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Real Time With Remote Workers

Periodic in-person engagement is essential

With 930 employees spread across 68 countries and not a single company office for any of them to report to, Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg may well be the world’s biggest advocate of the remote workforce phenomenon. As the creator of the web publishing platform WordPress and CEO of a $1.6 billion web development company, he’s also got the technical wherewithal to bridge thousand-mile gaps electronically, enabling his army of Automatticians to collaborate and connect digitally. Yet, even Mullenweg acknowledges the inherent difficulties of managing globally dispersed employees working in isolation.

“There’s a level of trust that can be built when you share a meal together that has not been replicated online,” he says. “You can get 80 to 90 percent of the way there, quite close… but periodic engagement in person definitely helps.”

While few companies have made the jump to Automattic’s entirely virtual model, many are grappling with managing workforces spread across a network of offices or that encompass home-based employees. In fact, in a recent survey by Upwork, hiring managers predicted that within the next few years, over one-third (38 percent) of their employees will spend most of their time working remotely.

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