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Remote vs. In Office?

Marissa Meyer from Yahoo! told remote employees to either quit or to work from an office space. Nowadays it seems with technology things and people are much closer than in the old days. What are your thoughts?

14 Replies

Faisal Memon
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Faisal Memon Entrepreneur
iOS Department Technical Lead at Citrix ShareFile Quick Edit
If you are a new leader, getting people in the office to build rapport, trust, and develop a shared vision is important as Meyer had recently joined before giving the edict. At yahoo there was suspicion that people whilst remote were not 100% committed on their tasks (this is debatable).

Nowadays, skills are "deeper" in that there are more specialities. That means different perspectives amongst differently skilled staff collaborating to a goal. So for that, you have more need for face-to-face discussions and consensus building. Technology is more leveraged now, so smaller teams need to tackle jobs previously done by an extended team. So the benefits of close working are now more amplified than before.

Also with noise cancelling headphones, quiet rooms/focussed pods, etc. you can be both present and isolated as needed.

Collaboration tools on the other hand have become excellent. With VOIP, desktop/screen/mouse+keyboard sharing, you are virtually sitting next to the other person. (GotoMeeting for example). This pulls things the other way in favour of remote working.

So whilst it may appear we're going back to the old days, there are complex forces pulling in both directions, and overall I think focussed hot spots seen in the high tech industry will only grow stronger in the medium term.


David Crooke
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David Crooke Entrepreneur
Serial entrepreneur and CTO
I very much prefer to have the team close where we can whiteboard. There is no substitute for in person interaction both in efficiency and in the team building aspect. Google has also gone to single site teams. Anyone who has worked with development can tell you that sharing a project between offshore and USA that requires close collaboration will fail. If you can split the project into discrete pieces then put those in different spots.
Zhenya Rozinskiy
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Partner at Agile Fuel
Your initial inclinationmight be that it's easier and better to put everyone in the same room because collaboration is easier that way. You may also know many projects that fail because teams are distributed or people are remote.

Being a leader of colocated team is a different sport from one where you are in charge of a distributed team. The rules are different. You needto focus on different soft skills, you need to set different priorities and establishdifferent rules.As a leader, you need to give people different guidance when they are local vs distributed.

There are many tools today that allow you to make distributed collaboration easy and to get the best out of your teams. As a leader your goal is to build the best team there is and don't limit yourself by one's location.
Steven T.A. Carter
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Steven T.A. Carter Entrepreneur • Advisor
Chief Operating Officer at 1PEL Inc.
From a purely financial perspective, remote wins hands down. After people, the next largest expense for most companies not directly related to product (supply) is real estate. Want to start a swanky new startup in the Bay Area or NYC? Be ready to fork over the equivalent of 2 or 3 FTE developers or senior managers in rent every month for a 50 person company. If you need face to face time, find a place you can rent a small office for say 10 people and have people meet there when they need to. Not having to slog into an office from where you live is a benefit 9 days out of 10 in my experience. You have way less fruitless, unending meetings and you tend to get more done. This assumes of course that you have motivated, smart people and a good management team giving them all direction.

Rob Mitchell
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Rob Mitchell Entrepreneur
Senior Java Software Engineer at Direct Commerce
I've done both remote/telecommute and on-sight with teams that are a mixture of domestic (here in USA) and offshore. There are pro's and con's to both situations and, unfortunately, the real answer is ... it depends.

As others have pointed out, many domestic offices involve employees with headphones and quiet rooms and, yes, core business hours, but there's usually so many extenuating circumstances that in any given week, the proverbial "I have to leave at 'X' o'clock for 'Y' appointment" will alway happen in life and you're just adding stress for the commute around it.

My $0.02 is try to find a balance that works for everyone. Its not easy, but in the end, everyone will sacrifice as much as they can at various times for a given project at different phases. Usually. As a leader, there is much you can do to help employees see and follow your vision. As a follower, you have every right to question and nit-pick until either you buy into the vision or find a different job that makes you more comfortable.
John Bentley, II
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John Bentley, II Entrepreneur • Advisor
Entrepreneur - Technologist - Software Architect. The Code Wookie is focused on helping people get the most out of tech.
I have found the answer to most question to this or that is yes. The key here, as mentioned before is balance. In an Agile/ScrumI shop, I found that having people on site for (1) Sprint Planning, (2) Back Log Review, and (3) Retrospective is key as these are the times face to face communication is most needed. It also helped build team work. Beyond that, the use of tool such as Slack, Google Hangouts, and other interactive tools allowed people to collaborate effectively. I do not believe this would be the case without the face to face.

I you have a geo diverse team that cannot do this on a regular basis, pulling the team together (or at least key representatives) face to face to kick off efforts, and periodic reviews / deep dives improves communication. With electronic communication, you can too often forget the people on the other end are in fact people. Video also helps with this.
Joanan Hernandez
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Joanan Hernandez Entrepreneur
CEO & Founder at Mollejuo
I'll add this to this conversation.

Getting someone to work on site is costly, specially for an startup. What I mean is, if you demand people to come to the office they should be formally employees.

Put it in another way: I've seen bright people willing to work, as long as it is not on site (i.e. able to work remotely), and I have seen startup difficulties of capturing talent some one because they don't have a site.

My opinion is, the best way to begin of a remote team and only move to local team when the business allows you to do it, not before.

Best of lucks!
Carole Bennett
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Carole Bennett Entrepreneur
Full Stack IT Professional | Dallas Director, Women Who Code | Advisory Board, The Iron Yard Dallas
Another way to look at it is this;

45-minute commute x 2 per day = 1.5 hours
x 5 per week = 7.5 hours
x 50 weeks per year = 375 hours
/ 40 = 9.375 work-weeks per year

That's over 2 work-months of productivity that's lost per worker per year; not counting the additional costs of transportation, higher risk of lost time due to accidents, higher stress levels and decreased focus. Are you prepared to compensate a highly skilled worker for that 2+ months of productivity? Does the benefit of an in-person environment offset that cost for an entire team?

GTM, Hangouts, Slack, Skype, Basecamp - these are all tools that can mitigate the issues encountered in remote teams. Whiteboard sessions? There are Slack plug-ins that can support that, as well as a myriad of real-time collaborative tools (I'm very fond of LucidChart, for example, for diagramming and whiteboarding). I've participated in geo-dispersed retrospectives and planning sessions; the biggest downside to that is when multiple people are using a single microphone, and that's an easy situation to remedy.

So - factor in these costs when considering onsite vs. remote; if you can use full-time remote to lower your start-up costs (and draw in superior talent), without losing productivity, I'd highly recommend that approach for getting your business off to a profitable start.

Rob Gropper
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Rob Gropper Entrepreneur
Director at PetHero, SPC - Member at Eastside Incubator - Principal at Tuxedo Technologies Group
Marissa Mayer didn't make that decision in "the old days" - she started at Yahoo in mid 2012. collaboration tech hasn't changed that much in the past 4 years. She didn't trust her people. Perhaps she had good reasons not to trust them i don't know. Clearly there are tradeoffs as mentioned here already. "nowadays" i would recommend some blend where your team(s) meets face-to-face part of the week/month/year and can work remotely the rest of the time. Founder of Groove talks about this decision here: https://www.groovehq.com/blog/remote-work-tips
Groove's team is spread across the world so getting people together each week does not work. They do it a few times a year from what i can tell. It works for them. It takes the right kind of personality to be effective as part of a remote team and I think you need to vet candidates and hire specifically for those traits.
Volodymyr Dybenko ★★★★★
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IT Outstaffing Service #1 in Ukraine
Black vs White. -> 50 shades of grey.
I suggest to use mixed model

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