The remote revolution has begun. We have identified early stage venture-backed scale-ups that are leading the charge in enabling companies to go remote-first. These companies are defining the future of work, as much as it has defined them.
For those of us in the tech space there is nothing particularly new about working remotely. In fact, most of the work in the industry such as software engineering, design, product development, can be done just as successfully in a distributed team setting as much as in a shared office. One only has to look at GitLab with its 1,300 employees distributed over 65 countries to see what is possible when it comes to running a profitable remote-first business.
What is new when it comes to remote work is how it is becoming increasingly normalised. As the global pandemic pushed companies into flexible, hybrid work setups, in its wake many businesses most notably Facebook, Reddit, Shopify, Twitter have announced a more permanent adoption of an off-premise, remote-first work model. And it’s not just technology companies, more traditional companies such as Siemens, Mastercard, Nationwide (insurance) are also going remote.
For companies going remote-first is an appealing offering from a growth perspective. It lowers, or eliminates, the cost of real estate and by removing on-premise obligations, allows companies to attract specialist expertise from a global talent pool. While remote-first means not having a centralised office and allowing employees to work remotely it is also about adopting a remote mindset and organisational culture. Collaborative cloud tech tools and digital communication channels govern work habits; success and productivity is measured by output, not time spent.
Not only companies but individuals have also recognised the freedom and flexibility that remote work offers. A key driver of the remote revolution is employee satisfaction. Once the pandemic is over, the majority of Britons want to continue being able to work from home or remotely, at least some of the time. Employees are not only keen to work remotely because they can save on money as well as time spent commuting, while gaining on personal and family time but the good news for businesses is that 42% of Americans acknowledge that they are more productive working remotely as compared to in an office.
In short the pandemic has accelerated one of several “future of work” trends that were predicted, overtime, to redefine our way of life.
This year has shown that for a large number of us some form of flexible, remote working is no longer a future prospect but a present reality; it's our new normal.
Yet, when talking about the shift towards remote work we are not simply referring to the fact that more people are working from home, abroad or teleworking. Rather we are also interested in the infrastructure and processes that are being innovated to support this shift.
So what is going on behind the scenes? How is this new normal being made possible, which are the companies pioneering this remote revolution? Well...for one, they aren’t normal…
Our list of Remote Enablers is by no means exhaustive and doesn’t pretend to be either. While there are a whole host of companies that are building innovative communication and collaboration tools for any remote-work starter kit this is not our focus nor are we attempting to map out the future of work or work from home ecosystem. Rather, we have identified the companies that we believe are enabling the remote revolution by supporting companies to become remote-friendly or remote-first.
What unites these companies is that they are early stage, mostly venture-backed, start-ups and scale-ups that are offering services or products that enable companies to go remote-first. Moreover, many of these companies are even embodying this remote-first ethos themselves with globally distributed teams and no physical office space.
Our categories follow what we are calling the remote business lifecycle that starts with finding and employing your remote talent and ends with sustaining your remote team through building a connected, trust-oriented remote organisational culture with ample room for continuous learning and development.
Let’s start from square one - finding your remote talent!
With the global pandemic disrupting regular employment, remote recruitment has exploded. Many, especially millennials, are looking - more than ever before - for companies that hire remote talent and job boards that post about it! Catering to this shift are several start-ups, some focus on offering an alternative to LinkedIn, others with helping companies hire global talent while several are filling more unusual gaps in the world of remote recruitment.
A major concern for going remote is that it might lead to a salary drop. One start-up, however, is offering the chance to go remote and get the salary you want. Wanted, founded only last year, has a radical new offering: key in your salary expectations, drop your CV and enter an anonymous marketplace until the interview. Removing bias from the recruitment process, Wanted is also leading the way in ensuring that age, race, gender, sexual orientation doesn’t disqualify candidates.
Addressing a different concern in going remote - the loss of in-person lunch and coffee networking opportunities - is LunchClub. Using an AI superconnector LunchClub curates specific 1:1 introductions with industry experts for job-seekers.
Trying to make organisations more transparent by offering a free database of organisational charts, The Org is a free recruitment service that’s trying to take on LinkedIn.
While nothing particularly new in format, several job boards are responding to the remote-first shift by targeting the virtual workforce. Some to look out for include We Work Remotely, Remotely, Product Hunt, Remote Work Hub, and Remotive.
With more companies seizing the opportunity to cast their recruitment net wider several companies are removing the complexities of employing remote staff globally, or assisting with international relocation, through tech-driven solutions.
United by an aim to make remote international employment simple and locally compliant are scale-ups such as Omnipresent, which acts as the Employer of Record making it easier for companies to employ and grow their international team, and Oyster.
Several others have a slightly different offering when it comes to remote employment mobility. They support businesses with the relocation of employees internationally offering specific expertise on immigration. Three European start-ups in this space are Localyze based in Germany, Jobbatical in Estonia and PerchPeek in the UK.
As work moves off-premise, a whole host of innovative and re-imagined work environments have emerged. These range from souped-up “offices” in our (or other remote workers’) homes, once work-(un)friendly spaces transformed into work-friendly areas to fully virtual offices.
For companies replicating offices in a virtual format in order to give managers more oversight while also improving team focus see for instance the US start-up Focusmate, or Tandem.chat or There. Spatial has even configured an office space using virtual reality.
Others are suggesting ways to work while travelling through a modern twist on timeshares. Similar to AirBnB’s original offering, Strollÿn, the France-based start-up, provides a platform for remote workers to exchange home office spaces in order to travel while working. Similarly Flown is building a catalogue of ideal remote working spaces that are close to natural beauty and inspiring.
To fully equip your home office (perhaps before you host someone!), either GroWrk or FirstBase is the place to start. Both offer subscription packages of ergonomic home office equipment from chairs, desks to computer monitors, and manage deliveries and repairs.
Workfrom enables remote workers to find remote-friendly working spaces wherever they are, from cafes, to shops, and even bars. It is also in the early stages of developing a virtual cafe connecting remote workers in a visual and audio coffee shop-esque environment.
With a slightly different remote work space offering Beyond has built a location analytics tool (for now USA only) that runs comparisons on your client needs, national real estate prices and talent distribution to find the right city and next market for scaling your remote team. Beyond is targeting companies that want to move out of expensive tech hubs and strategically geographically distribute their teams.
Arguably one of the trickiest and most important factors to consider when going remote is how to ensure that all team members feel connected to one another, and the company. Building a supportive and inspiring remote team culture is vital to the success of any remote business. Luckily there are several scale-ups that have already thought about how to solve these concerns!
A number of companies are trying to create opportunities for more real-like spontaneous interactions between remote teams members using voice and video software. Using Standups teammates can send one another daily short video clips that, similar to Instagram, can be reacted to and commented on. Airmeet and Remo are trying to capture the casual, in-between conversations (and much more!) through their equally unique platforms which include a host of tools which actively engage attendees.
Also committed to curating a remote team culture, Remotesocial brings teams together through interactive games and events. Similarly focused on games - specifically trivia - is the start-up Water cooler trivia, which hosts regular trivia quizzes for remote teams.
The SurfOffice recognises that sometimes remote teams also need to meet face-to-face. They create tailored retreats for remote-first teams bringing them together to improve team productivity, process and products, and foster a common team culture.
Working from home can have its set-backs on our physical and mental well-being. Many of our remote work spaces are non-ergonomic to begin with, let alone always separate office spaces that enable us to maintain our work-life balance. The regulation of work spaces outside of offices is a current and evolving field for remote HR managers. Recently, the Health and Safety Executive issued guidance for employers on how to protect remote employees, which they have the same legal health and safety responsibilities towards as on-premise employees. Several companies are responding to these health and safety regulations with products and services specifically catered towards remote employees and teams.
Supporting HR managers with meeting the health and safety regulations mandated for remote workers is Vitrue VIDA. Vitrue VIDA allows companies to invite their remote employees to sit desk assessments on their current working environment to ensure that it is ergonomic and makes recommendations on how to improve it.
Geared towards the remote employee, their mental well-being and thereby overall productivity is 3SSENTIA, “the smart personal management system”. The app encourages users to report daily on their mood and to-do list so that it can help you prioritise your work and schedule your day with breaks in between.
Unsure about the overall well-being of your remote team? Cassiopeia uses relationship analytics to track the “health” of your remote teams by analysing team dynamics, collaboration, communication and work-life wellness, suggesting actionable insights.
Safetywing is a remote-first startup offering global health insurance for companies to cover their entire international team under one plan, regardless of where they choose to live or travel.
For companies that want to go remote but are unsure how, or for others that have gone remote and want to grow, there are several companies offering services and products to accelerate and develop your remote employees and company.
Recently founded, and based in Scotland, 22North offers digital tools and remote work consultancy through its service Ready for Remote, which is specialised in helping companies launch their remote teams.
To engage and develop your remote team, Strive is a leadership development training programme that works with remote teams. Looking towards improving employee growth Sharpist has built a digital learning platform offering digital coaching and e-learning databases. Companies can also offer their employees live workshops and masterclasses through Hone.
Brought to you in collaboration with Playfair Capital.
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