There are lots of great reasons for a small business to go remote. According to a survey by Staples, 71 percent of people considering a new job feel remote work is a major benefit. The same survey stated employees not only appreciate the privilege of working remotely, but it has a positive impact on their job performance and outlook, too. Most remote workers work more hours and are measurably more productive than their in-office counterparts.
Unfortunately, there's a growing misconception that transitioning to a remote company culture is some kind of cost-saving business hack. Let me assure you: Saving money is not a good reason to go remote.
At Formstack, the benefits of a remote team—higher retention, better recruiting opportunities and happier employees—outweigh the costs. When establishing a remote team, it's important to realize that some costs are necessary to be successful.
Leaders who want to go remote to save money need to look at the entire picture. Otherwise, they risk a rude awakening. Sometimes, being remote leads to spending more money, not less.
Yes, on the surface, there are some efficiencies created in establishing a remote workplace. Fewer staff on-site means an overall reduction in consumption costs, from electricity and heat to office supplies and equipment maintenance. That said, you should be prepared for possible spending spikes in three key areas of your business if you transition to a remote workplace model.
If you're going to build your business around a remote work model, the tools to facilitate this work need to be top notch. No matter how talented your team, they won't be able to do their jobs if they don't have the infrastructure to collaborate across the miles. Many remote workspaces rely on Google Chat, HipChat and similar platforms to help staff collaborate and share ideas across the miles. Platforms like Google Hangouts and Pidgin provide good workarounds for discussions that would normally be had face to face—and most of these solutions are free or low-cost. However, other technology solutions that will make your life easier—like GoToMeeting, Zoom and other screen-sharing solutions, for example—will need to be factored into your budget. Don't forget about file sharing, too. Hightail, Dropbox or a similar service will be your remote workers' best friend.
Make sure you plan your resources accordingly. When your data and content assets are spread across the globe, backup becomes an important consideration, too. You'll also need to plan for the cost of cloud-based storage solutions and investments in wikis (a website that allows collaborative editing of its content and structure by its users) like Confluence and DokuWiki. Bottom line? All of this technology adds up. Make sure you're prepared.
Some of these are freemium services, but you will likely be charged for proprietary features, functionality or virtual goods. Additionally, you can preview some of these solutions for free for about a month.
Remote collaboration keeps the engine of the team relationship running, but periodic in-person meetings provide a tune-up to keep projects and communication on track.
With videoconferencing, chat and desktop sharing solutions, your team can volley ideas and work on projects together across the miles with few hiccups. But we've found big decisions and large-scale planning discussions are always more impactful in person because there is still value to the human element and touch.
Making time for in-person meetings shows remote staff they're important. Many remote workplaces schedule regular meetings, lunches or events to allow staff to congregate for in-person interaction and to nurture team relationships. We encourage our employees to conduct in-person meetings at least on a monthly basis, depending on their location.
Planning a once-a-year employee retreat is a best practice for companies with a remote model, but make sure you have a realistic (and significant) budget so you don't get event planning sticker shock. For example, our All Hands annual meeting might not even be held at our headquarters in Indianapolis this year—which means we'll have to budget for hotel and travel expenses for the employees who live near home base, too. If you go remote, expect a significant bump in travel costs like hotel stays, flights, car rentals, travel insurance, staff expenses and budget for employee entertainment such as sporting events and parties. We try to allocate 10 percent of last year's budget for our All Hands meetings.
The good news is, remote work takes relocation packages and moving expenses out of the budget. Remote workers don't need relocation packages because they aren't going anywhere! The bad news is, when the world is your oyster, you may find yourself flexing your talent acquisition budget. Want to explore a wider pool of qualified candidates for your job openings? When working from home is an option, HR can conduct a national or even international search. So, plan to pad your sign-on bonus budget. You might need it.
As a final thought, remember this: The most important part of any business is its people. Last year, we hired more than 25 new people, meaning that we now have employees in 15 locations across the U.S. and Europe. By allocating your budget to support a more out-of-the-box operations structure (and all of the collaborative technologies available today), you can create a work environment that's appealing to employees, intriguing to customers (and competitors!) and productive for business, too.