Remote or in-person? Building the best team matters more than location.

The question of whether remote or in-person employment is preferable is one that businesses and business leaders throughout the world are strongly debating. While those in favor of in-person employment claim it fosters a stronger culture and higher performance, those in favor of remote work highlight its advantages.

This argument, which has become more and more contentious, ignores what may be the most crucial query a business (and its founder) should be asking: Are you assembling the finest team? Putting together the greatest team possible is absolutely essential to starting and growing a successful business. This is especially important for early-stage firms because every hire will impact the course of the business. The best environment for a team to function at its best is for everyone to be present in person. However, even if they do not live in the same zip code, it is still crucial to choose the finest candidate for a position.

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How did we get here?

Prior to 2020, a lot of businesses only concentrated on in-person interviews, unintentionally passing up on good candidates. While technology was beginning to make more flexible working possible, the pandemic abruptly altered workplace dynamics as everyone was compelled to work from home. The pendulum has substantially shifted in favor of remote hiring over the last three years due to necessity. A Pew Research survey found that 35% of people who have the option to work from home do so constantly. While still a significant percentage, the number of remote workers has decreased from the record-breaking 55% in October 2020.

The pendulum is swinging back towards in-person labor as we return to a post-pandemic environment. It is healthy to reevaluate. For startups, when speed and execution are the primary competitive advantages and there is no preexisting culture to draw on, in-person work has clear advantages. However, no number of the advantages of being present will make up for the harm caused by making a bad hire.


The geographical puzzle:

Think about the necessity of locating the ideal applicant for a position that is crucial to the development of your business and is highly specialized. Even if you live in a huge city, let’s imagine the position is sufficiently specialized that there is only a tiny candidate pool of well-qualified individuals within driving distance. People can now live and work outside of major urban centers while still earning high salaries thanks to rising living expenses and new technologies. In contrast to earlier generations, fewer people than ever before are willing to relocate for work. Great talent is dispersed as a result.

Your access to a potentially large talent pool, many of whom would be better qualified for the position, is restricted if you limit your search for talent to a single commutable area. Using this limited perspective is problematic from a first-principles standpoint.

The impact on startups

For startups, in-person work has particular benefits. Launching and growing a business (and filling the initial few positions) is considerably different from updating and adopting new policies at a large, international organization where teams have already had the chance to collaborate. When developing a product, tackling a new problem, or quickly iterating to improve a solution, there are many advantages to working together in person.

While working remotely has several advantages, like possible cost savings, it can also lead to asynchronous schedules, which calls for more time management and deliberate communication when there is a pressing need for it. Over time, this may increase and negatively affect the team’s output. In order to support a distributed workforce, remote work can also require a substantial upfront investment in gear and software, which can be challenging for a startup with few resources.

The right conversation

The topic we should all be discussing is how to create a successful team. We think that hiring locally should always be the default choice, but if you know you would be passing up outstanding talent, think about casting a wider net on a role-by-role basis. When hiring remotely is the best option, make sure your standards for performance and fit are higher to make up for the drawbacks of not being present in person.

By focusing only on one side of the argument, you run the danger of hiring the wrong individual. Build the most efficient staff you can, and if there is a chance to hire a stronger candidate who can work remotely, grab it. Spend the extra time and effort to make these jobs work in your favor. In the end, every founder and manager should focus on maximizing the team’s production rather than choosing one side of the remote vs. in-person argument.


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