We used to be a 100% remote company. We still had an office in downtown San Francisco, but the culture was everyone worked remotely. If you never showed up to the office, even if was down the street, we wouldn’t care. We’re mostly engineers and designers, and it worked OK.
But then we made an intentional decision to get rid of remote only and only do remote Fridays. And without trying to start a culture war here, it was a fantastic decision. If not, one of the best decisions as a company that we’ve made.
I was triggered to write this post after seeing the countless posts about either talent leaving SF to another “tech hub” or companies going 100% remote only.
I know that Stripe (SF Based) is hiring all remote workers and Gitlab is going to remain headquarters free.
So, when we decided to go from remote only to remote on Fridays only, it might look we’re moving backwards. And honestly, I didn’t know if it was going to be a good move or not. I just had a hunch that the work that we do is better off if everyone comes to the office every day.
So, here’s what happened. And again, this is anecdotal. What works for us, might not work for you.
Creativity as a group went up
When you’re on a phone call or video call, there are set times. Set times to start and set times to finish. When the call is over, well, the conversation is over. You go on to your next task or activity. For productivity purposes, this was actually not a bad thing. Our engineers can focus on what they need to do without worrying about extra banter, etc.
But, A few weeks in I noticed that the amount of ideas our team came up with skyrocketed. Ideas for our clients. Ideas for our own company. Ideas for marketing & sales. It all went up.
It took me a while to figure out why, and I can safely attribute it to the conversations that happen after meetings are over and the conversations over lunch and in the kitchen are. The ideas were flowing and were all natural.
It’s the reason we created X & Y. When we tried ideation sessions remotely, we came up with a lot of ideas, but none that were ground-breaking because it felt like a forced session.
We actually got to know each other and build a “culture’
If you like inside jokes, don’t ever work remotely. The little crazy conversations that you shouldn’t have told anyone don’t happen on calls or on slack.
What’s interesting is that because Friday was our work from home day, Thursday nights became the time to hang out after hours. Many of our employees stay until sometimes 1 or 2am. They’re playing mario kart, drinking beers or whatever it is.
But most importantly, they are doing it with each other. One thing I pride our company is on is that we truly have a laid back culture. It’s all intentional. I think if you go from all remote to in the office every day, and it wasn’t laid back, then sure you would have a problem.
So yes, I do over compensate a little bit to make the office “more fun”, and I think it works out well for us
Productivity remained the same or not noticable
One of the major reasons we made this move is to honestly, become more productive. Get more shit done as they say.
But, I really couldn’t tell you that productivity went up. It feels like productivity is increased, but I think it’s because we see each other working and that naturally makes us believe more work got done. However, if I looked at how long engineering projects take us to complete or development velocity, the numbers are fairly similar pre and post remote move.
Employees stayed longer with us
It took a while to recognize this, but one day as I was reflecting on our move, we did the math and realized that employees actually stayed with us longer. Turnover was significantly reduced.
Now, we’re not a mega corporation, but we’re not that small either. Decrease of turnover, is well worth the cost of an office in the heart of San Francisco.
I have no hard data on “happiness” levels, but if I did a quick pulse within the company, I think we are definitely a happier and more productive company.
So, for everyone considering going remote only or think it’s the future of work, you might be right.
Call us old-school. But 100% remote just isn’t for us.
Also published on Medium.