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Remote work is throwing the standard office model out the window – here’s why

February 27, 2017 by Amanda Maksymiw

Innovative companies thriving without a centralized HQ show what’s possible for the Future of Work

Take what you know about the typical office setting and throw it out the window: the tides are turning, and more companies are on board to build remote work into their day-to-day operations than ever before.

Though not all companies have signed on to flexible work policies – and that’s ok – there’s increasing evidence that providing a remote work benefit is advantageous for employee satisfaction and retention as well as overall business outcomes.

And, while not a one-size-fits-all-approach, some companies have even gone so far as to reject the need for a central hub entirely, opting to have home base be the home office for their individual workers distributed across the country and globe.

In a recent article, Harvard Business Review highlights one such company, ghSMART. As an advisory firm, this model has worked for them: with 80 percent of work done by teams of consultants and staff based out of home offices, they’ve had stellar results to show: “97 percent client satisfaction in the past decade, 93 percent team retention, and greater than 20 percent annual growth” over the 20 years they’ve been in business.

The company attributes their success to four core lessons: 1) hire the right people, 2) focus on outcomes, 3) help employees choose, and be responsible for, their own adventure, and 4) centralize thoughtfully.

If we boil it down, these lessons hinge on three main principles: motivation, freedom, and access. Here’s what we mean by that:

Motivation – companies must hire the right people for the job if planning to go HQ-free: self-starters are essential. Sometimes, that can be an arduous process, but getting talent right is a big part of the equation for embracing new models of work. But it doesn’t end there: to keep remote workers motivated, clear expectations must be set by the company to allow them to continue to march toward a shared goal. Once this foundation has been laid, an individual can, as the article states, “choose their own adventure.” When performance and incentives are tied to goals created by individual employees (“determining the right floor and not restricting the ceiling”), remote workers have stronger buy-in and clear objectives drive outcomes. This degree of autonomy helps reinforce the benefit of remote work. This brings us to the next principle.

[see more: tips to motivate and engage remote workers]

Freedom – Remote work is attractive because it provides the freedom for work to fit into other aspects of life. Inside and outside of the office, companies who embrace remote work policies must also sign on to a workplace culture that encourages investments in other areas. Take the kids to practice, train for a marathon, have an extended lunch – and get your work done around those other responsibilities and interests. Celebrate this schedule fluidity: it’s what makes remote work so appealing for many job candidates today.

Access – The article makes crystal clear that while remote work is all about choice, not everything can or should be up to individual employees. Having no physical office space requires a belief in decentralization of resources, but certain structural elements are needed for business to run smoothly. And, while consultants do a great deal of individual work, communication is essential. A standard IT package was provided by ghSMART to provide the glue that binds their remote teams together. Technology provides the access to one another across geographic distance while also providing the means to help workers realize all the perks of remote work without feeling disconnected. When technology systems support rather than contradict the freedoms associated with this benefit, more can get done on employees’ terms: wherever and whenever.

Our clients at Fuze have been innovators when it comes to the changing paradigm around flexible work policies: just look at the example ThoughtWorks has set (full case study here or join our webinar with Andy Yates of ThoughtWorks on March 8). To make work work, companies that are open to new options will be poised for success in the future. That’s the Future of Work we’re on board for.


Amanda Maksymiw
Amanda Maksymiw

Amanda is responsible for setting and managing the Fuze content marketing strategy including creating, producing and publishing engaging content. Throughout her career, she's worked with fast-growing tech companies and VCs on developing content marketing, influencer marketing and social media strategies. Amanda received her BBA in Marketing from the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

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