From Client Perspective: The following piece covers imperative topics pertaining to remote work from the client’s perspective. It includes the Benefits of working with a remote team, Finding a remote team, Difficulties faced in working with remote teams and how to overcome them? & Satisfaction with remote work.
Remote Worker Perspective: The second half of this article essentially addresses concerns and findings from the remote worker’s perspective. It covers the following topics. Difficulties faced in working with remote clients and how to overcome them? Managing time zone differences, and Resolving cultural differences.
The trend of remote work is becoming quite popular and businesses with inclusive cultures are allowing their employees to work remotely. These modern employment options have truly made it possible for companies to leverage the various benefits of delegating work to remote teams. It is a win-win for both parties as the employees also get flexibility in work. However, a lot of speculation around this topic still prevails. To find out the reality of remote work, we conducted a survey that helped us gain a comprehensive understanding of the topic at hand. We essentially focused on the software development field. Below are the valuable insights that we gained.
“How can we help the remote work industry?”
This was the question that started it all; we wanted to understand how we can help companies and remote workers understand the existing problems in the remote industry and how they can overcome it.
We had some literature available in the form of notes and blogs from fellow remote platforms. There were some inputs available from founders that had used remote workers themselves and then there was a lot of “how to” and “me too” content produced for the sake of SEO.
The problem was that most of these accounts were written with only personal contexts and there was no research we could find that talked about real people and real stories. Moreover, we wanted to go the crowd-sourced way to get the industry trends rather than talking to a focused group or just hearing from people in our network.
In mid-April 2018, we decided to take a road trip to capture real conversations on camera about remote work.
Over the course of 3 months, we interviewed 250+ CXOs in person in the U.S. covering 16 cities. Post this we conducted an online survey, which had over 300+ CXOs as participants. Since we wanted to go beyond the one-sided perspective, we also took inputs from Remote Workers; thus, covering the whole spectrum of the Remote Work cycle. The participants were mostly the U.S. based CXOs running companies from pre-revenue to $5 Mn in revenue. They were aged between 20 to 60 years.
For Remote Workers, The participants were primarily India-based service providers. Their inputs were mostly taken through an online survey.
What did we discover?
Diving into the statistics, we found out that the average cost of a Remote Developer from South Asia is around 50% less than that of a local hire in the US. Given the further flexibility and scalability that remote teams offer, considering remote workers is indeed a good idea.
It should not be misconstrued though that such an endeavor does not invite with it a set of risks and challenges that need to be resolved.
Our survey comprehensively covered remote work trends, best practices, and learnings from fellow founders who have actually “been there and done that”.
We also made it a point to answer most of the commonly asked questions about remote work. We focused on both the customer’s and vendor’s perspective. This enabled us to get a wholesome idea about the current scenario of Remote Work industry.
Benefits of working with a remote team
We posed the following question in our survey and the answer was surprising.
After analyzing the results of the survey, we found that a whopping 86% of the participants have worked with or are currently working with a remote team(s). This made us naturally think as to why so many people would prefer working with remote teams? Was it only about the cost?
With the same idea, we asked our participants the following question.
Why work with remote teams?
We can all guess the answer-Low Cost
Conclusion: As empirical knowledge would suggest, Cost is the number one factor to work with remote teams. However, in the study we conducted, flexibility was found to be an equally important reason to work with remote teams. The ability to work at convenient hours and still have the work delivered seemed to be an attractive aspect of remote work. With this knowledge, one can assume that a trend is emerging of people moving away from the traditional 9 to 5 structure of jobs. It suggests that people now want to work when they want to and not according to the clock.
Pro Tip: Companies should let employees work the hours they want to work instead of forcing an outdated norm on them. Top companies like Google, Facebook and the like allow employees to work the hours they want. Employers also go the extra mile and give their people the freedom to choose when, where, and how they work.
Finding a Remote Team
Everything starts by finding the right team. How do you discover remote teams? What are the avenues and how do you compare 2 different teams? We pondered upon this and asked the participants the following question.
How do you find a remote team?
One would think that most companies would find their remote teams at a competitive online marketplace like Freelancer or Upwork, since they’d have a large pool of talent to choose from and the talent will provide services at a competitive rate.
Contrary to popular belief, 40% of the participants preferred to work with Remote teams that had been referred to them. Additionally, it was found that CXOs want to work with somebody who has been referred even if they might be expensive. This clearly implies that Trust is a major factor in this decision.
Difficulties faced in working with remote teams and how to overcome them?
We thus understood why people choose to work with remote teams, but it is also apparent from years of experience and basic understanding that working with a remote team could be a challenging task. So what are the challenges and how to resolve them? To find out more about it we asked the following question to our participants…
What are the difficulties you faced while working with remote teams?
There are inherent difficulties and problems faced while working with teams in other geographical location.
Communication and time zone difference were the top 2 contenders here.
Communication problems could lead to objectives being misunderstood thus elongating the project timeline and defeating the advantage of working with remote teams.
Time Zone difference would make the project duration longer since any work could take more time than it would have taken due to the limited interaction.
The example below shows how simple things may end up taking more time than required if quick review periods are not built in process. This example considers time zone difference between New Delhi, India and San Francisco, USA.
Communication and time zone difference are solvable challenges
Time zone difference can be solved by creating a plan that puts everyone in sync – This involves using the right tools, making adjustments to the work hours & creating multiple touch points within the day.
Communication Challenges can be solved by working with teams that speak your language and understand your culture.
It also validates the inherent fact that in order to succeed in working with remote teams, you need to invest time and resources in your team to bring them at par with you not only on the project but also on the cultural aspects.
IBM today has more staff in India than in its home country, i.e. the U.S. For IBM, its India center is not an extension of the U.S. entity, instead a stand-alone entity in itself.
The Cultural difference is another major difficulty faced by CXOs with about 19% of the participants saying that they have encountered problems due to variation in culture.
The Possible solution lies in discussing closely with the team as to how they can be brought closer to the project – This could include, an in-person meeting during crucial phases such as kickoff or release – An understanding of different cultures and keeping them in perspective while creating a plan can also go a long way in helping overcome cultural differences.
Satisfaction with remote work
Satisfaction is one of the most important things when it comes to work. But how satisfied are the people who’ve worked with remote teams? We posed the following questions to find out about the issue.
How satisfied are you?
These were our findings:
58% of the participants are satisfied with remote work.
Around 3% of participants are not at all satisfied
While we could see that 58% of participants are satisfied with remote work, we were also glad to find out that only 3% of the participants reported having a bad experience. This was a welcome relief because the confirmation bias that exists in the industry has proliferated the idea that working with remote teams is usually a bad experience. This also established the fact that there is a growing trend in acceptance of Remote Work.
Pro Tip: Keeping expectations in check could go a long way in improving your experience of working with Remote Teams. You need to make yourself fully aware of what working with Remote Teams entails and what it could mean for your company. Such awareness will help you make the most out of Remote Work.
Remote Worker Perspective
Difficulties faced in working with remote clients and how to overcome them?
Wanting to understand the Remote Work Industry all-inclusively, we also interviewed Remote Workers to take their opinion on the current state of the Remote Work Industry. We asked them the following question.
What are the major challenges of working remotely with clients?
Conclusion: The biggest difficulty faced in working with remote clients turns out to be communication, as also seen before in the customer’s perspective. Understanding the work is definitely much easier when done in person.
Definition of Objectives and clarity in the end goal of the project was found to be the second biggest challenge in dealing with Remote Clients.
Considering both the factors, we can conclude that a right start and defined process are essential for making remote work successful.
While initiating the project, make sure both you and the client are on the same page. Make sure that the purpose and the objective of the project are clear and there are measurable KPIs in place.
Managing Time Zone Differences
Question: How do you overcome time zone differences?
Conclusion: Appointing a team coordinator for the time zone overlap seems to be the solution most teams lean on. The team coordinator is responsible for providing the necessary overlap between both parties.
Creating a structured communication process can help overcome time zone difference because both parties then know when and how to communicate and make effective use of the time available.
Pro Tip: Time zone difference can be solved by creating a plan that puts everyone in sync – This involves using the right tools, making adjustments to the work hours & creating multiple touch points within the day.
Resolving cultural differences
Question: How do you overcome cultural differences?
Conclusion: Having a positive attitude, openness and understanding of differences in culture can go a long way in helping overcome cultural differences.
Language can play a major role in bridging the cultural difference gap. Thus, it is also important to keep in mind that the Remote team should be fluent in your language, and can understand the nuances and implicit context within the expressions.
Pro Tip: It is recommended that you put in the time and effort to understand the client’s culture and working style, and also give them an opportunity to understand yours.
In summary, Remote work seems to be the future of work. Looking at the responses received from the CXOs and looking at satisfaction levels of remote clients we believe that there is a huge scope of growth for remote work and that trend is not slowing down any time soon. It is also important to understand that remote work is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It requires deliberate time and effort to make it work but once done correctly it is an approach that will keep paying dividends over the years. One thing that was common among all the conversations we had pertaining to remote work was that everyone agrees that remote work is a long-term commitment and needs to be treated likewise.
Many people and partners have supported us throughout this survey. An endeavor like this would never have been possible without the hard work and assistance of our partners. We would like to extend a special thanks to all the CXOs and remote workers who took time from their busy schedules to meet us and share their experiences with an open heart. We believe that we are living in an exciting time for remote work and hope that this survey helps our readers make better decisions and build better remote teams.