Entrepreneurs

Council Post: Why We Went Back To A Remote-First Work Environment ​​For Good And You Should, Too

By Greg Mercer, founder & CEO of Jungle Scout, the leading all-in-one platform for selling on Amazon.

The pandemic has compelled many companies to rethink work environments and productivity, including mine.

I’m the founder and CEO of Jungle Scout, the leading all-in-one platform for selling on Amazon. I started Jungle Scout as an entirely remote workforce, and now — six years later — we’re remote-first again and for good.

After we grew from a handful of early hires to several dozen remote employees, we shifted our approach to a more traditional office environment to account for that expansion (though we maintained a base of remote team members). However, in early 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic prompted us to go back to the drawing board and make a critical call on what we wanted the future of Jungle Scout to look like.

In a recent study of corporate employers and employees from PwC, 83% of employers say the shift to remote work has been successful for their companies; and 55% of employees say they’d like to work remotely at least three days a week. Some big tech companies, like Slack, Twitter, and Dropbox are going remote-first and marking a solid shift in how we define the office.

Here’s more about why we’re embracing our remote-first roots.

Remote work has been a part of our culture since the start.

When I was first building the Jungle Scout tool, I traveled around the world with my wife, Elizabeth. Our small, remote team of engineers came together for a meetup in Bali, Indonesia, which I like to think of as our first “Jungle Camp” (more on that later). As we grew our products and team, we expanded to physical offices in Vancouver, Canada; Austin, Texas; and Shenzhen, China.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, about 30% of our employees were remote. I never wanted an employee’s physical location to be a reason why we didn’t have the right talent on our team.

The motivation behind starting my own business was so I could have more freedom. Travel gave me the inspiration I needed to bring creativity into my work — and I wanted that for my employees, too. All Jungle Scouters were allowed to work remotely for two months of the year, as long as their hours overlapped with their team at least five hours of the day.

Going remote-first wasn’t a difficult transition.

Since we already had a base of remote hires, it was easier to make a company-wide transition back to fully remote work. We already had foundations in place to navigate different time zones and priorities: a business communication platform, project management software and years of experience onboarding team members and managing projects in a hybrid work environment. Our team was comfortable with Zoom and the cadence of rapid-fire messages on Slack. 

Even though we were familiar with being remote-first, we did need to decide what the pandemic meant for Jungle Scout. Some businesses have used the remote-first approach as a stopgap during a tumultuous time — but I wanted to adopt something permanent. It made sense to fully embrace going remote.

Now, full-time Jungle Scout employees have the choice to work from home, at a coworking space or at our physical office hub in Austin, Texas. The majority of our team has opted to go remote.

It works and offers big advantages.

Now that we’re at nearly 300 employees, I’m confident that if going remote-first works for us, it can work for others. The benefits are truly remarkable:

• Expand your talent pool: We realized we didn’t have to put a cap on the talent we were bringing in. We could further drive our mission to hire professionals from all around the world to have Jungle Scout be truly diverse. There are no limitations to finding the best people to build our products.

• Increase attraction and retention: As more and more tech companies went remote, we knew we could lose out on good candidates if we didn’t offer flexibility. Keeping employees happy is essential, and they’ll look elsewhere for better perks, benefits and experiences if you don’t provide them.

• Employees have options: Employees bring their best self to work when they’re comfortable and inspired. We wanted to give our employees greater autonomy over their work life, whether that meant more time with family, opportunities to travel or a shorter commute.  

• Save money: Going remote allowed us to cut costs for office space and employee equipment. In the same PwC survey mentioned above, 87% of executives expect to make changes to their real estate strategy over the next 12 months. I’d rather channel savings into ways for our employees to connect and reinvest money into new products, professional development and other meaningful initiatives. 

Of course, going remote-first does not work for every type of business, and it’s not without its challenges. There’s the management of work-life harmony and burnout, the cultivation of rich team relationships being limited to Zoom and less “riffing” of spontaneous ideas at the office. But these challenges allow our team to adapt and continue making Jungle Scout a better place.

One of the things I’m looking forward to most? Continuing our “Jungle Camp” tradition, where we bring the team together for an international retreat (when safety allows). Meaningful meet-ups like this help to sustain culture while we adopt more inclusive, forward-thinking ways of running our business.

Know your company and understand what works best for your culture dynamic. As a company that started with remote-first roots, going back to a remote-first environment was a natural move. The benefits are far-reaching for employee retention, competitive advantage and business outlook.

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