Working from wherever one pleases should be one of the main advantages of information age. Why should one spend hours commuting, if he or she can work from comfort of his summer house or while traveling around the world. Unfortunately, it has proven very difficult to integrate remote workers and make them equal to the people physically present. In our experience at Zemanta, the remote working setup is feasible if everybody is working remotely. But if there's a mix of on-site and remote workers, the remote workers immediately start to feel excluded from communication and start loosing touch with their coworkers. At USV product summit earlier this month I met a product manager from Etsy where a substantial part of workforce is working remotely. To alleviate the problem of remote workers feeling as second class employees, Etsy has implemented the remote first approach, meaning that every interaction and communication between Etsy employees should first be friendly towards remote workers, and only secondarily to on-site workers. For example, no meeting at Etsy is allowed to start until the videoconferencing is fully operational.
As people are trying to find a work-life balance and integration in our increasingly global and non-stop world, giving freedom of location to people will be increasingly more important and advantageous for attracting top talent. But this should not come at the expense of productivity and efficiency, since at the end of the day, it's still more important to have a successful company than happy employees. Remote first approach seems like an interesting approach to try also at Zemanta, since our geographic dispersion is in many ways reminiscent of having a mix of on-site and remote workers.