Given the shifts in the last two years to working from home, we have to look at the future of remote working. Many employees are now in a place where they desire more flexibility which requires CEOs to find new ways to give it to them. Leaders must have an intentional plan that addresses the future of remote working to attract top talent. Today’s guest is Liam Martin, Co-founder at Time Doctor. Inc Magazine ranked his company #3303 on the 2020 Inc 5000 list. Time Doctor is a SaaS employee monitoring tool launched by the owners of Staff.com. It includes keystroke logging, screenshot and internet usage tracking features. Liam and I discuss the future of remote working by looking at the changing factors in today’s economy. He has tons of data and experience with remote workers to give you. Understanding the future of remote working will give you the edge in creating the right culture for your team.
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Liam Martin: The Transcript
About: Liam Martin is the co-founder and CMO of Time Doctor and Staff.com — one of the most popular time tracking and productivity software platforms in use by top brands today. He is also a co-organizer of the Running Remote Conference. He consults on outsourcing and process design and is passionate about how to gain insights into the inner workings of how people work. He is an avid proponent of remote work and has been published in Forbes, Inc, Mashable, TechCrunch, Fast Company, Wired, The Wall Street Journal, The Next Web, The Huffington Post, Venturebeat, and many other publications specifically targeting the expansion of remote work.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
Liam Martin: [00:00:00] Pandora’s box has been opened for better or worse. I think that there’s going to be a lot of changes. Some of them, some of them are going to be fantastically positive. Some of them not so much, but I do think that at least philosophically to me, remote work, empowers employees and employers to find the best of each other, regardless of where they’re located.
Intro: Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs, the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett: Today we look at the future of remote work. Now you may think you’ve got it figured out you spent the last 18 months or so in a remote world. Well, it’s about to change even more because we want to make sure that we create an environment that people can Excel in. We want to make sure that those people are growing. You want to make sure they’re connected to the culture, but we want to also make sure we understand the key aspects of what the future of remote working will be like. Today’s [00:01:00] guest is co-founder Time Doctor Liam Martin. And he talks about some of the interesting pieces to, you know, asynchronous work versus synchronous work and why synchronous work has worked in the past, but it may not be the dominant force inside of our organizations, as it has been. We look at different ways that asynchronous work actually works. He talks about the silent meeting and it really is an important aspect to you understanding what the future of work will look like. You have to change the way you lead people through the future of work, you have to change the way you are intentional, the way you communicate. And it really is important for you to understand all these aspects and the future of your own leadership, not just the future of remote work.
When you think about your own journey as a leader, are you completely clear about how you’re upleveling and all of the things that go into you being the best leader you can be for your team. Being extraordinary leader takes you, increasing your skills and takes you mastering communication takes you listening at a different level. It takes you getting a sense of ownership across the projects. There’s many aspects of this. This is the core of my work. As an [00:02:00] executive coach. I’d love to help you and your roadmap to being an extraordinary leader. We do something called fast-growth boardroom. It’s a very special experience with leaders of fast growth companies. They want to get together, hang out, do some fun stuff with coaching. With the community and the content in there is excellent. We help you become an extraordinary leader. If you think you’re a fit, just go to fastgrowthboardroom.com and check it out. You can apply. We’ll have a conversation I’d love to get to know you. See if it’s a fit. If not, I’d love to give you some free access to others or refer you to others. That would help you be the leader that you know, you can be just go to fastgrowthboardroom.com. If you think you’re a fit. Now here’s the interview with Liam
Liam, how are you?
Liam Martin: I’m very good. How are you?
Gene Hammett: I’m excited to talk to you on Growth Think Tank.
Liam Martin: Yeah, me too.
Gene Hammett: We have been through a lot lately, but before we dive into what we’re going to really talk about today, which is remote work and what it looks like in the future, I’d love for you to share a little bit about Time Doctor.
Liam Martin: Sure. So time doctor is a time-tracking tool for remote employees. We’ve been running the company for approximately 10 years and we are what’s called [00:03:00] a remote first organization. So we have team members in 43 countries all over the world. We’ve been doing it for. Almost 20 years actually. And, , I’m very, very passionate about building and scaling remote teams. So our remote time-tracking tool was a natural extension of that.
Gene Hammett: Did you create the tool out of your own need or did you see an opportunity out there?
Liam Martin: So I, before I started this company with my co-founder Rob, I had an online tutoring company. And I was scaling that company quite well, right out of grad school. And I found that there was a big problem inside of that model, which was, I would build a spill, a student for 10 hours, and then the student would come back to me and say, Hey, I didn’t work with my student for 10 hours or my tutor. I worked with them for five. I go to the tutor and say, Hey, did you work with Jimmy for 10 hours? And they’d say, of course, that’s why I billed you for 10 hours. So I ended up having to refund the student for five hours and paid the tutor, the full 10 hours. And that was really destroying the business. So I needed a tool to be able to very clearly and quantifiably [00:04:00] measure how long someone worked on a particular project or task with someone else. And that was really scratching my own itch. I tell anyone that’s going to start a business, scratch your own itch because it’s going to get really difficult over the next couple of years. Your gonna want to quit a lot But if you have that passion, you’re going to be able to get yourself through.
Gene Hammett: Now I don’t know exactly what the product does and we don’t have to get into the details of it, but does it, does it get into, do employees resist the fact that cause they’re getting recorded in some way? How does that kind of work with your product.
Liam Martin: To a degree. What we like to follow at least internally is a radical transparency mindset. So everyone in the company use this Time Doctor, they choose when to turn it on and off. So it’s a task management tool. And when it’s turned off, there’s no actual time being tracked, but then everyone knows what everyone else is doing. So right now they know that I’m working on my podcast task, which is inside of my podcast project. I compare that to all the other 600 plus podcast. That I’ve done over the [00:05:00] last two years. And then I can start to analyze that data and figure out, well, how long does a podcast actually take? How much does it cost me? And then what’s the long-term return on ad spend effectively for this type of task.
Gene Hammett: So it can be used to measure your own time, but ideally it’s to measure across the team, the organization, right?
Liam Martin: It works the best when everyone uses it. Even the people that are in charge, we believe that it’s not just a top down approach. It should also be a bottom up approach so everyone can see everyone else’s data. And then you have that transparency throughout your organization.
Gene Hammett: Well, Liam, we’re going to look at the future of work and specifically remote work. We’ve been through an incredible time period of change. I think a lot of people, I’m sure you’ve heard everything in the book where companies said they could never hire remote workers. We don’t have that kind of business. We don’t, that’s not going to work here. Well, we proved that wrong. Almost everyone knows that they can work remotely, a certain jobs they can’t, but especially in the knowledge world knowledge workers that are expected to think and apply and research and do those things. Tell us a little bit about the way you see the [00:06:00] current world of remote working.
Liam Martin: So you’re right. We went through a massive change. I actually had a dinner with a friend of mine who runs a multi-billion dollar technology company that you would probably know. And he told me, I didn’t think we’d ever be able to go remote. And I was completely wrong. And he basically just told me that I was right, which is fantastic for me. Whenever a billion dollar tech founder tells you, Hey, you were right about going left versus going, right. But we’ve seen the biggest shift in labor since the industrial revolution, 4% of the US workforce was working remotely in February. Of 2020 and I, April of 2020, 46% of the US workforce was working remotely and 82% of the knowledge workers in the United States were working remotely. And that’s effectively what was happening everywhere on planet Earth. And the interesting phenomenon right now is we’re still floating around 35% of the US workforce working remotely. I still think that’s going to go down a little bit, but we’re probably going to end up. 30% [00:07:00] of the us workforce working remotely post COVID, which is a massive shift, effectively, an exponential jump from the 4% that it was pre COVID.
Gene Hammett: I had quite a few people. I interviewed on the show through this, , maybe after they get their feet wet and they, they understood this. I talked to one lawyer specifically and he’s like, you know, we used to do hire a lot of para-legal, and we found out that we could do that offshore and we’ve changed our entire business model. We will never go back to the way it used to be. And I think a lot of people have seen this breakthrough that they’ll never go back to the way it used to be. You probably hear that quite a bit.
Liam Martin: Yeah. I mean, Pandora’s box has been opened for better or worse. I think that there’s going to be a lot of changes. Some of their going, some of them are going to be fantastically positive. Some of them not so much, but I do think that at least philosophically to me, remote work and. Empowers employees and employers to find the best of each other, regardless of where they’re located. And I think that that’s generally going to be a net good for society.
Gene Hammett: And when you think about kind of, I know you guys focus on the [00:08:00] tools, but you also focus on the data side. I’ve had quite a few of this conversations where they’ve said, you know what? I kind of feel like people are more productive. I can’t put my finger on it, but I feel like people are able to work more on their own time and maybe work in their best hours of thinking, which is a very big thing. Like you don’t have to work when everyone says work. You do it when you. The best. , what are you seeing from a data side?
Liam Martin: So you’re right. The, the mindset of allowing people to work wherever they want, whenever they want is an important one to take into consideration. There are some legal issues that you have to overcome. So, as an example, if your employees are not are saying that they’re US employees, but they’re actually working in Indonesia, you’d need something like an employer of record company to be able to work for that or to solve that problem. But fundamentally the data shows we actually are working a little bit longer per day than we were in the office. However, when you actually tunnel down into that data, you find that people are spending a lot more [00:09:00] time being, I would stay more social or more human outside of the office. So instead of taking a half hour lunch break, you might take an hour and a half lunch break. You might walk your dog or walk your kids around. You might be able to spend more time with your wife or husband or with your family during your work. So it’s allowing you to actually have much more human connections with work, as opposed to when you go in the office. An hour commute in it’s your nine to five, and then it’s an hour commute back just quite literally saving those two hours of commute time, which is the average commute time in the United States is huge in terms of your overall productivity. Even if you use that simply to sleep.
Commentary: Now, Liam, just talked about we’re working more hours, but we’re also having more social time. Now. I think employees are not going to want to give up a lot of the flexibility that has been created through this. They like the no-time commuting. They liked the fact that they don’t have to always dress up or maybe they just dress up from the waist up. they love the flexibility of working on their own [00:10:00] time when they do their best work. And it’s something you probably should embrace because you want the best of employees. You don’t want them to work the hours that are always there. Now they have to be available for certain meetings and certain things, I get that. Sometimes they need to be in the office. Sometimes they need to be, you know, at client sites, but you want to make sure that you create a space that where people can be flexible because some of the best talent out there is going to require flexibility. And it’s really an important piece to keeping the best people and hiring the best people. And that’s what important for you as you scale your company back to Liam.
Gene Hammett: And when you think about the future of this, like things are going to be different than they are today. What are you kind of, , what’s the vision you have for that?
Liam Martin: So it’s gonna be very exciting. Three separate directions that we’re going in. There is companies like us, which are remote first companies. And then there are people that are going to go back to the office after COVID is over, and then there’s going to be hybrid companies. So you’re going to go one of those three directions right now. The market is approximately 20% of that [00:11:00] workforce is going to stay remote. About 10, about 15 to 20% are going to go back to the office and then 60 to 70% are going to go hybrid. And I think the big critical part is hybrid is kind of a tangential term. , some people may go hybrid and say, you can work from home, or you can come into the office. The office is just available to you or Hey, you have to actually show up in the office every five days and maybe on Fridays, you get to go remote. So that’s the one that I think is the most interesting. And we’re probably going to see over the next 24 months, that number whittled down, back into the remote camp and the office camp. And that remains to be seen where we really go.
I wouldn’t, however, say from an economics perspective, the P and L’s for remote first organizations are way more efficient on average about 30% more efficient in terms of labor consumption than an on-premise model or an office model. So I think that that’s going to be a really important factor as it applies to this hybrid category, which [00:12:00] is by far the largest category of work that we’re planning on doing after COVID.
Gene Hammett: Now there’s certain challenges around leading a hybrid organization. Remote first has its challenges as well back to the office. You know, sourcing certainly has challenges, but hybrid involves a lot of, you know, how do you handle the staff meeting when you’ve got three people at home and six people that are in the conference room and the technology of that is not really that easy. And I think you would probably make it harder than it actually is. , what do you, what do you think about the technology of that? , the, the hybrid in the future.
Liam Martin: Well, one of, and if we just step back a minute, the question that you asked is kind of putting the cart before the horse. When you look at a remote organization and even a hybrid organization, there’s a different methodology for managing those types of organizations in comparison to office organized. And it really boils down to synchronous versus asynchronous work. So the biggest problem that I see the vast majority of remote and hybrid teams implementing right now is they’re stating, well, we have to do the same amount [00:13:00] of meetings that you were doing in the office and you actually don’t. And the reasoning behind that is when everyone pays effectively that two hours to commute into the office every day for that form of collaboration, everyone pays that cost. So therefore it’s kind of like a, all you can eat buffet on synchronous collaboration. Remote teams have recognized since we’re not paying that cost to be able to commute in every single day, we can afford an Alec Hart model as it applies to synchronous collaboration and the vast majority of remote companies that are successful actually reduced.
The amount of time that they meet with each other. They reduce those synchronous moments of communication as much as possible. And they find that that actually accelerates people to do deep work. I E getting the actual things done as opposed to the meetings that you do to get the things done. And those produce much faster growing organizations. So the question is not what kind of technologies should we be using to be able to collaborate? It should be number one. How can we minimize collaboration? [00:14:00] What forms of collaboration? The synchronous can we remove in order to accelerate everyone’s time and spend instead of two hours doing deep work, spend six hours doing D work.
Commentary: Now, Liam just talked about synchronous and asynchronous work. Synchronous work is something that we’ve known inside of our workplace for decades, where we are doing together. We’re having meetings together. Asynchronous is greeting new ways of thinking about how to get things done. New ways to collaborate. And asynchronous is the future of remote work. When you think about what you are really there to do, you want to make sure you create space for people to do their best work and something I’ve seen work really well is no meetings on certain days or certain times. The allow people to do the deep work. Now, what I mean by this is I had a client of mine who was struggling with, we were, we’re overwhelmed with meetings and this was before COVID and whatnot. But I introduced this concept of no meetings, just as kind of a curiosity question. And he embraced it, they ran with it and they had a tremendous amount of benefit from no meaning. [00:15:00] Now you can choose any day you want, but no meeting Wednesday meant that no meetings could be scheduled for status updates. They could collaborate. They could work together in small teams, but they couldn’t have regular executive team meetings, client meetings, or anything else that was the day reserved to get the work done. Now in the future, that asynchronous approach to deep work will be very important for talented people to perform at their best. And it really will be a game changer. If you can embrace that inside your workforce. Back to Liam.
Gene Hammett: I think a lot of people misunderstood the steep work and I, I find it to be incredibly powerful. I’m not a 30 minute kind of let me just put my thoughts and my thinking cap on and do 30 minutes. I have to do two or three hours. And when I wrote my book, it was, it was three or four hour, hour writing sessions. Are you saying that this deep work and remote world being able to stick around?
Liam Martin: So you take a look at a counterpart’s book, deep work. It is to me. Salute guide that everyone should be using to be able to focus all of their [00:16:00] employees on achieving the most throughout their Workday. A lot of the times, particularly in on-premise organizations, I E organizations, a lot of the mid-level management is really not needed inside a remote organization because you require way less meeting time. You require way less synchronous communication time in order to get what you need done, because everything is really reduced to quantitative matrix. That are reported asynchronously. So to me, when we look at where we’re at right now, I mean, within the next two years, I fully expect there to be a very serious compression in the mid-management layer inside of corporate America. More importantly, I also see the distribution of labor being, I mean, there’s going to be a complete Renaissance of people that are able to be really, really good at their job at very perticular things. And those are the people that are really good to explode inside of these organizations and the people that are fundamentally just focusing on the communication pace, I guess, of an organization, which is [00:17:00] quite a bit, those people will be minimized pretty heavily.
Gene Hammett: Interesting thoughts about the future there. What else could you tell me about the way you see our organization and, and remote working in the future?
Liam Martin: So when I look at at least, and if I take an asynchronous view on remote work, one of the biggest things. That ceases to be that popular is the charismatic manager. The person who’s actually the loudest or the most charismatic during a meeting, their power is wanes significantly. And the more kind of introverted person, that’s actually a lot more mindful and probably in a vast majority of cases knows more about the subject that can communicate asynchronously, meaning I can write out an email as an example, or I can write a comment on a project management tool. That’s a lot more insightful. Those are the people that are actually going to grow throughout those organizations in the future. So you’re going to lose a lot of the charismatic leader type of industries. That we’re getting by simply [00:18:00] because they were charismatic, not because they actually were valuable to the organization and the quieter people that are actually quite valuable to the organization. Those are the ones that are really going to move up in those orcs.
Gene Hammett: Interesting thought there, and a note charismatic and and some elements of that we we’ve got to have. Talking with employees, but what you’re talking about there is maybe the, the leader that comes into the meetings and said, you know what I’ve been thinking about this idea, and they’ve already made their mind up. And they’re just trying to convince people that this is what they should be doing. And I know there’s many elements behind that. When you think about the impact, this is going to make across organizations, what do you, what do you see there?
Liam Martin: Well, I mean, I like to call them the armchair manager. As someone who has no tactical understanding of what they’re talking about, but maybe they look at five or six different departments and they say to themselves, Hey, this is what we should be doing next. As opposed to paying attention to the people that are on the front lines. That very well. I mean, whether they agree or disagree, that’s where you should really be getting your information from. And asynchronous organizations don’t work that way. Asynchronous organizations say we have an issue. We need to [00:19:00] actually figure out the solution to this particular issue. Let’s talk about it. As an example, writing is a much more valuable skill in an asynchronous organization than it is in a synchronous organization, because if I’m the best person at convincing you in person that loses almost all of its value, when we’re talking about asynchronous. Now, there are some times when you have to pop over to a synchronous conversation, particularly if you really can’t solve the issue, but the vast majority of the time, those armchair managers, when you, when they pose those questions or when they say, Hey, I’ve got this idea, a lot of people won’t necessarily tell them that they’re wrong because they don’t either want to get into a fight with their manager, or they just don’t have the skills. To be able to actually tell them what they really need to have done in inside of the organization. But when it’s a sink, you can actually thank, you can put down your thoughts and you can usually convince people to go other directions.
Gene Hammett: Makes me think about that a few years ago, Amazon came out with no more PowerPoint in meetings. They actually write a brief [00:20:00] and say,
Liam Martin: we read exactly the same thing. We literally, , so we have, we have it’s called silent. Basically, which is no presentations are allowed to be presented in a meeting. You collect them on, , you fire up Vic yard or loom, do your presentation. Post that inside of a sauna, we use Asana or project management tool, and then people discuss the main issue. And you also identify through text, what is the main issue that we need to solve and IDs effectively. And you go through that entire process. And then if you can’t find a solution to the issue, then you jump to. This meeting to discuss it, but if nothing needs to be discussed and we found a conclusion, then you just add conclusion to the top of the meeting section and that’s it. The meeting is completed. , we get way more of these done than asynchronous organization. And frankly, another thing that really bugs me about these orgs is there are people that can’t requisition a paperclip inside of companies, and yet they can have $800,000 plus employees. Sit in a meeting for three hours.
I sometimes [00:21:00] look around at meetings and I say to myself, Hmm, this meeting costs me a $6,400. It’s it’s a bad utilization of their time. If they don’t need to be there, they could watch the video at two X speed and get a lot more work. Done.
Gene Hammett: Great point there. Let you wrap up. What else have you learned that applies to the silent meetings that you can share with us today?
Liam Martin: Generally, it is just that the ability to be able to do your job should fundamentally be reduced down to quantitative measures. And that’s the big thing that a lot of people don’t want to necessarily confront. , obviously I’m biased because I have a time tracking tool for remote teams, but successful remote organizations have all of their metrics reduced down to Quantitative measures. So if you can implement that inside of your organization, then you can very quickly identify who is the most valuable people in your organization and give them more resources. And you can figure out who isn’t valuable and decrease the amount of resources that they receive. This is really, to me, a model, team moment where you’re going to see companies like. [00:22:00] Which IPO did $141 billion entered number 98 on the S and P 500. And for the first time in the history of the sec, they’ve been able to state that they, their headquarters is nowhere because they said anything else would be a lot. So you’re going to see many, many more of these companies. Most of the fastest growing remote growth tech companies in the world are remote first. And that trend I think, is going to probably be at 80 to 90% within the next five years.
Gene Hammett: Liam, as we wrap up today, reading between the lines. You wouldn’t want to be in a class, a office class, , buildings, and have a lot of investment in that. Is that true? In the future of work?
Liam Martin: I have, , put a lot of my money into co-working spaces. I would probably transition as much as human. If you want a lot of corporate real estate flip over to coworking spaces that space about to explode.
Gene Hammett: Love it. Liam, thanks for being here.
Liam Martin: Thank you.
Gene Hammett: Well, this wraps up an incredible episode of Growth Think Tank Liam’s listen in here, but I really appreciate you sticking around for this recap. When you think about the future of remote work, it’s going to be [00:23:00] different than it is today. It’s probably different than what you imagined and what you work through the pandemic period. But, you know, I think a lot of employees are going to want a flexible working arrangement. They’re going to want to really have their time work on their best hours. What Liam was sharing with us as a lot of insights around this. I love the silent meeting piece to it, and it really loved the fact that he really talks about the synchronous and asynchronous work and how that will change in the future. Please keep your finger on the pulse of this. If you want to be the best leader you can be.
You want to make sure you understand all the aspects. And how to lead in that remote or hybrid world. And that’s really important if you have any questions about that, just go to GeneHammett.com. We have a lot of free resources. You want to be an extraordinary leader there. Gene Hammett, happy to help you.
When you think of growth, you think of leadership think of Growth Think Tank. As always lead with courage. Will see you next time.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
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