After 2020, chances are you’ve experienced some of the pros and cons of working from home yourself. Once employers found out that remote work doesn’t lead to feared losses in productivity thanks to modern technology, it’s a virtual certainty that remote work is here to stay in one way or another.
Early-stage startups, who are usually struggling for cash and who are looking to offer flexibility to their first employees, are some of the companies that can benefit from this trend the most. Because of this, it wouldn’t be surprising if in the future remote-only is the norm rather than the exception for new startup ventures.
Yet, there are important things you need to consider before deciding to commit to a remote-only team.
Naturally, the first consideration is that if your startup is remote-only, you don’t have to pay for an office.
Moreover, your employees wouldn’t have to commute. This doesn’t just mean that they’ll save time. Commuting could be a major expense, so by not traveling daily employees get to keep a larger portion of their salary.
This is a big benefit, considering that young startups are unlikely to be able to offer competitive salaries to the high-quality talent they’re trying to attract when they are building their startup team.
2. Worldwide Talent
If you are building a startup in a niche that requires knowledge in an obscure domain, access to worldwide talent is also invaluable.
It’s very likely that the list of people with experience in your exact niche who are looking for employment opportunities in a startup in your exact city is very thin. Being able to hire from other states or even continents can be a huge benefit and can help you build a much higher-quality team.
Moreover, the salaries you are offering could be uncompetitive in your own country or city, but they could be extremely competitive overseas, which can help you attract more experienced people.
For certain people with certain occupations, remote work could lead to a substantial increase in productivity. Being alone makes it easier to create conditions for deep work sessions with zero distractions. This is vital for high-concentration tasks like e.g. coding or any creative work.
For other more collaborative jobs, the lack of direct connection to the colleagues could be a problem. For example, it could be more difficult for the founder to manage the mood and morale in the team, or for more experienced employees to transfer skills to younger team members.
4. Community and Culture
Building a coherent, productive startup culture is vital to the long-term success of your venture. Yet, it is much harder to build culture remotely.
If your workplace has good culture and atmosphere, it’s common to develop deep connections to your colleagues. This is especially true for small teams – if they work well, they start feeling like a second family.
Meaningful social connection, however, requires the pleasant chance occurrences (serendipity) that come naturally when you spend your whole days together with people as well as physical closeness.
Loyalty is a virtue that seems to be outdated (and unrealistic) in the modern high-turnover corporate world, but it is achievable in small startup teams. And loyalty to each other is very likely to get you through the tough times that would inevitably come at some point.
When the team is remote-only and people don’t feel connected to each other, they are far more likely to find another objectively better opportunity when push comes to shove rather than to stay and fight to keep the business alive in order to keep the team together.
In summary, remote-only startups have a lot of tangible benefits. Once you get into the intangible side of a successful business, however, remote teams can be at a disadvantage. Make sure not to underestimate this, and if you go for a remote-only team try to account for this. For example, getting together for team-building as often as possible could be partial solution.