Why we prefer office collaboration over remote working at Popsa

A bit of background

The Popsa founders (that's me, Liam and Marcello) have worked together since 2008. We created hundreds of apps for premium brands, before launching an mobile-incubator in 2012, where we helped create and grow several exciting startups.

During this period we worked with loads of fantastic engineers, designers, product people and marketeers. We worked with contractors, permanent employees, interns - we even tried off-shoring for one project (that was a disaster).

Our policy used to be "work where you feel most productive"and we'd Skype in to those working remotely. In fact, much of the time we left Skype calls running for hours, so everyone felt connected.

So why do we prefer office-based working now?

Remote working definitely has its place; in larger teams and for larger projects. It worked really well when we ran a mobile development agency. However when incubating startups the team dynamic just wasn't right.

It comes down to the type of work that gets done in a startup.

You will often need to work on tasks that you might not be comfortable with - you constantly learn new skills to help people out. There aren't entire departments of people you can call upon.

Not everything can be planned and project-managed to the degree it is in larger businesses; sometimes you just have to be there, react to a situation, and get stuff done.

That's the bit you lose when you're working remotely.

If you don't feel the urgency, you can't respond as efficiently to an evolving situation, and that person under pressure can't ask for your help as easily.

Top-5 startup tasks that work best as a group

  1. Morning Stand-ups
  2. Break-out sessions
  3. Brainstorming (almost impossible to do remotely)
  4. Pair Programming
  5. Pixel-perfecting UI (sometimes engineers just need to sit with the designers to get this right)

Let the team environment motivate you

At Popsa, we're constantly brainstorming, researching, designing — and we put this work up on the walls to be inspired and keep focussed; this type of thing you totally miss out on when working from home.

It can hurt the business as well - if there are 5 people in your startup, with two people working remote, you're down 40% "emergency people power" if something breaks - it's just going to add to the stress if you're trying to urgently debug a critical application while keeping everyone update over Slack or Skype!

There's also a point about morale - it's so important for a startup team to bond.

Working from home means you miss out on all the impromptu lunches, the team dinners and drinks, games night and movie night... and for everyone else, they'll miss having the whole team around for these events. Whatever communication or tech you put in place, it's not possible to replace these experiences.

The Future

As Popsa grow's we'll be opening offices all over the world.

Each of these locations will have their own teams, and as a business we'll need ways of keeping all the teams in sync –— that requires remote working.

But right now whilst the team's small, everyone should get the benefits of working in a close group.

In a nutshell, the teams will be distributed, not the individuals.