37signals is coming out with a new book about the remote workplace. Not surprisingly, their blog has had lots of good stuff about remote work recently. Here’s my favorite article, from David Heinemeier Hansson: Rethinking Agile in an office-less world

David’s talking about how agile will need to change with the remote workforce, but the article was interesting to me for a more fundamental reason. Consider this quote:

What’s the value of a group of people who a) can only be picked from amongst those within a 30-mile radius of a specific office, b) who have to deal with the indignity of a hour-long daily commute, c) but who’s Agile with that capital A?
Versus a team composed of a) the best talent you could find, regardless of where they live, and b) who has the freedom to work their own schedule, c) but can’t do the literal daily stand-up meeting or pair in front of the same physical computer?

Remote as a perk

In the past, I had thought of remote work as a perk. In other words, enlightened workplaces “let” employees work from home because (a) it didn’t matter much either way whether people were face to face or remote and (b) eliminating employee’s commutes was a great benefit. My old perspective missed a lot…

Remote as a competitive advantage

As David’s quote points out, the power of the remote workplace is that you have a shot at getting the best talent. in the whole. wide. world.

If you believe that your success or failure is determined by the talent of your people (and if you’re in IT, I hope you do), then a remote strategy can be a huge advantage. Imagine if you’re hiring from a global talent market and your competitors are hiring from a local market (or a handful of local markets*). That’s like shopping at Amazon while your competitor shops at the store down the street.

For some IT organizations moving beyond the “butts in seats” workplace and the “remote as perk” workplace** to the “remote as talent strategy” workplace may just be a game changer.

A couple of notes:
* A handful of local markets: Some companies talk about having a “global workforce” when in fact they hire only from the cities where they have offices. This isn’t really global, it’s just a handful of local markets from around the world.
** Remote as a perk: Sometimes companies will “let” employees work from home, but still basically hire from around the local office. These companies don’t get the benefit of global talent, they’re just using remote as a perk like subsidized bus passes or free parking.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. You can always drop me an email or leave a comment below.