So Much For The Office, Innovation Is Everywhere


Addressing the needs of your remote workforce

John Abraham

John Abraham

Co-founder, Haymaker

John has been in sales leadership for much of his career.  He learned how to manage his remote team effectively with considerations for each person’s remote situation.

Recently, I was on a Zoom call with some tech leaders from across the country. The topic was Leading Beyond the Epidemic and the conversation inevitably arrived at the issue of remote work. After a few agreeable comments like, “It’s going well” and “the team has done a good job of adjusting,” a CEO spoke up, but before giving his thoughts, he shut his office door. “I don’t think remote work is a good idea for this company,” he said. I wasn’t shocked or even surprised. The company was doing cutting-edge work with large enterprises around the world, and they were constantly innovating new ideas to solve immense problems. 

 I asked the CEO if he was concerned that a team that’s not in a room together, in-person couldn’t solve big problems. He said that he believed a high level of productivity can happen with a remote workforce, but true innovation is a byproduct of a good culture. He felt it was difficult to establish a good corporate culture with a remote team. He likened it to building the next social media app or a next iteration of Pac-Man. He could hire developers, designers and project managers from all over the world who understand the same base programming languages and design disciplines and the company could get the product out on time and at cost with competent project management. Because it’s essentially just a new spin on an established product. However, a team trying to increase the battery range on an electric car with a software update would require innovation, not just same but newer. The hardware is established, but the approach to solving the problem comes from innovative new approaches to extending the battery life, using AI to account for multiple variables including how to increase capacity of the battery without overcharging it, writing new code based on those learnings, testing under real conditions, optimizing and so on.   

A few weeks later, I was speaking with a sales leader and asked about her thoughts on remote work. She said it’s been great for their company. The team is much happier with a remote work option and her team’s performance has improved. Sales is hitting plan more consistently and more reps are hitting plan each quarter. I asked if the entire company had a remote work option and she confirmed that every employee in the company had an option to work remotely or come into the office. Most team leaders scheduled mandatory in-person meetings once a week, but since a portion of the company was distributed anyway, they never had 100% in-person attendance at any time. 

This wasn’t a surprise, either. I’ve spoken to dozens of leaders, sales and otherwise, who have had positive experiences with remote work. Their teams are performing well and the companies are growing at a steady clip. 

So how do we reconcile these seemingly opposing points of view? 

I don’t believe the answer lies in the responsibilities of a role, the products a company is creating, or the problems the company solves for their clients. I think it has more to do with the organization’s ability to create a culture of innovation. Where every team and team member is encouraged to approach problems in a way that not only solves an immediate issue but one that benefits the larger mission of the company. Regardless of where each team member is physically located. Recent studies have shown that productivity can increase in a flexible work environment but productivity is not the same as innovation, so it must be addressed separately as a matter of company culture rather than a form of participation.

Some of the most innovative companies in the world are adopting remote work as a viable option for all of their employees, regardless of job role or title. Many have decided to adopt a remote-first (remote work as the primary option for all or most employees) model. They include Capital One, Salesforce, REI, VMWare, Nationwide Insurance, HubSpot and many more. These companies have gone all-in on a remote work approach. 

A study conducted in June of this year by a website called “Tracking Happiness” found that the ability to work remotely is strongly linked to happiness at work. In the study, 12,455 employees were surveyed about their work conditions. The study found that workers who have the ability to work from home report they are happier at work and workers who worked remotely a majority of the time were 20% happier on average than those who didn’t have the ability to work from home. According to a 2011 study published in the Harvard Business Review, happy employees are 31% more productive and three times more creative than their less satisfied counterparts.

Not all roles or responsibilities are suited for a remote-only schedule work but it is important that employers focus on providing the most suitable work schedules for each employee. Flexible work schedules increase happiness, productivity and have a positive impact on innovation.

I hope these tips will help you manage the ever changing requirements of the new remote work experience for you and your employees.  I created Haymaker to help solve a problem I had myself managing remote teams, and hope that you find Haymaker a helpful arrow in your quiver.  Haymaker is happy to help you develop your remote work strategy from a space perspective through our Concierge services.  Just drop me a line – I’d love to hear from you.