Find the Right Remote Work Model for Your Team
Throughout 2020, companies around the world overhauled their day-to-day operations. Those that typically worked from a central location had to find ways to keep people employed and working without the daily routine of commuting to the office. If remote work wasn’t widely pursued before the COVID-19 pandemic, it certainly made a lot more sense when people began to work from home for the health and safety of our communities.
With a new year came new vaccines, and as distribution continues, the possibility of heading back to the office is out there on a distant horizon. And while there will be people who are ready to get back to a conventional work setting, there will also be those who will want to keep some aspects of remote work alive.
This doesn’t mean that everyone will work from home 24/7 now. Being a remote-friendly or remote-first office doesn’t mean that company headquarters are shuttered forever. But once it’s safe for people to work outside the home again, you should have a plan for easing into a remote-work offering, which can be done without having to completely upend the current structure.
Below, we’ll review a few major categories of remote work to help you determine which structure makes sense for your company.
The hub-and-spoke remote work model
Bessemer Venture Partners describes the hub-and-spoke model as, “A company has an HQ and a network of regional hubs to tap into talent across markets.” While this model existed before COVID-19, the idea of working remotely was traditionally limited to working at a regional office. That idea has now expanded to working from wherever is most convenient for the individual.
That being said, real estate service and investment firm CBRE notes that the central headquarters and regional offices were “meant to work hand-in-hand with the rise of remote work and flexible workspaces,” even before anyone knew what kind of workplace upheaval 2020 would bring. And now that “spokes” have come to include home offices, vacation rentals, and other locations where people can safely keep to themselves while working, more companies are realizing that they might not need as much office space as they once did.
Fast Company points out that, “[C]ompanies are facing the quandary of how not to waste money on office space when people are working from home most of the time, but also how office space can be available when workers want or need to come in.” In this situation, committing to a hub-and-spoke setup makes sense. It allows people to work outside of the office space for as long as necessary while still having the option to work alongside co-workers once it’s safe to resume normal office protocols.
The distributed team remote work model
Of the different types of remote work, the distributed team seems to have the most flexibility in terms of definition. BVP describes them as “companies with centralized offices that also support remote workers.” But you could argue that this definition aligns more closely with the newer versions of hub-and-spoke that have emerged.
Taking a slightly different angle, TalentDesk.io defines distributed teams as, “a team where all members are physically located away from each other. This could mean team members are working from home, coffee shops, or co-working spaces, but that they are working where no other colleagues are based.”
And finally, video conferencing company Lifesize defines distributed as “companies that have one or more employees who work in different physical locations. This blended work model may comprise on-site teams at one or more office locations as well as remote employees who work from home, coworker spaces or public spaces or on the go.”
Essentially, once you start discussing distributed teams, it’s likely that you have employees working for the same company in more than one time zone. Using time zones as a defining characteristic for just how distributed a team is,
Joel Gascoigne, CEO and co-founder of Buffer, imagined remote work developing along a scale that ranges from teams being completely on-site to teams being completely distributed around the world.
Buffer’s remote work model breaks down as follows:
- Office-based teams
- Office based with a work-from-home option
- Remote team in a single time zone
- Remote team in many time zones (where the shift to ‘distributed’ occurs)
- Distributed team with digital nomads (more on them in a minute)
Even if almost everyone in the company works from a location of their choice and never sets foot in a central office, a distributed team will still have some type of headquarters for their company.
The nomadic remote work model
For some companies, there is no longer a need for any kind of office headquarters. And for an even smaller group, there never was in the first place.
A company operating on the nomadic model of remote work is 100% office-free. Employees work wherever they want, which opens up opportunities for the company to hire globally and for those especially adventurous employees to travel around, working from wherever they land.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this model is often found in tech companies. For example, Buffer and Toggl have been fully remote/nomadic from the start, and companies like Basecamp and Help Scout, who were once mostly remote (having just one building headquarters with employees working primarily at other locations), have sold or sublet their buildings in the past few years in favor of being totally nomadic.
Even with evolving technology and growing software solutions, a nomadic team structure won’t be the solution for everybody. (A study from remote job board WeWorkRemotely found that nearly 24% of companies who used their service had no company headquarters; not exactly a majority.) But it’s an interesting option for companies who can make it work.
Incorporating WFH options into the traditional work day was a big adjustment for many companies, especially for those who hadn’t prioritized finding remote-work solutions before the pandemic. Now that so many of us have changed the way we work, creating lasting structures should seem a little less intimidating.
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