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Forget Hybrid Work — It’s Time To Go Fully Distributed

Forget Hybrid Work — It’s Time To Go Fully Distributed

Co-Founder & CEO of Braintrust, the first user-owned talent network connecting enterprises with highly skilled tech talent in 48-hours. 

This isn’t an article about the benefits of moving your businesses to a hybrid work model.

Because going hybrid isn’t enough. It’s not enough to scale your teams quickly, and it’s not enough to get the best people working on the projects that matter most.

If you want to lead your business into the future, then you need to start looking beyond today’s best strategies and to the strategies for the future. In a world where no one knows what the next six months will look like, think about the trends that will shape the next six years.

That means more than just letting your team operate outside the restrictions of the traditional office environment, although that’s certainly a component. It’s about identifying how you can incorporate different kinds of workers ranging from independent contractors, to agencies, to full-time employees in order to create a more productive, more specialized and more efficient business. 

Those outcomes are enough to catch the attention of most business leaders. Here are three ways a distributed workforce will actually help you achieve them.

1. It gives you access to better talent.

In the early 2000s, if you asked any business leader what the first step was to launch an innovative business or cutting-edge technology, their first response would have been to tell you to move to San Francisco or Silicon Valley. The reason was simple: That’s where the world’s best talent was located. 

According to the Brookings Institute, nearly 20% of digital service job growth came from the Bay Area between 2010-2018. Shortly after that, we saw that talent pool begin to spread to cities like New York, Seattle and Austin. But the fact remained that if you wanted to build the future, there were only a handful of locations where you could do it. 

Then Covid-19 hit and everything changed. 

By forcing the majority of tech talent to go remote, the pandemic fundamentally changed the way people work, leaving massive offices vacant as knowledge workers made an exodus out of San Francisco to places like Texas for cheaper rent, no income taxes and more space. In San Francisco, there was a near 20% commercial real estate vacancy rate in the second quarter of 2021, compared to just 6% the year prior. It wasn’t just employees that relocated, though. The moment Silicon Valley went remote, it essentially stopped being Silicon Valley, which led companies like Hewlett Packard, Oracle, Uber and Airbnb to either downsize or relocate their offices. 

The bottom line? 

To get access to the world’s top talent, you no longer need to be in places like San Francisco or New York. By embracing a distributed workforce, you can get access to the world’s best talent no matter where you are. 

2. It allows you to become more specialized.

With the global economy experiencing massive change, the need for companies to acquire new skill sets is more urgent than ever. 

The old-school approach has always been to hire full-time employees to fill these gaps, but by the time HR factors in all of your key hiring considerations and limits the search to the surrounding area or to those willing to relocate, your chances of success are minimal. 

Compare this with the distributed approach, which allows you to continue to prioritize your core functionalities and key differentiators while pulling in external or contractor resources for the important but non-differentiating components of a business. 

I’d liken this to APIs in the software ecosystem. Uber doesn’t invest its resources into building out mapping or communications technology. It relies on Google Maps and Twilio for those things. And because it does, the company’s able to focus on its key differentiator — technology that’s able to match riders and drivers anywhere in the world, quickly and reliably. 

Your business may be iterating today — trying to build a minimally viable product or assembling a skunkworks team to just try something new. If you can quickly find the right skills to make that project go, you’ll be able to learn whether it’s worth a bigger investment much, much faster. And if the answer to that question is “yes,” you will already have an incredible head start on building the team to move it to the next level.

3. It helps you accelerate innovation.

Covid-19 may have breached the walls of Silicon Valley and given today’s knowledge workers the freedom to work from anywhere in the world, but technology enabled it. 

And while some companies are already rolling out their plans to get everybody back to the office, leading enterprises are beginning to realize one major upside to a distributed workforce — it allows them to innovate faster than ever. 

When Pacific Life, a Brainstrust client, was trying to meet a surge in demand during the pandemic, it was faced with the challenge of how to continue to innovate without taking on the added risk of hiring full-time employees. It overcame this challenge by building a distributed team of global freelancers that allowed the company to get work done 24/7. As a result, it was able to triple its innovation output in the middle of a global pandemic. 

Nestlé, also a client, faced a similar challenge when it was trying to launch a new direct-to-consumer buying experience in Peru. In order to beat the competition to market, it had to come up with a way to quickly scale up its IT team in a matter of days. By going fully distributed, it was able to hire eight times faster and increase its efficiency by 33%. 

This is a great time to build a business. There’s no shortage of approaches to assembling a team, forming a culture and, ultimately, growing that business. What all of us have to ask ourselves is whether we’re going to look at some of the real benefits of the last 18 months and make them part of our long-term lives.

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What do you think?

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