Wherever there are issues, there are even more opportunities. As a maker, you should always be on the lookout for exciting problems to work on, and remote work—often touted the “Future of Work”—has plenty of them.
A few months ago, I published a survey about remote work. Initially, I just had the plan to see what people struggled with, get some inspiration, bring people together who could help each other, and hopefully talk to some remote company founders to learn more.
Since then, I have built and soft-launched NoHQ and the articles that exist on this are largely the product of the 120+ people who filled out the full survey and many talks with people I have met since then.
However, a lot of these things can’t be solved with a few articles and e-mails. They need more complex workflows and tools, and that is where the opportunities for makers are. In the following list, I’m presenting a few of the biggest difficulties that remote workers face, and possible solutions to the problems.
Solving communication equals solving remote work
The number one biggest issue that remote founders, managers and workers face is communication. Whether it’s the lack of communication, information and face-to-face time, or over-communication, late-night notifications and added stress, both spectrums of communication are an issue in remote work.
The truth is, Slack is still the go-to communication product in teams that are local or remote, but it’s not built with remote workers in mind. The way that notifications are handled, and the way that messages and @channel calls tend to create a sense of urgency, that can be problematic when team members are distributed across time zones.
The preferred method of communication in remote teams is async. Instead of having calls, meetings and instant messages that will trigger notifications late at night for several team members, it’s better to concentrate on e-mails and async communication tools that are able to be worked on several hours later.
There are several tools for this on the market, but most of them struggle to kick Slack off the throne. For makers, that means a simpler solution that integrates with existing tools may be a good approach:
- An alternative notification system for Slack
- A bot that facilitates async communication in common tools
- An alternative messaging client that works with existing teams
- A way to make email more modern and collaborative for teams
The key is not to reinvent the wheel. To do so, you have to have an incredible budget and usually need to pop in a teams head, before they get any traction (because it’s too much effort to migrate the team away from Slack). Try carving out a place that is connected to existing tools.
Going global and distributed
The process of hiring an employee in a city near you, and a country across the globe, is vastly different. Many founders struggle with turning a small local business into a distributed company and decide to hire their core team locally, making it almost impossible to build a fair remote team later on.
Remote companies hire from a global candidate pool and can usually expect dozens to hundreds of applications on any position. You need to spend a lot more effort on sorting out applications, interviewing and assessing fit, knowledge and communication. Possibly there is space for a product there.
Setting up payroll is difficult. Not only can sending a lot of money around the globe every month become complicated, it’s also a pain for employees, who need to manage their own taxes and deductions. Again, there are companies working on this too, but possibly there is a niche suitable for makers to make certain workflows easier. For example, Carrom is building a payroll interface on top of TransferWise.
Bonding, culture and team spirit
If you’ve worked in a co-located workplace before—which I assume, many of us have—remember the times when you bonded with your team members the most. Presumably, it wasn’t during your usual 9-to-5 shifts, but during after hours, lunch, team dinners or events instead.
This isn’t so easy when working in a team that dominantly communicates via chat. It’s more difficult to get into casual talks, most messages are transactional and the casual chat at the coffee machine falls away.
There is definitely still some space left for a product which is improving team culture, spirit and creates bonding moments.
At first though, these are some things I could come up with:
- A natural feeling, casual online hangout space. Not unlike a big Zoom room where people just hang out.
- A list of great team retreats, possibly a re-selling or deal site, like Scott’s Cheap Flights
- A Slackbot which matches people for bonding times
Remote work may be a rather niche thing in Tech right now, but many experts believe that with increased connectivity, natural tendency to online communication and dissolution of major hubs, this space will grow immensely. Now is the time to work on this.