Current remote work tools are built for the way people literally interact, but not the way they actually interact. Think about it — in an office setting, how often do you find yourself speaking to a colleague with 3 feet separating your faces? And why don’t we IM each other good morning every morning, when it’s anti-social not to say the same in an office setting? Remote work has the potential to be (the classic) 10x better than office work, but the tools just don’t fit the job. Humanity is learning this the hard way. But there’s a better way, and we’re building it. Our mission is to make remote work.
Why Remote is Better for Business.
The old paradigm works like this: a business puts an HQ down in a city, generally, with a sufficient concentration of talent to both fill its required roles and to do so at a reasonable cost. Without the gamut of corporate functions, a business can’t operate, so towns are out. And without a surplus of people with the skillsets to fill those roles, the costs for attracting and keeping those workers will exceed revenues: smaller cities are out too. So, businesses plop down in Atlanta, or NYC, or Phoenix, and in doing so, cut access to the talent pools of every other city on the planet, at least for their co-located workforce. It follows, then, that workers are burdened to locate in proximity to urban centers, and that businesses are poorly served by even the best city as compared to all the others combined. Remote work solves this problem.
Why Remote Isn’t Working for Workers.
However, while remote workers love their ability to self-determine, they nonetheless suffer at the team level by their inability to connect meaningfully with co-workers. Drop-ins, jokes, tentative questions, the quick glance at an office’s goings-on — all of these are lost when a team breaks out to disparate locations. These interactions add up to culture and trust, the very core of what constitutes a team. The effects of their absence are exacerbated over time, such that remote teams are the most heavily (negatively) impacted. We’ve spoken to people who’ve gone from regular happy hours to not even knowing if their colleagues work the same 5 days they do. When all that teams have to communicate is asynchronous text chat and the brief window into life provided by videoconferencing, is it any surprise that their cultural makeup diffuses as well?
Distributed teams need not feel remote. What’s needed is technology built on top of the operating system that people are born with. It must appreciate the tradeoff between privacy and vulnerability that people balance within every group to which they associate. It must facilitate the visual and vocal cues that allow us to glean tempo, mood, hierarchies, and other subtleties of human relationships. Finally, it must make the machines that connect them work for them, not the other way around. People are not mechanics. They are inherently capable social creatures whose ability to contribute is extended via the accumulated innovation made operable by computers, programs, and organizations. Tangle is that extension for the office worker.
The implications of well-done distributed work for society are exciting. Imagine career opportunities no longer dictated by the necessity of parental support for overpriced city apartments, just to get a foot in the door. Think of how many people lose a step right there. Imagine corporate lawyers able to take their salaries to the rolling hills of upper New York, bringing needed capital but also assimilating with Americans of wholly different upbringings. What could that do for our writhing political culture? And imagine what an extra free hour a day could mean for people from all walks of life. In our findings, that hour often goes back to the community: engagement with churches, volunteering, teaching, or coaching. What a revelation that the first luxury out the window is contribution to one’s community.
For all the reasons above, let’s make remote work.