We’ve only just moved into a shiny new office in downtown Helsinki, so why has Leadfeeder decided to go remote and what could your startup learn from our decision?
I’m sitting in the library of Aalto Business School in Helsinki. Aalto University’s not my office but because Leadfeeder has gone all-in on remote working it is today. It’s a Friday morning, the sun is glinting off the snow-topped red buildings and there’s the intense murmur of conversations among students here on the 6th floor.
The world of work is changing as employees demand a better work–life balance and evidence shows that inflexible working is harming the workforce. Employees are growing tired of the crowded office, the clocking in, the traffic jams, the boss over their shoulder and the inflexible working hours – and there’s plenty of evidence to show it doesn’t work.
Companies, driven by startups, are starting to wake up to a better understanding of why remote work is beneficial and how to ensure it's successful. But the pace of change been slow, as any number of studies show.
One clear reason for the lag between what employees want and what employers allow is lingering doubt from employers about the tangible benefits of remote work. At Leadfeeder we’ve crunched the data and examined what tools to use, and below I share our reasoning and some of the stats that informed our decision.
#1 We’re building a global company and remote work is essential for growth
One of the main drivers behind our decision to promote remote is because as we grow we’ll be hiring people who don’t live in Helsinki or even in Finland. There are a few reasons for this, including the fact that the best talent isn’t always on our doorstep. But the biggest factor for hiring like this is that it’s very important to be in the same place as our customers and with 80% of our customers outside Finland employing people elsewhere has become a critical part of our growth strategy.
For this to work effectively we have to be good at remote working and that means developing tools and testing things ahead of time. The other thing is this: why should our new customer support person in the States work remotely while the team in Helsinki doesn’t get the same benefit? As they’ve just concluded over at Groove , half doesn’t work: you’re either 100% committed to being a remote team or you’re not committed at all.
#2 Remote working means we’re able to hire the most qualified candidates
By promoting remote work we’re saying that flexible hours are okay, because we’re not stopping Matthew relocating to Antarctica during England’s next disastrous rugby world cup campaign.
The latest research makes it plain to see that attracting the best people (and ensuring workplace diversity) is achieved with flexible working conditions, like remote work. In a recent survey of 2500 business women in the UK, 88% of respondents said that inflexible working hours were problematic and represented a huge turn-off.
Inflexible working hours don’t make sense for many people, and lots of companies could be doing a much better job at being more flexible. At Leadfeeder we actively encourage the team to have other interests and commitments outside work. And we’ve managed to get our heads round the idea that people have families and care about those families.
#3 Commuting to work can waste valuable time and affect employee morale
Late trains, sweaty people, someone’s armpit in your face; commuting can often be a chore. It’s not always so bad – or so sweaty, like here in Helsinki where we’ve recently been enduring –25 °C, but the likelihood is you’ve moaned about what a waste of time commuting is once or twice in your life.
It turns out that you’re not the only one complaining. According to a study of 60,000 people by the UK Office for National Statistics, commuters have lower life satisfaction and less sense that their daily activities are worthwhile. Compared with remote workers, commuters are unhappier and less satisfied, and when compared with each other, the longer the commute the less satisfied the worker.
When all the tools we need are on our laptops and we can collaborate by Skype and Slack then sometimes there’s just no point fighting our way to the office to be doing precisely what we could do from home.
The upside of being together in the office is building a company culture and team spirit, but that can be achieved without everybody in the office every day.
#4 It’s really not desk-warming that drives success, it’s building a socially cohesive team
Earlier this week we came across news of a strange management decision that had befallen the upstanding journalists at Britain’s Telegraph newspaper: heat sensors had been installed under their desks during the night and without their prior knowledge.
It got us thinking: why would you think that just because your employees are loyally warming their desks that they’re working, or more importantly working effectively?
When the biggest predictor of a company’s success is its culture – not how long your employees are in the office – it makes sense to focus less on how much you see them and more on how you build a team. In this Ted talk watched by 1.5 million people, Margaret Heffernan explains that the most high-achieving teams are not the ones with star employees, but the ones that build a socially cohesive organizational culture.
#5 Remote work can help reduce groupthink and increase open networks
One of the big ideas of remote work is that it can promote a better work–life balance. At Leadfeeder we hope that by actively encouraging a get-out-the-office culture it will ensure the team can more easily follow their passions and be active in different and diverse communities.
As author and entrepreneur Michael Simmons notes in his research: “Most people spend their careers in closed networks; networks of people who already know each other. People often stay in the same industry, the same religion, and the same political party.”
An open personal network is the single best predictor of career success according to several peer-reviewed studies, which indicates that this type of employee is highly valued by companies. It's easy to see why. Firstly a diverse workforce helps guard against groupthink and confirmation bias, and secondly it’s been shown that conflict within groups – as new ideas and different worldviews cause sparks – can encourage deeper understanding among group members, positively reset a group’s goals, and result in better group decisions.
If you like the sound of remote work and sharing in the challenges of growing an exciting startup, then please check our jobs page
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