Your best candidates demand to work remotely July 30, 2015
Tuesday morning. It's 6:32am. You yawn. You stretch and turn over on your side. No alarm woke you up. You, like most highly-productive people like waking early. You rise, stretch again, and don your bathrobe. You go into the kitchen. You press play on a podcast, leisurely cook yourself a healthy breakfast, eat, and then make coffee. It's 7:41am.
You sit at your desk and decide on your first task. You work, with no interruptions, for 1 hour and 54 minutes. It's 9:35.
Most people are still stuck in traffic, but you just clocked nearly 2 hours of completely uninterrupted work.
You take a break to stretch and make some more coffee. You check your email, because you know checking your email before you complete your most important task of the day is the best way to ensure it won't get done. You process all your email. Inbox zero. It's 10:00.
You have a brief, 5-minute meeting with your team members. You do this every morning. Once the call is over, you work again, with laser-focus, for another hour.
It's lunch time. You make a healthy salad for lunch. You spent only 28% of what it would have cost to buy a comparable lunch at a restaurant. You take your time washing the dishes.
You decide you'd like to take a walk. You take a leisurely half-hour walk around the neighborhood. You remember you need to buy some toiletries, so you stop at the grocery store.
When you return to your house, you sit for another two hours of uninterrupted work. Your superior is thrilled with your output. You are thrilled with being able to work on your terms.
It's 4:35. You turn off your computer and go spend time with your family and friends.
If you work remotely, it's likely you're familiar with the lifestyle I portrayed above. Thousands of programmers, designers, writers and other creative professionals are working remotely and enjoying the fruits of a self-driven, telecommute lifestyle. And thousands of companies are reaping the benefits of sourcing the best talent by allowing them to work on their own terms.
The Best Will Demand It
If your organization doesn't allow remote work, it's not attracting the best talent, because the best talent will demand to work remotely.
Remote work is becoming more common, and your best talent isn't having a hard time finding employment with remote-friendly employers.
The best talent has invested in creating a home workspace tailored to their personal tastes. They have created the ideal place for their productivity to flourish, and you didn't spend a dime. They've created systems that enhance their unique work style and culture.
Your best candidates are self-motivated, outcome-oriented people. Why would someone self-motivated and outcome-oriented want to spend their entire day in an office? They want to be spending their days productive when they can be, and enjoying life when they run out of steam.
They recognize the finite nature of time, which is why they strive to do excellent work for you while reserving the right to enjoy mid-day leisure.
Creative knowledge work is unlike the industrial and clerical work that came before it. There is no longer a linear correlation between hours worked and productivity. A programmer who works eight hours in a row will not produce twice as much as a programmer who works four hours in a row. I have personally found that I reach my productivity ceiling at around four hours' work in a day. Why are you requiring your team to stick around for eight hours straight?
A Broader Base of Talent
If you're hiring for a San Francisco company and you source your developers from the north, you could incentivize your candidates with a $9,127 salary increase over their local Seattle options, and save $9,127 per year compared to hiring someone in San Francisco. It's a win-win scenario for both you and your new hire.
With hyper-specialization becoming more common for technical workers, hiring outside your local metropolitan area also means you're able to find talent with experience that better matches your organization's needs.
When you offer a relocation package, you incur the additional risk that your new hire won't be the star player you thought they'd be. You'll have lost the airfare, the moving expenses, and the time spent interviewing and training them. When you hire remotely, your hiring costs are minimal.
Commuting is Expensive
In America, the average commute to work is 25.5 minutes. That's 51 minutes per day, or 4 hours and 15 minutes per week. That equates to a 10% pay cut: 4 hours of unpaid time for every 40 spent working. But that's not the worst of it.
The average per-mile cost of operating a sedan in America is $0.60. Assuming a 30-mile round-trip commute, that's $18 per day, or $90 per week spent commuting, in addition to the opportunity cost of the lost time!
Consider an average-salaried San Francisco senior web developer. They make $102,157 per year. Assuming they work 50 weeks per year, for 40 hours per week, that means their effective hourly rate is $51. When we apply their effective $51 hourly rate to their time spent commuting, their opportunity cost lost to commuting is 4.25 hours × $51 = $216.75 per week. That's an annual cost of $10,837.50. Add the cost of operating the car, and their effective salary dropped $15,337.50.
Commuting has turned your candidate's $102,157 salary into $86,819. That's a 15% effective pay cut. Armed with this knowledge, how many of your best and brightest candidates do you think would agree to a daily commute?
Remote workers enjoy a lifestyle that cannot be valued in dollars. They are high-output, self-motivated professionals who recognize the opportunity costs associated with mandatory office hours, and so they seek employment with firms that also recognize these costs. The life of a remote worker is richer and less restrictive. This richness and freedom will translate into better work for you.