Written by Jon Thai
Until 2015, I have always worked in a very traditional office environment(though for design firms, we still had to be in the studio from 9 to 5). From then on, I had firsthand experience in remote working environments as well, and upon compare-contrast, I conclude that working remotely is one key to a startup companies’ success. Remote work is on the rise as a reaction to shelter in place and health protocols due to COVID-19. And if there is anything you can take away from this, it’s that those companies that told you your job can’t be done from the comfort of your own home, they can now be proven wrong.
It may surprise you, but our two companies, Aggregate and Hatch Duo, have always operated with a remote setting. Ironically, it was only recently in 2019 we decided to get more of the “traditional” design studio. While it has its upsides, I can attest that our remote model is extremely better(and allowed us to transition seamlessly during SIP Covid). Here are 6 reasons why:
1) Cost savings and Productivity:
One of the main reasons remote work is good for business is the cost savings on overhead. How many design firms do you know that create award-winning work but also don’t have the swanky/ bourgeois offices with ping pong tables, lounges and nap pods, and the price tag that comes with paying for that overhead? Hatch Duo saves about $100k a year in leasing expenses by keeping our studio space to the essentials and allowing our staff/designers to come in as needed. Why is this good for business? It passes the savings over to the customer/client so they are paying for the actual design work–not our happy hour beer pong tables, and now the empty lease space that all the other firms likely are charging their clients for. Additionally, it gives us budget to retain top talent.
In terms of productivity, all of my designers are currently from the SF Bay Area; however, being a Bay Area native, we all know how difficult the commutes can be. Between getting from the East Bay to SF, or SF to Palo Alto/South Bay, allowing our team to work remotely has efficiently saved costs that come with the commute and stress, and allowed our design team to spend more time designing and less time commuting. In fact, according to Buffer’s State of Remote Work 2020 report, 21% of those surveyed found that the biggest benefit to working remotely is not having to commute.
And to be completely honest, let’s admit it–open office working environments are good for collaboration, but if you are a designer, you’d be lying if you said you love chatting and collaborating 24/7. Sure, you miss out on the “curated team process images,” but can anyone argue that you aren’t getting more valuable work done? I know my team prefers to collaborate on milestone key checkpoints, but they perform best when they can get into the zone, ALONE. Less time for gossip, fewer politics, and more productivity.
2) Access to global talent (if needed):
If you are a startup and raising capital, how much easier would it be to raise your first round/seed if the Bay Area salary was not a conditional constraint? The Bay Area is arguably one of the most concentrated areas of talent pools, but there are also plenty of highly talented and motivated individuals outside our state, as well as the country. Remote work allows businesses to have access to premium talent that may be out of reach cost-wise, locally.
As a manager/director/business owner, I don’t have time to micromanage ten other adults, or manage what is going on outside of work. What I do know is that everyone has a personal life, and that should always take priority over professional life. That being said, working remotely allows my team to prioritize what they need to in their lives without the added pressure and burden of “face time” of a 9-5 office environment. Further, a certain trust is built between management and the rest of the team when they are put to the task of completing work on their own. When we are confident and trust that they will get their jobs done, they build confidence in themselves, allowing for happier work culture. My designers are more creative, happier, and though we pay our team competitively, studies even show millennials and Gen-Z consider remote work as a high-value compensation factor when choosing jobs. Bringing back Buffer’s State of Remote Work 2020 report, 98% of people prefer to work remotely (at least sometimes) for the rest of their careers.
4) RESULTS Driven Culture:
Not sure who’s seen Last Dance with MJ and the 1990 Chicago Bulls, but at Hatch Duo, we promote a culture of winning/results. Much like the Bulls, you will be exposed during game time, if you aren’t bringing your top A-game. How often have we heard stories of senior executive staff with inflated salaries, who on paper look good, but results-wise, are lacking? That doesn’t happen here- if you do not have results, remote work genuinely highlights deficiencies in productivity. One of the biggest challenges of working remotely is that you cannot see what the person is working on unless it is reported. The benefit is that there is internal expectations to bring RESULTS day in and day out. This is what makes our team highly motivated, and highly competitive. We have had clients who have worked with some of the other well-known firms to say how surprised our work quality was as good (if not, better than) our competitors without having pointless in-person meetings, or doing what they were traditionally used to.
5) Collaboration and Transparency:
We can build closer relationships with our clients by being more transparent with our process. Traditionally, “design” was this service you hired and they ran away and presented something later. Through Slack and Miro, we are able to create collaborative workspaces with our clients, so that there are no surprises and they have a constant view of what we are working on. We use the shared channel feature often.
6) Digital = Saving the Earth:
Saving Excess Resources-paper: most design offices waste a lot of sketches/materials by posting on the walls. While this is inspirational and attunes to designers being able to decipher between ideas, I would argue there are comparable digital tools like Slack and Miro, which lead to more visibility and collaboration across multidisciplinary teams. This aids with record-keeping and file management to be fully integrated.Also, fewer carbon emissions from commuting. For companies looking to be more “sustainable” to the earth- here is one way to do it.
Remote Work Has Its Benefits
All things considered, some may think that working remotely hinders growth or company culture(we do acknowledge there are pros/cons), but given our roots, we can attest that it has only made us stronger–not just as partners, but now with the entirety of the company. Sure, in-person collaboration may play an impactful role, but because we are now working remotely, we are accepting the challenge of keeping communication at an all-time high. We need to embrace this new reality where people have seen that remote work has its benefits, and the work environment as we know it, will change permanently. So, the next time you consider hiring a design firm- ask yourself, how much of that price is going towards leasing glass walls, high utility bills, fancy art installations, “war rooms” and beer pong tables/lounges?
Want more tips on how to convert your team into a remote team? Get in touch with us!