The ‘’Gig Economy’’ series sheds light on the future of work and the pros and cons of hiring freelancers and gig workers. Our guest today is Dmytro Okunyev, the Founder of Chanty - a simple AI-powered team chat. This powerful and free Slack alternative is aimed to increase team productivity and improve communication at work.

Dmytro, many founders believe that in-office teams are easier to manage. Why did you opt for a hybrid of in-office and remote teams?

While the majority of our company works from our offices (in NYC or Ukraine), we have a few remote workers at Chanty. Here is how we see remote work.

We started hiring remotely because we simply couldn’t find the talents we were looking for in the cities where our offices were located. Hiring developers in NYC is extremely expensive and in Ukraine, we had struggles finding great writers. We needed to find great people and instead of waiting for months for someone local to apply, we expanded our search globally. It took us less than a month to find, test, hire and onboard our new writer.

As time goes on, I see us hiring more remote workers but I am not sure if we will go fully remote. We still have an office where most of the team works and it would take a major shift to go all-remote. While there are certain benefits from leaving the office, we are still not at that point at Chanty.

Is the major shift that’s required somehow related to loyalty and motivation? Are remote workers less loyal than in-office employees?

Remote workers are just as loyal as those working in the office. The only difference I can see is that communication can be a bit more difficult. There are things you can’t explain in chat and you don’t want to start an audio/video call over everything.

To ensure loyalty, work on your culture first. With a strong company culture, even remote workers will be extremely loyal. Make sure your employees know what makes your company tick and what your team has in common beyond spending time at work.

Finally, it depends on what you consider as loyalty. For us, it’s when an employee does their best to perform their daily tasks and contributes to the overall goal of the company - to create a communication tool that meets the needs of our users.

Our employees can leave us at any point and go work for someone else, but it’s up to us make sure it doesn’t happen - by offering the right work conditions and a fair salary. Some managers are afraid that their remote employees work for other companies during official work hours. While there are no (ethical) ways to really know this, you shouldn’t be bothered with it. As we’ll discuss in a minute, remote workers should have goals that they need to meet daily, weekly and monthly. As long as those goals are met, we don’t really care about what happens after work.

Goals and milestones are just part of the equation when it comes to productivity. Are remote workers less productive than their peers working 9 to 5?

I can’t really say whether remote or office employees are more productive. It depends on the individual, not the location they work from. Some remote workers are more productive because they have fewer distractions, but it’s not a rule.

In general, productivity can be hard to measure, no matter what the arrangement is. The only way you can put a number on someone’s performance is when their work is closely related to certain outcomes. For example, a sales rep has to call 50 contacts within a day, a designer has to finish three pages per week, a writer has to complete 9 articles per month, etc.

The thing is, remote workers CAN be more productive if their work is based on goals, rather than fixed hours. A sales rep working for 8 hours in the office has to use that time to call 50 people, which means that they will take the entire 8 hours to do it. If they can finish their work earlier, they will. A remote worker with a flexible time schedule may be able to finish those 50 calls in 4 or 5 hours because they don’t have to spend the full 8 hours pretending to work all the time.

Your model is hybrid and you have experience managing both in-office and remote teams. Is it easier or harder to manage remote teams?

Remote teams are just as easy to manage as in-office teams. It’s important to set goals instead of asking them to work a set of fixed hours. As long as they have a goal such as “do task X by day Y”, they will be just as easy to manage. If their role requires to be constantly available for communication, managing someone who works remotely can be more challenging.

End of the day, it boils down to preparation. There are large remote companies out there (Automattic, Buffer, Hotjar, GitLab, etc.) that function really well in a remote setting. They didn’t achieve this by accident. It happened through careful planning and documenting every process, from hiring to onboarding and project management. If you plan on going fully remote with your company, I strongly suggest creating a handbook that provides details on how you do remote work. Every new hire should read it before they get started and it can serve as a guideline for the entire company.

You mentioned that you started hiring remote workers out of necessity. What about taping into a diverse talent pool?

Finally, remote hiring allows us to hire across the world, which is one of the major reasons why we’re such big fans. In fact, as long as someone can work in our time zone for a few hours a day (and they have the skills to do the job), we’re absolutely thrilled to have them work for us!

For us specifically, we are having some trouble finding developers lately. We tried locally and expanded our search to the entire country but still, we found very few applicants. We opened up our doors internationally and we started getting great applicants immediately.

I believe this will be the #1 reason why companies will hire remotely in the future. It is becoming impossible to find the perfect candidate for the job within driving distance from your office. Especially in small countries (Estonia is a good example), there will be a major shortage of talent in the upcoming future. At the same time, there will be more job openings, especially in the IT sector. Therefore, remote working is the future.