Warfare and other moments of great national urgency often spawn momentous innovations that change our way of life. The current coronavirus outbreak is no exception. All of us are learning by necessity the art and science of ‘social distancing’ in our collective effort to slow the rate of infection. In many states and municipalities bars, restaurants, and nightclubs are closed completely, or at least reducing their intake of customers, and employers are asking and even sometimes requiring their employees to work from home, a phenomenon quite foreign to many organizations and individuals.
We at Slone Partners have a lot of experience in this area, as we made the decision early on nearly 20 years ago to become an all-remote company, meaning that our team is spread across the country in different locales and time zones and not tethered to a common physical office space. As pioneers in this field, we have learned a lot over the years and have evolved our operations to prioritize culture, leverage technology, enhance teamwork processes, improve efficiencies, and ensure that our client partners receive exceptional service.
Those of us who are employed by remote work companies have the freedom of choosing where we live based on our personal and family needs, rather than on where our company office is situated. This liberty has proven extremely valuable in allowing us at Slone Partners to recruit and retain the best performers without geographic limitations, giving us the one-up on our competitors who do not offer this option.
I recognize the challenges of an all-remote workforce and the risks posed by a heavy reliance on technology, so for those that are willing to adopt it, their infrastructure must be carefully customized based on operations, job functions, and culture. Yet many companies will discover that there are unexpected benefits, not only in terms of money and commute time saved, but also in higher employee satisfaction. In fact, a Stanford University study revealed that home workers are actually more productive, spend more time at their jobs, and take fewer breaks and sick days. A 2019 Google study found that while office technology has its limits and frustrations, remote workers performed just as well as their peers, and received promotions on an equal level.
And, as CEO of a nationwide executive search firm, I have unique perspective on the negative downstream impacts of the traditional workplace mentality. Candidate pools are necessarily constrained by a company’s reluctance to consider candidates who seek flexible work options, and, in some cases, a person who is eminently qualified for the position will be rejected based on a mandate of required relocation. And many top executives seeking new career opportunities will often bypass otherwise exciting roles at companies where remote options are limited, in favor of a more modern approach where remote work is encouraged.
Certainly, there are potential risks that need to be managed. Remote employees must abide by a virtual social contract — they must be fully functional, accountable, responsive, and reliable, meet deadlines, and work extra hard to maintain effective working relationships without a physical water cooler to bring them and their colleagues together. We’ve certainly had some hiccups along the way, but we make it a priority at Slone Partners to support and mentor our employees, and to constantly reevaluate our remote work policies and procedures to ensure that we stay ahead of the curve and pivot quickly to respond to any operational gaps. It is also extremely important to keep all employees informed about all internal remote work policies, and to involve them in regular communications through daily video calls, culture clubs, retreats, and newsletters so that all of them understand their roles as active partners in our collective mission.
The coronavirus outbreak we are currently facing is a truly frightening time for all of us, and we are all being called upon to make personal sacrifices in the name of public health. My colleagues and I are proud to be a part of this effort, and take pride in the fact that our remote work operations are already tried and tested. We fully expect that other companies and institutions will also find their way to this place — not only in the name of public health, but also with an objective of building a more flexible, robust, and productive workforce.