Index's Hannah Seal catching up with co-founder and CEO of Job van der Voort.

Lockdowns have pushed office jobs into the home, and sped up an acceptance of remote working. It comes as Index led the latest $35m round of funding in the cross-border remote employment platform, Remote, which follows Index’s Seed investment a year prior. Here, Index Principal Hannah Seal outlines the far-reaching implications for companies and employees.

What could happen if your employment options were no longer limited to the companies with an office in the city you lived in? What if when you cast the net for a new hire, you could span literally anyone in the world?

Geographical constraint is something we’ve talked about a lot at Index as finding and hiring talent repeatedly rears its head as the critical barrier for a company trying to scale. “We just can’t find the right people.” We hear it again and again.

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Talent congregates around a handful of big metros. Companies do the same, setting up base in a city famed for talent. Each side doing so because they need each other. For talent, these urban centres are soul-crushingly expensive places to live in. Growing companies feel out-gunned by the whales which throw more money and more perks to lure the best and the brightest.

Like most people, I’d accepted that this was simply an uncomfortable reality for employers and employees.

And then I came across Job Van Der Voort and Marcelo Lebre, their company ‘Remote’ and the compelling vision of altering our understanding of how we think about work. They talk not just of warping proximity between home and office, but of building a genuinely disruptive infrastructure layer into the modern organisation.

In doing so, Remote is lighting a fire under the notion that hiring someone in a different part of the world is at best an administrative nightmare. At worst, simply impossible.

The underlying mission of Remote is to make it possible for companies to hire the absolute best person for a role without worrying where they live. Employees meanwhile can consider working for any company without thinking about relocating.

A robust technical, legal and financial engine has been constructed which sits under the hood. Above that is an elegant user experience for employers to effortlessly hire, onboard and start paying an employee wherever in the world they live.

It means a designer in Italy can be hired by a software company in San Francisco. A London-based fintech can hire an engineer in Mexico with zero stress.

The individuals can be fully fledged employees as well as contractors. They can be on the payroll, have all the benefits of holidays, sick pay and the like, just like their peers who perhaps live in the same city as the company. They can be, in every sense, part of the company.

For me, it’s hard to overstate the potential of a service like this.

Not only does this kick the legs off the biggest hurdle aspiring companies face when they hire, but it promises to open up a degree of freedom, autonomy and choice which many employees can only dream of today.

Signs of a shift towards remote working have been bubbling for a few years, especially in more progressive companies, but 2020 has seen this catapult to an accepted practise in industries, companies and roles where it was previously thought to be unimaginable. In this, Covid has proved a remarkable accelerant.

Turning kitchen tables into work stations virtually overnight sent many people into a tailspin and exposed many of the inequalities in our society. It also, in an instant, shattered the physical separation of work and personal domains.

As the office fell under the microscope, home versus office productivity became a subject impossible not to appraise. Similarly, many of us zoomed out and reflected on how we spend our time, what we value and whether something was out of kilter.

Could we achieve what we wanted from work while also spending time with loved ones, as well as looking after our own physical and mental health? It opened the door to a blurred reality of work and life where the individual had a new autonomy in managing their time and priorities.

We have stepped through that door, and whatever we do next, it will be with the experience of spending these months working outside of the office.

None of this would have been possible were it not for an array of work-related software and services.

Remote is a transformative addition to an already powerful Swiss army knife of remote working products (e.g. Slack, Notion, Zoom and Pitch) which have collectively conspired to undermine the previously unshakeable institution of the head office. Whilst these tools enable remote work to be done more efficiently, Remote is the fundamental enabler and infrastructure layer that allows remote workers to be hired in the first place.

This is a bona fide game changer in cross-border employment. The idea of dividing a company’s workforce as teams in the Milan office, London office and New York one already feels outdated.

As many of us have become accustomed to WFH over 2020, and are all effectively remote workers now, the logical progression is asking whether geography matters at all.

In this post: Remote, Hannah Seal

Published — Nov. 10, 2020