Why did we decide for a remote team?

When I started our first software projects with ANDRS, we hired skilled companies to do all of the design and development. We decided for companies in our proximity and contracted on project delivery specifics. These companies came with their own team in their own office. This construction however, soon proved too limiting for obtaining specific talents that our products required.

The “design and construct” or “team augmentation” set-up that gave us the flexibility we needed when we started, simply fell short as soon as our products evolved and we needed a different or additional set of skills. As our demands for specific business needs evolved, we started seeking talent globally and contracting them directly. And with that talent driven decision, we also opted for a remote work infrastructure and culture.

I think Nick Francis CEO of Helpscout worded it perfectly when he explained why their company decided for a remote culture:

There are a number of reasons why I’m passionate about remote work, but the most important reason is talent. What’s most exciting to me in life is working with people who are a lot better than me and who force me to learn at a high rate. I can’t get enough of it, which is why I’m so fiercely committed to this way of working.

Think of it this way: Do you think more talent exists within a 20-mile radius of your office, or on planet earth?

But setting up your company remote first is no easy task. Merely implementing a remote work infrastructure and accessing a global talent pool, is hardly enough for talented people to want to work for you or to create a successful remote team. Here’s some myths busted and some things we learned on the way. And yes we are still learning.

Teams need brick and beam

The presumption that teams need a physical office is a myth. Remote work can be implemented partly –  from offering semi-flex positions when you can work from home a few days per week –  or completely – as a distributed workplace.

Here’s some cool companies that are completely distributed: Github, Zapier, Buffer and InVision among others. Dubbed “virtual companies” or “distributed companies” these big companies are setting the pace how remote works for them. With the availability of collaboration tools like Github, Bitbucket, Slack, Podio and Skype (just some of the tools that we use) work just happens where-ever your team is.

The presumption that teams need a physical office is a myth.

Teams communicate less effectively and do not learn from each other

Yes – managing and communicating is a lot harder in a remote culture. In a co-located company you may have a morning stand-up meeting for 15 minutes. In our company, updates are written in Slack and Podio, and they appear at all hours of the day.

Consider that there are three kinds of distance in remote collaboration: physical (place and time), operational (team size, bandwidth and skill levels) and affinity (values, trust, and interdependency). Adding structure and organization to closing the affinity distance is your first win. When teams work and interact together, that interdependency promotes trust and the open flow of ideas which benefits your team, customers and your bottom line.

Teams are less productive working remote

The thought that you cannot be productive outside an office environment, with all home distractions is completely outdated. Yes remote work is very much built on trust and you do need to provide the environment that makes remote work possible.

With the availability of collaboration tools like Github, Bitbucket, Slack, Podio and Skype work just happens where-ever your team is.

Successful teamwork strikes a balance between synchronous and asynchronous collaboration. Teams have synchronous needs such as talking in real time and getting instant answers, which are facilitated and enhanced by chat apps like Slack. But every team also functions asynchronously to work on ongoing projects and structure team knowledge via tools such as Podio or Trello.

There is no work-life balance – your team ends up as socially awkward

Often heard: It’s lonely and you end-up loosing your social skills. Well working from home does not mean you will need to refrain from human contact alltogether ;).

And there are many possibilities to work from other places as well. Most remote workers find themselves working from co-working spaces a few days in the week. And when all you need is a good internet connection – you can basically work from anywhere.

Remote is not for everyone

Well this one is very true. It requires extremely dedicated professionals with a good set of communication skills and experience in working in a remote setting. This is one of the reasons why we stopped working with interns or juniors. Youthful talent can be guided in a team setting when you are co-located, but simply do not fit in a remote team.

Our software brands are built by an ace international team located in 3 global timezones. Our brands often require specific skills – did you check our open positions yet? Do you think you have the skills and passion and would fit in our team?

 

Caroline Vrauwdeunt

CEO/Founder of ANDRS Projects: An innovator who believes innovation can only arise from collaboration. Her life’s motto is “Collaborate or Die”.