We Went Fully Remote
And Here's What Happened
The Return-to-Office Debate and How Data Wins
Now we’re not saying everything that Gladwell writes is idiotic – far from it! We’re big fans of his amazing books Blink, Outliers, and The Tipping Point – just like you’d expect from any cutting-edge data-obsessed engineering team like that found at SnowShoe.
But in one particular instance, we have to tell you that Gladwell missed the boat. Recently, the New York Post provided audio of scathing remarks Gladwell made about the idea of working at home. “It’s not in your best interest to work at home,” said Gladwell, as quoted by the Post. He went on to say that “sitting in your pajamas in your bedroom” is not a really productive work style. He ended by asking that if you work at home, you really have to ask “what have you reduced your life to?”
We’re here to prove Gladwell wrong.
SnowShoe went remote, and our lives have never been better. Having our engineers sitting in their bedrooms – or their dens, or their home offices, or their chosen coffee shops – made our engineering capacity expand. With remote work, our team’s cohesiveness and forward acceleration has become stronger. We’re getting a lot done. We’re happier, and more focused.
Now it’s important to note that we didn’t make the decision to go remote lightly. And we know that the majority of our customers are retail companies who must maintain physical retail stores. These customers can’t actually go remote very easily. They need to have people in the store to stock shelves and at the front counter to greet customers. And there are many other types of essential work that can’t be done “remotely” – like nursing, doctoring, childcare, teaching, firefighting, police work, and many other important tasks.
So we acknowledge up front that it’s a great privilege to be able to discuss going remote as a company. But SnowShoe creates a series of technology systems that deliver the best data analytics platform on the planet for retail loyalty and customer engagement (have I mentioned we’re the best?). This is knowledge and datawork: we don’t need to put a person at a counter or into a firetruck to do our jobs well. We are knowledge workers.
And for years, we thought it was essential to keep up an office space. We maintained a company office on Portland’s waterfront, with desks for everyone, from engineers to support to sales people (don’t even ask about sales people making loud and boisterous calls next to focused engineers – it wasn’t pretty).
Then the pandemic hit in March 2020. Like other businesses, we had to go remote overnight. Then, about two years later, once stay-at-home mandates were lifted, we had a choice to make: Do we go back to the office, or do we continue to have an all-remote work culture?
We looked at the data, and the choice ended up being a simple one. We let go of our spacious waterfront office, downsized to a 12 x 20 small office space with room for four desks, and we encouraged employees to work at home – or from anywhere they liked!
Our team has never been happier or more productive. Here’s the data that we used to make the decision to go remote and stay remote:
Remote work fuels productivity, according to multiple studies. The Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom revealed that remote workers are, on average, 3%-5% more productive. That’s his baseline number. People who worked remotely in 2022 report a higher number – most people report being about 9% more efficient working from home than they were working from the office. This number is actually up from 5% in the summer of 2020, when companies quickly transitioned to remote work without any time to plan for the transition.
The return of daycare and the ability to have a social life outside of the home has also made us more productive. Although this survey from SWAA collects self-reported data, objective data from call centers and the Bureau of Labor and Statistics also show an increase in hours worked and tasks accomplished for remote workers. Two years into working remotely, we can attest that our staff seems to be producing more than ever–and with a high level of quality and efficiency too. (SWAA is the Survey of Working Arrangements and Attitudes – and it’s a monthly survey that has been running since mid-2020.)
“Life is too short to be unhappy at work,” says Scott Crabtree, founder of the Happy Brain Science Institute and recent guest on the Spark Plug podcast. Americans spend more time working than doing anything else in life, and for too many of us, that time is miserable to one degree or another. But it doesn’t have to be, according to Crabtree. Companies have many options for increasing employee happiness, and one such option is going remote.
“The number one advantage to remote work is that it removes commute time. Commuting, especially home from the office, comes out at the bottom of the happiness data,” says Crabtree. Remote work also provides more flexibility and autonomy, which leads to a huge increase in employee satisfaction. Crabtree explains that solid peer reviewed studies suggest that we are more creative, productive, resilient and have improved health and longevity when we’re happy. In fact, happier brains can be up to 25% more productive. Crabtree’s bottom line is a no-brainer: “Happiness is very win-win for workers and the organizations they work for.”
SnowShoe has seen first-hand how offering a fully remote work experience is better for the mental health of our staff, which translates to a better experience for our customers as well. Plus, Gusto recently reported that being fully remote correlates to as much as a 13% decrease in the odds of quitting. A decrease in turnover saves our company time and money in big ways, and it leads to a more consistent experience for our customers.
Slack’s Future Forum is a consortium which helps companies reimagine work in the new digital-first era. Their recent survey found that the third of office workers who have returned to the office five days a week are reporting the worst employee experience. This poor experience translates to less productivity, more sick days, less collaboration and a host of other problems that negatively affect both workers and companies.
Competitive Employee Benefits
A company is only as good as its workforce, so it’s important for SnowShoe to be an attractive place to work to potential new employees. This means offering competitive benefits, such as a fully-covered and high-quality health insurance plan, matching retirement contributions, generous parental leave, stock options, and now, the flexibility and autonomy of full-time remote work. Today’s workforce not only desires this option, but they seek it out. In fact, more than 60% of knowledge workers would quit their job for a fully remote one. And according to a recent Gusto analysis, 48% of job seekers feel location flexibility is their top deciding factor in choosing which job offer to accept.
Snowshoe wants to attract the best talent possible, and we know that the people we hire can produce high quality results from any location. We make sure to provide all the resources that our remote workers need to work from home, from technical equipment to standing desks to digital resources and an Employee Assistance Program.
Wider Talent Pool
Speaking of hiring the best talent possible, a remote work culture means that SnowShoe is no longer constricted by the talent pool in our homebase of Portland. Today, half of SnowShoe’s workforce is outside of Portland, distributed across five different states and even in South America. Now we can hire people from all over the world and provide a consistent work experience to everyone on the team. Our team gathers every Monday online from across our four or five time zones for a weekly All-Hands staff meeting, and it seems to work pretty seamlessly. We also recognize the value of face-to-face time every once in a while, and we make sure to invest in in-person gatherings when needed. Our Sales Team had a great retreat in Chicago this past March, and we had a fantastic time at our all-staff retreat in Portland in May.
Here’s What Happened:
We’re really glad we went remote and stayed remote. Since going fully remote, SnowShoe has had an incredibly successful acquisition of one of our long-time loyalty partners, which led to relaunching Spark Loyalty at the beginning of 2022. We have expanded and diversified our team, which now spans across five US states and internationally. We’ve brought on dozens of new merchants and neighborhood districts, and have continuously optimized our technology as we nimbly respond to customer requests. And we’re planning on some very exciting product releases soon!
Our remote work culture allows our team to have autonomy and flexibility without compromising the quality of the work. This style of work builds trust among team members, as it asks us to be communicative about our schedules and patient with one another when personal needs arise. Plus, it means the occasional online cameo from our staff’s dogs, cats and kids. And really, what better reason could there be?
A lot of companies are finding a similar positive momentum in this new remote work reality. You can also look at pretty much every study on the future of work, and they’ll all say the same thing: Remote and hybrid work models are here to stay. There’s a great new podcast from Ezra Klein that discusses this new reality. In a recent webinar hosted by Gusto, they reported finding a 240% increase in the share of workers who are fully remote since the summer of 2021. We’re in the mainstream now, and never going back!
We welcome you to the new remote-working paradigm. Join us! The water is fine.
And SnowShoe still creates and supports the best loyalty and customer engagement platform on the planet today.