Thanks to technology, there are more than enough ways for us to stay connected. Beyond personal use, these tools allow businesses to expand their team well outside the confines of their designated offices.

In fact there are some companies that run an entirely remote operation. This is especially common amongst startups. The founders may be working out of their garage, engineers likely overseas, and the support team may be managed by people the startup founders have never actually met in person. This may sound like a disaster, but it’s often what it takes to start a business in the current day and age. If you’re looking to work with a remote team you should be informed on the pluses and minuses associated with doing so.

The cons of remote teams

Legal implications

This one is often overlooked by managers and business owners hiring a virtual team. Do you remember those things called laws? Well when it comes to employment, they are taken very seriously. As the business owner, it’s up to you to make sure you’re up to speed on all employment laws in every location you have employees. This includes general hiring practices, payroll tax rules, and required employee benefits.

The good news is that there are cloud-based HR solutions that can take care of these logistics for you. That said, these tools aren’t free so you’ll have to weight the cost with the benefit. For most business owners, it’s worth paying a premium to make sure you don’t miss a single detail.

Management and communication issues

One of the most obvious cons of working with remote teams are the management and communication struggles that come along with it. When you have your whole team in the same building it’s clear when work is getting done, or when your team is goofing around. If productivity seems to be slowing, you can easily call an all hands meeting and get everyone realigned.

When your team is overseas, it’s a bit more difficult to have that same face-to-face connection as you can in the office. Not to mention, there is often a huge time difference so you may not even be working at the same time as your virtual team. This can create communication issues that even the best communicators struggle to solve.

The best approach is to schedule daily standup meetings with your remote team during overlapping work hours to make sure things stay aligned. You should also use video conferencing whenever possible to maximize the “face-to-face” interaction with your team. If this is a team you plan on using over a longer period of time, it may be worth a trip to wherever they are located to spend some time with them in person.

Difficult to build team camaraderie

If you want to build a successful company you need to start with the people who run it. When half your team is remote it’s very difficult to create a company culture that inspires the team on a daily basis. It’s also much more difficult to get the team together for happy hours or other team-building activities when everyone is scattered across the globe. That said, you need to get extra creative in how you build loyalty amongst your team. Things like friendly contests are a great way to keep everyone engaged regardless where they are located.

The pros of remote teams

Easy on your pocketbook

One of the biggest advantages of working with a virtual team is the cost. Since you don’t have to pay for big ticket expenses like rent with remote workers (generally) you can save a pretty penny each month. Not to mention, the reason why many business owners hire remote is because the cost of labor is much lower overseas. Engineers in India for example will likely cost 1/5 of what they do in the San Fransisco Bay Area. That cheaper rate does come with implications however. Just make sure you’re doing proper due diligence when vetting overseas talent.

Higher productivity

This can go both ways, but typically remote workers are more productive than in-house employees. This can be for a few reasons. For starters, there are fewer unnecessary meetings throughout the day. Virtual teams are able to stay focused and knock out tasks over long periods of time without interruptions. When you’re in the office, it’s far too common to get distracted by a meeting or even by a passing coworker.

In addition, when hiring remote teams you tend to hire individuals who are already expert in the field. This means they can easily assimilate  into the operation without too much time and money being spent on training.

Flexible operation

When a large portion of your team is virtual, you can easily scale up or down whenever necessary. Since you aren’t shackled by any long-term office leases or contracts you have much more flexibility. As you make your hires you can easily setup teams across the globe so you can create a 24-hour operation. Get a bit ahead of yourself? Then simply scale down wherever necessary.

When building your company, it’s important to stay super lean. Remote teams allow you to stay lean and fill in the gaps on the fly. With so much unpredictability, this flexibility can instrumental when building your startup.

Nowadays most startups leverage a remote team in some way shape or form. As stated in this article, there are always pros and cons to any decision in business. The important takeaway is that you need to evaluate if it’s the right fit for your specific business. If it is, get out there and start hiring!