Soundhariya Viswanathan / Reading Time: 5 mins
Hrishikesh Pradeshi is the Co-founder and CTO of Flexiple & Remote. Tools, companies he started in 2016 to support remote working and help the sector thrive.
We began with Flexipile, out tech freelancing platform in 2016, where we connected top tech talent with firms. In 2018, we did a lot of work with clients & freelancers across the world, and learnt to work with clients and freelancers from different cultures, time zones and manage expectations and so on. In the process, we created a set of guidelines and identified remote working tools. We realised there was no single repository of remote working tools, which is where Remote Tools was born.
Every team greater than 2 should have a doc where you write down all the processes or guidelines that you have in the team. We do this on Slite (an alternative to Notion. so), that's where all of our team info goes – be it small processes on how to talk to freelances and clients or research and analysis that we carry out.
Slack – is used as well, but it can be distracting from work, so we turn off notifications and have a lot written about practices around slack.
Air Table – is where we have our databases, automation etc.
Lastly, White Boarding. This is a personal choice. I like to use Milanote as it allows you to whiteboard remotely.
We realised a few prominent problems we realised back in 2016. Companies want to work with the best people, and location can restrict whom you get. This along with peoples restrictions like having to travel 2 hours to work, or wanting to switch projects or companies every 4-5 years. All this motivates us.
Mindset: Around 2016, we leveraged our personal network to connect with companies. The major apprehension/critique we received (mostly Indian) was that they wanted people in the office, but we had to convince them that they didn't need it. We had clients fly freelancers out to work for a week or so in their office.
We earlier asked if companies needed freelancers to work in their office as part of our sign up form, but by 2018-19 we had removed this as more people in the Development and Design sector are ok with full-time freelance. Covid has accelerated this process.
Roles: Before 2020, the biggest companies that were remote were the likes of Github and Invision, who had 1000 employees working remote. Now due to Covid, we have much larger companies like Twitter, square space, Shopify and even FB who are planning to go partially remote. They have a huge number of employees, and this is where specialist roles are coming up.
The Future: Engineering was one of the first fields where remote working was accepted and rightly so. This was followed by digital marketing and SEO roles. Those of us who knew about remote working were betting big on it growing, but we expected it to take another 10 years, not 10 days. Practically everyone has liked remote working, but when you have such a sudden switch at a large scale, there are also problems.
It's quite unreliable to rely on people intending to work well. You need tools to make you do certain things. Lots of tools are trying to solve such core problems, and they are becoming hot in the funding and VC circle. Every tool that was solving a generic use case is now selling as a solution for remote working problems.
Post covid, we will go back to regular remote working, where we can travel and work at co-working spaces. At that point, we'd also need outlets to network, and this is something that would change in the years to come.
There are certain traits with remote working that are very specific to it. At companies founders, train employees and the culture passes on through the team. This is, however, not possible in remote working. It is not impossible in a remote working situation, but this is where good writing skills become very prominent for remote working and companies should look at it as the most important skill.
Companies like basecamp have writing assignments as part of their hiring process, where they ask applicants to complete tasks related to their core skill along with tasks to analyse something.
An interesting take is to hire employees who are very passionate about something outside of work as well. The best part of remote working is that the focus is on deliverables and very little office politics is involved. Having an external passion pushes employees to work more efficiently.
Companies also need to be flexible in how they hire. It might be better to hire for a trial period of a few months and then convert based on how it works out.
Remote workers also need to be disciplined and self-starters.
They should be able to leverage the internet. Companies look at communities you interact on, side projects and portfolios. These are things candidates can consciously use to get attention. Another thing is to be output focused and to focus more on problem-solving rather than mundane tasks. Remote working allows you to push your boundaries and that's something to take advantage off.
The proportion of the workforce is going to change. It will be a mix of full-time employees and contractors.