spread farther into assistence, administrative and even academic jobs.

Reasons for the shift to remote work

For companies:

  • get happier employees and increase productivity
  • get higher skilled employees, than the ones living nearby your offices or you can convince to move to your location
  • save money for offices and wages, because your employeers don’t have the expensive metropolitan cost of living

For employees:

  • create a healthy work environment with less stress (at home or on the road)
  • choose your employer worldwide for the best conditions, instead of comparing only the few in reach of your commuting
  • save money while living in a rural area or abroad, compared to an expensive city

See the complete list here: The Ultimate List of Remote Work Pros and Cons

The overall reason for the remote work tsunami is the skill-shortage at the places of the companies and the technical opportunity to work from everywhere.

The reason for the overcrowded cities all over the world is the former necessity to gather people to work together in large buildings. That is obvious for manufacturing processes, where a decreasing number of people work and is not further true for all office jobs.

The result

The economical advantage will be at the companies which adapt to this new work style quickly. The rural areas and small towns will thrive and the big cities will loose residents (although this is still unbelievable with their extraordinary housing prices today). The well educated techworkers from Asia, especially from India, and from Africa can participate quickly from the international business.

Old-style companies (‘what we are doing cannot be done remotely’) and the people who won’t or cannot adapt to the new work style will be on the downside. The last group is paired with the group of people who lost their job to automation and won’t or could not be trained into new professions.

How to prepare?

For companies:

  • implement a remote culture, switch the company language to English
  • send the staff home for some single days
  • adjust rules and agreements
  • send them home more days or 100%
  • employ new fully remote employees from anywhere
  • read: how to shift your company to remote

For employees:

  • check or enhance your technical skills for providing your profession in the remote way
  • arrage a home office
  • participate in remote trails at your company
  • ask your boss for some single days working from home
  • move to a remote position or start your own business (the later was never as easy and cheap as today)

Prepare for the remote work wave and you will not be washed away, but on the winning side of the movement.

If you are employer or employee, facing the above and need some advice, just contact me.

What do you think? Is the shift not as dramatic as I suggest – or even worse? Let us know in the comment section below!

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.

 

What is remote work, a digital nomad or even a remote-first company?

The remote work movement gains more and more momentum. But what is ‘remote work’ really? And what are all the other terms in its context? See the following collection.

Remote Work

It is any kind of collaborating work, where not all participating members are colocated in one building. The definition diverges, some say all workers on one plant are not remote, but others say everyone who sits 30 meters away or on a different floor is remote. That hard definition comes from the fact, that this 30-meter-collegue will lose the connection to the project without proper communication and documentation.

With that definition you will get one point: you are already working remote in some kind. But the common understanding of working remote is to work part- or full-time from your home office or a cafe or coworking space in your home town or anywhere else on our planet.

Completely Remote / 100% remote

If you are talking about a person, it is someone, who works full-time remote (no matter if in the home town or abroad). This is not excluding project meetings at your company and visits of customers and suppliers from time to time.

If you are talking about a company, all their employees are able to work where they want. The company can even have offices, but some never had an office or headquarter anywhere.

Remote-friendly vs. Remote-first Company

All big companies are trying to be remote-friendly these days. They are offering flexible work hours, part- and full-time home offices and sometimes even single enployees, which are completely location independent. These actions are commonly taken on existing onsite staff.

A remote-first company is built around the remote philosophy with all its tools and processes, even if some employees are sitting together in the same office. These companies are hiring worldwide, with no connection to any location. That constellation is still rare, but there is a raising number of i.e. software companies. One of the first of that kind was 37signals, turned now to Basecamp (http://basecamp.com).

Freelancers / Entrepreneurs

There are 3 major working conditions for remote workers: freelancing, self-employment and traditional employment (permanent appointment). These conditions are often mixed, i.e. a freelancer who has its own side projects or an employed person with part-time freelancing. Anyway, the percentage of freelancers and entrepreneurs is very high under remote workers.

Digital Nomads

are generally people, who are working online with the help of laptop and smart phone (formerly known as telecommuting). While the term is correct for people in the home office and abroad, it is normally linked to remote workers, who are moving from location to location around the globe.

Co-working and -living

With the raise of remote work, some digital nomad hubs emerged (i.e. Chiang Mai in Thailand). In those cities the first co-working spaces appeared, commonly open offices with WiFi where you rent your desk per day or even hours. Co-living came up next, the easiest explanation is: a combination of co-working space and hostel. The co-working spaces are already spreading through our home towns, because remote workers, who cannot work at home, are tired from distractions and bad wifi at coffee shops.

Remote Industry

If you combine all that, you see that we have a rising industry branch here. The related businesses includes co-working and -living spaces, hostels, coffee shops, specialized travel agencies, organized digital nomad trips, specialized online education and blogging, software for online collaboration and a lot more (please feel free to put the things I missed in the comments).

Millennials / Generation Y

Everytime you read something about the future of work you will come across the term ‘Millennials’. The millennials (or ‘Generation Y’ if you live in continental europe) are, according to Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millennials): ‘the demographic cohort following Generation X. There are no precise dates for when this cohort starts or ends; demographers and researchers typically use the early 1980s as starting birth years and ending birth years ranging from the mid-1990s to early 2000s’.

Why are they (wait, I should say ‘we’) that important? Because this generation will have the highest percentage of working people soon and because the needs and desires of that generation are totally different to generations before. Security and stability at only one employer was desired over decades, but the millennials are looking for freedom, opportunities and self-fulfillment. And because that is combined with and enabled by the digitalization, it is the biggest challenge for all industries.

That explanation was helpful? Or do I missed an important point? Please let us all know in the comment section. Thanks for sharing!