8 thoughts on “Distributed vs. In-Person Teams

    1. It's a good question! I don't know the full history of how Hawthorne came to be or all that it does, so some of this may be inaccurate, but: I describe it to people as a company lounge that we use for a variety of purposes and events, but that isn't necessarily critical to the company's operations.

      I think any organization that saw it was regularly hosting people or conducting events in a given location would want to consider reducing expenses by investing in a dedicated space, so it makes sense that Automattic did. I suppose the natural extension of that logic is that as an organization gets big enough and has enough of its people in the same place, an office building or even full-blown campus just makes sense, too (e.g. Google or Apple).

  1. I agreed with everything in your piece up until "More importantly, though, this dual approach is probably a recipe for disaster when it comes to building shared vision and common culture in an organization". I work in a fully distributed company (there's only 4 of us though - Belgium, Scotland, North England, South England). However most existing companies will be growing out of a fully co-located environment. I don't think any company can fully switch over to be distributed in one step - so they have to go via the dual approach. I have worked with two clients that I've worked with for more than 4 years, both relatively small companies (<30 people) who have about 10% of staff working remotely. Its not optimal and tools like Slack don't get utilised, but its certainly not a disaster.

    1. Ian - a fair point, and "disaster" was unnecessary hyperbole. I'm sure an organization that takes a thoughtful and intentional approach to a mixed setup can do just fine, especially if they're transitioning from one clear structure to another. I guess I've seen too many cases where there wasn't much thought given to it in the eager rush to take advantage of remote work benefits, and the experiment ends up failing, sometimes at the great expense of the remote workers themselves.

      I'll look for more transition/dual-setup success stories to balance that out.

  2. I work for a company that has been taking a dual approach for more than a year now, and I feel we are being very successful with it. The difference for us is that it isn't one or two people from various departments - the entire engineering and design team is remote, while product, sales, and marketing are local.

    And while I would say that there is some separation between the locals and the remotes, I would also say that the separation isn't that much different than what I have experienced between Sales and Engineering teams when both were in the same building.

    However, having the entire Engineering team be remote helps form as strong a bond within the department as would happen if we were all local. And to keep us connected to the company, the remote team comes in quarterly, and has monthly town halls with the CEO.

    So I feel that a dual culture can be successful if done right.

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