Our guest today is Jana Gouchev, Esq. She received her J.D. from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University in New York City, concentrating on intellectual property law. Jana was formerly in the corporate department of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, Pryor Cashman. Her main areas of practice are intellectual property, corporate law, and start-ups. Jana handles everything from strategic business formation to employee matters, stock options, partnership agreements, partner disputes, confidentiality agreements, buyouts, global trademark registration, commercial leases and all stages of startup funding, and corporate restructuring.
Jana, some companies like Yahoo and IBM have revoked their work from home policies while others like GitLab have been all-remote since the very beginning. What was your reason for introducing a remote work policy?
You mentioned that the remote working policy attracted great people but are remote workers as loyal as in-office employees?
I strongly believe that remote workers are more loyal than in-office employees. Although it almost seems counterintuitive because you’d think it would be the other way around due to the potential for more face time and personal interaction. It was questioned if deeper relationships between the workers and their managers and peers might form while working remotely.
In reality, however, that largely doesn't seem to be the case. From what I have both experienced and heard over my career, remote employees communicate more throughout the day with their teams as well as their boss(es), they care more about their work, and they work more efficiently, as well as after business hours (because they choose to, not because they are expected to). I have also seen that they stay in their positions longer than in-office employees. There is a sense of freedom that comes with working remotely because it affords you the opportunity to be mobile if there is a need to work while traveling to different locations throughout the day. If your primary workspace is part of a home office setup, it allows you to personalize that area, so you are most comfortable and productive. Certainly, there’s a comfort level if you absolutely have to spend the day in sweatpants and bunny slippers while getting your work done! On a more serious note, not being tethered to a desk that requires a daily commute, not having to navigate the inherent and probably inevitable pitfalls of office politics only to return home at the end of the day and addressing the responsibilities of daily life is truly liberating. This kind of work situation really unleashes the creative mind and the critical thinking that goes into excelling and getting things done.
Working in your bunny slippers is appealing but most people are distracted at home. Are remote workers as productive as their peers working 9 to 5?
Absolutely more productive. They are more focused, more efficient, better communicators, and generally try harder. The common thread that unifies remote workers is time management. No one will understand your daily requirements better than yourself, right? So being self-motivated and organized are absolute musts in order to succeed and I’ve found that people drawn to this kind of work arrangement are fundamentally self-motivated and organized.
What I also have found is that the entire workflow itself is streamlined – everyone has ownership of their responsibilities and works on their parts concurrently and then aggregates the work so it can be easily reviewed, modified if necessary and completed on time. During those steps, we’re in regular communication and with everyone focusing on the task, we are able to leverage a lot of brainpower, insight and experience to make sure we’re providing the best service possible. We’re always in a position to have fresh eyes weigh in on the work and that is what gives us the competitive edge that has resulted in high customer satisfaction.
Coordinating people scattered across different locations can be challenging. Is it easier or harder to manage remote teams?
Managing a remote team definitely comes with its own set of challenges. Communicating through instant messages and emails can lead to things being taken out of context. That is when being able to just walk into someone's office to talk through something may help. Fortunately, we’re able to mitigate this issue with a phone call or video chat. Also, having motivated team members helps because instead of letting something fester, they’ll reach out to clarify the intent of the message which has led to more productive and efficient communication. Working collaboratively is a really challenging part of managing remote teams but with the high level of buy-in from everyone it often brings out the best in everybody. Teamwork and relationship building is harder when people aren't seeing each other regularly in person but even without that, I find that everyone is very understanding and supportive in resolving scheduling conflicts and task responsibilities.
What about tapping into a diverse talent pool?
Oh yes, this is one of the big reasons I am such a proponent of remote workers. At our firm, we have had the opportunity to pick some of the top talents in the country due to the remote working opportunities we offer. We get people from the best firms, best schools, and with a wealth of experience. Remote workers tend to have a high level of commitment and a strong sense of integrity. Being able to offer the best of your expertise and contribute all while managing your life in today’s world, the flexibility that comes with this work choice is quite possibly the surest way to grow and succeed both individually and as a company.