Remote Work Doesn't Feel so Remote Anymore

October 3, 2015

Featured in Hubbiz, Remotive, and Mattermark Daily

Just recently, Mark Suster (partner at Upfront Ventures) tweeted about an article he wrote on distributed teams and why he won’t invest in them.

Mark concludes that remote teams are suboptimal, less productive, and less successful in the long-run. Much of this has to do with the loss of “water cooler” conversations, where casual interactions build up over time among coworkers that unlock insights later on. However, Mark wrote that article over five years ago. In this industry that’s another era. Since then we’ve seen technology advance and new products arise to the point where this is no longer the case. You can truly have a virtual office!

There are areas that will be tougher to maintain including team culture, camaraderie, and communication, so you’ll have to be more proactive each and every day. If it’s your first time it will definitely be a learning experience, but your team will reap the benefits over time. Let’s dive a little deeper.

Working remotely can be difficult when you have the beach just a short walk (or no walk!) away, and no manager keeping on top of you. It’s even harder leading a remote team to success. That’s why when working as a distributed team you have to be rock solid in your plan to make up for areas that won’t be as easy when you’re not sitting across the same room.
The key area is communication. As Mark Suster mentions:

Unplanned conversations are extremely important in the bonding of your team and the evolution of your team’s and product’s strategy.

“We spend hours of seemingly “wasted” time just in these informal chats simply shooting the shit. With all the recent obsessions about “pivots” most people don’t realize that the more powerful pivots are the unnoticeable ones we make every day through these exchanges. The conversations bleed into the sales messages the next time, they wend their way into software designs and form the plan of attack against competition.”

With the right communication strategy and products in place like Sqwiggle and other tools, this is now possible. With just a click of a button and an instant connection, you’ll be chatting away about how a customer meeting just went. Buffer is a great example of how remote teams connect on such a level without having to stand around a physical water cooler, or sitting in the same room.

The positives of working with a remote team

The advancements in technology over the past few years have given distributed startups a major advantage over traditional teams.

In 2015, Stanford released a study in which it tested the overall impact on productivity when working remotely. They found that productivity increased by 20%-30%, and turnover decreased by 50%.

That’s right: remote work can lead to better productivity.

In my own experience, on days where I work from home I can complete a full days work in half the time. Distractions of the office are suddenly stripped away, and you can have laser focus in whatever place you perform best.

In other studies employees worked longer hours with shorter breaks, had significantly greater output, and were more motivated in their work. If there was something you could do to motivate your team and increase effectiveness, wouldn’t you do it?

Go Remote to Increase Your Runway

If you’re in the Valley, you probably find yourself paying $60 per square foot every month. That means for a small 6–10 person team you’re probably paying around $80,000 or more a year. What could your startup do with an extra $80,000 per year? Maybe that’s extra runway, or even another developer to your team that will decrease time-to-market. This extra money could be the difference between success and failure.

If your team is being more productive and effective in their efforts, and you have a larger budget to allocate resources more effectively, you’ll find that product market fit or pivot point much quicker. These are major advantages that will turn your startup into an even more agile team.

Promote a Healthy Lifestyle

There’s been a good deal of writing about startup founders and employees on depression, and getting burnt out over time. Putting in the same hours while simply being around your family makes a huge difference. There’s a great opportunity to attract employees who normally wouldn’t consider your company because of long hours and being away from family, who will now make that step.

A survey by ConnectSolution “45 percent of remote workers sleep better, 35 percent exercise more and 42 percent have healthier diets. 53 percent of respondents claim that remote working reduces stress.”

Consider this:

Setting up your company to have remote work as a semi-permanent or permanent option has tangible health benefits.

One in five workers commutes over a half an hour each way, and these workers have measurably higher stress levels. This can lead to lowered performance, or in the worst cases can cause health issues. Over forty percent of remote workers report sleeping better, exercising more, and having healthier diets. At least a part of this is the significant time saved by not commuting, but it’s also because over 53% of these workers report reduced stress. Reduced stress let’s them feel well better and live better.

Remote Isn’t So Remote

The myth persists that remote workers don’t contribute as much. There’s a connotation that really it’s about being lazy. Many have known for awhile that remote workers are just as productive as any other — in fact, some may be even more productive.

It can be surprising to know just how much they may be harming their employees by not giving them the option to work from home. Taking care of your employees means they will be at their best to take care of your customers.

Offering remote for your employees is no longer just about convenience: it’s a competitive advantage! You should consider getting serious about enabling your team to work from wherever they’ll do their best, and be at their healthiest.

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