Why This Startup Won't Let the Team Work From Home Remote workers have many advantages but one co-founder finds there is no substitute for the creative spark of everyone coming to work.
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Making an argument for a remote workforce today seems so easy. So why do we have a no work from home (WFH) policy at Uberflip?
One of our 8 core values is an understanding that together, as a team, we are limitless. Any business in startup growth mode knows the importance of team buy-in to disrupting and knocking down boundaries.
Although my co-founder and I have always had a firm stance on the WFH debate, it's common to get challenges from team members and prospects on a regular basis. Before coming to our no-WFH position (we prefer "Work Together"), we made sure to evaluate many of the common questions so we could answer them with confidence. Here are three common challenges you may also face in taking such a stance.
1. But we can communicate just as well with web tools.
There is no doubt that the barriers to working remotely have come down over the past five years. With new tools to increase team communication and collaboration (like Slack and Google Apps) and tools to track remote workers (if you have trust issues), someone could easily argue that the walls around your company's office are superficial.
However, I'd argue that these tools (some of which we use ourselves) only raise the barriers to true communication and collaboration. Our dependence on instant messaging and shorthand updates have decreased our likelihood to brainstorm, opting for a quick WTF or LOL, rather than an attempt to build off a crazy idea.
We're so quick to reply to a pending message that we can easily overlook the importance of hashing it out or bringing an outsider into an impromptu chat.
Communication outside of the office lacks the intimacy we can only achieve face-to-face. Think about attempting a long distance relationship with someone special; the same pitfalls apply. It's no easy feat to maintain the level of intimacy that comes from being in the same room with someone (but don't get the wrong idea of what we expect from our team in the office).
Being together brings out the true emotions that spur breakout ideas. Plain and simple.
Related: 4 Ways to Manage Remote Employees
2: But I'm more productive at home.
Another common argument made for working at home is that some people are more productive when they can avoid the distractions and interruptions found at the office. Now, I'm going to assume that those making this case do not have three adorable kids at home like I do, who make working from home anything but productive.
Kidding aside, to make a real difference with your company, you must seek more than individual effort. You need the kind of collaborative, innovative outcomes only possible in a team setting.
Marissa Mayer of Yahoo nailed this one when she explained: "People are more productive when they're alone, but they're more collaborative and innovative when they're together. Some of the best ideas come from pulling two different ideas together."
This is so much tougher to accomplish when you're working with a team member through a Skype window. My belief is that you need to create as few obstacles as possible for someone (or some team) to succeed.
3. But those guys down the street are allowing it!
A no WFH policy is not necessarily the only way to succeed. Take exciting startups like Buffer, who seem to have a well-defined reason for allowing WFH, or companies like oDesk, where a no WFH policy would undermine their very existence.
So if you're going to take a stance on the topic (like us) the key to getting your entire team to buy-in is to provide them with solid reasoning for your decision. I have read many posts on this subject with arguments both for and against WFH.
I personally struggle with positions such as "working from home is a privilege, not a right". My concern is that this statement creates more questions about trust in the organization and whether you're hiring the right people in the first place. No matter what the reason, though, make sure it is explicitly understood. For too long we had this policy without a clear understanding of why.
By making our position clear on our careers page and throughout the interview stage, I believe we are ensuring that we build a team of individuals who value collaboration in their criteria when searching for the ideal company to join.
A WFH policy might make your team more comfortable and maybe even more productive, but it might also get in the way of the kind of game-changing collaboration that a growing company needs. What matters is that you choose your position carefully and communicate it effectively.