The ultimate guide to remote work according to stats, studies and what works in real estate

Team Management
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Working from airplanes, coffee shops or even pants-less from the comfort of your own home may seem like a fantasy to many. 

But for a growing number of teams, it's reality—and it's not always as glamorous as it sounds. 

At Follow Up Boss, we run a 100% remote team of rockstars sprinkled all over the world—and we’re not the only ones.

Top-notch companies like Buffer have been operating a fully-remote team for over four years, and there are many more like us.

In fact, research suggests that a whopping 50% of the entire US workforce is predicted to go remote by 2020, with 50% of millennials already working remotely.

This article breaks down remote work according to latest research and reveals the data-driven benefits (think: lower overhead, greater productivity, reduced turnover, etc.) that have prompted some of the biggest names in business—and real estate—to embrace this shift with open arms.

Let’s get started.

The State of Remote Work: Coworking stats, facts and figures

It's no big surprise that the size and scope of remote work have significantly increased over the past decade.

Pretty much everyone is interested in this topic.

And if you don't believe us, just ask Google. 

There has been a continuous increase in search volume for the query "Remote Work” for over 15 years.

Source: Google Trends

Data shows that 99% of the workforce say they'd like to work remotely at least some of the time.

Why? It's simple really.

Remote work offers a level of flexibility that beats pretty much any corporate perk you can think of—and the benefits cut both ways.

According to a report by Indeed, 72% of remote companies report higher productivity and a significant reduction in expenses. For instance, Dell saved a whopping $12 million per year simply by encouraging employees to work from home.

From factories to cubicles to Slack, the workplaces of the future are getting an extreme digital makeover. 

Based on remote working statistics by GoRemotely, 95% of telecommuters would encourage others to leave their traditional jobs.

And whether you're pro or anti-remote work, you should know that it isn’t just another business fad—it's a genuine paradigm shift caused by disruptive technology and a rapidly changing workforce. 

The Benefits of Remote Work: Is it really worth it?

Remote work is often stereotyped as an employee-centric strategy and while that's partly true, having a remote workforce is just as beneficial for employers.

Here's a quick look at how some of the world's most forward-looking companies benefit from remote work:

Source: Telework: Overcoming the Obstacles

Granted, your business may not be a Microsoft or Best Buy, but the principles still hold. 

And while many team leaders dread the thought of losing control, remote work has been shown to resolve issues like frequent sick leaves, low engagement, or even having to close the office due to bad weather.

The top 3 benefits of remote work for businesses

#1. More loyalty

A majority of employers have a 'watch like a hawk' mentality when it comes to managing their team. After all, if you let an employee free, they'll be more likely to slack off, right? 

Well, not really.

Studies show that workers who are free to make their own choices are happier than restricted employees.

And a happy worker is a grateful worker. The result is the type of loyalty that keeps your A-players with you for the long haul and reduces your overall turnover within the team.

#2. Greater efficiency

Despite the data, many employers still assume that telecommuting employees sit around watching Netflix all day.

Research shows otherwise.

For one, there are fewer interruptions dampening their productivity. 

Without the time-sucking meetings, admin and let's face it, hyper-talkative coworkers, remote teams actually have fewer distractions. Or at least, they have the kind of distractions they can easily turn off without being labeled the office grump.

And fewer distractions, equal greater efficiency.

#3. Better ROI

For the record, we're not bashing the traditional model of having all your team members under one roof.

You can share personal experiences, collaborate on important projects, and have important face-to-face time—but all this comes at a cost.

Rather than paying a hefty rent for a massive office (plus utilities, supplies and all that other jazz), a remote team brings most expenses down to zero without sacrificing productivity. 

Not only that, hiring remotely opens up a whole new market of skilled workers that live in other towns, or even countries. Obviously, your agents need to be local, but with the help of companies like MyOutDesk and Agentology, you can easily hire remote VAs, ISAs, TCs, and even marketers.

As long as you have one central system where everyone can collaborate (and you can track their results), there's really no good reason not to boost your ROI with at least some remote and coworking roles.

The top 3 benefits of remote work for agents

#1. Complete autonomy

Autonomy is the reason many agents chose real estate to begin with.

Self-directed work weeks and a better work-life balance is the burnt-out employee dreams are made of.

Take, Brandon Grass for example. The hard-hitting entrepreneur turned rockstar Realtor shifted to a coworking RE/MAX team and discovered a significant difference in morale.

“Getting into a brokerage where you have that feeling of support and there are no negative Nancy's, everybody's positive and you know you have the support of the managing broker—it's huge," says Brandon.

Though his current brokerage has fewer meetings, these meetings always end up in a special support session where every agent gladly helps the other. 

Brandon’s already closed 17 transactions this year, over 4X the average 3.5 in his market. Clearly, remote work is a big performance-enabler for Realtors who are ready to work.

Want to know how Brandon went from high-school dropout to booking 80 listings appointments in 6 months? Read the full story.

#2. Remote workers spend less

Telecommuting workers save more money than regular workers. It's a fact.

For starters, because they work from home, they tend to eat at home—and depending on where you live—that could easily amount to a weekly savings of 20 bucks.

Of course, it’s still possible to buy lunch from home. However, remote workers are more inclined to eat at home, especially considering there’s no temptation from coworkers inviting them out. 

Add to that the money saved from avoiding a commute, and you're looking at a potential savings of several thousand dollars per year.

And it’s not just savings for employees, but also the environment. FlexJobs reports that working remotely results in a massive $20 million dollars in global gas savings.

#3: On-demand support and collaboration

Another massive benefit of working remotely is freedom from location.

Problem is, when you're working from wherever you choose, you're often working alone—and it can get lonely.

To protect their mental health and productivity, remote workers need to have regular opportunities to connect with the rest of the team. That's one reason world-class team leaders like Debra Beagle have shifted traditional office setups to a remote-friendly office environment where agents can drop in and collaborate with each other whenever they want.

“Since making the move, we’ve noticed that more and more team members coming into the office—and those who come in are much more productive,” she says.

Here's how Debra's team likes to hang, laptops and baseball caps included. 👍

Common problems with remote work (and how to solve them) 

Every coin has two sides and the reality is, some companies have even said outright that building a remote team straight-up "sucked"

Even a passing glance at this topic on Quora can give you some insight into the many challenges of running a remote team.

It can get rough out there, that's the truth.

But if you truly believe a remote team will be a blessing for your business, stay committed.  There are always ways to cure the headaches, even before they happen.

Problem #1: Lack of community

With different team members in different locations, you don't always see the sort of tight-knit camaraderie in remote teams that you might find in a brick-and-mortar office.

Here are some ideas to help bypass the barriers and develop a unifying culture:

  • Host regular catch-up sessions to get to know each other beyond the typical email exchange
  • Give your team a platform to host skills-exchange workshops and encourage communication between remote workers
  • Organize annual meet-ups so your entire team can meet each other face-to-face
  • Use video conference tools like Zoom to host virtual team meetings

Remember, just because a remote team operates virtually, doesn't mean you can't grow it into a cohesive work community.

Problem #2: Poor communication

Unlike standard offices, you can't just pop by and ask a 'quick question' whenever you need to. 

So expect some level of miscommunication (at least in the beginning), and do your best to maintain a problem-solving mindset. 

  • Always assume misunderstanding vs. maliciousness
  • Realize it’ll take time for your team to get to know how each other ticks
  • When it doubt, over-communicate

With the right digital tools and a little proactivity, you can nip most communication misfires in the bud.

Problem #3: Overwhelm

Working remote isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially in real estate.

Grant Clayton is the team leader behind one of Louisiana's leading real estate teams, 1% Lists.

His remote team is on track to hit $100 million in sales next year. 

"I think one of the ways my team stays motivated is that they're just not dealing with non-stop rejection for seven hours a day," he says.

Real estate is a high-pressure industry—and that's even more true when you're actively targeting expired listings and FSBOs. But Grant and his team use a different approach.

"We have an innovative way of reaching out through texts. We aren't calling people nonstop. We just say, 'Look we know you tried to sell your house, we know it didn't work out for you. If you're interested, we can save you money and offer you better service and better social media marketing. It's more palatable and you don't get anybody screaming at you."

He also makes sure he sets realistic expectations among his team. "We don't tell people we're going to make buyers rain from the sky or anything like that," he says.

Grant keeps a relaxed but focused culture within his team, and he gives them all the tools they need to succeed.

"I always tell my team, The hardest part is that you are your own boss, you can do whatever you want. The challenge is to manage your free time because nobody's going to tell you to go to work in the morning," he laughs.

The real challenge? Leading a remote team.

Remote or not, at the end of the day, you're only as good as each individual on your team.

At Follow Up Boss, we've developed an instinct for finding people who have what it takes to thrive, even without someone looking over their shoulder all day. 

If we've learned anything, it's that candidates who demonstrate a solid communication cadence are where you want to focus your hiring efforts.

A good rule of thumb is to look for candidates who have:

  • Entrepreneurial experience
  • Freelancing experience
  • A track record of building new products, services, etc.
  • Run their own successful side hustle

Even if it wasn't their full time gig, anyone brave enough to attempt to do their own thing is probably the type of self-motivated rockstar who can really kill it in a remote position.

But with more and more candidates in the market who already have remote experience, finding awesome candidates for your team will likely be less of a challenge moving forward.

Here's how we manage that at Follow Up

Communication + Clarity = A rockstar remote team

A couple years ago, our team at Follow Up Boss was somewhere around six or seven people. Now, we're 32 and growing.

We're definitely learning as we go.

While companies like Basecamp, Slack, Trello and other early adopters have a slew of well-documented SOPs you can swipe ideas from, newer companies like ours are still in the process of building and scaling our next-level systems.

Like anything worth doing, building your remote team won't be an overnight success.

Here's why it's important to look at it within the bigger picture of the tech trends disrupting the stat quo—especially in real estate.

Don’t resist change, embrace it.

Going remote is no joke.

You will face challenges. It may even "suck" at first.

But moving forward, leaders who embrace this shift will have an easier time attracting and keeping the standout-performers in today's changing workforce—people that have vastly different expectations than any past generation of workers.

Start by implementing a flexible location policy to help your agents maintain a healthy work-life balance and see where that takes you.

Because the fact is, remote work is no longer a trend. It's here to stay.

The only question is: Are you ready?

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