Why Automattic closed their headquarters in San Francisco
“We focus on two things when hiring. First, find the best people you can in the world. And second, let them do their work. Just get out of their way.“— Matt Mullenweg, CEO at Automattic
For the ones that don’t know, Automattic is where WordPress was born. A company committed to giving everyone the voice to speak up. Not only do they stand for web freedom, they stand for work freedom. And that’s what put a lock on their San Francisco headquarters. No one was going there.
There were as many gaming tables as there were people.
Let’s recap. In the office, Automatticians (it’s what they call themselves) had an amazing environment, books, games, all the equipment they needed. Why would they choose remote instead?
Trade distraction for productivity
Imagine a rough deadline. Your clients are pissed, bugs are piling and you’re nowhere close to completion. Now, imagine it doesn’t matter where you work from. You just need to get things done. Where do you go? Is it the office?
Open office distracts. Its purpose is to bring the team together, foster innovation and creativity. Yet, what it seems to do best is serve distractions out of our control.
Distractions cost us an average of 26 minutes to recover, a research claims.
When working remotely, you gain control over distractions and choose productivity.
How does this benefit the company?
When at the office, it’s hard not to micromanage. And then, what looks like control is energy wasted on things that don’t matter. Going remote means you get to focus on the results instead of the actions.
“We care about the work you produce, not the hours you put in.” — Automattic
Yes, you might argue that with a distributed team of over 500 people and established processes for remote work, Automattic is not the example small companies and early startups can follow.
Let’s look at it this way. Remote work adheres to two pillars: asynchronicity and flexibility. Working in tech, chances are you’re much closer to remote work than you think.
The average tech company hands over legal, accounting, payroll, even recruiting to external providers. All essential for the business, yet entrusted to people out of their control.
What about inhouse communication? Slack became the norm for everything from task discussions to cat videos. You don’t go to your colleague’s desk to show them a hilarious gif, you share it on #random. So, if we even made the watercooler virtual, why are we so afraid to move things out of office?
Organize work around your lifestyle
No matter how spontaneous we are, we like routines. They’re easy. I have friends that enjoy the 9–5 because of it. Yet, when we commit to standard hours, we arrange our whole lives around that routine.
Days are short, our free time compressed in small chunks, and our energy low. Afterwork chores pile up for the weekend. All of a sudden, it’s Monday again and we’re back in the loop.
“Work to live, don’t live to work.” — Noel Gallagher
When you choose remote, you choose not to adjust your life to other people’s schedules. Do work hours that suit you, hobbies you enjoy and find time for everything that matters. Do you prefer the countryside? Why stay in the crowd just to be close to office, then?
How does this benefit the companies?
With the opportunity to hire people from all around the globe, companies don’t have to limit their search to a single zip code. First-rate developers don’t reside in the traditional tech centers alone. Expanding your horizons means you can have the best, no matter the location.
World-class companies like Automattic, Basecamp, Zapier, Buffer, and many more witness that. Moreover, embracing remote work simplified customer support for them. With their people all around the world, they could serve customers in any timezone without working night shifts.
Finally, good workers are driven, independent, communicative and self-motivated. They’ll do their best if you give them trust and flexibility.
Don’t commute your time away
Useless hassle fills our days because of the commute. We wake up early, get home late and waste time on the road. We’ve lost our gym time on the way home, we don’t even think about hobbies, and relationships suffer.
Basecamp’s employees testify about the changes remote work brought to their lives. They get to spend quality time with their families, see their kids awake, exercise, and enjoy hobbies they never got the time to try. Commuting is an energy drain.
How does this benefit the companies?
Basecamp did the math. They considered an average of 30 minutes drive in rush hour and 15 minutes to park and get to the office. That’s 1.5 hours a day spent commuting, which amounts to 300–400 hours yearly.
Four hundred hours is exactly the amount of programmer time we spent building Basecamp, our most popular product. — Jason Fried
If a product like Basecamp can be built for the time one developer wastes commuting, imagine what it would mean for the business to transform all the hours their employees waste into something meaningful.
Working remotely has its challenges, but once you adapt to the working style the benefits are endless. The key is to take it slow, establish good work discipline and understand that every distraction is under your control.
“The new luxury is the luxury of freedom and time. Once you’ve had a taste of that life, no corner office or fancy chef will be able to drag you back.” — from “The new luxury” in Remote