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The Remote Worker Craze Isn’t Best For Every Business. Here’s Why

Heidi Zak

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Skype calls, coworking spaces, Slack, and continent-hopping employees are becoming more and more popular as technology allows us to communicate instantly across the world.

So it’s natural to ask, why does everyone need to be in the same building?

It’s tempting to get caught up in the siren song of the remote worker craze.

But it’s also important to understand why working remotely may not be right for your company.

I believe when people are present, they are more effective and efficient. Take a startup, for example. These are small companies that move fast. The office is busy, sure, but that’s why you want everyone there.

It’s infinitely easier to walk up to someone’s desk and ask them a couple of questions than it is to spend 15 minutes drafting an email or waiting 10 minutes for a response to a chat message that is experiencing technical difficulties.

While every company has different needs, here’s why I thought twice before letting everyone work from their living rooms.

Being in the office is energizing and makes people more effective.

There’s something to be said for being present in a room, speaking with people face-to-face and understanding who they really are.

The office isn’t just a place for people to work. Teams also build friendships and solve problems together.

Honestly, you can learn a lot by having a conversation in the kitchen during lunch.

The office also gives people a certain energy level that’s hard for isolated individuals to create. Being in the mix, chatting with colleagues, and bonding socially just keeps energy levels higher.

I’ve always found people are less efficient collaborating when they’re not in the office. Whether they’re working from home or traveling, it’s always harder to connect with them. That’s not necessarily their fault, but it can be a disruptive force when it comes to your company’s ability to get things done and keep moving forward quickly.

It’s easier to collaborate and do cross-functional work.

The choice to allow people to work remotely also depends on how collaborative your environment is and how often people work across teams.

For example, at ThirdLove our marketing, design, planning, and data teams work together every day. They aren’t siloed in their own little groups. Rather they, collaborate, share feedback, and make decisions based on input from each other.

It’s much harder to work that way and move quickly when people have to set up times just to speak to one another.

Emails, messages, phone calls, and other impersonal methods can muddle communication. Take video calls, for instance. Every video call involves people speaking over each other, saying “No, go ahead,” and repeating sentences that were lost when the connection dropped for a few seconds.

You might think those issues are small, but inefficiencies can pile up quickly. Nothing beats tapping someone on the shoulder to ask a question and getting an immediate answer.

Culture is an important part of your growth.

Every strong company has to align its strategy with its culture. And honestly, it’s much more difficult to do that when people are constantly traveling or working from home.

It’s tough to build a culture that really represents your brand when people call in for an hour every few days and spend the rest of the week isolated from the team.

  • How do you make sure they have a strong sense of the product, the customer, the brand, the service?
  • How do you make sure the culture is really ingrained in your remote workers?

At ThirdLove, we aim to create an office environment people want to be a part of. We want our team to enjoy coming to work every day and seeing friends. We want them to feel excited and inspired by the presence of their colleagues and the energy of the office.

I’m not sure that would be the case if we allowed people to work from home all the time.

It’s not about trust.

If you don’t trust your team to get their work done, then you’ve got bigger problems.

Making people come to the office to work isn’t about trust. It’s about collaboration, efficiency, and inspiration. It’s about creating an environment that really embodies your business.

I understand some companies may be able to work remotely. But for us, it just wouldn’t be right.

You have to be really thoughtful about your business needs and what you want to your company culture to look like.

Once you know what you want, then decide if remote workers will contribute to that or take away from it. I’m sure working from home is great for some companies.

But you should only take that step if it’s going to help your company grow and thrive — not because everyone else is doing it.

This article originally appeared on Inc.

Heidi Zak is the co-founder and co-CEO of ThirdLove. Prior to ThirdLove, Zak cut her teeth in retail at Aeropostale where she quickly rose to Director of the retail giant, launching and running the International Division, before becoming a marketing executive at Google. Zak holds an undergraduate degree in Economics from Duke University and an MBA from MIT Sloan. In her free time she loves spending time with her two kids. Heidi has been named one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People, Goldman Sachs 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs, Business Insider's 30 Female-Founded Startups to Watch, and SF Business Times 40 Under 40. Follow her on Instagram: @Heidi.

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