Job van der Voort is the CEO and co-founder at Remote.com. You can find him on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Medium.
What’s your profession, what do you do?
I have a BA in psychonomics and an MA in cognitive neuroscience. Currently, I am working as a CEO at Remote, which I co-found last year. I wanted to challenge the traditional work model as this did not seem suitable to me in order to have a work-life balance. Hence why our mission at Remote is to enable simplified global employment by making it easy to find remote jobs and discover great companies.
1. How did you start working remotely? How did you make the switch?
I started working remotely six years ago when I joined GitLab as one of the first employees, a web-based DevOps platform. I helped to grow the company from five to 450 people. The unique thing was that all of us worked remotely across 45 different countries. Yet, after five years of working at GitLab, I couldn’t find one platform that could facilitate local laws, benefits, banking, and local payroll. It was hard to hire talented workers remotely on a global scale, and that’s why I left to create Remote. That’s exactly the challenge Remote provides a solution for.
2. What do you think are the main advantages of remote work?
Remote work hugely benefits not only the business but also everyone on a personal level. The remote working model means that you are able to hire the best talent despite where a person is based. For the employee, it means having more time to spend at home, less time commuting, and the choice to live anywhere in the world. It means employees no longer have to make a sacrificial choice between their career and their personal development, hobbies and family.
3. Do you think there are disadvantages or that you’re missing something by working remotely?
Some may argue that “water cooler conversations” are hard to replace when working remotely, but I would say that as long as your company makes a conscious effort to employ methods of social connection and wellbeing, that’s not lost at all. In fact, we find that working remotely can improve an employee’s wellbeing because they spend less time commuting and less time away from their families, so in fact they tend to be happier at work.
4. From which cities or countries have you worked since you have become remote? Which has been your favorite one?
Currently, I live and work from Portugal, but I plan to move back to The Netherlands – where I am originally from – next year.
5. From which type of place do you prefer to work? Coworking spaces, coffee shops or others? Do you have any specific place?
I typically work from home but I do love that my career means I am not constrained to working from one particular place.
I do believe it’s important to carve out a specific office space when you’re working from home, and a few years ago I spent some time setting up my ideal home office, where I have all the necessary technology to keep me focused and comfortable i.e. an ergonomic chair, a second screen, etc. I also have a second desk that serves as a creativity station, where I can unwind and play games or even build LEGO when I feel like I need a break. I have written a blog about my home office setup here.
6. Which places would you like to travel to while working remotely?
LOADS! I have two very young kids, so for now not very far. But I’d love to visit Myanmar, Japan again, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and so many other places.
The beauty of remote work is that the only requirement is the internet.
7. What would you say to the companies that don’t believe in hiring employees who work remotely?
I’d urge them to consider what they value so much about working together in person. What is the actual added benefit that you’re getting vs. doing things remotely? You’ll find that if you structure things well, it’s only the ability to have lunch together and know how tall your colleagues are. Everything else can be done remotely nowadays.
8. Which tools do you use to work remotely?
It’s incredibly important for a business to invest in the tools necessary for teams to be able to work efficiently when remote. At Remote, we make clear recommendations to the team on the tools they should be using, which you can see on our website. These tools help us to connect with clients (Zoom), keep in communication with the team (Slack), collaborate between teams (GitLab, GitHub, Miro, Invision), store all documents and assets (Notion, Dropbox, G-Drive). We even have a tool that runs a weekly watercooler trivia.
9. How do you manage your business and taxes as a remote working professional?
Highly depends on your personal situation. Of course, we help employees that are employed through Remote with this, but outside of that it’s generally recommended to work with an accountant. It’s not as expensive as you might think, and you tend to recoup the cost of one by the savings and tax returns they’ll get you.
10. What advice would you give to people looking to work remotely and companies making the remote switch?
Before making the transition from office-based work to remote work, I’d challenge both businesses and employees to consider the culture in the workplace, because transitioning to a remote model will require proactive action from both sides. There’s no lunch meetings, there’s no chatting whilst making coffee. You need to replace that virtually if you want to keep your team connected and happy. Business leaders specifically need to consider the basic human need for connection, clarity, and creativity, and how they will address these at distance.
Another thing to consider is flexible working. If you have back-to-back meetings all day but virtually, in my opinion, you’re doing remote work wrong. Our recent Global Workforce Revolution Report showed that 62% of employees still do value routine and a 9-to-5 work regime, but at the same time prefer to have the ability to flex and adjust work hours to their needs. Embrace the potential by enabling teams to work flexible hours, get rid of endless meetings that prevent work from actually being done, and build a strong culture of asynchronous working.
IT setup is another challenge that companies need to invest time into. This can be solved by offering a home office allowance to set up a suitable workspace.
Compliance challenges can be taken care of by such companies like ours. We have business entities across the globe which guarantees that your local employment law, taxes, payroll, and benefits will be taken care of.
Talking about the later, benefits are also very important, as part of which helps to create that wellbeing in the company where everyone is looked after and valued. This can be healthcare provisions, pension schemes, personal development allowance, fitness membership, food and grocery assistance, unlimited paid annual leave, and stock options and profit-sharing, to name a few.
11. Do you think remote work could be a solution to the UK’s digital skills gap? “If employers break free from traditional ways of thinking and stop only considering candidates who can commute into the office, the pool of talent for businesses looking to employ becomes much bigger”
Remote work can indeed be a solution to the widening UK digital skills gap. Whilst the UK government is addressing the issue with longer term strategies to strengthen the sector, including investing in technical education across the UK, there are more immediate options available for businesses who need access to talent right now. Technology enables us to break free of restrictions that limit us from employing just locally, which means that employers can access talented workers despite where they live. For example, I would suggest employers to consider hiring according to time zone, instead of geographical region – the pool of talent will increase drastically.
12. Why do you believe professionals shouldn’t be forced to pay the price of higher costs of living just to get their dream job?
There is a tendency that big companies are based in capitals, which also means increased living costs due to commute and housing prices. I believe this is not necessary as many roles can be remote, that is why there is no need to pay higher costs of living just to be near the physical office space. A remote work model means that if your colleagues are based in a similar time zone and you can work together on similar schedules, there is no real need for you to be based in a city that has higher living costs, just for the sake of an office. Businesses in London could consider applicants from all over the UK, or even across Austria, Sweden, France, Spain, Poland, Norway, etc. Talent is distributed and I believe opportunity should be too.
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