Co-Located? Remote? Hybrid? Which Staffing Model Works for Your Team?
One question facing the modern business is where to put your employees. Remote staffing has become the new normal for tech companies such as Basecamp, Etsy, and GitHub, but leaders in the field like Google and Netflix prefer to house everyone under one roof. Some companies are calling their remote workers back into the office; others are ditching the office altogether.
The decision of where to locate your team is complex. It involves questions of productivity, quality of life, and budget.
Ask Yourself What You Really Need
Before bringing your team into any particular working structure, make sure you’re clear on what it will do for your organization.
Ask yourself: Does the solution ...
- Improve the final product on a specific project? What data do you have that shows an on-site team will be significantly better than a distributed team? Or vice versa?
- Put every member of a team under one roof? Although this can create some efficiencies, it can also create silos and prevent multidisciplinary thinking.
- Promote cross-team collaboration? The flip side of this coin—if your teams are intermingled in a single environment, they may be more likely to share ideas and look at problems in a new light. But if the scope of your projects is always changing, your results will vary with the same workers in the same seats.
- Signal that remote work isn’t welcome? With many companies allowing for partial or fully dispersed teams (and younger generations expecting flexible work arrangements), an on-site-only model may brand your company as behind the times.
Comparing the Options
It’s worth noting that fully remote and co-located teams aren’t necessarily your only options. Rather, they are two ends of a wide spectrum of ways to organize your staff. There are many variations:
- Single-site team. This is the purest form of co-location, where everyone is in the same physical space.
- Multisite team. Smaller groups are co-located in separate spaces and have separate business functions. For example, your business office is located in Boston, and your support team works in Denver.
- Satellite workers. Most of your team is together, but a handful of outliers work remotely, possibly on specialized projects.
- Remote-first team. Your entire workforce is distributed across the country (or internationally). All communication is digital or by phone. This option is popular with startups with limited budgets and the desire to hire a team that isn’t limited by geography.
What Factors Should You Consider When Making the Choice?
Just as there are many varieties of staffing locations, there are reasons to consider using each one.
- Staff size. A smaller team can have an easier time functioning in an on-site setting, because it can be valuable to be in one space when you’re figuring out who you are as a company. But once you’re ready to grow, a distributed team lets you hire the best people anywhere, not just those within an hour’s commute.
- Management style. If your management style leans toward hands-on, then an on-site team can be a great fit. A remote team, by its nature, requires a more hands-off approach that trusts employees to find their own path to productivity.
- Culture. No matter where your workers hang their hats, a unified sense of trust and social comfort is essential to a productive and successful enterprise.
- Budget. Remote teams tend to lower overhead costs because there is no physical office to maintain. They can also reduce expenses for employees, who save on commuting costs such as gas, tolls, car maintenance, or subway/bus fare.
- Tech stack. Whereas co-located teams can work out strategy and troubleshoot issues around a table, remote teams rely heavily on collaborative tools such as videoconferencing, email, SMS, online chats, and phone calls. These platforms require the ability to communicate clearly without the benefit of in-person interactions in order to create a collaborative environment.
There may not be just one answer for your company, which is why a hybrid solution may be useful. And your company’s needs may change as it grows.
The Benefits of Remote Work
Although some companies argue that an on-site team is more effective, it puts significant restraints on your potential talent pool. Rather than hiring the best person for the job, you are limited to a candidate who is nearby (or who’s willing to move to your town). A remote team lets you bring on staff who meet your needs and fit in with your culture, regardless of geography.
It also can provide an enhanced quality of life for your workers. The ability to attend a child’s afternoon music recital or soccer playoff is invaluable and will likely only increase team loyalty. Benefits like this cut across all genders and cultures and can help diversify your staff.
Find the Right Balance
Whether your company works best with an on-site team, a remote team, or some hybrid of the two, success depends on creating an environment that values independence as well as group engagement.
Most industries no longer accept working under one roof as a given, so if you’re ready to consider a distributed team, our staff augmentation guide is a great crash course in this brave new world.
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