The greatest gift anyone can give me is time.
Time is the one resource which is truly limited. So, being able to give people time is quite special, and taking time from people is really unforgivable.
I’ve been asked numerous times why I’m [in Prince George, BC and] not in San Francisco, or based in the [Silicon] Valley somewhere. My somewhat glib answer is, because the skiing is terrible. That is, of course true, but the bigger answer is time. No, I don’t get to take three hours of my day to have a quick coffee with a critical lead. Instead I talk with that person on the phone, or hold off until I’m in town.
Here’s the rub, living in the Valley may be awesome for many. I am sure if you’ve had a decent exit (read – have money in your pocket) and love the scene, it’s a wonderland of technology in a gentle climate. But, I really don’t want to spend large amounts of my day, getting to other relatively close places. I don’t want to burn time getting to work, then getting around town, then going to the store. Instead, I want to use that time to do awesome things like hanging out with my family or going skiing, or ideally both.
Imagine for a second if dev, data and design people in the Valley were all allowed to work from home for a week. These are the jobs where one needs a computer to do most of the work, and not some kind of job specific infrastructure like a big laser, or factory, or something. Jobs where remote has been a proven workflow.
The result would be empty freeways and fuller lives, at I would hazard a minimal impact on productivity. Many people would still choose to go to the office I am sure, and that’s cool of course. Hitting the office is fun and useful, sometimes. But if you extend this thought experiment to living where you want to live rather than where you feel you have to live… maybe it’s the beach, maybe it’s a cultural mecca, maybe it’s near your family, maybe it’s nowhere? The point is responsibility is shifted to the worker to deliver whilst they get to live their chosen life.
I know, I know. Being remote would be impossible for your company. You’ll miss the “whiteboard time”. It’s all the those ad-hoc conversations which make the magic happen, without it there wouldn’t be any innovation in your company.
Wait, do you really believe that?
Your company’s innovation is linked to people having conversations at the water cooler? Then why on earth do you have an office, and not just a big water cooler? I’m going to remind you very carefully what whiteboard time is:
Whiteboard time is when you sit in a room
with other people looking at and talking about
a picture with circles, lines and words on it.
Anyone with a moderate grasp of modern web
tools can replicate this.
Whiteboard time is a modern excuse for
I am the first person to say that sometimes you have to fly 2,000 miles to shake someone’s hand. Travelling is necessary and in a remote working setting, likely more so. But that’s a different thing. That is about human connection and confidence. Everyday contact can very easily be maintained via web tools, innovation can happen across a network, and we can flourish as a digital society if we let our people live the lives they want to live.
So let’s get over this. If a technology oriented company isn’t into remote workers then they don’t really “get” what the Internet can do. The tools we have available for collaboration are amazing, the barriers are simply cultural, and as usual are completely human.
Give your people the biggest gift you can give them, time. Go remote first.
Note: Will Cadell founded Sparkgeo in Prince George. Sparkgeo builds cutting edge geospatial technology which is easy to use and serves specific purposes. The expertise of Sparkgeo staff in the implementation of web mapping technologies is recognized internationally