10 Remote Work Influencers and Thought Leaders to Follow in 2021

Remote work influencers

In 2001, work was strictly in the office. You had your cubicle, your desktop, and your picture of your dog. At lunchtime, you’d share lunch with your coworkers. Sometimes, you had days where you brought your paperwork home, but the next day, you would go back to sitting at your Mac that looked like a space helmet. 

Let’s speed to two decades later, in 2021, where remote work is the cornerstone of businesses. 4.7 million Americans are working from home, according to the US Census Bureau. And 74% of professionals expect remote work to become standard, according to Forbes.

How did it become so widespread? How has it changed the way we work today? And, what is the future of remote work going to look like?

Remote Work Influencers and Thought Leaders

To take a closer look, we’ll see remote work from the viewpoint of its leaders–the people who pioneered remote work two decades or so ago.

These leaders have been in the industry for a long time and have seen the varying landscape of work. They’ve changed companies, changed strategies, changed employees. But one thing remains constant–their dedication to work conducted remotely.

So, from all types of industries, we’ll take a look together at these thought leaders that are revolutionizing the remote work model. 

We’ll find out their different strengths and strategies for implementing the remote work model, as leaders in their various industries. We’ll see why remote work is changing its face in 2021, through the thoughts of these remote work influencers. 

So here we go:

Liam Martin – Co-founder and CMO of Time Doctor

Liam Martin

Has anyone discovered how to stop time or time travel? 

Liam Martin has definitely made use of his–and our–time. 

Martin has been impacting the remote work model in revolutionary ways with the employee monitoring tool he co-founded, Time Doctor.

Liam envisioned remote working 15 years ago when online work was still called telework. However, he never imagined that it would be so mainstream today. 

An academic at first, he had founded an online tutoring company when he met his co-founder Rob Rawson, who was then developing an app called Time Doctor. Liam noticed that his tutoring company employees were not reporting accurate data. That’s when he began to think about how he could track time in an efficient and accurate way.

In his eyes, Time Doctor could become a valuable time tracking, employee monitoring, and time analytics tool. Later in 2012, he co-founded Time Doctor with Rob Rawson.

Time Doctor

The SaaS venture company has turned remote work into a success, reaching 8 figures. It has around 100+ employees in more than 40 countries as of today. With Time Doctor as more than just a time tracking tool, it has the capabilities to ride on the wave of AI. Liam believes that this is the second biggest wave and that the future of productivity will change due to AI.

Up to date, Liam is also the co-organizer of the Running Remote Conference. He has been published in Forbes, Inc, Mashable, TechCrunch, Fast Company, Wired, The Wall Street Journal, The Next Web, The Huffington Post, Venturebeat, and more. He writes specifically about the expansion of remote work. His interviews tackle the rise of remote work, managing remote employees, setting up a remote working team, and more.

Certainly, Liam Martin has become the executive to follow–as a thought leader envisioning how remote work can be tracked effectively.

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Ofer Tirosh – CEO of Tomedes

If you thought language translation has to use only pen and paper, you’re wrong. 

Ofer Tirosh has been thinking up ways translation can innovate for nearly two decades.

Ofer Tirosh is the Founder and CEO of Tomedes, which is a translation company running remotely. Tomedes is known as a leader in the industry, revolutionizing the remote workforce through a tech-driven stance.

Tomedes was launched in 2007 with the goal of combining human translation with what was out in the market then–the beginnings of artificial intelligence.

In terms of technology, Tomedes was using machine AI translation since it was conceived. Now it is using machine translation post editing, which makes translation more efficient and accurate. This AI-driven translation method is also cloud-based, and can be accessed by translators worldwide. 

Tomedes

A network of remote employees made it possible for Tirosh to conduct business completely remotely. All the employees use cloud-based storage, cloud-based software, and cloud-based communication tools. The remote working environment has made it easier for Tomedes to provide services globally, without having to compromise due to location, proximity, or office space. Although Tomedes started out as an Israeli company, they’ve expanded to the US and the UK. 

When it was first starting out, Tirosh made sure that the customer service portion of the company utilized a “follow the sun” mentality. Tomedes made sure that everywhere the sun was up, they had employees there, up and working. Tomedes still has a 24/7 customer service team to this day.

And it’s not just translators or customer service that make Tomedes a company to watch for in the translation sphere. They also employ interpreters, content creators, legal and medical experts, and of course, a dev and tech team. 

In the realm of the language industry, Tomedes is an industry-standard. Leading an international team of fully remote workers since 2007 has made Ofer Tirosh a thought leader to watch out for. 

Social Media: LinkedIn

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Darren Murph – Head of Remote at GitLab

Darren Murph

You’ve heard of remote work, but did you know, at GitLab, there’s also a position called “Head of Remote”?

It’s a seat occupied by Darren Murph.

In fact, he’s the first to ever occupy such a role in 2019. His work spans to operations, marketing, talent branding, communication and more. Most companies don’t have roles like Darren’s but he thinks that’s bound to change, according to an article at Fortune. And in fact, it is changing.

He became Head of Remote at GitLab in 2019, before the coronavirus hit. GitLab already saw a future wherein remote work would proliferate globally.

Darren was already working on remote work culture, its workflows, its advocacy, and its management at GitLab. And then the coronavirus hit, and it changed workforces everywhere.

GitLab rode the wave of being one of the pioneers of remote work. At GitLab, all employees work remotely. There’s no physical office, and its 1,300 employees are spread across 65 countries. It’s also one of the most used version control systems in the world, making software easier to navigate for developers.

GitLab Logo

The emphasis on the company as a “remote company” has revolved around all of its procedures. Darren makes sure of it. He has even written a book called, Living the Remote Dream: A Guide To Seeing the World, Setting Records, and Advancing Your Career.

He’s been featured in newspapers, magazines, and blogs worldwide. He also blogs relentlessly about remote work culture. He talks about the work-from-home setup, what “Head of Remote” really means, and how to advocate for positivity in a remote setting.

Through his “Head of Remote” role, Darren Murph is better able to inform his audience on how remote work can make for a better society.

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Hailley Griffis – Head of Public Relations at Buffer

Hailey Griffis

What’s the replacement for boring company meetings? 

Hailley Griffis is advocating for one. 

Griffis is the head of public relations at Buffer. She’s also head of the podcast “MakeWorkWork” wherein every year, she produces a “State of Remote Work” report. She blogs incessantly about remote work, while promoting Buffer in the process.

Buffer is the famous application to manage social media accounts efficiently and easily. It’s also got a great blog, where Hailley Griffis features prominently. Like many of the companies we’ll later mention in this article, Buffer doesn’t have a physical office. According to Hailley Griffis, “we ditched our office in 2015, and have been hiring remote teams since 2011.”

Buffer Logo

She writes a lot about asynchronous communication, with Buffer experimenting with asynchronous meetings. It’s one of the remote work best practices that Buffer recommends.

Synchronous communication is a meeting of two minds or more–like your regular company meeting. 

But Buffer’s new method is asynchronous, so they’ve relied on recording only yourself in video or taking time to write a long message. 

Buffer still works with real-time synchronous communication but prioritizes asynchronous methods. Why? Because they think workers who work continuously for long periods of time can give more to the company, than unnecessary meetings.

Buffer is the first to say that asynchronous communication is not meant to be used without the urgency of real-time communication. It’s not meant to replace meetings. Rather, it’s meant to enhance the quality of meetings while having more communication on the side.

In this way, Griffis and the rest of the Buffer team are finding out ways to work together as a remote team. They’re accommodating everyone’s different schedules, and communicating better as a whole. In this asynchronous method of remote work, Hailley Griffis and Buffer are revolutionizing the remote work model. 

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Jason Fried – Founder and CEO of Basecamp

Jason Fried

Do you talk politics at work?

At Basecamp, you can’t. Jason Fried has made headlines recently for banning political discussions inside Basecamp. He’s not the first to do so–Coinbase has as well. Jason believes that heated discussions about politics often lead his employees to become unproductive at Basecamp. 

As a Saas, or software-as-a-service company (like many that we’ll delve into later), Basecamp was founded by Jason in 2004 under the name of 37signals. It has undergone many changes since then, but the passion for remote work has stayed with Basecamp.

Basecamp started out as a web design firm when Jason saw the necessity of project management. (Back in 2004, we were still only emailing each other, remember?). There were very few project management tools in the market with very low performance. So Jason set out to make a simple project management tool, which they used. 

Basecamp

Clients started asking what software they were using, and the demand grew. So Jason saw its potential to change the way businesses were being done and ran with it. Today, millions of people use Basecamp.

Jason has written a book called Remote: Office Not Required and New York Times Bestseller REWORK. Then there’s the Signal v. Noise blog and the REWORK podcast. They’re all about how to better run a business with the cloud–and of course, the remote model. 

He’s advocated for work and family life balance at Basecamp while working remotely. He’s taught about new employees having 90 days just to get accustomed to working in a remote setup. Those 90 days are just to adjust to your surroundings, to your coworkers, and to company values, he says in an Adobe article. 

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Job van der Voort – CEO of Remote.com

Job van der Voort

Can you build a business with remote work as its sole focus? 

Job van der Voort has. 

Job van der Voort worked at GitLab for a few years, then went on to become the CEO of Remote.com. He took what he learned from GitLab, with everyone working remotely in zero offices, and focused hands-on on remote work. 

He founded Remote.com in 2019. That’s just before remote work would take the whole world by storm in 2020-2021. Remote.com is now a global employer of record, payroll, and benefits provider! They make it possible to hire anyone from anywhere.

Remote Logo

Now van der Voort has become an entrepreneur and expert on remote work. He believes there are two main problems that remote work is a solution for:

  • How do you manage teams when your teams are in different time zones? Through the remote team model.
  • How do people work round the clock? Through working asynchronously in the remote team model.

As you can probably tell, remote work has impacted HR teams significantly. According to van der Voort

“As the remote workplace removed the convenience of in-person communication, many companies started experimenting with out-of-the-box ways to foster collaboration among teammates. For example, we saw companies such as Facebook, Fidelity, and Accenture invest in virtual reality to train and onboard employees and fuel an immersive learning environment in the digital workplace.

Many companies and HR teams have shown that they’re adaptable and open to innovation and bringing in new technology to better address remote work challenges. For example, one company took a rather unconventional and unique approach by hosting team meetings via Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons.”

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Kevin Miller – Co-Founder and CEO of GR0

Kevin Miller

You can’t have remote work without digital marketing, can you?

Kevin Miller of GR0, a digital marketing agency that was named “Founding Team of the Year” by American Business Awards in 2021. Miller also earned the title “Entrepreneur of the Year” from the same awards and year. 

Miller is a growth marketer with experience in SEO, paid acquisition, and email marketing. He studied at Georgetown University. After working for Google a few years, he headed growth and marketing at several top tier startups in Silicon Valley. 

We asked the GR0 team about their remote work procedures, and they said, “Launching right before the pandemic forced us to adjust to remote work-life very quickly. We began widening our pool of talent to grow a strong foundation for our developing departments by connecting with candidates from all over the world and working with freelance teams to optimize our operations. Whether it be communication channels, video conferencing, or collaborative systems, we have leveraged technology and the tech prowess of our team to scale up through remote work.”

Gr0 logo

The GR0 team continues: “Currently, we use a project management service called Notion to organize all of our content departments and track the results. We also use Slack for internal communication and even to communicate with some of our clients. Both of these platforms have streamlined our ability to effectively work in a remote environment. Of course, without the ability to come together with one another in the office, remote work does present challenges for connectivity and bonding but we have found carving out time to virtually interact with each other on a weekly basis helps our team continue to move as one.”

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Heather Doshay – VP of People at Webflow

Heather Doshay

Can remote work transition from being “othered”?

Heather Doshay certainly thinks so. 

Even pre-pandemic, Heather has sought opportunities to work and lead people’s teams at companies that want to invest in remote work.

She says in an article at Daily Remote:

“However, for the first four years of my remote work experience, I was always in an office, and remote work was the “other”. I decided to move away for two reasons:

  1. I could be so much more impactful supporting remote work for others if I could personally empathize with it, and
  2. As an executive in SF, I found myself living in a tiny studio apartment, and I wanted to move somewhere where I could put down roots.

I was empowered by my then boss to go remote, and I’ve loved the experience ever since– not sure I can go back to office life.”

Heather is an HR and Talent executive with a doctorate in Leadership. She’s also featured as a 2018 top 25 Woman Leader in SaaS.

While working on her first distributed team, she realized both the advantages and the disadvantages of remote work. She managed teams in multiple time zones, improving her global communication skills. 

Since then, she’s only been at companies that invest time and money on fully remote work. She leads internal teams to attract, engage, and develop people. She manages teams that have to do with everything from workplace, remote work, and events to IT and executive support to talent and recruiting teams.

Webflow Logo

A leading thought leader in terms of remote work, Heather writes articles on publications such as Forbes about “How Employers and Employees Can Manage Anxiety in the Workplace” and “Remote Ready? Six Factors Businesses Should Consider Before Hiring An Out-of-Office Team.” With her devotion to remote work, she has revolutionized the landscape with her life’s work, earning Webflow awards in the process, such as Forbes’ Best Startup Employers 2021 and Fast Company’s Best Workplaces for Innovators 2020. 

As one of the most iconic leaders, it is no surprise that Heather makes the top remote work influencers lists.

Social Media: LinkedIn

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Chris Herd – Founder and CEO of Firstbase

Chris Herd

Can Twitter promote remote work?

Based on Chris Herd’s viral tweets, definitely.

In a viral Twitter thread, Chris collated thoughts from 2,000+ companies, to share what they’ve learned about the future of remote work. If you read through his post, you’ll see how the business industry was truly transformed by remote work.

As the Founder and CEO of Firstbase, an all-in-one provisioning platform, Chris has built a company that helps businesses set up, manage, and retrieve the physical equipment remote workers need at the touch of a button. 

Firstbase

According to a write-up at Running Remote, Chris believes that mirroring office working styles remotely rather than embracing the benefits of remote work will lead to bad consequences. He also believes in asynchronous communication, where remote workers can do deep work as free of distractions as possible. 

As one of the top remote work influencers, Chris has greatly contributed to the movement.

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Andreas Klinger – CTO at OnDeck & Investor at Remote First Capital

Andreas Klinger

Can you invest in remote work?

Andreas Klinger does.

Aside from being CTO at OnDeck, Klinger is also an investor at Remote First Capital. It’s a group of remote founders, operators, and early adopters investing in the next generation of remote work. Remote First Capital looks for startups that improve remote work, or startups that leverage remote work in a unique way. 

With his previous role at AngelList, a platform for startups, angel investors, and job seekers looking to work at startups, he’s helped 1 million users looking for remote work. At AngelList, he’s transformed their hiring processes to leverage remote work, and he’s streamlined and coordinated product features useful for remote work. Klinger has also helped transition AngelList from a San Francisco company to a global company, with employees working on multiple timezones.

On Deck Logo

Before AngelList, Klinger was a founding member and CTO of ProductHunt, as well as VP of Engineering at CoinList. His experience in engineering has helped product management and engineering at AngelList.

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Conclusion

Remote-first businesses are on the rise. Some businesses will also operate with a hybrid remote model.

We found that almost all the leaders and their companies facilitate working remotely. They’re also thinking about artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, and other ways to scale up the internet (and with it, remote work).

We’re getting better at remote work in many ways. As a society, we’re getting better at figuring out how remote works (with these remote work influencers and leaders in mind).

It’s a far shot from 1991, or even 2011. It’s 2021, and remote work is here to stay.

 
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