Remote Work At Attentiv
* As of August 2015
Attentiv Remote Company Q&A
Daniel Russell, Founder and CEO - Interview with Remote.co
Attentiv takes an innovative approach to team collaboration. Using threaded comments, upvoting, and topic-driven conversation, Attentiv gives you a familiar, easy-to-use interface but with a twist: anonymity. Too often we’re afraid of speaking up or sharing our ideas, particularly at work, because of domineering management or a shy and introverted personality. Users have the option to comment their thoughts anonymously, ensuring everybody has the chance to be heard. Upvotes mean the best ideas rise to the top of the conversation, not just the loudest. Sprinkled in are other incredibly useful collaboration features, such as real-time polling and a quick invite system.
Yes, we were remote from the beginning, though not without the often face-to-face meetings to get us off the ground.
While working remotely isn’t particularly impactful on how we run, it has shaped how we think about and design our software platform. Attentiv was created with remote teams in mind, so how remote teams would use the tool has largely impacted the features, layout, and experience we’ve crafted with Attentiv.
Remote work saves time and money, plain and simple. No more scrambling in the mornings to get dressed, fumbling for car keys, and getting stuck in traffic. So long as you’re disciplined and have set up an effective home office, it’s natural to remove commuting (and all the hassle that comes with it) from the equation.
But besides that, remote work builds morale. If you’re not a morning person, getting ready for work and getting caught in traffic can start to build some frustration or even resentment. To top it all off, the afternoon traffic keeping you from finally getting home to your family can only make matters worse. Taking out this largely unnecessary step of your day can make you like your job that much more.
Our team was largely used to working remotely already from prior jobs, and one of our team members lives all the way out in Florida. We were all fairly familiar with the online tools available for making remote work effective, so it was an easy decision to make.
Like most places, we want self-starters that are good at budgeting their time and that don’t need babysitting. Working from home can be tough for some personality types as well, so we make sure to confront that requirement during the interview process.
The nice thing is that remote work is becoming more and more common. Lots of potential hires are attracted to remote jobs, and people experienced in working remotely are likely to have the discipline and time management skills to handle it. By explaining the tools we use (Sqwiggle, Attentiv) and our ‘flat’ collaboration work philosophy, we’ve been able to convey the sort of culture we’re striving for at Attentiv.
We do have access to background checks and other third party methods of valuation, but we’ve actually stuck with a multi-part interview process that tends to be pretty thorough.
While we haven’t had the need to set strict norms, we all have an understanding of how to stay connected throughout the workday: be available on Sqwiggle, logged into Google chat, and logged into Attentiv.
We use Basecamp and other calendaring tools to plan out our goals and strategies, whether it’s a week-by-week marketing plan or a development timeline for the software. If we’re checking off tasks on Basecamp in a timely manner, we’re hitting our productivity goals.
Communication is key. We are all completely available to one another during our work hours, meaning we can connect via video conferencing or chat on the fly. This ensures we aren’t missing out on not being in an office together. The thing with a tight-knit startup team is that we’re all taking on risk, so we are all invested in this platform. That kind of accountability is what makes us meet our deadlines, think creatively, and collaborate effectively around the clock.
This is an easy one when you’re working with a small team. Everybody’s opinion counts and is worth discussing, and everybody has a stake in the features we roll out or the emails we send out to users. A culture of transparency ensures that everybody is always on the same page, and we all know what our goals are. A small team also means everybody has a hand in big events, whether it’s content going viral, an investor pitch, or a big marketing push. These are all big picture events, and we’re all very hands-on.
If tasks are getting completed to the team’s satisfaction and in a timely manner, we’re not too concerned about time off. We trust our team members to manage their own time, and so long as we have a heads up before they take off, we aren’t too concerned about the occasional vacation day.
With a startup, it’s hard to get things done being too formal–the less red tape the better. Luckily, the entire team had been used to working remotely from previous jobs, so it formed organically for us.
Follow best practices and be disciplined. When you’re home, it’s easy to be distracted or goof off, and that’s when remote work can fail to provide a net gain. But if you’re disciplined and accountable, and have set up an appropriate home office space, you will definitely see results.
Working cross-time zones can occasionally be tough with the development crew. Sometimes if we have a problem on our end, we may have to wait until the dev team is actually awake to fix it. Communicating opinions on design is also difficult to do remotely. Sometimes we have a clear mental picture of how we want the user’s experience to play out, but that’s tough to get across to a designer over the phone or through chatting.
First and foremost is quick and easy video conferencing. We’re constantly logged into Sqwiggle, which is a great option for remote workers. We also use our own software Attentiv to collaborate, often using it for brainstorming sessions, getting feedback on designs or new features, or even discussing potential hires. We find that the anonymity lets us all be honest and frank with one another, which means every idea is heard and discussed before we make decisions.
Other than that, the traditional Gmail and Google chat are good for communication, while Basecamp keeps us organized on the project management front.
I used to work sitting down with a large monitor and my laptop connected together. I’ve since started standing, working from my laptop in various places around the apartment. I actually really like the versatility of working from home in that way. I can have a different “desk” every day.
I’m not going to lie, it can be difficult. Because there’s no clear location differential for my work time and social time, I have to really depend on the clock. Once the clock hits quitting time (more like forced quitting time for us) I have to logout of everything and ignore my phone for a while.
I’m not huge on business books just because they tend to suggest one-size-fits-all approaches for problems that are typically very unique for each company. But, that being said, I really enjoyed Made to Stick which is mainly a book of case studies about “sticky” ideas that create good marketing messages. The case examples are excellent.
Worst is probably large family gatherings where there’s lots of people I want to talk to and lots of people that want to talk to me (also because who wants to be that family member working on the phone in the corner). I loved working remotely while we were in Maui for a couple weeks. Nothing beats working on the balcony overlooking the ocean.