The caveats of remote work


We're really optimistic here about remote work, but don't be fooled! Remote work has its downsides. Today, let's talk about some of those instead. It's important for us that you, as a remote founder or manager, understand what you'll have to expect from building a remote team, and some of the downsides that come with this decision.

Losing the early momentum and flexibility

Early startup stories have something magical about them: The co-founders of a company living together in a tiny 2-bedroom somewhere in the Bay Area, sleeping on air matresses to extend the runway, working relentlessly on their new product, and going out to firms to raise some money. Renting that first little space in a local co-working arrangement and building the team there. It's a common story that's being told and spread all around the Bay Area and other startup hubs.

Working with a tiny team in a co-located setting allows the ultimate momentum and flexibility. It's easy to hire talent, you can scramble everyone together for a daily standup, it's easy and quick to organize the team and to quickly pivot.

Working remotely can sometimes feel like that momentum, possibly even that "magic", is being lost. As you build a virtual team you only rarely get to see and need to put in extra effort to bring people together for some face-to-face time, it can sometimes feel like you're giving up quite a bit of flexibility in order to bring the best talent together.

Processes are something for big corporations? Not anymore.

Startups like to advertise with their flexibility, flat hierarchies and loose conventions. It's no secret that remote teams need a bit more of these processes: A clearly scheduled meeting plan, possibly a hierarchy and a strict split into workgroups (to allow for smaller meetings and a person in charge), more documentation and in general a tiny bit more organization.

Early in the process, it can feel stiff and slowing to set up all these things, but it's needed in order to become and stay a well organized group. It's not unusual for remote companies with under 25 employees to already have a semi-strict hierarchy (Heads / Managers/ PMs) in place, in order to clearly designate who is responsible for what.

If there's not a ton of time for casual chats, it's also important to write down knowledge from Day 1. Now–this is not at all negative. Having documentation and clear processes early on would save a lot of headache and issues in a lot of organization. But in an early team that is supposed to relentlessly work on a product at maximum speed, this–again–can feel like you're being slowed down.

Time eaters, that can make it all difficult

Lastly, there are all these tiny little things, that can become time eaters and things that you wouldn't think about otherwise.

Ever had to deal with a candidate pool that goes into the millions? Or sift through 25,000 applications for a position? Hiring, if not done right, can become a huge time sink. We've written about this before, but there's always a bit more time commitment involved.

So, you've found the candidate that you'd like, but you're incorporated in the US, and your candidate lives in Poland. What do you do? Again, we've written about this before, but you're likely not going to be able to send them an employment contract right away. There's possibly a little higher cost involved, or some time commitment on your or the employees' side.

Ever tried to set up a meeting with 8 parties in different timezones involved? It can be painful. Good thing we've listed a few scheduling tools, but this will always be a bigger pain than just standing up and heading over to the meeting room with the whole team.


This list isn't exhaustive, but I hope the general direction is clear: Remote isn't all fun and games, and there's some effort and time needed to make it all work out. We also hope that we didn't scare you away from the idea of going fully remote: It's incredible that we have the possibilities today to work from absolutely anywhere, and it's something that will benefit you in the future.

If you're still unsure: There's a ton of content on NoHQ, and we also offer expert support to our premium members. If you feel like this might be difficult for you–get in touch.

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