Wisdom//

How to Set Up Remote Offices so Teams Feel Engaged and Effective

You’ll never know if a remote office will fit well into your business model until you try it.

KETriKET/Shutterstock
KETriKET/Shutterstock

Argentina, of all places. That’s where we set up our first remote office.

About two years ago, our team began scaling very quickly. We needed to hire more engineers, who come at a high-demand-driven premium in Silicon Valley, so we decided to look into hiring elsewhere.

My co-founder, David Spector, was put in touch with a contract engineer in Argentina who came recommended by a network contact. He immediately impressed us, so we hired him on full-time — along with a number of other engineers he recommended. We found a co-working space for them and continued building out the team one by one.

Today, nearly 30 engineers work from our permanent office in Cordoba.

We had never considered the extended work-from-home route for our remote teams, mainly because I truly believe there’s no replacement for the spirit, energy, and collaboration of physically working alongside your co-workers. So, honestly, we didn’t know much about setting up a remote office when we started.

Here are a few tips we learned about opening offices beyond the main headquarters:

Just like anything you do with a start-up, test a remote office in the most lightweight, efficient manner possible.

You’ll never know if a remote office will fit well into your business model until you try it.

Remember: You’re not a multinational corporation like Amazon. You won’t have cities fighting over your expansion plans, and you can’t spend a bunch of money on a brand-new office. But you can test the waters before making major commitments.

Even though we knew Cordoba had plenty of local talent thanks to a nearby university, we still built the office slowly and carefully. We avoided major commitment by taking advantage of co-working spaces and short-term leases.

Never jump into a long-term location commitment before you’re fully confident and invested in the area.

Once you’re sure your remote office can succeed, you can then begin thinking about other decisions: how many people you want to hire, office setup, and infrastructure items.

Include remote offices in the exciting things going on at your headquarters.

It’s important to ensure remote teams are aware of and excited about company happenings.

Our team accomplishes this by having three or four Argentinian team members visit our San Francisco office every other month. During the visit, we work to instill our company culture in them by introducing them to the entire team, having them work alongside us, and showing them the day-to-day of important initiatives.

By hosting remote team members and consistently filling them in on what’s happening across the company, you help everyone feel more included, connected, and engaged.

When expanding internationally, consider the local work culture and time zone.

Opening an international office highlights cultural differences among countries — especially how people work.

In Argentina, everything runs later than in the U.S.

People get to work around 10 a.m. and leave around 7 p.m. — and it’s normal for an Argentinian to go to dinner at 10 p.m. When my co-founder and I went to the holiday party in Cordoba last year, we were there until 2 a.m.

A later schedule was just one of many cultural learning curves we had to adjust to, but it actually works great for us since there’s a slight time zone difference from our headquarters. It means everyone gets on and offline around the same time every day, which wouldn’t be possible if our team was in Asia or Europe.

Wherever you set up a remote office, the work culture and time change will impact your teams’ operations. So you want to really know the landscape before making a final decision.

Help remote workers understand their impact on the company’s success.

This is a universal truth, but it’s more difficult to achieve with a remote office.

At ThirdLove, we do our best to help our remote teams feel valued by having weekly meetings to discuss new projects, holding Q+A sessions, and sharing updates on major initiatives. When my co-founder and I were recently in Argentina, we held a session with the entire team to share our company history and discuss values and goals. We want everyone working with us to know who we are and what we stand for. And most importantly, we want them to know they’re valued equally to our HQ employees.

If you don’t communicate and take the steps to include remote offices, your team won’t be to tell if their work is truly making a difference — and they won’t understand how it directly impacts the customer.

The best way to prevent these drawbacks is to create a mission-driven company culture. Make sure your remote workers understand their direct impact in terms of company success.

If you can make everyone on your team feel valued and included, it won’t matter where in the world they’re working.

Originally published on Medium.

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