Startups are always trying to perform a precarious balancing act, one that requires them to establish a solid market for themselves yet do so on a shoestring budget.
As a result, they are vying to incorporate any tactic that can increase their efficiency and better their chances of success.
With that said, the latest trend sweeping the startup community is that of remote work: The idea that it might be better to let employees work wherever they want on the globe so long as they get the job done
Like anything else, remote working has its pros and cons, and a startup should well know them before trying to adopt the practice.
Otherwise, the fledgling company risks making a ton of avoidable mistakes and ending up with the impression that remote working does not work even though it was the startup’s misguided application that was the problem in the first place.
The Pros of Remote Working
Remote work brings some pretty good benefits to the table – not just for employees – but for businesses who choose to hire remote too.
1. Higher Employee Retention
Letting people work at home, or perhaps by a beach half-a-world away, has its benefits.
There is a certain psychological je ne sais quoi about being able to work in your pajamas without having to worry about the morning commute.
- Being able to manage one’s own hours (which may be suitable for the night owls out there) makes this work arrangement even more advantageous.
- When employees can decide when and where they work, it becomes easier for them to achieve a healthy work-life balance where they can spend more time with their loved ones and dedicate more energy towards their hobbies.
Because of all this, it should not surprise you that companies that endorse remote work enjoy reduced rates of employee turnover, as much as 25 percent, when compared with companies that insist on having their employees show up to the office every day.
2. A Wider Pool of Candidates to Choose From
Remote work gives startups the ability to choose from a wider pool of candidates. This makes obvious sense as companies that hire remote workers can pick employees from all over the globe rather than having to be confined to potential hires within their immediate vicinity.
The availability of a wider pool is beneficial in its own right.
- A startup is bound to find better quality hires when it is wading through an ocean of potential candidates as opposed to when it is sifting through a handful of nearby job applicants.
- When a company hires people from different parts of the planet, it is inviting into its workforce a diverse group of minds, each one able to offer a different perspective on matters, maximizing the creative output of the entire organization.
Over and above, some jobs are better carried out by individuals living within a specific geographical location, especially if the startup operates in different countries.
3. Unique Culture That Makes Work Fun
Alright… So, this one requires a little of work on management’s part, but if done correctly, a remote company’s culture can be very rewarding to everyone involved.
On the one hand, remote work requires trust, which may be difficult for managers at first but gets easier with time, and, when trusted, employees tend to take more ownership of their work because they no longer are people driven by big brother peering over their shoulder.
Instead, they become co-conspirators, people who understand the vision and mission of the startup and see the way to get there.
Remote work is forcing companies to learn how to communicate effectively; in fact, companies that operate with a remote workforce needs to learn to over-communicate to compensate for the lack of proximity between the employees.
A perfect example of a company that has managed to create a vibrant culture for its remote employees is Close, a CRM solution provider that was originally based out of Palo Alto.
Close started out as a semi-remote company, meaning that they had a base of operations but a lot of their employees worked out of the office.
However, when they started to expand, they realized it might be better for them to go fully remote, which is what they did, and they have never looked back since.
The Cons of Remote Working
Remote work isn’t without its own set of issues. Successful companies will tackle them head-on and eliminate them with the right strategies.
1. Difficulty of Communication
Spring boarding off of the last point in the culture section, it has to be stressed again that management needs to be extra vigilant regarding communicating with its remote workers, especially since a majority of this communication happens in the form of exchanged emails and WhatsApp messages.
The issue here is that when people work together in an office, they use their body language and voice intonation to send across much more than their words ever say, and this is not to mention all the water cooler talk remote workers miss out on.
Without clear communication, remote employees can feel left out of the loop, affecting the cohesion of the entire team.
Even though remote employees get to work in a quiet environment where they can focus, the flip-side of that coin is that their job can get lonely.
Building relationships with work colleagues is actually quite important, and a recent survey found that around seven out of every ten employees feel that establishing workplace friendships is the most rewarding thing about their job.
To make matters worse, because remote workers don’t have their days sharply delineated by a 9-to-5 framework, it is easy for them to blur the lines between their personal lives and their business lives.
For instance, some remote workers find it hard to stop working and end up working 12 hours a day, if not more, and this blurriness is exacerbated by how remote employees can feel accountable for their work, which, despite being a good thing, can lead to the development of unhealthy habits.
3. Employees Have to Use Their Own Equipment
Rather than use a company’s equipment, employees have to rely on themselves and use their own tools. This can create several problems.
To begin with, companies usually can afford to take cautionary measures, meaning they have redundancies and if a computer or a projector dies, the company can usually pop out a new one.
Remote employees don’t have that luxury, and if their equipment or software fails for some reason, this could halt the workflow.
While most employees who work remotely are tech-savvy and know how to fix basic issues in their OS and software, you should still have a backup plan in case they run into problems they can’t fix.
Invest in your employees and instead of asking them to work on their own rigs, supply them with the tech and software to work on. It might seem it’s unfeasible for startups to do so, but there are some awesome deals out there when it comes to affordable solutions.
This way, you will create a unified workforce with little to no friction in your operations.
Just because remote working poses a few problems doesn’t mean startups should be discouraged from pursuing this track.
Instead, startups should learn from the drawbacks presented by this form of work while doing everything they can to focus on the pros.
For instance, one of the best ways to ensure that a culture of trust develops is to hire the right people, the kind of people who are self-motivated, understand what needs to be done, and just get on with doing it.
Startups might also want to lessen the isolation felt by their employees by encouraging them to join co-working spaces and by paying for the membership fees.