3 Reasons Why Building A Remote Team Is One Of The Best Decisions We’ve Ever Made
It’s crazy to think of, but in a few months we will have been running our startup (can we still call it a startup?) for seven years. Over the course of our journey we’ve learned a lot, had some major success, some major failures, and most importantly, we’ve done our best to learn from both.
At the end of the day, my biggest reflection on being a founder is that my happiness is, more than anything else, directly related to the happiness of our team. Yes, I want happy clients and happy investors, but the reality is, without a happy team, you’re unlikely to get either in the long run.
Rewind four years ago and we had a culture that centered around everyone coming into our office to work. I can still remember when we first got our office, it was a magical experience. We made it our own, had a team trip to IKEA to get furniture, decorated the heck out of it, and really made it unique to us. It was magical.
Then the reality set in. Some of our team had long commutes, this meant that they’d get to the office after spending an hour in traffic and needed some time to just settle in. Other times I just realized that people felt the need to be always working during the day and setting up a culture around taking breaks was a lot more complicated than I thought.
One day we decided to test out a new idea, “Work from home Wednesdays.” Very quickly we saw productivity go up along with people coming to the office a bit more relaxed and refreshed on Thursday. Soon, we had expanded to working from home two days a week, to three days. The impact was massive. We got more done, people with families had more time to spend with them so were happier, and our commuters got to spend a lot less time in their cars.
About a year and a half ago we decided to move Bold Metrics to San Francisco, at the same time, we also made the decision to go full remote. Why should people move and uproot their lives? At the same time we realized, why can’t we live and work in SF but hire great people who live anywhere.
That’s exactly what we’ve done and it’s made a huge difference both in how we all work together as a team, how much we can get done, and the kind of people we can hire. While I know going remote isn’t the right answer for everyone, there are three major benefits I’ve seen first-hand that make me really glad we made the move.
- People get to spend more time with their families. This is #1 for a reason. To give someone back time with their family means everything. One of our engineers used to commute back and forth to an office at a big company he worked at in the mid-West. Now, he works for us, didn’t have to relocate, didn’t have to sell his house and uproot his family. And, at the same time, he now spends every morning with his daughter and picks her up at school. He doesn’t work 9–5, in fact, I don’t think any of us do, instead he sets a schedule that allows him to be the most productive while getting more time with his family. Forcing people to go into an office creates a culture where “butts in seats” becomes a priority, I think getting work done in the way that works best for you is a much better priority.
- You can focus on hiring amazing people vs. hiring people in the city you‘re in. We started our company in LA, then moved it to Austin, now we’re in SF. I can tell you, all of these cities have amazing people, as do cities like Portland, Minneapolis, St. Louis, and the list goes on. I love living in San Francisco, but I also know there are plenty of people who wouldn’t. Rather than limiting ourselves to talent that is only located in the Bay Area, we’ve been able to build a truly exceptional team with people on the East Coast, mid-West, and up and down the West Coast. We’re not a global company (yet) but we are a national one. I know a lot of people who moved to the Bay Area for their “dream job” only to find out it wasn’t the right place for them. Making someone move to a place that you like, doesn’t mean it’s going to be a place that they like, and, surprise surprise, people do better work when they live somewhere they love.
- Thanks to Zoom and Slack, communication can thrive. Funny enough, I think we have more meaningful face-to-face (via Zoom) conversations now than we did when we were working in an office together. In remote teams, every meeting has a purpose and if I can see your face when we’re talking, it really isn’t all that different than walking into your office and talking with you. Add in-person retreats into the mix which we try to do as regularly as possible and the days of remote teams not communicating as well as in-person teams are honestly long gone. While I agree, ten years ago remote teams really didn’t have the same opportunities as teams that worked together in the same office, those barriers are gone now.
So are remote teams the future of work for everyone? Eh, probably not. First, they are particularly applicable in tech where people spend all day on a computer. Second, I think it’s important (at least based on my experience) to have the whole company be remote, not just some remote employees. There’s a difference between having a “remote culture” and having some people work remotely.
All that being said, if you can give your employees more time with their families, let them work the way they want to work (vs. how you think they should work), and access talent in any city rather than restricting yourself to the city you’re in, I think it’s a major win.
My guess is we’ll look back on this article ten years from now and laugh, because by then we’ll all be trying to remember why everyone rushed to get into offices before 9AM, fighting the same traffic, and all working on the same schedule in the same city. Wait, why do we do that again?