There are definitely a lot of advantages in working remotely from your home, café, library or whichever place is most convenient for you. Nevertheless, when you don’t see your team face-to-face each day, it can quickly become a lonely grind where you feel a bit isolated and out of routine. Having worked in two start-ups in the last 3 years and the latter being a poker media company called BeastsOfPoker, here’s what I’ve learned in my journey as a part of a remote team.
When you can freely choose the place from where to work remotely, there’s no time spent commuting or dressing up to the office. You can pretty much organize your own schedule so that your most productive hours are reserved for the most important work you need to get done during the day. Naturally in a start-up there is a need for weekly or even daily meetings around certain topics, but other than that you’re not bound to any schedules of other people.
In case of working from home, you have no distractions (at least if you put your phone on Flight mode and turn off the TV). This usually leads to better productivity as there are no interruptions once you’ve entered in to a good flow. You can focus deeply on your work which not only makes the overall productivity better, but also increases satisfaction you get out of being part of the team. This leads to reduced employee turnover.
Money-wise, when you have a remote team working in a start-up, there is a lot less of overhead costs to pay such as office space. You also have tremendous hiring flexibility, since you’re not limited to some specific city or country – feel free to search for the best talent globally to help grow your start-up!
Nowadays there are also plenty of tools for collaboration, storing documents, organizing e-meetings and what not. Personally I’ve liked using Slack, Trello and G Suite a lot when working remotely. On Slack you can chat with anybody at any time and have multiple channels so that each area of business has a dedicated channel for discussion around that topic. Trello as a freemium project management tool covers the basic needs of using boards, cards and lists, so that everyone has a transparent view of what things are in the pipeline, who is responsible for each item and what deadlines are due each week. As last but not least, G suite is the easy solution for company email addresses and storing documents.
If remote team was the perfect solution for growing a start-up, every company would arrange their workflow based on remote teams. That’s obviously not the case though! While in remote work personal productivity can be very high with self-motivated team members, collaboration on a team level can be greatly reduced.
One of the biggest reasons for this is communication friction, which simply means that there is no regular informal chatting between all team members. This regularly results in some members of the team feeling that they’re out of the loop. On top of this, more extroverted employees can feel extremely lonely at times, unable to deepen their relationships with co-workers over Slack (which might do fine for introverts who are happy with less face-to-face bonding since that saves their energy).
The second biggest downside to remote work compared to working together in a common office is perhaps the blurry boundaries between work and personal life. People feel accountable to the extent that they might need to open up their laptop late in the evening to get something done for another team member. For the ambitious ones, the urge to keep working even though you’ve reached your daily targets might be too strong for them to actually stop – they just keep going and work too many hours as a result. No wonder remote work can feel pretty stressful for some people!
For remote teams to be successful in their work, a great deal of trust and transparency is needed. Documenting rigorously and over-communicating things might not hurt either, especially if you have team members from different cultures with different backgrounds. There are some challenges when going remote, but when done right it can be very productive and rewarding for the whole team. My personal take on it: If the whole team is ready for it, just try it out & iterate the best practices to see if you can make it work well. At least you won’t regret of never trying!
Copywriter & Entrepreneur