Thinking of building a remote startup?
Planning to switch your startup business to work remotely?
Adopting a remote work setup can be a big dilemma for startups.
On the one hand, you know about the many benefits of going remote. But on the other, you might be afraid that things won’t operate as smoothly than if your entire company worked together under one roof.
Fortunately, this dilemma is more common for startup founders than you might think. In this post, we enumerate different factors every startup should consider if they want to switch to a remote setup for their entire company.
Later on, if you find that remote work could work great for your startup, we give you some top tips to manage remote workers effectively.
Factors to consider before building a remote startup/business
As you carefully weigh whether or not remote work is for your startup, you’ll want to zoom in on these specific factors.
Having the right tools and resources for remote startup
If you want employees to work remotely, consider how much your company is able to support them. When you do this, you stand a chance to increase employee productivity. Take this 2-year Stanford study, which showed employees who were allowed to work remotely worked additional hours, totaling up to a full day’s shift.
Of course, these levels of employee productivity when they work remotely can only be made possible if you invest in the right tools for remote work.
There will be several tools that everyone in your startup can use, such as communication tools or project management software. However, you’ll need to equip specific teams with task-specific tools, such as website developers needing tools to help them develop themes for your website, or writers needing grammar-checking tools, as well as a few plugins to enhance your efficiency to ensure high-quality deliverables.
Calling back the previous section about budget, you may also provide employees with desktops or laptops for their remote work, or compensate them for required internet upgrades.
Generally speaking, there are no hard and fast rules about the size of a company affecting its ability to build and manage a remote team. After all, you can see very small startup teams needing to report to an office together, while a big startup with hundreds of employees can go completely remote.
Note that the bigger your team, the more you may have to deal with issues like miscommunication. So consider the size of your team before you create any remote setup policies to make sure your startup still operates like a well-oiled machine.
Budget for overheads and benefits
One of the often-lauded benefits of remote working is that your business is able to save money in the long-run. Depending on the exact remote work setup you decide to adopt, you may get to eliminate costs like office leases, maintenance, and the like.
Just take a look at American Express, who was able to save between $10-15 million annually in real estate expenses.
Note, however, that just because you’re able to save on real estate, it doesn’t always mean that money will flow back to your business. You’ll want to set your team up for success, so several remote working companies will often provide co-working, communication, or internet allowances for employees.
Weigh your budget and expected expenses in a traditional office setup carefully. And look at the numbers if you decide to adopt a remote setup, as well as where you’re willing to inject more perks and benefits for employees.
Type of remote setup
The type of remote work situation for your startup matters. Here are the two most common ways companies have started implementing remote work, so you can see your own options:
- Fully remote — In a fully remote team, everyone in the company is remote. Meetings and conferences are typically conducted via video conferencing, while meeting in rented co-working offices is also an option. Companies in fully remote setups may also have employees across several time zones.
- Partial remote options — Some companies offer only partial remote setups, such as perhaps assigning one day per week when employees can work remotely. In this setup, companies normally stick to a schedule when everyone is online, to make sure their day-to-day processes still sync.
- Partial remote workforce — In this setup, all regular employees of a company work in-house at the office, while others work remotely. These remote workers are likely contractors or freelancers and aren’t considered regular employees of the company.
A survey showed that 33% of small businesses have a remote working benefit to attract top talent. And while this is a great strategy for your startup to hire the best candidates in your area, being a remote company may also give you the option to hire top talent from different cities or different countries altogether.
You’ll want to consider how willing you are to limit hires with people within your vicinity, or whether you’re willing to invest in top candidates who might be located across several areas and are unable to relocate.
Effect on customer service
Another important factor to consider before moving to a remote setup is how this might affect your ability to serve your customers. Needless to say, if your business model requires in-person customer-facing teams, then those teams may not be able to work remotely.
However, most startups today are product-centric businesses and have the capacity to work remotely. Service-based startups, like agencies, can also transition to a remote setup, but only if they’re able to iron out communication, presentation, and collaboration with their clients.
If you’re worried that your clients might not be willing to work with a company they can’t meet with in-person, you should prepare to answer all questions about the following
- how you plan to conduct meetings about projects
- how your team will handle new requests
- why your projects with your clients won’t be affected by a new setup
Employees’ desire to work remotely and turnover rates
In their 2017 State of the American Workplace report, Gallup reports that 37% of people would consider switching jobs if they knew they’d have the option to work remotely.
This comes as no surprise, given all the ways technology has made it possible to support even a completely remote team. Younger generations, like millennials and emerging workforce candidates from Gen Z, are known to increasingly look for jobs that offer remote work.
As a business, it’s also important to note what your average cost per hire is, especially its effects on your time and resources.
To help you weigh this factor, speak with your existing employees about their preferred work setup, how often they’d be willing to work remotely if given the chance, and consider including remote work preferences during a new candidate interview.
Level of trust and teamwork among co-workers
Remote work can only help a startup if there is a significant level of trust and teamwork among co-workers. If your team lacks communication and collaboration skills, that may prove to be a big factor against going remote.
However, the good news is that communication and collaboration can be improved, especially with the right mindset, tools, and effort.
Tips to manage a remote business
So you think your startup is ready to go remote? Expect any transition to cause a few bumps down the road, but by following these tips, you can help ease into remote work with your team as seamlessly as possible.
Create an onboarding handbook
When your team works remotely, the typical in-house onboarding needs to find ways to go digital. Think through your processes to help new hires meet their teammates and managers, and prepare some onboarding documents that contain information about your company, their new role, and any next steps they’ll need to take.
To create a clear onboarding handbook, answer these guide questions
- What is your company’s vision and mission?
- What is the role your new hire is going to play to meet that mission?
- Who will your new hire report to immediately on their first day?
- Are there any requirements – headshots, personal information, etc – your company needs from new hires prior to their first day?
- Where should new hires go if they have any questions or clarifications about their role?
- How can new hires get any company-sponsored materials needed to help them fulfill their role, i.e. laptops, headsets, internet reimbursements, etc.?
Create guidelines for leaves and absences
When you transition your team from in-house to remote startup, they’ll likely have questions about how to request leaves or utilize vacation days. Speak with your HR personnel to see how you can best address these concerns when you go remote.
Clearly spell out policies about leaves and absences, including how much time off is paid or not.
Outline the steps employees must take to file for time off, including the persons they’ll be required to speak to when requesting said time off. The clearer you are in communicating and spelling out these guidelines, the easier it will be for employees to adjust and prepare as well.
Schedule time to check in with employees
Make it a habit to conduct regular check-ins with employees to see how they might be finding the transition to remote work. New hires also need the constant check-in just to see if they’re fitting in properly, especially in their first few weeks.
Even when everyone has transitioned to remote work properly, it’s still good practice to have regular facetime with everyone. Consider hosting optional company gatherings via virtual conferencing, or have online team-building activities to help boost teamwork and morale.
Train employees to use new or collaborative software
All remote teams will invest in software that will help them collaborate and monitor projects together. For some employees, the switch from working in-house and being able to ask or follow-up with co-workers might need adjustment.
For example, train your accounting team to use cloud invoicing software like Freshbooks. Or show your sales team how to manage new leads and sales on Salesforce.
To facilitate this training, you can create or link to specific training videos that show the use cases of each new software in relation to how your team will be using them. Keep these videos somewhere that employees can easily reference and use when onboarding new hires or team members.
Develop a culture of communication
For any remote team to succeed, communication is the top priority. And to develop a culture of communication, it’s important to first model that as a manager of your startup.
Show your co-workers how you expect them to be communicative with projects and tasks and deadlines. Give others the avenue to ask questions and get clarification. Emphasize that things like follow-up messages are encouraged.
Make sure your managers are also able and willing to receive and respond to messages from their team. Developing a culture in any organization takes time and work, but if you and your startup’s upper management are first able to implement this culture with the rest of your team, then expect everything else to follow.
Aim to be asynchronous
Many remote teams will often take their office policies and guidelines, like working hours, and simply transmute them to a virtual setup. While this may be needed for certain industries, your startup might not have to adhere to arbitrary hours and schedules.
In an asynchronous remote setup, employees decide on their working hours and schedules, giving them full flexibility. This is the ultimate sign of trust between employer and employee, because you trust that your team will complete their tasks while being aware of all your timelines.
Of course, this doesn’t mean never syncing up for, say, important meetings. But generally speaking, asynchronous remote work lets employees work when it makes sense for them.
Here are a few ways you can practice asynchronous remote work:
- In each correspondence, include details about the project right away. If you can include all details in an email, there’s no need to schedule a meeting.
- Give clear, reasonable deadlines (specific dates and times work), and trust teammates will adhere to them.
- Express openness to answer questions or clarifications. You can also offer times you’re available to get on a call in case the recipient of your message requires additional help.
Offer support whenever possible
Finally, support your employees across multiple areas in their lives, and you’ll find that you can boost retention rates and employee satisfaction. Provide avenues for employees to openly communicate with their managers when they need anything or require their help.
This also applies to supporting your employees’ hobbies outside work. Research shows multiple benefits when an employee adopts hobbies, including better time management and being able to develop hidden skills that might not currently fit their job description.
For example, if you have a marketer onboard who has their own blog or website at home, you might find that they can develop skills across multiple disciplines like SEO or even website development.
Check in with employees to see how they find their work-life balance, and overall don’t be afraid to support them in their goals for their career and life.
Remote work is a valuable asset for any startup to have. It not only offers several benefits for the company itself but also helps employees in multiple ways. If you’re not sure whether you should take your startup remote, use these factors above to help you weigh your decision.
About The Author:
Kevin Payne is a content marketing consultant that helps software companies build marketing funnels and implement content marketing campaigns to increase their inbound leads.