Before Remote Work, There Were Distributed Companies
October 11, 2021
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by Arabella Seebaluck

There has been a lot of talk over the past 18 months about what can be termed as the ‘new age’ of working, which is now working from home or simply, remote work. All courtesy of Covid19, the pandemic which first brought the world to a standstill, then seriously altered its Way of Work forever.

How many companies are now looking into the remote way of working as a model, that is, to be ‘distributed’ across the world? An overview of the articles that have emerged on the subject since the world turned a corner in 2020 will give you this answer: there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this question.

In fact, many companies are pushing back to have their employees back in the office. The tech giant Apple has been in the limelight for the past few months over this precise question. Employees have been challenging the company’s endeavour for a full return to its offices, a report says:

“Apple expects employees to return to their desks at least three days a week when its offices reopen. And although the Covid-19 delta variant has made it unclear exactly when that will be, Apple’s normally heads-down employees are pushing back in an unprecedented way. They’ve created two petitions demanding the option to work remotely full time that have collected over 1,000 signatures combined, a handful of people have resigned over the matter, and some employees have begun speaking out publicly to criticize management’s stance.”

Remote work is a favourite for tech firms

Let’s forget about Apple for a moment. What about other IT companies in the world, that aren’t usually headline-grabbing?  There are quite a few of them that have opted for the ‘distributed’ model of work, Andrew Burak, CEO of Relevant writes. Many of those did so even before the pandemic and Burak lists some interesting reasons behind this model befitting IT firms in particular.

Among the reasons he lists are the diversity in the talent pool. This is one of the primary issues in the IT world, where talent is sometimes concentrated in one geographical location. One needs only to think of the hordes of Indian IT engineers flocking their way to Silicon Valley and other parts of the U.S. every year.

Youpal Group, a Sweden-based IT company which came into being in 2016, is another example of this thirst for varied talent. James Baker-Duly, the company’s COO, also points out that the nature of some of the projects and services provided by IT firms demand this level of flexibility as well.

“Our business model isn’t based on any particular region – we are purely global… So, our focus isn’t on someone’s location or background… but more about whether they are sufficiently passionate and can contribute to what matters to us the most.

We are a gig-economy based company, that’s our model. The people who work for us can come and go. They have flexibility in terms of projects they want to work on and the time they can allocate to those.”

Indeed, companies including GitLab, Slack, Zapier and Skype are distributed companies, or ones which adopted remote work since before 2020. These companies benefit from the many advantages associated with this model: cost-effectiveness, productivity and time effectiveness are only some of these.

What about hybrid?

Querying a variety of businesses on the matter, the BBC came up with an interesting article on how many places in the world are adapting to their local restrictions and internal requirements.

“Businesses are answering in different ways. Some have been quick to herald a completely new world of work, like file-hosting service Dropbox, which went “virtual first”, in 2020, pointing to the benefits of “non-linear workdays” and “employee experience”. But others, like tech giant Facebook and insurance company Aviva, are opting for a “hybrid” model, offering greater flexibility and independence for workers while maintaining certain structures.”

The hybrid model is definitely out there to stay in many places where it will be possible to do so. But there are industries, such as education and medicine, where the personal interface cannot be entirely taken away. What will be interesting to see, as well, is what happens to retail businesses as the pandemic brought yet another boost to e-commerce as the situation progresses.

Where applicable, however, it seems that the remote model will continue to be of value – reducing overheads such as office rental and commuting for workers. The hybrid model will certainly prevail where some of the social interaction needs to continue… and for sure, the world of work will continue evolving and models will adapt to whatever new conditions the world finds itself in.

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One response to “Before Remote Work, There Were Distributed Companies”

  1. […] out of the office, the modus operandi for employees is going to be a hybrid model; a mixture of remote and office work. This is the model of choice for many businesses both big and small as it enables […]

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