The big city isn’t for everyone. The cost alone can make it difficult to attract and retain employees. It can also make it difficult to expand your office space. One San Francisco-based tech company has found a way around these challenges. Zapier is offering candidates a “de-location package” to the tune of $10,000. It isn’t as crazy as it sounds—especially when you look at the numbers.
MarketWatch reports that San Francisco has the second highest office space costs in the nation, behind only New York. The average yearly cost to rent office space, per employee in San Francisco is $13,032. So Zapier, formerly based in the San Francisco area, will see a return on their de-location package investment in less than a year. In New York the cost of office space per employee is $14,800—and that’s just the cost of renting office space.
“There’s still those salaries to pay. San Francisco’s median income in 2013 was $75,604, and the average annual wage for tech workers was $156,518,” writes Sally French. “Perhaps not surprisingly, the city also has the nation’s highest cost of living — 48.8% above the national average.”
Hiring employees from the Bay Area necessitates higher salaries, which can be challenging for a young startup. And then there’s the cost of coffee, donuts, and the far more extravagant workplace perks that have become the norm, especially in the tech sector.
When you look at it that way, it’s no wonder that Zapier is offering up to $10,000 to help relocate new employees and their families to a new home outside the Bay Area.
“The recruiting industry has long offered relocation assistance to convince you to move somewhere you may not prefer. We think it’s time you get assistance to take a new role you’ll love and move to the exact place you want to be,” writes Co-founder and CEO Wade Foster.
But you can’t just send employees out into the wilderness and hope for the best. Companies must keep remote workers connected, engaged, and productive with quality collaboration tools. As the New Yorker hilariously parodied, not working in the same room as your coworkers can be isolating. And where email, chat, and web-based project management can keep workforce outputs on track, video conferencing keeps them truly engaged and connected.
“Virtual office communications rely mainly on emails and phone calls, and the lack of face time with bosses and colleagues also means that there is a lack of daily feedback about performance. When an employee cannot see his or her manager in person, they miss the information provided by nonverbal cues, such as body language and facial expressions,” writes Deborah Mitchell for Entrepreneur.
Employees, Millennials especially, want feedback on their performance, and management needs to be able to give this feedback to ensure that remote workers are meeting expectations. Video conferencing enables direct reports to meet face-to-face with their managers. The ability to observe nonverbal cues helps employees communicate more effectively and reduces the amount of time and energy employees spend working through miscommunications.
Leveraging collaboration solutions that are embedded in existing workflows increases adoption and the usefulness of the technology. When a team can escalate an instant message exchange into a video conversation with the click of a button, for example collaboration inherently improves. Presence icons that show availability facilitate impromptu brainstorming sessions (You don’t need a water cooler—really!) and senior leadership can hold all-hands meetings with attendees joining from around the world. And everyone can share content in real time, regardless of where they happen to be.
People play a significant role in creating a productive remote culture. A video conferencing solution can help employees retain existing and build new relationships. And organizations can encourage the remote human connection with some creative policies and procedures. At Zapier, “folks on the team get paired up with one other teammate at random each week for a short 10-15 minute pair call.” The time is used to “chat about life, work, or whatever random thing seems interesting,” Foster writes.
Just as text-based conversations benefit when employees also meet face-to-face over video, so do those video conversations benefit when you to bring the team together at least once per year. The Zapier team has visited Washington, Colorado, Alabama, and Utah on company retreats.
Foster writes, “If this seems expensive, that’s because it is. But the great part is that you’ll likely have the money to cover this plus more since you don’t have to pay for a central office that everyone is working in.”
Relocation packages were designed to get the best talent in the door and contributing to the organization’s success. However, with the increasing cost of commercial real estate, it may be time for a new approach. Thanks to the availability and accessibility of technology, remote work is both feasible and highly desirable to 80-90% of the U.S. workforce. A de-location package may not only attract the best talent, but make good financial sense for the business as well.