Remote work has become a necessity for many businesses during the pandemic. Companies that had never considered remote work in the past were forced to adjust quickly to stay operational. Even though remote work has its benefits, it also has its own set of challenges. Having spoken to twenty-thirty leaders every month for the last couple of years about making a transition to permanent hybrid and remote work, I’ve seen these challenges up close. To get a better grasp on them, I discussed the challenges and opportunities of remote work and hybrid work with Prashanth Chandrasekar, the CEO of Stack Overflow, a company that has been practicing hybrid work since 2008.
How Hybrid Work Can Work Well
Chandrasekar discussed how the pandemic impacted his company’s approach to remote work and hybrid work. Before the pandemic, Stack Overflow was about 40% remote, with 80% of their product engineering team working remotely. During the pandemic, the company became almost entirely remote, with 90% of their workforce working from home. Chandrasekar joined the company as CEO in late 2019, just before the pandemic, and has been remotely leading the company from Texas for more than 75% of his tenure. The company has scaled across various departments by hiring people all around the world, with only a few sales and commercial resources spending time in the office.
Chandrasekar shared the top three things he learned during this transition to hybrid and remote work. The first thing he mentioned was flexibility. He emphasized the importance of flexibility in how, when, and where people work. He also mentioned that Stack Overflow did some research that showed that flexibility is one of the top reasons why people are happy at work. The second thing he talked about was the importance of opportunities for learning and growth. In a hybrid work environment, people need additional opportunities to learn beyond the formal in-person coaching that they are used to. The third thing he highlighted was the importance of productivity. In a remote work environment, people are most productive when they are least distracted. However, it can be challenging to stay focused when there are so many distractions at home. Chandrasekar discussed the importance of reducing distractions and context-switching by leveraging asynchronous collaboration tools like Stack Overflow for Teams.
I asked Chandrasekar about productivity in more detail, since when I work with clients, I find that people are most productive when they work remotely because they can have that focus and are least distracted. Chandrasekar agreed but added that it is a double-edged sword. While people can focus more at home, they can also get massively disrupted and knocked off their flow state or their cognitive load by various distractions like text messages, chat ops messages, phone calls, or even the plumber coming in. Chandrasekar discussed how Stack Overflow for Teams helps reduce distractions and improve productivity by creating an institutional knowledge base. The platform captures information that can be reused as part of a company’s knowledge base and can be accessed by anyone else in the company.
Flexibility and Inclusion in Hybrid Work
Next, Chandrasekar told me that flexibility is one of the three things that people care about in terms of their level of happiness and inclination to stay within a company or potentially go to a new one. Stack Overflow’s surveys have shown that over 50% of the people who responded said that they would not be in favor of working for companies that push them to come to the office on a daily or weekly basis. Additionally, only 15% of people working in companies and independent work mechanisms are all-in on the office. Therefore, it is important for leaders and recruiting departments to be flexible on the subject of remote work to maximize their chances of attracting the best candidates.
Chandrasekar mentions that his company has made it a priority to invest in its people, giving them flexibility, and making sure they live their core values, which include flexibility and inclusivity. The company does this by allowing their people to work when, where, and how they want to work. The company brings its entire workforce from around the world together physically every year to build bonds, build trust, and fill up the buckets that have been drained throughout the year. The CEO notes that human connection is paramount, and a combination of in-person and hybrid work is needed to build high-trust, high-functioning teams.
Chandrasekar also highlighted how remote jobs improves diversity numbers. People from underrepresented groups tend to have a stronger desire to work remotely. Remote jobs allow companies to expand their pool of candidates and find diverse talent from everywhere.
Chandrasekar’s experience with remote work and hybrid work has taught him the importance of flexibility, opportunities for learning and growth, and productivity. Remote work can be a double-edged sword because while it allows people to focus more, it can also lead to distractions and cognitive load. By leveraging asynchronous collaboration tools, companies can create a singular source of truth system of knowledge that reduces distractions and improves productivity. The pandemic has forced companies to reevaluate how they work, and it is clear that remote work is here to stay. Companies that can successfully implement remote and hybrid work will have a competitive advantage in the future.
Flexibility, learning, and productivity are essential for successful hybrid and remote work. Remote work offers focus but can bring distractions, mitigated through tools. Remote jobs enhance diversity. Companies must adapt to maximize competitiveness in the future…>Click to tweet
Image credit: Vlada Karpovich/Pexels
Originally published in Disaster Avoidance Experts on April 6, 2023.