Billion-dollar startup shuts down offices and makes all workers remote

Dive Brief:

  • Wordpress Automattic went 100% remote by closing down underused office space and sending employees elsewhere to work, says Business Insider. The $1 billion startup said there were better ways to spend the company's money than on little-used offices.
  • Mark Armstrong, Automattic's spokesperson, told Business Insider that the company was set up to operate with remote staff from the start. Only 30 of the company's 550 employees live in the San Francisco area, with the remainder working remotely across 50 countries.
  • Automattic gives employees a healthy stipend for home office setups, says Business Insider. Employees meet online or in chat rooms, and when face-to-face meetings are necessary, the company pays workers to meet on location. The company was once known for interviewing and hiring job candidates online without an in-person meeting. 

Dive Insight:

Closing underused office space makes sense, especially for companies like Automattic, whose staff already is largely remote. Operational savings on energy consumption and real estate costs could be significant for large office sites. American Express said it saves $10 to $15 million dollars a year on real estate through its remote-worker program BlueWork.

Remote workers are changing the way employers operate in general. Take hiring and retention. Automattic was known for hiring candidates without meeting them face-to-face.  The World Economic Forum estimates that 1 in 3 workers will be hired online by 2020. 

Going fully remote is unusual. IBM even bucked the trend in March by "co-locating" its cross-country marketing force back into the office for better collaboration with their non-marketing teammates. But studies show that telecommuting and remote work have a positive effect on employee engagement, productivity, health, job satisfaction and work-life balance. Staples Business Advantage 2016 Workplace Index showed that only 11% of respondents didn't want to telecommute, while a third said they'd be less happy on the job if they couldn't and 13% said they'd look elsewhere for a job.

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