Managing people is hard enough, but try doing it remotely.
On a weekly basis I spend the bulk of my hours at work meeting 30 individuals via Zoom for 30 minute check-ins. During that time we cover a myriad of different metrics that rate their performance, but I choose to focus on three things:
1. Connecting — Technology has widened the talent pool, but also breeds disconnection. Instead of being concerned about physical location as a barrier, I try to immerse myself in a session as if we were in the same room. Human connection is a powerful thing no matter where you are. Relationships are formed over time through trust regardless of distance. Working remotely can present challenges, but with empathy, active listening and genuine care the virtual gap can be closed. Think of having a conversation with a friend over coffee. The same principles of building a friendship apply here. Connection is the foundation for any working relationship to thrive.
Building software for startups is a huge challenge. Not because writing the software itself is that hard, but most startups have managed to create the least optimal places to do work. In my 10+ years of experience as a software engineer at startups, I cannot trust employers to provide me with an adequate work environment, and this holds me back from doing the best possible work for them. I am an ambitious, driven individual, and I want nothing more than to provide the places I work with my best possible output. I will give whatever company I am working at 100%. Most of the places I have worked have done a great job at preventing me from doing this. That’s why from here on out, I am taking a stand and drawing a line in the sand. Henceforth I will only work in a “remote” arrangement.
Most startups nowadays are obsessed with the open office environment, and it’s nearly impossible to find companies that do not implement this type of layout. They’ll claim it’s because they want an “open and transparent culture” (myth busted*), but if you know anything about the subject, you’ll know this is the worst possible setup for actual work, and doesn’t improve communication or culture. You don’t have to look far to find plenty of research on the subject- and quite frankly, there is simply no debate here. There is no evidence to support the hypothesis that open office layouts foster a more collaborative environment. Of course, office managers, CEO’s and founders selectively ignore the mountain of evidence which disproves this hypothesis. This is one of the real tragedies of the startup world. It’s hard to estimate how many startups are being held back by the obsession and group think around the open office environment. There is also the cost to the mental health of the employees who are subjected to these mad houses every day. As the startup scene continues to ingest, chew up, and spit out/burn out young talent, there is very little by way of wisdom in the scene to help push back on issues like this. In the words of DHH: “The open office plan is a tyrant of interruption, a deep loss of privacy, and the death of productivity”
I’m not going to sugarcoat it: even with the most careful selection, the freelancer you choose to work with through an online marketplace, such as UpWork, Guru or Mechanical Turk, could be a lazy jerk.
There are ways however, to protect yourself, just in case you run into one of these not-so great freelancers.
Using Upwork, Guru, Outsourcely, Mechanical Turk and the like is a good way to find a remote worker for that projects you need to outsource. Without careful selection, though, your freelance hire could end up costing you much more than you planned. Here are some tips for getting a quality worker for your project.
Don’t Be Cheap
This is the biggest thing you need to remember when hiring freelancers through marketplaces: You get what you pay for. You may think you’re saving your company money by hiring someone with a low bid, but you never will.
Work from home, remote work, telecommuting — whatever you call it, it’s what lots of workers want. But what happens when it’s broken? What do you do when one of your team is working from home, but it isn’t working out?