5 levels of remote work

Photo by Matt Mullenweg

Companies can't entirely make the transition to remote overnight. It is a process which takes time, and often is chaotic, stressful, and difficult as a remote culture is developed internally.

But it's possible to fully realize the power of a distributed experience if a company can work its way up through the five levels of remote work.

Here is how distributed companies evolve courtesy of Matt Mullenweg, former CEO and Co-founder of WordPress.

Level 0: A job which cannot be done unless you're physically there

Imagine construction worker, barista, massage therapist, firefighter… Many companies assumed they had far more of these than it has turned out they really did.

Level 1: No deliberate effort to make things remote-friendly

Work happens on company equipment, in company space, on company time. Larger level one companies often have people in the same building or campus dialing into a meeting and were largely unprepared for this crisis.

Level 2: Everything is still synchronous, your day is full of interruptions

No real-time meetings have been canceled (yet), and there’s a lot of anxiety in management around productivity. Companies sometimes install surveillance software on laptops.

Level 3: Being remote-first, or distributed

You’re really starting to benefit from being remote-first, or distributed. That’s when you see people invest in better equipment and in more robust asynchronous processes that start to replace meetings.

Level 4: When things go truly asynchronous

You evaluate people’s work on what they produce, not how or when they produce it. Real-time meetings are taken seriously. If you get good at baton passes work will follow the sun 24/7 around the world.

Level 5: Nirvana - consistently perform better than any in-person organization could

You’re effortlessly effective and have time for wellness & mental health. People bring their best selves & highest levels of creativity to do the best work of their careers & just have fun.

What should my company do?

No matter where you are on this pyramid, there is always room to improve. Take honest stock of where you and your company are and think carefully about what you can do to reach the next level.

How does Standups fit in to the equation?

This is what truly excites us about what we're building at Standups: we believe platforms like ours, that truly enable and allow for asynchronous, non-real-time communication, are key to helping organizations reach level 5: Nirvana ✨

Work isn't about how many hours you put in or at what time of day you put it in. It's about the quality of the work you do and the impact it has. That doesn't mean don't work hard, and that doesn't mean there might be days you have to put in long hours. But it doesn't need to happen at the same time as someone else and someone else doesn't need to "see you working" for you to have a massive impact.

Furthermore, effective asynchronous communication is a "secret hidden in plain sight" that truly allows companies to consistently perform better than an in-person organizations could. This is hard to develop though as a culture within a team. For so long we've been trained to think "I need a response now" or "Let's jump on a quick call." But, the truth is the vast majority of the time, this communication can happen asynchronously.

However the right tools need to exist to enable asynchronous (non-real-time) communication and we think Standups can help do this 💪

What do you think? At what level does your company sit on the pyramid? Let me know what you think on Twitter @arjmahadevan

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