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Remote team versus In-house team: Which one is easier to manage?

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Jennifer Farris, Chief People Officer at Terminal.

Jennifer, sourcing top talent is a challenge especially when it comes to rare skills. Is this the reason for introducing remote work/ work from home policy at your company?

There are engineers all over the world seeking meaningful work at interesting companies, and those companies are always on the lookout for eager, skilled employees. But much of the time those two parties aren’t able to come together because of geographical distance, not to mention all of the logistical challenges that come with employee moves or creating a remote office! Terminal exists to support companies and engineers in not only finding each other but in setting up truly successful remote teams for meaningful work. 

Terminal’s founders all shared a common struggle: an inability to find enough engineering talent to scale their businesses because the demand for engineers far exceeded the supply of talent. They knew they had a market-level problem that required a macro solution. That’s when they conceived of Terminal—a way for forward-thinking tech companies to avoid the war for talent altogether by building remote teams of skilled engineers around the world. Today, propelled by the same mission, Terminal connects engineering talent around the globe to meaningful work at innovative companies.

Engineering talent is key to innovation but sometimes the products are complex and subject to non-disclosure agreements. In your opinion, are remote workers more or less loyal than in-office employees?

Building loyalty at any company - remote or not - starts with giving employees experience and opportunity they can’t get anywhere else.

Terminal is a remote teams company that helps growing tech organizations quickly and hire the engineers they need to scale. By building remote development teams and supporting the entire employee experience—from providing premium shared workspaces to fostering a workplace community—Terminal gives employees an in-office experience and community while working remotely for disruptive companies that are based in Silicon Valley. Through delivering this unique work experience, Terminal has scored a world-class eNPS of 70 and 5x lower voluntary turnover than any US tech-hub average. 

Ultimately, what this comes down to, is giving employees the best of Silicon Valley - innovative companies that are mission-driven - without the stress of either having to move cities or work alone from a home office or coffee shop. Especially as tech hubs become even more crowded and costly, top talent is looking for more than just high wages - they’re looking for a community they can thrive in and a city that they love. 

Flexibility and work-life balance are important but may have a dark side. Productivity may suffer if the team is unintentionally creating bottlenecks due to different time zones or personal preferences. Are remote workers more or less productive than their peers working 9 to 5?

Remote workers have the ability to be even more productive than in-office employees as they do not have the burden of the same distractions or logistics that come in a typical office environment. Drive-by-chats, the chaos/noise of an open layout and of course commuting time that are common when working in large offices all distract employees from the core of their work. However, remote work isn’t without its challenges too. If a person is siloed and feels lonely/ disconnected, it takes them longer to reach out to other employees and fully utilize coworkers as work resources. This can slow down their own productivity and morale, which ultimately hurts output. That’s why it’s best to strike a medium between these two worlds -- providing enough community for a worker to feel supported and have people to collaborate with, without overwhelming them and building in too many distractions. 

However, much of this productivity comes down to 2 important factors: hiring the right persona that is a self-starter and finds working remotely to be energizing vs lonely, and setting the remote worker up for success by clearly explaining the expectations/goals and defining the “how we work” requirements. Once expectations are established, both on the end of the remote worker and on the other side of management, all parties should be able to work together and ultimately create a productive working standard that satisfies both the employee and the company. 

Terminal_Remote Teams

Remote teams have different dynamics and require robust processes and efficient communication channels. Is it easier or harder to manage remote teams?

People assume that it is harder to manage remote teams, but the reality is, it requires the same discipline and skills that it takes to effectively manage in-house teams. Yes, you may need stronger video /general communication tools for remote coaching, but the areas that really make a good manager and management experience are the same no matter if you are sitting next to each other, or are 2,000 miles away. During my time as the Co-Founder of Farside HR Solutions, we regularly talked about the 6 C’s of successful management: Clear Vision, Cascading Goals, Clear Roles, Continuous Feedback, Coaching and Career Development. Though there are nuances to this, the main idea is that proximity is often used as a crutch and excuses muddy communication and thoughtlessness in coaching and giving feedback. When employees are remote, it forces everyone to more clearly communicate and set aside specific times for feedback and development; that’s great and needs to be applied to all offices (remote or not).  

Coaching, clear roles and constructive feedback are indeed a ‘’ must-have’’ for any team.  Do remote working arrangements allow you to tap into a diverse talent pool

I think the tech industry’s diversity problems are closer to being solved by opening up to a distributed or remote work model. It is fairly simple math at the end of the day (unless you believe the only talent that could possibly be good enough is in your backyard). I have seen a trend of about 30% acceptance rates for engineering positions with the organizations I work with who operate solely in a single talent market. At Terminal, and at other companies that promote the distributed work model, there is an upwards of 90% acceptance rate on quality engineering talent. 
By accessing a global market of talent that is not as saturated as the Bay Area tech market, companies open up more channels to bring in a diverse workforce. If you open up a remote workforce, you have a better chance of reaching great talent from around the globe. What’s more, not only are you accessing this great talent, but you’re accessing it faster than in a highly competitive market in which top talent is being bombarded with requests from multiple organizations at a time. Your chances of landing a premier employee at the exact time you need them is so slim -- by hiring remote workers you increase your chances significantly and can ultimately scale your company faster.