Walk into any office building these days and you will see a similar scene — an open plan office. The layout is known as cubicle hell to those who toil there. The idea for this office was conceived in the 1950s as a way to improve communication and promote teamwork.
It seems to have worked — the design is a standard feature in 70% of offices today. But those who work in them know the truth — the office is no guarantee of productivity. On any given day, employees have to fight through long commutes, noise, a lack of privacy, and constant interruptions. It is amazing that anyone gets anything done.
But thanks to technology, work does not have to be that way anymore. We now have the ability to work from anywhere and be happy.
There is no shortage of folks writing about remote work today — but I have lived it for the last five years. The first three were my last company was acquired by Citrix. And now, as the CEO of Aha! I lead a team that works remotely from all over the U.S.
Our colleagues live in California, Utah, Texas, Ohio, Florida, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C. The geography simply does not matter. The talent does — and remote work enables us to hire the best no matter where they live.
It has been a game changer for our team. We have been fortunate to be able to tap into the largest pool of talent possible across the entire country.
I believe deeply that this is the future of work — and it has even more benefits than might meet the eye. I have read several articles lately about the benefits of a more productive remote team. Productivity is just the beginning of what we have experienced over the last few years.
It has been humbling to watch as our remote team has scaled to now supporting 20,000 users around the world. We find that remote work offers:
I am an entrepreneur who has founded and sold two software startups to public companies. I am also a married father of three boys. This responsibility has taught me that remote work empowers a deeper connection with my family. When you work remotely, you have the flexibility to pick up your kids at school, attend their sports events, have family dinners, and be there at bedtime.
There is no perfect equilibrium between work and life; every working parent has felt the pain of not measuring up to what their boss or child wants from them. Expecting “balance” this way dooms you to failure. But building sustainable happiness through remote work empowers you to order your days in a way that supports your legacy. You deserve to be happy at work.
The average commuter spends 25 minutes getting to work each way; the average remote employee spends none. Working from home gives you roughly 365 hours back each year. These hours can be used to get more sleep, design an exercise routine, cook your own meals, and catch up with loved ones.
Too many office employees neglect their health — they make up for lost hours by not sleeping enough, eschewing exercise, eating out too often, and not maintaining relationships. Time is our most precious resource, and these re-gifted hours empower you to reinvest your energy. This is essential to avoid burnout.
You might think office work is more personal. We have found it is quite the opposite. Every interaction is precious to us, whether we are speaking with trial users on a demo or meeting a new colleague via GoToMeeting. We communicate with purpose, which allows our team to balance building what matters with responding while requests are still fresh.
Our customer success team conducts daily video demos with customers from all over the world. We use video calls to meet as teams, and we chat back and forth each day using Slack. We also use our own product roadmap software to plan and prioritize our work internally.
When you are in an office, you are less likely to value someone’s time. When you communicate using video chat, conversations are always intentional and never accidental. You get to know your teammates very well — perhaps even better than if you were sharing an office. That’s because their lives and work become one and you are part of both.
There is no hand-holding for remote employees. When you work from home, your team is trusting you to meet your goals without much added help. That might sound intimidating. But the most productive employees thrive on autonomy, and remote work often inspires high performers to work even harder. In fact, A Stanford University study found that employees working from home felt more ownership and completed 13% more tasks than their counterparts in offices.
Some people still have trouble getting their heads around the idea that work can be accomplished from anywhere. They believe that there should be a dividing line between work and the rest of life.
Remote work blurs that line — and that is perfectly alright.
Work is an important part of life that does not have to be a burden. Work is life and life is work. I believe deeply that work — both what we do and how we do it — matters for everyone. We all need ways to work smarter and be happier.
Remote work makes that possible.
Brian de Haaff is founder and CEO of Aha! He has a unique perspective on Silicon Valley, having self-funded one of the fastest growing software companies and built it with a totally distributed team. His last two companies were acquired by Aruba Networks and Citrix, respectively.