COVID-19 has profoundly disrupted the lives of people around the world. Social distancing, used to slow the pandemic, is also transforming the way we work. In 2019, only about 24 percent of U.S. workers worked at home, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Today, the number of full-time employees working from home has jumped to 42 percent – accounting for two-thirds of U.S. economic activity based on earnings, according to a Stanford study.
Yet for some companies, a largely remote workforce is nothing new. Jason Illian, managing director of Koch Disruptive Technologies, spoke with Matt Mullenweg, the founder of the free and open source web software WordPress, about his company’s long-time culture of a remote workforce and the lessons he’s learned about the shift to work from home that we can all apply.
One important thing Matt has learned is with disruption comes the opportunity to learn new and better ways to work meaningfully and effectively. From his experience and observations around remote work, he has developed a mental model he calls “Distributed Work’s Five Levels of Autonomy.”
One of the many challenges Matt identifies to working remotely is fostering and maintaining a strong, vibrant company culture and building teams with a human connection.
“If you can identify what was important to you about culture (pre-COVID) what are other ways that perhaps you could get from A to B without being physically co-located?” he said.
Talent Without Borders
Matt also believes adopting a distributed, remote-work mindset opens up new ways to think about acquiring the best talent from remotest corners of the globe.
“If you can tap into that, you have a huge competitive advantage. We’re now 1,200 people, about half in the United States…and the other half spread across 75 different countries.”
The Koch Perspective
Across Koch companies, many of our employees are experiencing this transformation.
“Koch’s core principles – principled entrepreneurship, integrity, transformation and respect, to name a few – have laid the groundwork to embrace work flexibility. That plus our investments in technology have enabled many employees who weren’t working from home to pivot to this new reality," said Justin Huschka, Koch’s North American recruitment leader. "On top of that, we were even able to welcome nearly 300 interns in a virtual summer internship program.”
“Work flexibility supports our growing global workforce when it is mutually beneficial to both the employer and employee," Justin said. "When done well, it can result in greater fulfillment and engagement from employees, attraction and retention of talent, and innovating and embracing new technology faster."