Different Types of Remote Organisations

Culture
different-types-of-remote-organisations

Satellite offices, remote-friendly teams and "Remote OK". There are probably more than a dozen types of remote organisations and types. What's the difference between remote and "Work from Home" anyway?

In this post, we're covering some of the most popular organization types, explain what makes them special, and also cover the pros and contras of each briefly. Keep in mind: This is in no way a definite list. There are hundreds ways and nuances how to interpret these organization types, and also a couple dozen more, with hundreds of variations of their own.

Instead, we are going to concentrate on a small but popular subset of these organization types.

Work from Home (WFH)

According to recent surveys, 33% of developers describe themselves as being most productive at home. Whether that is objectively true or not is debatable, but one thing is clear: Being able to work from home is a very welcome perk in today's work environment.

That's why many local companies make use of a benefit called Work from Home – or WFH for short. The benefit comes in other names too, such as "flex day" or simply "home office". Other than in regular remote work, the main workplace of an employee is in a local corporate office. On certain days – usually a fixed amount per week or month – employees are allowed to take their work home and work from there. It's often seen as a welcome day to schedule appointments or other sessions too, as it's more flexible than leaving the office, which tends to give it a bad reputation amongst managers.

In terms of challenges and benefits, the "Work from Home" method is not comparable with other styles of remote work. Communication can usually happen synchronously and after the flex day, the worker returns to their office. Meetings are usually simply skipped or attented through video, and none of the workflows get changed to accomodate for home-workers.

The only thing changing is the location.

Remote Friendly and Remote OK

The default choice of many startups today is to be Remote Friendly. This is often the setup if a company is built locally (especially if built in a tech hub like SF or NYC) and as the team scales, hiring gets harder. The logical choice is to hire out of office, and create an environment where remote work can happen too.

Even if it is one of the most popular choices for young companies, it's also one of the hardest to build properly. There are some key reasons for that:

  • You're creating separate cultures for remote workers and office workers
  • You can neither have full synchronous communication, nor full asynchronous communication. Info will get lost.
  • People in the office will usually have more influence and "power" than remote workers
  • Remote workers could feel like second-class citizens
  • Often inequality (or disputes) in terms of benefits and perks
  • Whereas local offices and remote work scale fine by themselves, doing so with a split team will usually get more difficult over time

Even if it's hard, it is possible: There are plenty of big corporations with consultants, sales people and engineering teams on the road, and it's nothing new that not everybody will be in an office at every time.

A word of caution to companies just starting out: If you can get rid of this issue by going fully remote from the start, do it.

Satellite Offices

What has been a thing since the first telecommunication tools were invented, gets some new life with the rise of remote work.

Satellite offices, in general, are offices distributed around the world. The hierarchy is usually quite clear: There is a HQ, and satellite offices tend to be secondary to that HQ. Sometimes, there is also a HQ per continent or country, even though this is far less common.

This is very normal in big companies who have a multi-national presence. With remote teams on the rise, this also gets more common in smaller teams: For a company in an expensive tech hub, it's incredibly attractive to have a remote cluster somewhere in a cheaper area.

This can save costs and time, but some things to look out for as well:

  • A satellite office is much, much more independent than a single remote worker. Expect a culture to form within that office that might be different from your HQ or company values
  • A remote satellite office is best organized within itself. For example, a standalone app engineering team could work from a satellite office. Having key executives or certain parts of a team there is difficult
  • Communication usually flows through a single point of contact

Compared to the other forms of remote work, you're receiving some of the benefits of hiring remotely, but not a lot of the common issues get solved. Communication still happens across timezones and is difficult, async almost always works better. You're also getting rid of a lot of the upsides of remote work by hiring like this (since technically, you're still putting everyone in an office). At this point, it could be easier to simply save the money for the office, and invest it into someone taking care of a remote team.

Remote-First

If you've been around here, you probably heard this one a few times before.

To quote ourselves here:

Remote-First describes the mentality of a remote company. At its core, it is defining whether employees are remote by default, or in an office by default. Even if a company is hybrid and not fully distributed, they might still be remote-first.

Having a remote-first mentality also usually comes with a strong preference towards asynchronous communication, as well as more mindfulness towards timezones and people's schedules.

Strictly seen, being remote-first is not too different from being remote-friendly: There might be a local office with remote employees. The difference is that remote-first companies hire remote by default, are majority remote and therefore have workflows and communication flows set up that make remote work function better.

What that exactly entails is different for every company, but could include:

  • Strong documentation that enables async communication
  • No shared meeting rooms, everybody joins from their own client (to have a level playing field)
  • Meetings are online by default, include an agenda and respect timezones

All-Remote / Fully Distributed

Finally, going all-in!

There are probably a half-dozen ways to express this setup, but we like to call it fully remote, all-remote or fully distributed: There is no office, everybody works remotely without exceptions.

Reminder: Remotely does not mean "working from home". People simply work from wherever they are most productive: home offices, libraries, co-working spaces, café, beach huts, anywhere.

Out of all companies that have a remote strategy, this one is probably the one that scales best. Given that setting up this kind of structure usually comes with a lot more administrative effort early on, it's simply put the #1 way of scaling. From 40 to 800 employees – this works nicely and saves you a lot of money. Can you say the same about a standard open-floor office?

The problem: Unless you close your existing offices and send everyone home, this only works if you're remote from Day 1.

The big difficulty here is to have workflows and communication channels set up, so that everyone can work at peak productivity. That means having incredible documentation, good communicators in your team and workflows that don't depend on the availability of others.

If done right, this is arguably one of the best ways to build a company, and we are here to show you how.

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