All business owners have thought about making their company remote at some point. Whether it’s to cut down the costs, or because suitable talent wasn’t available locally. The point is that in today's day and age remote is becoming the norm, so it’s no wonder so many businesses are thinking about it.
Deciding that you want a remote team is easy, creating one takes time, patience and some trial and error. Additionally, not every business is suited to be distributed, as some industries depend on office space, clients coming in, etc.
Before you even make the final decision, and take your team remote, there are several factors you should consider, and we’ll discuss them today.
Types of Remote Companies
First off, let’s talk about the types of remote companies. Generally speaking, we can differentiate four different kinds of companies which allow remote work:
- Remote friendly
- Fully remote in one timezone
- Fully remote in multiple timezones
- Fully remote with digital nomads on board
Remote friendly companies are those who allow remote work from time to time. In most cases such companies let employees work from home a few days per month. In a lot of BPOs employees are allowed to work from home when working night shifts or weekends, so they can have a better work/life balance.
Fully remote teams in one timezone are teams who work from home, but they’re usually in a tristate area, or a couple of hours apart. Some remote companies opt-in for this option as it’s much easier to manage a remote team with everyone being online at the same time.
Fully remote companies in multiple timezones are teams scattered around the world. It’s not easily manageable, but it can be done. These are the companies who decided to get the maximum out of one of the most popular reasons for going remote - access to global talent.
Fully remote companies with digital nomads might be the hardest to manage. Digital nomads by definition keep traveling from place to place, and work while they’re traveling. There aren’t many companies allowing this type of work, as it often interferes with the company's organization, meeting schedules, deadlines, etc. Additionally, digital nomads usually like to travel to locations which are a bit more secluded and don’t really have great internet access.
Is Your Business Model Suited for Remote Work?
As we mentioned, not all businesses are equal, therefore, not all of them are suited for remote work. If you browse some of the remote hiring platforms you’ll run into positions which are mostly within IT, Marketing and Customer Care sectors.
Even though most remote jobs are in these areas, most companies have at least one position within them which can be remote. Take for example a retail store. While it’s impossible for store clerks and managers to work remotely for obvious reasons, your accountants and marketing team could be working from home.
You should also know that it’s much easier to create a remote company from scratch, than to switch to this model of working. Established businesses have it much harder, as their employees must get used to new software, systems, ways of working and processes. It’s also way simpler to create a remote team (including policies, processes, workflows) from scratch, than going over everything you’ve established in the past years and updating it to match the remote policy.
How Will Remote Work Affect Your Company’s Output?
The biggest concern most employers have when thinking about switching to the distributed team is how it will affect the output of their employees, and it’s definitely something you should be thinking about a lot.
The fact that your employees are super efficient in the office doesn’t mean they’ll be the same way at home. And that’s because remote work isn’t made for everyone. People who work in distributed teams need to be more self-sufficient, motivated and self-disciplined. They don’t have other people in the office to pick them up and motivate them when necessary, they won’t start working just because everyone else has their headphones in and is obviously not in the mood for talking.
Which is why you should look for self-starters, but also check with your employees if they would like to work remotely, and if they believe they’d be able to work that way. By hiring people like these you can ensure that your output won’t fall back.
You should expect that your team will probably be a bit slower when they start working remotely. After all, you must determine how long will the adjustment period take and notify your employees about it.
How Will It Affect Relationships with Customers?
Product-based companies are more likely to go remote than service companies, just because it’s much easier to maintain a good client relationship when you’re selling a product. When you provide a service to your client, you usually have to meet to establish the project details, and while these meetings can be done in the virtual setting, in-person conversation can never fully replace them.
Also, if you need to give a presentation to the client, it might be best to meet them in an office than to do it online, and so on.
Companies which switch to distributed teams usually go through onboarding process with their new clients, explaining how they work remotely, and why their projects won’t suffer due to this type of organization. You should let them in on your communication processes and establish a clear communication path from the start.
Some companies, like InspiredHR from Canada started as an office company, and after talking to clients and doing some research, they realized that a remote setting would be better for all of them. So you can talk to your clients, see what their needs are and then determine whether you should be pursuing the remote option.
Even though you’ll save money on office space, furniture and equipment, there are some other costs you should consider. Given that your team will be distributed, you’ll need to invest in software to support that infrastructure. This means you’ll need various collaboration, communication, management and sharing platforms. You might also want to think about finding some industry-specific software that you can use online.
Since remote companies are by definition more flexible than traditional ones, they usually have more perks for their employees. Almost half of the remote companies give their employees coworking space allowances, as well as vacation allowance.
Some of them cover employees’ internet costs, and provide funds for setting up a home office space. Additionally, there are team retreats and team buildings happening every few months.
As you can see, technically, you’ll be saving on office space, but you’ll be able to direct that money towards some perks and benefits which can help keep your employees motivated and engaged.
Will Your Company Grow at the Same Scale in Remote Environment?
Anyone who tells you that you can’t scale a remote team as well as a traditional one hasn’t tried scaling a remote team. While it comes with a special set of challenges, growing a remote company isn’t impossible.
The first thing you must remember when you’re looking to scale is that you shouldn’t rush it. It’s satisfying seen that your company can grow, and we understand that you want to do it right away, but you should slow down. Growth doesn’t only mean you’ll hire more people. It means you could release a new line of products, or distribute your products to more retail stores, collaborate with more resellers, and so on.
While it’s important to grow your business, you shouldn’t be running for it like there’s no tomorrow. The owners of a Korean BBQ Sauce brand We Rub You explained it well in their interview for USA Today some years ago: “We have to figure out who we are and who we want to be. We have to set our own terms, but make sure we're not delusional.”
It takes time to figure out what is your healthy pace of growth, and in which direction should that growth move.
If your definition of growth is growing you team, then go ahead and do it. Sit down with other team members, check which teams need more hands on board, then start hiring. If you think a new product line will help your company grow, get together with your product team and discuss it. It’s important you look at all aspects of your business, do an analysis of the current state and see where you want to take it in the future. After you’ve done that, you can start planning for growth.
Maybe remote work isn’t fit for your organization, and that is fine. As long as everyone you hire is aware that this possibility is off the table, because many workers consider it a deal-breaker if companies won’t allow them to work remotely.
On the other hand, if you review all factors we’ve listed above, and determine you team should become a distributed one, wait up for our next post in the series and find out what should be your next step.