According to a survey of 2,000 working professionals conducted online for LinkedIn by Censuswide, 50 percent of U.S. employees work from home at least one day per week. And some companies, like GitLab, have built successful workforces that are entirely remote. But what do we lose when we ditch the office? Inc. asked two founders to weigh in. --As told to Brit Morse
Is the couch the office of the future?
Rousseau Kazi: Look at how people typically make connections. From dating to social networks, online community building is already happening, and businesses are just catching up.
Randy Nicolau: There's no doubt that digital platforms and community can become a part of your culture, but to say that they can become the entire culture is just dismissing us as humans. That's not human nature.
Can people collaborate digitally as easily as they do in an office?
Kazi: Meetings are really useful when things are urgent or emotional. Most things aren't. And if you're physically limited by the number of people you can fit in a room, you won't get the context you need to make your best decisions.
Nicolau: If my design team wants to change the radius from 36 degrees to 32 degrees on this one corner of a prototype, they're pointing, they're physically touching. In any business, time is your enemy, and physical collaboration is usually faster.
Does remote work hinder productivity?
Kazi: Companies and leaders have to trust their employees. Giving them the flexibility of "Hey, go where you need to go to get your best work done" is a net benefit.
Nicolau: There's a reason I don't work from home. Some people don't have the discipline. I know I will be more productive in a work environment. And some need the social interaction they get in an office.
How does a remote workplace impact company culture?
Kazi: Louder folks have a bit of an in-person advantage in meetings. In a remote format, it's not a bunch of people in a room yelling at one another. We're engaging through platforms that allow us to take our time and leave thoughtful comments.
Nicolau: We have eight offices. Our challenge is making sure that we don't have eight different cultures. We've defined a framework of core values within which these offices can create distinct but unified subcultures.
According to Gallup research published in September, productivity is highest among those who work remotely three to four days per week. It may require thinking outside the box--and the cubicle--about how to keep everyone connected, but your bottom line will benefit. And your employees will almost certainly thank you for saving them the commute.