April 1st, 2021 | Sterling

Liam Martin Answers Q&A’s About Tech Companies and Quarantine

Q&A with Liam Martin, Co-founder of the Time Doctor and Staff.com, one of the most popular time tracking and productivity software platforms in use by top brands today. Liam empowers workers to work wherever they want, whenever they want.

Remote work has been on the rise since the early 2000s, growing by an astounding 173% between 2005 and 2018. Stay-at-home orders this past year accelerated remote work with predications for 2021 showing an even greater increase. With a remote workforce, it is important to manage communication, productivity and build trust within your company in order to remain successful.

We invited Liam, an expert in remote work, to discuss employer trends during this time, how to measure employee productivity, and the role of remote background checks.

Q. Your organization has been remote since inception and now you’re seeing larger technology companies jump into a remote world. Do you think we’re just at the beginning of seeing the benefits of what this is going to bring to these organizations?

A. I think we’re there now. We’re at a crossroads where we are exiting the emergency and we are entering the trend. It’s a very interesting time for the history of work, not even just the history of remote work. I think fundamentally work is going to change, and it’s never going back to the way it was before.

We now know that remote work relationships are as productive and more cost effective than an on-premise model. A company called Coinbase, which is an application that allows you to be able to hold your purchase and cryptocurrency, opened at 100 billion-dollar IPO this year. This is going to be the largest IPO of 2021 and for the first time in the history of the SEC, they’re able to declare their headquarters nowhere because they are a remote-first organization. They have no physical location.

This is easy for technology companies to do, but this is going to expand out to all different types of businesses to some degree, and I think that companies will recognize that this is not just remote work, it’s a better way to work.

I think within the next five years we may not even think of remote work as this special thing. It’s just the way that we work. The majority of the US workforce will be working remotely within five years, and I would say 60- 70% of that workforce will be working remotely in the next five years, so it’s going to be very interesting to see how that grows out.

Q: As companies move in the direction of becoming fully or partly remote, there are a number of challenges that companies are facing, one of them being how to effectively hire remotely. Can you talk about hiring remotely and how to balance trust with bringing someone on board that you may have never seen or met?

A. I think this something that we still have to work out. There will be a lot more processes built out as it comes along, but we have to deal with implications of employment records. Where are those employees located legally? Are they going to travel? How do you make sure that you know your employee?

Sterling is a perfect example of being able to verify where employees are located, the jurisdiction that they’re working under, and their previous employment.

There are some things that you need to do as an employer to exercise due diligence. In my opinion, it’s always good to be able to take extra steps.

Working with Sterling can help you get that much needed extra layer of security as an employer. You will be able to say, “We went through all of these steps to be able to hire our people and we know that we are compliant.”

Q. During quarantine there were minimal distractions out of the house for employees working from home. As this starts to change, how can companies manage their employees’ time remotely to ensure they’re working but also have a work/life balance.

A. As a manager in an office, you have eyes on employees. You know that they’re working.

In remote work, I encourage companies to use core KPIs and then assess employees’ time against those KPIs. This involves asking questions like, who is the most productive? Where are they deploying their time? This is where our tool, Time Doctor, comes in. It’s not just a tool to watch what people are doing, but it provides meaningful insights into how you and your employees can do their jobs more effectively.

When I first started using the tool for myself and looking at my own Time Doctor data, I noticed my productivity was really low on Tuesday afternoons. I wasn’t doing deep work during this time and was consistently getting distracted. What I realized is that around 2 PM is when matinee times for the movies would come out, and I would get messages from friends and family deciding what movie to see. This wound up consistently destroying my Tuesday afternoons. Now, I don’t work Tuesday afternoons, and counterintuitively, my productivity went up.

I got more done, doing less work.

Spending less time in the office allowed me to be more productive and focused for that dedicated time, and I wouldn’t have been able to build out those types of insights had I not had a tool like Time Doctor. That’s really what I think a lot of people should be focusing on is, where are you putting your time, and how can you be more productive?

It’s not just about looking at your employees’ hours and saying, “They’re working 50 hours, so therefore they’re good.”

What are they doing with that time?

A lot of the time the people that are working less are actually the people that are getting more done.

Q. When I hire someone remotely, they’re on my VPN and behind my security walls, and might have access to sensitive data. Do you think that this new way of working requires more in-depth background checks to increase levels of safety and security?

A. There are a ton of implications for hiring remotely as it applies to security.

You’d be crazy not to have a VPN deployed on every single employee that works inside of your organization just from an information security perspective, and that’s why using a tool like Time Doctor is so important.

Who are your people?

There’s a lot of corporate espionage that is a lot easier to do when someone works remotely, right?

Someone could apply for a job on your development team and work their way up the ladder in three months. They may then all of a sudden get SQL access to the entire database, pull your database, and then bring it to your competitor. This kind of things happens, and that’s why you would want to be able to have those types of checks in place. It’s not just background checks, it’s a cornucopia.

It’s an entire stack of pieces that you need to implement to be able to make sure that that process is secure. It’s important to have checks at the beginning to build trust. You need to work with someone for three months, four months, six months before you really start to give them access to systems that require a lot of trust.

It’s going to take longer to evolve in a remote environment as opposed to face-to-face, but the cost savings for taking precautions are enormous.

As Liam stated above, remote work requires an additional layer of trust and safety built early on in the hiring process. You can use background checks to build that initial trust, and remote tracking tools like Time Doctor to help your employees measure and increase productivity, benefitting your teams and the organization at large

In the next part of our discussion with Liam, we’ll talk about remote work trends and the future state of virtual workforces.

This blog post is part of a Q&A blog series, where we interview industry experts to get their insights on the latest trends, best practices, and recommendations for building great cultures and foundations of trust and safety.

Sterling is not a law firm. This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.