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How to Retain Your Remote Talent When They Can Go Anywhere

Hint: It’s not about ping pong tables, Instagram-able events, or providing enough vegan and gluten-free snacks. Turns out, all that stuff that felt a bit like fluff or window-dressing during the tech boom of the aughts was about as meaningful to your workforce as, well—fluff. Research by Gitlab (the world’s largest all-remote company) found that “in a world where so many companies have spent a lot of money on office perks like snacks and gyms, only 5% [of employees] said they missed those perks." In other words, 95% of your employees don’t really care about the office perks that flew out the window in early 2020.

They care about the work, the culture—not ping-pong. This should come as good news to business leaders and management. Now, the question is—how do you build a connected and motivated remote workforce? How do you build a culture remotely that others want to join, rather than one where folks leave all too often?

Lean Into the Remote Revolution

It’s quite clear that employees really enjoy the autonomy and flexibility that comes with remote work. The benefits are well documented and practically self-evident. No commute. No waiting for the elevator. No expensive, yet average lunch. No feeling like you’re sort of being watched by management and that maybe there’s an underlying trust issue.

Working at home, however—you have your own coffee. Your own music. Your own comfortable clothes, cozy slippers. Your dog at your feet. Your agency and full creative control of the work environment. The ability to jump into work and respond when you feel inspired, or to take a nap when you might need it. Need I go on? In case you're not convinced, take the word of some 2,300 remote workers polled for Buffers 2021 State of Remote Work. 97% of respondents would recommend remote work to others.

In the fight to preserve your best talent, as well as to attract new top talent, figuring out how to make the very best of the remote work environment is paramount. If you don’t have an office you can’t even really put a ping-pong table anywhere, right? We know now that the fluff never really mattered, and we currently don’t even have windows to dress up, so what are the core elements that make a remote organization one where talent stays, grows, and thrives? One where committed, long-term talent attracts new talent.

The Asynchronous Overhaul

Our global transition to adopting the “remote work” concept and adjusting on the fly as we collectively dealt with a global pandemic has been enlightening. The proliferation of remote work was always coming, but 2020 was our fast-forward button. It’s changed a lot about the way we work, and there’s one gargantuan underlying change that is hardly considered: the transition to asynchronous work.

Everything we love about remote work in this new world is often credited to “the freedom that working remotely gives us.” We love the pajamas, working near the pool, and easily staying home when our kids are sick. Those freedoms are lovely, but when it comes to the work itself, the greatest freedom we’re given is provided by asynchronous platforms.

Asynchronous platforms are simply those that don’t demand an immediate response—that don’t demand you to be present. Email, Slack, Teams, and new tools like Voodle, are allowing all team members in a dispersed workforce to get the work done on their own time. To wake up in whatever time zone they’re currently calling home, and dive in. The autonomy provided by asynchronous platforms, and the enormous (yet, hardly noticed) transition to this style of work, is more foundational to “why we like remote work” than we’re fully aware of. In fact, there’s a good chance this is the first time you’ve heard the term “asynchronous work.”

Imagine you’re in charge of a new marketing campaign. Consider the difference in your own stress levels between having a daily one-on-one with your boss about the progress, or sharing regular updates through an ongoing asynchronous Slack thread. The first scenario can easily feel like being called into the principles office every day, but the second feels like a deep breath. That asynchronous version of workplace communication is fun, relaxed, peaceful. Imagine how much fun it can be when you find a powerful asynchronous work platform based on the magic of video. Well, that’s exactly what Voodle is.

Nirvana—The Fifth Level of Work Place Autonomy

Matt Mullenweg recently published an insightful blog about the future of work in which he lays out the five levels of autonomy for a workforce. As organizations are being forced to adjust to a dispersed workforce, they’re finding out a lot more of the roles within the company—a much greater bulk of the work itself—are actually well suited for remote work. Matt’s basic premise is that if remote organizations can commit to the many benefits of remote work, through strategic planning and strong leadership, they can evolve through these five levels.

Level zero is simply work that cannot be done if you’re not there—mechanics, plumbers, doctors, chimney sweeps, and the myriad professions that demand your physical presence. We're not discussing those. However, many organizations that now operate remotely used to put themselves in this bucket just over a year ago. Misguided with the long-held idea that “without in-person meetings and sharing the same physical space, the work can’t get done.” We know now, that’s all just a bunch of hogwash and ping pong tables.

As an organization leans into having a fully location independent workforce, it moves up the five levels.

Matt’s 5 Levels of Autonomy for a Distributed Workforce:

  1. An organization that makes no effort to make things remote-friendly

  2. Work is still synchronous and your day is filled with interruptions

  3. Remote first, distributed organizations

  4. When things go truly asynchronous

  5. NIRVANA—or as Matt describes it “when you consistently perform better than any in-person organization could”

That right there, number five, that is the goal.

If you’re able to fully commit, to design your workflows on asynchronous tools. To build your work culture around a fully asynchronous model of iteration and productivity. If you can achieve this work nirvana, your employees won’t be scrolling on job boards. Your employees will be singing the praises of an organization that truly gets the moment we’re in as a culture when it comes to working. This is what your employees want, and the good news is—when done well it’s good for business.

Produced in Collaboration with Voodle.
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