Boundless #12 | The future of work will "default to remote"
"Defaulting to Remote"
I write this sipping on a delicious single-origin coffee looking over the streets in Seoul. As I ponder the human condition, one thing is obvious. It was also obvious as I walked past the Shake Shack at the airport yesterday and found my Airbnb right near the Boston-based Emack and Bolio's ice cream shop (their cookie monster flavor is epic). It is even more obvious as I got hired to do some remote work while on my trip. It was confirmed as I joined a few friends from Couchsurfing and listened to a Filipino friend singing Celine Dion as we rode bikes around Seoul.
The world is flat.
I've always wanted to write a Thomas Friedman-style intro. Mission accomplished.
Friedman wrote that book in 2005 and as I was starting to enter the business world, that book was a way probably more widely read than Malcolm Gladwell's. However, invoking "the world is flat" was a better way to prove you were smart than a true paradigm shift. Outside of technical talent, most people still hired people locally to come into an office 5 days per week. With many companies I talk to - this is still the case. But with the increasing number of solopreneurs and entrepreneurs that are working anywhere and the increasing quality of video conferencing and other technology tools, the future will "default to remote."
I interviewed my friend Damien Peters last week (podcast coming out in a few weeks) who quit his job at facebook to build a media and blogging company, Wealth Noir. Driven in part by the outrageous cost of living in San Francisco, he has decided to move to Spain and build the company remotely.
In the past year of being a freelancer, companies are hiring me to solve problems. They need someone with specific skills and that they trust. Everything else is negotiable. Last week before I flew out to Asia, I met with a company that wanted my support. I said that I can help a few hours per week over the next few weeks, remotely, from Asia. Sure, they said. This same company only lists its full-time roles as based in Boston. There is a disconnect.
Think about the work you do - I am guessing most, if not all of it could be done remotely? So why do you only post job descriptions in your city?
The pushback to this line of thinking is expected:
What about the in-person connection??
That is 100% right. However, how many jobs have you been in where you knew little to nothing about your colleagues? Former CEO Margaret Heffernan recently shared a story of how the culture of her company struggled until she did something that most companies don't do. They got everyone on her team together weekly and asked two questions:
Who are you?
Why are you here?
She said it "stopped people looking at each other in terms of function and started to make people look at each other as human beings."
Simple and powerful.
In building a remote company it forces you to solve for connection and forces leaders to be more thoughtful about creating experiences like Heffernan's that help people bond at a deeper level.
The world may be flat, but the future is remote.
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Tanya Alvarez is the Co-Founder, and CEO of OwnersUP a platform that advances solopreneurs’ business through accountability, goal setting, and community. Over the past fifteen years, Tanya has accumulated marketing experience with international & US companies such as Nike and US Olympics. She started her first company at the age of 25 and grew it to be a profitable company from credit card debt to over $1mm in gross revenue in the first year. Since then, she has founded, bootstrapped, sold, and invested in several companies.