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Why remote working can be good for people, business and environment

Olivier Potin avatar

Olivier Potin
March 10, 2020

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One of the primary contributions of the open source community to the world is a system that allows random people from around the world to work together to solve complex problems, so it is no surprise that Collabora has been from the get-go a geographically distributed company. Our consultancy team of Open Source professionals is distributed across 2 offices - Cambridge, UK and Montreal, Canada - and remote based in more than 30 different countries around the globe.

Here at Collabora, we trust our people to work remotely, we give them full responsibility for their output, and we believe it helps create an even stronger internal culture and comes with some other positives.

The many benefits of remote working

Remote working is about Trust

One can read a lot about the factors for remote working to succeed such as tools (e.g. video conferencing system, real-time written and/or verbal communication), logistics (e.g. reliable and fast network connection through an Internet Service Provider), environment (e.g. dedicated work space as home office or co-working space), self-discipline (e.g. importance of having a daily routine) and techniques - all very valid unarguable important factors - but Trust is the fundamental key for successful remote work.

It is something that seems to come hard but is essential to building relationships, especially in a remote work environment. In fact, it is crucial not to underestimate the importance of trust in remote work.

How do we do this within our remote-working environment? With both collaboration and reputation:

  • Collaboration is at the root of the Free/Libre Open Source movement and it is unsurprisingly a fundamental pillar of our consultancy team and our company. It is a way to interact with and work closely with others, learning and sharing a lot about their personality, values and ideas.
  • Reputation is related to how much our behaviors are trustworthy, e.g. delivering or not as per expectation/commitment, following up or not on questions/issues. As there is no one micromanaging and overseeing every task being completed, we rely on each other.

Remote working is about Communication

The world of work as we know it is changing. With new technology making it easier to work anywhere, anytime, the traditional 9-5 is effectively dead. Beyond traditional emails, wikis and the likes, Collabora's day-to-day communication is primarily centralized on Mattermost, an Open Source private cloud Slack alternative.

Our communication needs to be as much transparent and accessible as possible so the vast majority of our Mattermost channels are internally public. Teammates who are not directly notified about a discussion can browse or search for the whole conversation. Because everything is organized by topic, it makes it easy for someone to search for the information they need and get all of the context of the original conversation without having to wait on someone else who might be asleep halfway across the world.

This accessibility of information along side with a detailed wiki, result of more than 10 years of contributions from current and past teamates, have also had an unintended benefit of making new employee onboarding easier. New teammates can add themselves to relevant Collabora channels and they can browse at their leisure to learn more about specific topics. They get to see exactly how we work together to get feedback, troubleshoot issues, and make decisions from start to finish. It has been an awesome way to immerse new employees in how our company operates and for them to get up to speed on what is currently going on without any added work on our end.

Remote working can lower stress and boost morale

Statistics show that 82% of remote workers reported lower stress levels, according to one study, and that is a good thing not only for remote workers, but for the companies they work for. The study by PGI, a leading provider of software services, found that 80% of workers reported higher morale when working from home, while 69% reported lower absenteeism.

Remote working can help on the recruitment

Fully supporting remote working allows Collabora to recruit the best talents for the job regardless of location, to save money on office overhead, to manage with a focus on productivity rather than “face time”, to support a better work-life, and the list goes on. Bottom line: remote work can make us more successful.

Remote working can positively impact the environment

Collabora is very sensitive to the environmental matters and remote working can definitely help in going greener. In fact, some studies show that companies which have embraced remote working have helped reduce their carbon footprint.

Remote working can help embrace diversity

Working with people from diverse backgrounds is providing a unique opportunity to learn from others’ communicative styles and different ways of thinking. We can broaden our views and now see the world from different angles.

The diversity brings different perspectives when solving problems, which is essential for avoiding groupthink and blind spots and also improves the quality of the proposed envisioned solutions.

Remote working also comes with some challenges

Yes let us be honest. Many articles out on the WWW tend to only focus on the positive aspects but, although there are so many benefits to building a distributed team, and even more than ever, remote-working introduces some challenges.

Loneliness or the trappings of working from home

Loneliness might be the most common issue. Working from home can be empowering but can be quite isolating in its own way. It can be isolating to work an entire day or week without face-to-face interaction, especially for more extroverted personalities.

Work/Life balance

The flexibility to work where we want and when we want should ideally support work-life balance, but sometimes it does the exact opposite.

In contrast to a traditional office, remote-working puts much more focus on the output — what we get done. There is a sense of personal responsibility to get “enough” done that can lead us to keep working long past the point of optimal productivity. Couple that with a lack of physical work boundaries, and we can quickly fall into a downward spiral that is hard to see the way out of.

Distractions and Procrastination

Distractions can happen in the office but it can be even more challenging at home, especially for those with kids or cats… although they can also be a great thing. Traditional co-working can be even worse, in particular those with glass walls, 5pm music-bumping happy hours, and overly social neighbors. And very tempting to procrastinate.

And how are we at Collabora helping remote workers avoid some of those challenges?

Face-to-face interactions

Face-to-face interactions are arguably important in a remote environment, as they can help prevent potential isolation. As such we encourage recurring one-on-ones opportunities over video calls (weekly, monthly or on-demand adapting to each and everyone's expectations) as well as virtual coffee breaks (just join a Mattermost channel and people will get notified and can join you on a video chat).

Travel to OSS conferences and other events

Moreover, Collabora offers the ability to all its team mates to travel to different Open Source conferences and events throughout the world. It is not only a great opportunity for them to give talks about the great work they are doing but also to network and socialize with other colleagues, other professionnals as well as with customers.

Company Meet-up

The last but not the least, Collabora organizes a company meet-up every couple of years, getting all the company in one place for a week to socialize, have fun through team building activities, a bit of work of course and to remind all of us how much we like working with each other. It definitely helps fostering and maintaining the personal connection between people, crucial for a healthy distributed team.

Interested in working at Collabora?

While remote working definitely can be considered as a solution to many problems, we, at Collabora, do not underestimate and honestly acknowledge the potential challenges and downsides. We are fully committed to our people well-being and as such we are relentless exploring how to improve and make remote-working a positive experience while delivering to our customers.

If you are passionate about Free/Libre Open Source Software and aspiring to work remotely, we are looking forward to hearing from you! Check out our careers page and apply for any position you feel you are qualified for.

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