Why working from home is good for business | The Way We Work, a TED series

The basic problemwith working in an office is you're just not in controlof your work environment.

[The Way We Work] Howdy, my name is Matt, and I'm the CEO of Automattic, the company behind WordPress.

com, Jetpack and WooCommerce.

We're coming up on over 800 employees, and they live everywhere, from California to Alabama, Mississippi, to where I live in Texas.

They're also in 67 countries.

Canada, Mexico, India, New Zealand.

Some of them choose not evento have a home base, they're nomads.

Whether they are in RVsor traveling through Airbnbs, they are in new placesevery day, week or month.

As long as they can find good Wi-Fi, we don't care where they are.

Our focus on distributed workdidn't happen accidentally.

It was a conscious choicefrom the very beginning.

Notice I don't use the word “remote, ” because it sets up the expectation, that some people are essentialand some aren't.

I use the word “distributed”to describe what we do, where everyone ison an equal playing field.

I think a distributed workforce is the most effective wayto build a company.

The key is you have toapproach it consciously.

When we started WordPress, many of the first 20 hireswere people I'd never met in person.

But we'd collaborated online, sometimes for years.

I wanted to continue thatfor one simple reason.

I believe that talent and intelligence are equally distributedthroughout the world.

But opportunity is not.

In Silicon Valley, the big tech companies fish from essentiallythe same small pond or bay.

A distributed companycan fish from the entire ocean.

Instead of hiring someone who grew upin Japan but lives in California, you can gain someone who lives, works, wakes up and goes to sleepwherever they are in the world.

They bring a differentunderstanding of that culture and a different lived experience.

At the base of the decisionto go distributed, there's a desire to give people autonomyover how they do their work.

Unless you're in a rolewhere specific hours are important, you can make your own schedule.

Everyone can have a corner office, their windows, the food they want to eat, you can choose when there's musicand when there's silence.

You can choose what temperaturethe room should be.

You can save the timeyou'd spend commuting and put it into thingsthat are important to you.

A distributed workforceis ideal for a technology company.

But people often ask me, “This works great for y'all, but what about everyone else?” If you have an office, you can do a few thingsto build distributed capability.

First: document everything.

In an office, it's easyto make decisions in the moment, in the kitchen, in the hall.

But if people work remotely and some members of the teamare having those conversations they don't have access to, they'll see these decisions being madewithout understanding the why.

Always leave a trail of where you wereand what you were thinking about.

This allows others to pick upwhere you left off.

It allows people in differenttime zones to interact, it's also great to think aboutas an organization evolves, people leaving and people joining.

Try to have as much communicationas possible online.

When everything's shared and public, it allows new people to catch up quickly.

You also need to find the right tools.

There are so many apps and servicesthat help with day-to-day communication, video conferencing, project management.

The things that changed how you workprobably aren't objects anymore.

They're things you accessthrough your computer.

So experiment with differenttools that enable collaboration, see what works.

Create productive, face-to-face time.

In a traditional office, you're in the same place48 weeks out of the year and you might havethree or four weeks apart.

We try to flip that: we come togetherfor short, intense bursts.

Once a year we do a grand meet-up where the entire companycomes together for a week.

It's half-work, half-play.

The primary goal is connecting people.

We want to make sureeveryone's aligned and on the same page, and they have a deeper connectionwith their colleagues.

When they work togetherthe rest of the year, they can bring togetherthat understanding and empathy.

And the final practice: give people the flexibilityto make their own work environment.

Every person at Automattichas a co-working stipend that they can puttowards a co-working space or just to buy coffee, so they don'tget kicked out of the coffee shop.

One group in Seattledecided to pool their stipends together and rented a workspace on a fishing pier.

Each person who joins the companygets a home-office stipend.

This is money they can investin getting the right chair, monitor, the right desk setup, so they can havethe most productive environment for them.

Today, there are just a few companiesthat are distributed first.

In a decade or two, I predict that 90 percent of companies that are going to be changingthe course of the world are going to function this way.

They will evolve to be distributed first, or they'll be replaced by those that are.

As you think aboutwhat you're going to build next, consider how you can tapinto global talent, give people autonomy to live and workwhere they feel they should and still participate fully in whateverit is that you're creating together.


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