Features January 2018 On The Cover

Remote Location: Working Outside the Box

Written By: Alyssa Ramos

Companies are constantly redefining the office. The typical work space has evolved from labyrinths of cubicles to high-tech co-working areas. But the remote work culture may be changing this paradigm. Today, some of these offices are looking a lot more like coffee shops than cubicles.

Before Pete Zimek founded his company in 2009, he was already accustomed to remote work, or more precisely, working from out of his car. While the presence of a brick-and-mortar business signifies a certain sense of legitimacy, Zimek found success going against the grain.

“We were a remote company before a remote company was cool,” Zimek said.

Zimek’s company, the iLS Network, is a network of online guides that match renters with apartments that best fits the lifestyle and budget of its 70,000 clients across Florida. However, Zimek has  only been to his physical office four times in the past eight years.

According to a New York Times article, the number of employees who choose to work remotely has risen from 25 percent to 31 percent since 2010. Remote work is not a new concept, but it may be a growing trend that will allow flexibility for the modern-day worker. From 2009 to 2010, Zimek noticed a stigma against remote work, but now it’s become an appealing feature for future employees.

“We’ve benefited from retaining grade-A employees who are incredibly creative, hardworking and passionate,” Zimek said.  “We’re able to give them flexibility, so that they can work when they’re most inspired and where they’re most inspired.”

The idea of remote work paints a picture of the personal and professional realms colliding, but that’s not always the case. Through innovative technology, remote work provides many benefits for several companies. It allows for effective communication skills, cost-efficient solutions and flexibility for its employees.

“We like to lead our staff and lead our co-workers; we don’t like to manage [them]” Zimek said. “We can’t just sit and look over someone’s shoulders – that’s not how we operate anyway.”

His staff is spread as far west as Texas and far north as Virginia, but all employees have their own corporate office. Zimek said that remote work doesn’t mean working from a kitchen table.

Zimek also owns, novi AMS, a software company for trade associations that uses QuickBooks, and it is completely remote as well. Employees at novi AMS have practiced communicating through video conferences that provide them with the effective and precise communication skills fit for collaboration as well as proper skills to facilitate genuine conversation with their clients via digital platforms.

With technology making people more accessible and with people becoming more mobile in their lives, flexibility is truly the biggest draw to remote work. Alexander Ganz, founder and owner of SCAD Media, finds that remote employee culture works best when there’s a healthy balance of flexibility and accountability. Ganz’s employees have the freedom to set their own schedules and manage their own time. While the company does have a physical office for the times when in-person collaboration is needed, most of his employees don’t adhere to a 8-to-5 schedule.

“We try to give them the tools to succeed in remote working,” Ganz said. “We’re trying to make their lives as easy as possible to embrace the remote culture and not worry so much.”

A Gallup News article reported that 27 percent of remote employees are more likely than non-remote employees to strongly agree that they have the materials and equipment they need to do their work right. Owners like Ganz and Zimek offer incentives to foster a strong company culture that instills camaraderie and boosts employee morale.

At SCAD, Ganz provides reimbursement for travel expenses and an entertainment budget for catered lunch. Zimek uses a series of tools and rituals to connect his remote workers and establish a personal connection via Monday video lunches where employees are encouraged to leave work out of the discussion and catch up on their lives.

“It’s important to build in rituals that do that,” Zimek said. “Finding ways to get the team together virtually or in person –  it’s important to have one-on-one conversations via video conferencing.”

Platforms such as Slack and Zoom provide accessible ways for employees to stay connected and maintain accountability for each other. Companies with remote employees rely on these channels of communication to help drive their workflow and implement regular updates about their projects and clients.

“It’s an opportunity for us to share with our team members what we did yesterday, what we’re going to do today and share any roadblocks that we have, so we can collaborate … and get them taken care of,” Zimek said.

Tyler Rucarean is the strategic branding and consultant leg of Ruler Creative, a company that specializes in website and app development. They joke that the office is essentially Slack. However, communication can be just as much a weakness as it is a strength. There is the possibility for miscommunication and Rucarean noted that remote work means that he’s accessible 24/7. Working late is nothing new in this case.

“It’s harder to get certain things done if you’re not together,” Rucarean said. “You have to be dedicated to make timelines work and deliver.”

At Ruler Creative, they have a nomadic workflow that has Rucarean and his partners moving from one coffee shop to the next. However, the fluidity of their schedules allows them to be completely available to their clients and their needs. The nature of their work allows them to build strong bonds because they don’t necessarily have a corporate barrier, rather they’re constantly exposed to the community.

“We just trust each other as a company, and I think that’s our biggest advantage,” Rucarean said. “There’s no micromanagement of everyone and there’s trust, and it breeds excitement and creativity in what we do.”

However, remote work isn’t advised for every company, rather its suited for those who are self-motivated, dedicated and passionate about their company’s values. Rucarean finds that more and more people nowadays are interested in generating personal revenue or income from multiple jobs and industries.

“People are specializing and they want to hit those goals –  being remote, you have that opportunity with your time and if you have a good team and there’s trust,” Rucarean said. “You can get a lot out of yourself and fulfill your dreams.

Ultimately, trust and dedication are the linchpin of remote work culture – it’s not a role made for every worker, but it’s a viable option for a changing workforce. When a company is steadfast in its values and understands the needs of its employees, remote work does just that; it works.

“Our business is growing at a very fast pace, and I think that the reason for that growth is the amazing talent that we’ve been able to recruit and retain,” Zimek said. “I don’t think that we’d have those people on our team today if it weren’t for the fact that we are a remote company.”

About the author

Alyssa Ramos is a second year Journalism major a the University of Florida with a minor in French. She is an aspiring magazine journalist, a fashion enthusiast, and a Netflix binger with hopes of telling people’s stories through all forms of media. For now, she is still honing her writing skills, but she’s always in search of a good book and a strong cup of coffee. 

Leave a Comment