Brick-and-mortar offices are a thing of the past. Technology has allowed businesses to operate in a virtual setting successfully, and the pandemic is proof of that. Companies are currently transforming their office spaces into more collaborative ones, and they continue to implement flexible and permanent remote work arrangements. Some of them are all-in for the virtual model. Others still have their doubts regarding if building a fully remote business is worth it.
It’s estimated that 70% of the workforce will be working remotely at least 5 days a month, according to Vox. While 2020 forced companies to work remotely, in 2021, companies are reevaluating their entire structure. Entrepreneurs are analyzing the best ways and strategies to move forward with their business, whether fully remote, hybrid, or onsite.
What are the pros and cons of building a remote business? What about the long-term consequences? Is it truly worth it? – We talked to three entrepreneurs who share their experiences building a fully remote business.
What is Remote Business?
Years ago, building a remote business was the equivalent of sending a spaceship to the moon: impossible for many people. The tools, the processes, everything seemed to be complicated. But now, during a global pandemic and thanks to technological advances, it’s weird not to have certain procedures digitalized in your team. Remote businesses are starting to increase now more than ever.
But what exactly is a remote business?
A remote business is an organization that allows employees to work remotely. Remote companies are not tied to a physical location but can be managed from everywhere. This means there’s no central office or headquarters – the entire business is conducted through virtual tools by a distributed team.
Keys For a Successful Remote Business
Building a remote business sounds perfect, amazing, incredible, or however, you want to describe it. But you have probably thousands of questions in your head like:
How will I know for sure my employees are working? How to successfully build a business remotely? What are the chances I will succeed or fail to manage a remote team? What about communication? Tools? Engagement? Budget?
So many questions that no search in Google could ever answer for sure. Lucky you, we got three successful remote business entrepreneurs who shared with us the keys to succeed in your virtual journey.
Being successful in any business depends on both internal and external factors, that’s for sure. But with the right strategies and tools, you can build a solid foundation to thrive.
Key #1: Learn How to Engage with People Remotely
Sabina Nawaz, Founder and CEO of Nawaz Consulting, has more than 15 years of experience advising CEOs and leadership teams worldwide. She reveals that one of the fundamental keys to success at a remote business is understanding that engagement is not the same as in an onsite place. You need to learn how to engage with your team remotely. Here’s what she told us:
I think the one thing I can say is that people are sometimes skeptical about how remote engagements will work. You have to think differently about how to engage people than when you are in person. You can build trust, intimacy, healthy communication virtually by adopting different practices. For example, you might mix up when you have people speak in a big group vs. in small breakouts. You might have a way to ensure everyone’s voice is heard by using a combination of chat and verbal comments. And you want to have frequent checkpoints where you stop the content of the conversation and ensure the process is progressing appropriately. Sabina Nawaz
Key #2: Your Employees are Your Priority
While this applies to all types of business structures, it’s crucial to understand that employees in a remote environment have a whole set of different challenges than those in an onsite office. According to Monster, 68% of employees are experiencing burnout symptoms while working from home.
Not because you’re not seeing them means they are doing perfectly fine, and you shouldn’t worry about them. One of the keys to managing a successful remote company is caring for and prioritizing your employees’ well-being. According to Sharon Koifman, Founder and President of DistantJob, a remote recruitment agency, caring about employees is without a doubt one of the most important things of building a fully remote business.
Remote work tends to get people overworked, get burned out easily, lonely, frustrated, and not feel part of the company. As a remote leader, one of the most important things you need to do is prioritize your employees’ mental health. If your team doesn’t have any of these problems, then you’ll know you have succeeded as a remote manager. Sharon Koifman
Key #3: The Why is Your Secret Weapon
You could have a millionaire investment, talented employees, and the best tools for remote work, but it will be all in vain without knowing why you do what you do. The why makes leaders inspire their teams.
When you are passionate about your business and believe in it, it’s easier to find the processes and strategies to succeed. Radina Nedyalkova, Founder of Vox Advisory, a remote consultancy, shares her experience building her virtual business and the importance of knowing your why.
For me, it was the desire to set up an online consulting business in order to be flexible and independent. But that wasn’t enough; I had to figure out the right concept, pricing, and advertising strategy, as well as the overall idea behind what and, most importantly, WHY I am doing this. I was convinced that the world is ready for a Remote Talent Advisor. The first year was challenging in terms of introducing this new-remote first approach. Nevertheless, it takes a lot of faith, being proactive and getting out of the comfort zone daily, asking for help when needed. Radina Nedyalkova
Pros and Cons of having a Fully Remote Business
You’ve heard the experts. Now, let’s dive deeper in the subject and analyze if building a remote business is worth it with its advantages and disadvantages.
Pros of Building a Remote Business
1. Talent Door: Unlocked
When you build a remote business, one of the biggest advantages you have is that you remove geographic barriers. You don’t need to hire locally or from a determined area; the world is your limit. This means that while hiring locally can bring you great candidates, hiring remotely skyrockets those chances.
But it’s not about having thousands of candidates available for a position. It’s also about the quality of candidates you get. Hiring remotely implies that you can offer job positions to talented candidates without them having to move into your city or make a drastic change in their lives.
2. Higher Productivity
You probably heard about how remote workers are more productive than onsite workers. Facts don’t lie, and several surveys and studies demonstrate how people who work remotely achieve more things than those who don’t.
Remote workers get to choose where they work, whether at home or at another place, which means they work in the environment that works out best for them. They set their own workflow, know at what times they are most productive, and don’t have to follow a rigid working pattern from 9 am to 5 pm. Also, keep in mind they have fewer distractions that enable them to get focused and conscious work hours.
3. It’s Easier to Increase Engagement
Some employees don’t mind driving 2 hours to get to an office and work in a small cubicle. For some people, this works, and they can be productive despite distractions. However, as the pandemic proved, most people enjoy the perks of remote work. When employees are given a choice between remote or onsite, they feel their employers care for them, which increases their satisfaction and engagement.
According to a survey conducted by Quantum Workplace, out of 40,000% employees across 33 companies, 62% said that working remotely positively impacts engagement.
4. Everyone Wants to Work Remotely
Before the pandemic, studies and surveys had already demonstrated how employees were more eager to work remotely. Now, through quarantine and more than a year of companies having to lead their teams remotely, employees don’t want to return to the office.
Companies have started to create new working structures where they can encourage a collaborative atmosphere on-site and enable employees to work from home some days a week. This makes employees engage in their companies and increase their satisfaction.
Furthermore, nowadays, it’s crucial that businesses offer flexible arrangements to attract and retain talented candidates.
5. Lower Costs
Remote businesses, by definition, don’t have physical locations or office spaces. Therefore, you can save on high costs because you don’t need to buy or pay rent to work in a determined place. Also, you save on expenses such as coffee, snacks, office supplies, furniture, etc. According to Workplace Analytics, remote entrepreneurs save 10,000 per employee each year in real estate costs.
However, keep in mind that remote doesn’t mean free. You still need to make sure you have all the necessary home office gadgets to perform successfully. As well as the right tools to communicate and collaborate with your remote team.
Cons of Building a Remote Business
1. Lack of Socialization and Collaboration
One of the problems that can arise when managing remote teams is regarding socialization. In a normal onsite setting, people have a lot of casual conversation. It could be when you’re in an elevator, on your way to the bathroom, or in the coffee room. All of this is lost in a remote team, as you are not working in a physical place. It’s more challenging to encourage collaboration; it is necessary that you have the right tools and strategies.
Also, cultural differences can also impact the workflow of your team. For this, it is important to keep transparent communication and crystal-clear guidelines as well.
2. Feeling of Having Less Control
If you suffer the micromanaging syndrome, where you feel you need to constantly check your employees’ work, having a remote business can be your worst nightmare. It’s normal to micromanage teams when you’re starting your business, and you’re building your processes. You need to check on what works and what doesn’t, but your employees will need to start flying solo at some point, and you need to trust them that they’ll do a great job.
The main challenge here is to learn what are the best ways to evaluate your remote employees productivity.
3. Building Company Culture is More Challenging
If you’re convinced that culture is about bar hopping with your coworkers on Friday nights and birthday celebrations, you might want to rethink that definition. Culture goes beyond being in a physical place. However, this doesn’t mean that building your company culture will be almost automatic by having a remote team.
You need to work on it and need to figure out the best ways you and your employees can connect through distance. Maybe celebrating birthdays virtually or having donut calls. There are many ways you can have fun and nurture your company’s culture without having everyone in the same room.
4. Employees May Suffer from Burnout
Remote employees, according to stats, are more productive. But they also tend to work more, which leads to burnout.
When employees work in an office, they know they arrive at 9 am and leave at 5 pm (in some cases). They have a fixed schedule that forces them to work during those hours, and after they leave the office, they leave all their duties and tasks behind. Remote workers, especially those who tend to work from home, struggle to set up boundaries. As they are in the same environment, it’s difficult for them to leave tasks unfinished, leading to burnout.
If you’re planning to start your virtual path and build a fully remote business, one of the main challenges you need to address is communication.
It might be because of cultural differences, time zones, or many other factors, but misunderstandings often happen in remote teams. This is why it’s crucial to build communication guidelines, have the right tools and processes that will help the team communicate smoothly.
Keep in mind that you’ll need to find the healthy balance between async and sync communication (too many meetings might burn out your team, but too few meetings might make them feel isolated – it’s all about balance).
Should I Take My Business Fully Remote?
We would love to be fortune-tellers and answer this question rightfully! However, despite not knowing the future of your business, one thing is for sure; the present and future of almost every industry is remote! Most companies are already shifting towards this new virtual reality, and others are establishing hybrid models.
If you’re unsure if this remote model is the right one for your business, you can compare its strengths and weaknesses, obviously keeping your industry and other relevant factors in mind. Not all industries are well-suited for remote work, but there are certain areas where you can implement remote work. Also, keep in mind that you’ll also need to change your team’s dynamics and leadership if you decide to shift towards a remote work model.
We’re not going to lie; it might be challenging initially, but it will be totally worth it. The work-life balance, among other great benefits of remote work, that both you and your employees will enjoy are priceless.