Whenever we talk to founders, building a great remote team usually wasn't a priority during the early days. Much more important to have quick communication cycles and push out that first MVP. Only when it comes to building a company, not only a product, does the question often come up. Together with expensive office spaces, empty hiring funnels and long commutes, the decision to become a remote company is often taken when there are already a handful of employees, expensive furniture and an office space. So where do you go from here?
In the last guide, we've discussed a few easy steps to build a remote-first mindset. You should read that one too! In this guide, we are going to cover a few things you need to think about when transitioning from traditional local office setup to remote company.
Remote isn't always all-remote. There are nuances to setting up a global workforce, and you should be aware of the pros and cons of each. We usually recommend companies to go all-remote if they can. It's a great way to have access to the global talent pool, save money on big local office spaces and have a fair setting where everyone is equal.
Especially if there is an existing team with a leased office space that can't be dissolved quickly, there are other setups that may make more sense at first. This isn't a complete list, and each of the items has their own variations, but systems that work very well are:
Going remote is a big step. To strengthen the team and awareness about location independence, it can be a great first step to just loosen all the constraints that the office has, and become more relaxed and flexible about location and the office.
Founders and executives should lead by example there and take a few days every week to work from home, work from a local co-working space, or even a chalet in the swiss alps. Anywhere other than the office.
Getting people out of the office can be hard at first – humans are creatures of habit after all – so here are a few ideas of what you can do (some more outrageous than others).
Employees should gain a feel about how and where they can work best outside the office, and get a first feeling of some of the difficulties of remote work, e.g. separation of work and private life.
A deal-breaker for a successful transition to remote work is heavy reliance on real-time communication. If you find yourself often spending mornings in meetings and conference calls, it may be hard to transition right away.
Making asynchronous communication work out properly might be a book in itself. Nevertheless, some things to try out:
The good thing about starting locally is that you know your company culture already, can track possible future pain points and anticipate them. You can work on becoming a more asynchronously-driven company, then go remote.
Lastly, making this work smoothly is all about processes.
"Remote forces you to do the things you should be doing any way earlier and better" - Sid Sijbrandij, GitLab.
Become painfully aware of the things going on in your company, and try to formalize everything that needs a lot of back-and-forth. That is including, but nowhere near limited to:
Be sure that you're ready to go remote, and how you're going to do it (then again, who is ever fully ready). Preparation is everything, and you won't be able to solve every little pain point right away. With the right process (and hopefully our help), we're confident that you're going to make it!
In a hybrid remote setup where remote and local employees live side-by-side, there is always a risk of different company cultures forming. So how can you bridge the gap sustainably?
It's tradition for most remote teams to pick one or two dates per year and meet in-person. There's a lot of effort involved with that, so how do you start such an operation?
Remote-First is commonly seen as the mindset needed to gain the most advantage out of remote work. What steps can you take today to get closer to being remote-first?