By Greg Mercer, founder and CEO of Jungle Scout.
Soon after I began my entrepreneurial journey, my team grew from myself and my wife Elizabeth working in Bali as digital nomads to a small group of engineers and marketers. I knew straight away that I wanted to build remote life into the core of the business.
I wish I could say that I knew how well it would work out and that I was prepared. In all honesty, it simply stemmed from my own personal interest in travel and disinterest in the 9-to-5 cubicle lifestyle.
What have I found out? Well, there have been more benefits than I ever imagined, and of course some challenges too. The biggest positive impact, though, has been how much it empowers people to lead the lives that make them the happiest, both in and out of work.
The Pros and Cons
It’s still quite rare to find a team that is fully remote, even in the world of technology. A lot of peers often quiz me about it with intrigue and I always lay out the pros and cons as follows.
- Freedom and a better work-life balance (no commuting or pointless meetings)
- High productivity levels
- No large overheads in office costs
- Ability to attract talent from all over the world, sharing different experiences
- Timezones inefficiencies and confusion
- A lack of face-to-face collaboration
- Difficulty introducing new members to the team
- Some people (who love what they do) can have a tendency to work longer hours or not take enough holiday time (guilty!)
The Remote Balancing Act
Most of the difficulties faced are far outweighed by the positive impact this has had on my business. It just means we sometimes have to do things a little differently (and value high-speed internet above all things). Some of the things that we have introduced to our virtual office include innovative tools for team collaboration, processes that are time zone sensitive and bi-yearly team retreats. We rely heavily on apps like Slack, Trello, G Suite and Zoom, just to name a few. We have had to learn how to organize teams and implement cross-team collaboration in our processes to fit in with having an online office across several time zones. And the money we save on office space takes the whole team to exciting locations twice a year to work together and have fun.
But What About HR?
The question I get asked about the most is hiring. Right now we have a team of 35 and it's growing quickly. This means tackling hiring, onboarding and introducing new members to a worldwide team. We have a lengthy application process that involves several interviews via video calls, as well as a paid trial period so that both parties can figure out if the environment would be a good fit.
Ultimately, it’s not about trusting your employees to sit at a desk in the same office all day. It’s about trusting them to be invested in their work and manage their lives so that they are most productive when at their desks.
Once a new team member has joined, we follow the same processes that many other businesses would in order to get them integrated into the teams and processes. The only difference is that we do all of this online.
Will More Remote Companies Appear?
I believe so. I hope that more and more will share their experiences and learnings so that we can improve collectively. Perhaps it was easier when building a remote culture in from the ground up, but I know of other businesses that have transitioned from office based to remote successfully too.
Everyone still wants the same things from a job: to feel fulfilled in their work, to feel that they are making a difference and to learn and grow in their careers. Increasingly, talented people are looking for the flexibility to get this job satisfaction without sacrificing too much of their personal lives.
It may not be for everyone, but remote life certainly establishes the freedom to build a strong work-life balance as well as a strong company culture.
Greg Mercer is Founder & CEO of Jungle Scout, an SaaS platform that shows sellers profitable opportunities on Amazon.