In 2021, I started a new company that was fully remote. This was a major shift for me, having built a few companies throughout my career that were all brick-and-mortar. In 2011, I even created a shared workspace called Alley, which went national with Verizon in 2017. That’s right, I made a business out of bringing people together and now my latest venture is completely remote.
Having benefited from the experience of in-person work and now having a fully remote company, I am in a unique position to share with you some pros and cons of both, plus a few tips on how to improve culture as a fully remote office. Let’s start with a couple of pros for the in-person workspace:
This is a major “pro” for in-person workspace. Nothing beats in-person interaction when it comes to the creation of serendipitous moments. Bumping into someone at the coffee machine and thinking of an idea that will help your customers is something that would often happen in my shared office space.
Coming to work every day and seeing people in person leads to meaningful interactions. That coffee break with a co-worker or after-work cocktail leads to authentic moments and long-lasting relationships. Putting your guard down and being yourself can help forge those special relationships, and this seems to happen much more in person.
Let’s flip the script a bit and talk about the cons of an in-person workspace:
Let’s face it: In this economy, travel is super expensive and that has a toll on your overall finances. If you travel to an office every day, the fact is you are bringing home less money with commuting and traveling costs, which has a true impact on your financial wellness. Having started a financial wellness company, I can tell you that the data shows we are typically at our most happy state when our finances are in order.
Any time you take away from your personal life for work, it is going to have an impact on your work-life balance. Traveling to and from work every day takes time away from your personal life and most of us do not live super close to our offices. This travel time adds up and over the course of a full workweek, this could be extremely impactful. For those of us who are raising or taking care of kids, this ultimately takes away from that special time you have with them.
Switching gears a bit, let’s now do a pro/con list on remote work:
Without travel time and having to prepare for in-person work, you can now get that time back to take care of yourself. I don’t know about you, but I found that using that time instead to meditate and work out in the morning has been a game changer. My mind is clearer and I feel great. Once the workday starts, my work product ultimately comes out better because of this enhanced mindset. That said, to activate this mindset, you have to put the work in for your own self-care.
I know this may sound a bit controversial, but I have noticed my production and the production of my teammates to be greatly enhanced by remote work. I find Zoom meetings are easier to get in and out of, as opposed to traveling from meeting to meeting; and I can do more meetings in a day than I ever was able to do in person. We recently went through a Series A financing for my new company and I met with over 100 investors in a matter of a few weeks. Doing the math, it would have taken me a year to meet with that many people in person.
OK, let me be a Debbie-Downer and talk about some cons of remote work:
If you are building a fully remote company, you need to invest in enhanced operational management. Being in different time zones and managing departments that do not meet in person daily can impact team communication if you are not set up properly. I have noticed that this is a major adjustment you need to prepare for in the remote work environment. If you do not focus on this, your team will not communicate effectively, ultimately hurting your organization’s productivity.
It is really hard to maintain positive company culture in a remote company. Being in person and having those collaborative moments can be very much missed in a remote environment. In order to combat any negative effects this might have on your company culture, I highly recommend reinforcing your organization’s vision and mission. Your company’s “why” must be front and center so that everyone can subscribe to it when the pressure gets to a fever pitch and the team needs that north star to focus on. If your mission is great and your team subscribes to it, it will help gel them together when the waters get rough. And if there’s one thing you can rely on in business, it will get rough.
With pros and cons to both working remotely and in the office, ultimately, you have to decide the culture that you want. I do not subscribe to taking anyone’s advice on this in a dogmatic fashion. One of the best things about building your own company, or having agency in decisions such as “where the team works,” is that you get to champion the culture of your business in the way you see it matching with your vision and mission. If you align yourself with smart people who can execute and those who subscribe to the mission and vision of the company, they should be just fine no matter where they work.