The Challenge of Remote Working

Feb 2013

Yahoo recently announced that they were stopping their work-from-home arrangements for remote employees; thus requiring these employees to move back to the Yahoo office instead.

I initially saw the announcement and my first reaction to the news was "Ah well, that makes loads of sense.", because we recently made a similar decision at WooThemes.

To backtrack first... Two-thirds of the WooTeam is based remotely. My co-founders & I worked together on WooThemes for 16 months before we met in-person for the first-time. I truly believe that it's been an integral part of WooThemes to trust in people.

The flexibility of remote working is in our DNA. But that doesn't eliminate the challenges of remote working.

The decision we recently made at WooThemes was to revoke Fridays as a work-from-home day for our Cape Town-based staff. We made this decision due to suspected abuse (of the privilege) and because we sensed a lack of productivity on Fridays. On top of this, we had no quantifiable data to suggest otherwise, but had data to at least support our notion somewhat.

We hire team members based on personality, which in turn means it's easier to trust individual team members. No one is perfect though and not everyone is created equally. So managing individuals - especially when working remotely - remains a challenge.

We're not the type of company that imposes a 9-5, 5 days a week routine on our staff either. I do however prefer most of my team to be in the office (and available) for most of the time that I'm at the office, since it makes collaboration easier. Doesn't matter how many digital tools & services you use; it doesn't beat in-person, real-time collaboration.

Subsequently if you gave me the option of having my whole team in one office for most of a working day versus a largely remote team, I'd prefer the former. Management is just easier and it's especially easier to get quantified data on things like individual performance.

We're not gonna change our DNA; WooThemes will always stay true to our remote roots.

And it's blatantly obvious that the likes of 37Signals thinks the same way about remote working.

But there's two sides to the coin and I can fully understand why Yahoo have made the decision they have: it's conservative and safe.

And sometimes that's exactly what a company needs.

You've successfully subscribed to Adii Pienaar
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access to Adii Pienaar
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.