Should Your Business Be Fully Remote?

— April 26, 2018

Have you considered making your business be fully remote? Regardless of whether you’re planning to launch a new startup or you’re adapting an existing business, it’s an appealing notion. There are dozens of examples of companies that have taken the fully remote model and made it work for them. And, with the constant pace of evolving technology, it seems like the way of the future. Should your business be fully remote?


What You Stand to Gain By Making Your Business Be Fully Remote


First, let’s take a look at the advantages of making your business be fully remote in terms of bottom-line financial advantages and more qualitative perks:




  • No rent or property purchase costs.


    The cost of rent varies dramatically, depending on where your office is located, but it’s never pretty. A few years ago, the average rate was roughly $ 23 per square foot per month, which for a 1,500-square-foot office would mean $ 34,500 per month. That’s a tall order for startups with limited access to cash. The alternative, buying a property outright, could cost millions. Going remote means you’ll avoid those costs, saving hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars.



  • Lower utility and upkeep costs.


    Rent isn’t the only expense you’ll face when running an office; you’ll also need to worry about utilities and upkeep. You’d be surprised how much electricity an office consumes—especially in hot summer or cold winter months—and don’t forget about the monthly cost of internet to keep your business from collapsing. Sure, there are ways to reduce these expenses, but going remote allows you to eliminate them entirely.



  • Unlimited hiring options.


    You obviously want to hire the best possible talent for your business. But if you have a central office building, and want your team working within that building, you’ll reduce your talent pool to only people within a certain radius of the city (along with people willing to move for the opportunity). Going remote opens your talent pool to practically everyone in the world.



  • Higher productivity.


    One of the most important advantages of a remote work setup is the possibility to improve worker productivity. At home, people can work in the environment that works best for them. They’ll be free from some of the noisy distractions of an office environment, and they can feel more autonomy and control over their work—which can improve morale and effectiveness. Workers may also be more eager to prove their worth, since they won’t have traditional supervision, driving up productivity even further.



  • Team growth.


    It’s easier to grow your team when you aren’t confined to the space of your environment. In a traditional business, hiring too many people will cause you to outgrow your office, adding more costs and logistical hurdles when you open a new location. Remote businesses don’t face this obstacle.



  • No supply costs.


    You can also eliminate the costs of keeping your employees supplied with the tools and resources they need to succeed. Because each employee will be tasked with procuring their own working setup—including the right desk, computer, and mobile devices—you could save hundreds to thousands of dollars per employee. This is especially valuable if you plan on hiring lots of new people in a short amount of time.



  • More time.


    You and your workers aren’t going to need to spend time commuting to the office every day, so you’ll instantly save upwards of an hour each workday for more personal time. That may not seem like much, but it can help you find more time to exercise, run errands, enjoy your friends and family, or even do more work if you’re in a pinch.



  • Fewer workplace distractions.


    Traditional workplaces can be valuable for collaborating, but they can also become a source of distraction. Because meetings are so easy to gather, they become commonplace—even when they aren’t necessary. And because you can start a conversation with someone easily when they’re sitting across the aisle, interruptions become the norm. In remote businesses, these distractions are far more controllable.


What You’re Missing Out On By Making Your Business Be Fully Remote


Most articles that sing the praises of going fully remote fail to address some of the most important benefits of having a physical office. There are some real advantages to a traditional model and in making your business be fully remote you might miss these:




  • Real estate appreciation.


    Buying real estate has more advantages than just affording your employees a space to work. If you choose the right neighborhood, and you put the effort in, you can easily increase the resale value of the property. If you buy a building for $ 1 million, and you see an average of 5 percent appreciation over the course of 5 years, you could pocket an extra $ 276,000 in profit when you go to sell the property. Because you can borrow money to gain more financial leverage, this is an even more appealing idea.



  • True team camaraderie.


    You might be able to collaborate and form some bonds over video chats and IMs, but for true team camaraderie, nothing beats the traditional office. You’ll get to see each other, celebrate your accomplishments together, and work collectively to build your brand culture. That’s much harder to do when everyone lives hundreds of miles apart.



  • Advertising potential.


    Having your company name on the front of an office building sends a powerful message and increases the visibility of your brand. People walking by may see your company name and consider your products or services. New clients may be impressed by the space you’ve acquired. You won’t get that physical advertising or those powerful first impressions when your business is fully remote.



  • Individual worker productivity.


    Some of your employees may see a productivity boost when working from home, but that isn’t the case for all workers. Some people may find it more difficult to become or stay motivated throughout the day without the backbone of a traditional office. You’ll have to carefully manage those productivity deviations if you want to be successful.



  • Technological independence.


    Remote businesses rely exclusively on the power of technology to keep their workers connected and productive. One internet outage or software failure could wipe out a team member for a day. In an office, internet outages can still occur, but you can recover by meeting in person or tackling offline projects together.



  • Easy communication.


    Working remotely presents new challenges for communication. Email and instant messages aren’t always the best ways to communicate complex ideas, and video chats and phone conferences aren’t always reliable.



  • Security concerns.


    Don’t forget that working remotely could also introduce security concerns for your business. Your employees will be using their own devices with no immediate supervision and may be relying on unsecured networks. A security breach of any one of your employees could compromise the entire network, so you’ll need to think carefully about your security standards—and potentially invest more—to protect a remote team.



  • Employee retention.


    While there are individual perks for remote employees, there’s also the chance that your distant setup could cause a decline in employee retention. Employees may not feel the sense of belonging and loyalty that they feel with a traditional business and may have access to a much wider variety of remote work opportunities to choose from.


Is Remote Work Right for Your Business?


So is making your business be fully remote the best strategy? There are plenty of advantages and disadvantages to consider, so it all comes down to the factors that make your business unique.




  • How lean does your business need to run?


    If your startup has attracted something near the initial average of $ 41M in funding (for successful startups), you’ll have plenty of cash to work with, and the financial advantages of a remote work setup won’t seem as attractive to you. On the other hand, if you’re investing all the money yourself and you’re trying to make your cash last as long as possible, buying or leasing an office building may be a financial impossibility.



  • How important is your company culture?


    It’s arguable that company culture is important for all businesses, but it’s more important for some than others. Think carefully about the role you want your company culture to play; if brand culture is central to your survival, it may be worth the extra money to get the team altogether.



  • What type of work are you going to be doing?


    Your decision should also depend on the type of work you want to be doing. If you envision the majority of your employees working individually with online software, a remote working environment makes perfect sense. But if you expect lots of interpersonal communication and collaboration, you may prefer a physical space.



  • What are your plans for the future?


    You’ll also need to think critically about your future plans. Expanding rapidly favors a remote setup, but if your future goals involve embedding yourself more deeply in your city’s downtown, you may want a central office location to help you get there.


If you do decide to make your business be fully remote, the best thing you can do is understand the strengths and weaknesses going in—and have a plan to compensate for the disadvantages. Using the right software tools, having a backup plan for technological failures, setting the right tone for communication, hiring the right candidates, and improving team morale with occasional events are all important to get the most out of the arrangement. If you can do that, you’ll not only survive without an office—you’ll thrive without one.

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