How Should Christians Think About the Rise of Telecommuting?

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In this video, Eden Chen and Justin Buzzard discuss the impact of remote work on Christians and their workplaces, suggesting ways to maintain relational culture within a company.

The following is a lightly edited transcript; please check the video before quoting.

Eden Chen: I think telecommuting is part of a bigger new wave of change in the way people work. You have a lot more freelancing, a lot of people working multiple jobs. Justin, is it something that you’ve seen at your church, I’m assuming, in Silicon Valley where people are working new roles? And how does that affect your church? How does that affect the congregation?

Justin Buzzard: I’d say for the most part, our people love it. That’s a way of life in Silicon Valley, telecommuting. It’s a results-oriented work environment in Silicon Valley; it’s not an hours-based, in-the-office work environment for most companies. And so, many people are telecommuting. Many people are working from home.

Many entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley are starting companies where they’re hiring around the globe based on best wages. A good friend of mine, an entrepreneur, is hiring software engineers, and a lot of those software engineers are not from Silicon Valley because he has to pay a higher wage there. Instead, he’s hiring them from the Midwest. He’s hiring them from the East Coast where he can pay a different wage. And so, the whole way he runs his company is different.

Certainly, you don’t have that face-to-face time every day, but there are creative ways for him to do that, that I think is healthy and good for the economy because he can start this business, and he can start it at a cheaper cost. But there is some relational loss in terms of a company’s culture because you’re not all together.

Eden Chen: Yeah. Our company has an office, but people work from home on Fridays, and honestly, for us, it’s pretty flexible. A lot of times people just work from home during the middle of the week too. We don’t have very stringent rules around coming to the office.

A lot of people like coming into an office and working with other people, having face-to-face conversations. But I think one of the companies that we have wanted to emulate, and I think a lot of companies wanted to emulate, is the company called InVision. They have more than 500 people that are working remote. A friend of mine at InVision has a title like “head of culture” or something like that. And his role is really to make sure that in a remote-based company with hundreds of people, real relationships are being formed.

And I think a lot of companies that do a good job in that culture are actually more intentional about the off-site employees that they have. When they’re hanging out, they actually are more intentional about that because so many jobs where you do go into office, you don’t really have a deep relationship with your coworker anyways. So, in terms of that relational loss, it may not even be there.

For our company, most years we do an international trip where we fly our whole company out to a international location. We spend a week to two weeks there. Last year, we went to Tokyo. The year before, we went to New Zealand. But those are the times when really deep relationships are formed. You’re on this off-site location, and you’re all living in the same location. You can do stuff like that with remote teams.

So, I think, like, relationships are never going to go away, even with remote teams. And the good remote teams are actually more aware of that than maybe some of the teams where you’re in a physical location.

Justin Buzzard: I think there’s a win for families in more remote working. In a lot of ways, it’s a return to pre-Industrial Revolution where most people worked on a farm at home, and they’re with their spouse, with their kids, with their neighbors throughout the day, and that’s where work took place.

So, least in my church, people are loving it. What we have at most company, not most, but many companies in Silicon Valley have work from home Wednesdays, and that’s the culture. So, the middle day of the week, they’re working from home. People love that. And oftentimes, they’re doing it much more than that. So, it means, oftentimes, more time with their spouse, family, kids, and that’s been really healthy, really good.

Eden Chen: Yeah. And I think it’s actually, like, more productive from a business standpoint, too. The reason why we do work from home is so people don’t have to drive to the office and waste time.

Justin Buzzard: Yeah. They’re not wasting time on their commute, and the utility bill, you know, a lot of ways that it benefits the company you can save costs.