Lessons from the Pandemic: Remote Work is Working

Blogs / by: Chris Haworth / June 18,2024

The COVID-19 pandemic had profound impacts on the world, with everything from rapid advancements in new vaccine technologies to the exposure of bitter political differences, and many aspects of daily life were impacted, particularly the acceptance of remote work. According to research conducted by LinkedIn, fewer than 5% of job postings offered the option of remote work before the pandemic but that number jumped more than fourfold to over 20% by April 2022. Now, more than 22% of the workforce – nearly 33 million Americans – works remotely and 1 in 6 companies is fully remote.

BornTec is one of those companies. When the pandemic emerged we elected to go fully remote and we haven’t looked back. The switch brought a number of benefits as well as challenges and the results have been very clear: going fully remote has been a great decision for us.

How Going Remote Worked for BornTec

Being a growing, entrepreneurial enterprise, BornTec has always been open to exploring new approaches that help us to work both better and smarter. That approach served us well as the pandemic hit because we were early adopters of technologies like Slack, Google Docs, and Zoom and were already ~50% remote in the Spring of 2020. When in-person business was suddenly halted – and with an office lease expiring in July of that year – we were able to quickly and relatively effortlessly transition to being fully remote. 

A number of factors were particularly important in making the transition to fully remote advantageous for us:

  • Talent: Being remote allows us to attract top talent regardless of their location. Not being limited by geography means that we can assemble teams with an optimal blend of skills and abilities. This is especially important for a dynamic, growing company like BornTec.
  • Work/life balance: The importance of work/life balance has grown dramatically over the past few years, particularly for younger workers. Being remote can save hours of commuting each day, making it possible to simultaneously spend more time on personal matters AND more time on work.
  • Collaboration: While traditionalists express concerns that a lack of physical proximity will impact team interaction, our experience has generally been the opposite. Collaboration is higher than before the pandemic because it is easier to pull people into a quick Zoom meeting than it was to do in person. What’s more, in an in-person environment people might not be at their desk the moment when you went to see them. Online, people can be found quickly.
  • Better than a conference call: BornTec, like many large companies, has a global footprint. In our old configuration, that meant that we often had conference calls when working with clients and prospects. Turning those phone calls into Zoom meetings has dramatically boosted communication and productivity.
  • Efficiency: BornTec is a nimble, entrepreneurial firm so we welcome the ability to connect quickly so that issues can be resolved rapidly and ideas developed faster. Despite concerns that there will be less opportunity for chance discussions in the break room or end-of-meeting conversations, we have found that these types of interactions can – and do – occur while working remotely. In short, our team is more engaged and more productive now.

Most importantly, a key consideration was how being fully-remote aligns with our company culture. Our roots are as a family-run business and we take the time to get to know our team. With us, it’s not “work/life” it’s “life/life.” As entrepreneurs, we want people to not just care about their job but also the rest of the team and the company in general. We foster a “no blame / best decision at the time” ethos that looks forward, not back, and we strive to always look for ways to do something better or more simply. Being fully remote supports all of these principles. 

Challenges With being Remote – and How to Address Them

Shifting from the hybrid arrangements that we had prior to the pandemic to being fully remote was not without its challenges. Here are some of the key issues that we faced and how we dealt with them.

  • Time Zones: It can be difficult to coordinate company meetings across the many time zones that our team resides in. This requires a give-and-take: we try to minimize disruptive calls and our team responds by making a best effort to be available when it is necessary.
  • Making connections: Humans are social animals and meeting on a screen instead of in-person can be somewhat cold and sterile. For these reasons we make a point of fostering personal interactions across the team and don’t confine our calls to business matters only. 
  • Training: Onboarding and training of new hires is more difficult to accomplish without in-person time and attention. To address this, special care must be taken to communicate more with new hires, including rigorously designed onboarding procedures. Paying extra attention upfront leads to a smoother transition, higher employee satisfaction, and improved results.
  • Staying connected: When working in-person, it’s easy to see when someone is at their desk, off to get a cup of coffee, or heading out to lunch. The same isn’t true when working remote. For that reason, we encourage our team to use Slack and other communication tools to actively share simple “I’m stepping away for a few minutes,” etc. messages throughout the work day.
  • Meeting hygiene: Everyone has experienced it – a Zoom call where everyone or most everyone has the camera turned off. In addition to being cold and distant, it’s not possible to know if the other folks on the line are even engaged. For that reason, we highly encourage that cameras be turned on during a Zoom call. It greatly improves our level of communication.
  • Remote work isn’t for everyone: It’s important to recognize that some people do well in a remote work environment and others do not. We explicitly discuss this with our team and it plays a big part in our conversations with new hires. We do everything that we can to best address the needs of every member of our team.

Working Remotely Works for BornTec

When it comes to “going remote,” BornTec has plenty of good company. The project management software giant Atlassian was founded as a remote work company and others such as Dropbox and AirBnB employ a “remote first” approach to running their businesses. In our case, we find that being fully remote aligns perfectly with both our company mission and culture. In addition, it delivers major benefits when it comes to recruiting, efficiency, and flexibility. That being said, we are open to change and will adapt as business needs require so that we can best serve our clients needs. In any case, there is no doubt that remote working is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels and that works just fine for us.

Chris Haworth is President and COO of BornTec, a technology solutions firm that provides tools to support surveillance, risk, compliance, and regulatory reporting functions in financial markets. Contact us to learn more.