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Is Remote Working Right for Young Companies?

Posted by Early Growth

September 10, 2013    |     4-minute read (784 words)

Originally published in ReadWrite.

The controversy over Marissa Mayer's decision to ban telecommuting at Yahoo just won't go away. Mayer said the move was necessary to foster collaboration at the struggling new media giant, but what about startups? Is remote working right for very young companies? Are there particular issues to watch out for?

To learn more, we asked eight founders from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) to share their company policies with respect to work outside the office—and why it works for their teams.

It turns out that while many young startups do have entirely or partly remote remote workforces, they still feel it's important to have some sort of physical space for meetings and "collaborative" work. Many have offices they use some or all of the time, and others promote remote work as a privilege or perk.

1. Boost Productivity With Fridays At Home

At Scripted, we always work from home on Fridays and have a flexible vacation and sick day policy. Our office is simply a physical resource we use to collaborate and socialize. If on any particular day this resource isn't required or is detrimental to your productivity, then you don't need to use it. Plus, our Fridays from home boost productivity the rest of the week. We all love it.

- Ryan Buckley, Scripted

2. Establish Asynchronous Collaboration

We've gotten the best results from a team that has the flexibility to work when and where they believe makes the most sense, coupled with a strong anchor in our office as the primary locale for everyone. I'd say more than 75% of the team's time is spent in or near the office, but most of our collaboration is done asynchronously using tools like Yammer, Trello, Salesforce and others.

- Derek Shanahan, Playerize

3. Create A Culture Of Communication

Our team is based in San Francisco, Atlanta and Los Angeles. We are rarely in a room together. Agenda-driven team calls limit the ability to collaborate. We found considerable success in transitioning from an "emailing" company to a "calling" one. When you call a teammate with a question, you work together to create a solution. Impromptu conference calls with multiple offices are truly effective.

- Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

4. Make Remote Work A Privilege

Our people work remotely only after they've been in the office for a while. I need to get to know their personalities first to make sure they understand our culture and interests. Then, they can work from wherever they want. Real-time collaboration tools like Skype, HipChat and Google Drive make it easy to stay in the loop, no matter where you are.

- Jim Belosic, ShortStack/Pancake Labs

5. Set Up A Daily Huddle Call

We've implemented a daily huddle call at 1:11 p.m. This keeps everyone on the same page. Tracking our most important daily metrics together, going over 24-hour agendas and discussing bottlenecks are regular activities. We do not have an office, but we have four people who live locally and get together once or twice a month for lunch or coffee. Hiring locally and doing daily huddles helps greatly.

- Joe Barton, Barton Publishing

6. Trust Your Employees

As a company whose entire company culture is established on the foundation of remote working, we really believe in flexible work. It starts at the beginning: you must hire with the knowledge that your employees will be independent and responsible and have the capacity to work from home. When you hire right and place your trust in these employees, collaboration happens and people are productive.

- David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services

7. Encourage Balance And Flexibility

Our team of five works on a remote basis, even though we're mostly located in New York. I just spent seven months overseas; it was difficult scheduling agendas and regular calls. Technologies like Skype, Ghat and iMessage made it work. We try to have balance and flexibility, and that’s what we pride ourselves on. Yvon Chouinard’s book, Let My People Go Surfing, gives insight into our philosophy.

- Matt Wilson, Under30Media

8. Implement Productivity-Based Measures

Our entire company is remote and has great workflow tools in place. I agree with Mayer's decision since people blatantly took advantage of the policy. The incentives to be productive were not effectively structured. Your team needs compensation for productivity-based measures and salary. We developed workflows to require collaboration and transparency. Everyone can see what everyone else is doing.

- Chuck Cohn, Varsity Tutors

Where do you stand on the remote work vs collaboration debate? Tell us about it in comments below.

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