Remote Work At Automattic
San Francisco, CA
* As of December 2019
Automattic Remote Company Q&A
Sara Rosso, Marketing Manager & Lori McLeese, Head of HR - Interview with Remote.co
What does your remote-friendly company do?
Automattic Inc. is a web development company founded in 2005. We are best known for operating WordPress.com – a popular publishing and blogging platform – and for our contributions to the open source WordPress software.
How important is remote work to your business model?
It’s essential! Automattic started from the very beginning as a distributed company. It didn’t happen gradually, it was from the start.
What do you consider the biggest benefits of a remote workforce?
It allows us to find talent wherever they live, and this can open a company up to a lot of possibilities. As most technology companies know, finding and hiring talent is one of the biggest problems they face. It also allows for a truly flexible work environment. We don’t have set office hours because we have people working in all time zones. People can work the hours that work best for them.
What were the main reasons to integrate remote work into your workforce?
The first Automatticians were already collaborating remotely together on the WordPress open source project, so when the company was formed it was a natural fit to not have a base and to grow it in a distributed way.
What traits do you look for in candidates for a remote job?
We look for people that are self-starters/have a high degree of independence, value continuous learning, and are receptive to feedback. If during the trial process a candidate needs a lot of “hand holding” and waits for specific instructions before moving forward on work, they probably won’t be a good fit.
How do you conduct interviews for remote jobs?
We conduct them largely via text chat. It’s a good introduction for the person interviewing about how we communicate (very heavily text-based) and this also allows us to be able to interview people in different timezones no matter where the interviewer is located. The applicant also does a short, paid trial with us so that we can both experience how it is to work together and if there’s a good fit.
Do you have remote communication protocols for your remote workers?
No, we don’t have any directives for this as we operate on a largely asynchronous basis – people are used to working with or needing input from people in different time zones and buffer this into their work accordingly.
Do your remote team members meet in person?
Yes, our teams meet 1-2 times a year as a team and work together, somewhere in the world. Then, we have the entire company get together once a year and people usually do projects or work with colleagues they don’t usually interact with, and in general just get to know each other.
How do you measure the productivity of remote workers?
Since almost all of our communication is through writing, it’s easy to see who is making progress on their goals through updates on the P2s, lines of code committed, or pull requests.
What is your time off policy for remote workers?
We have an open time off policy, which translates to take the time off that you need. We ask each person to discuss time off with their team lead and post to a time off P2. That way, it’s transparent when people are available and when they’re offline.
Can a remote-friendly company have a healthy culture?
Yes. Our company culture is based on shared values. We have a company full of independent people who love making the web a better place. We’re collaborative, and love working together, whether that’s online or in person.
How do you nurture your company’s culture in a remote work environment?
Our creed includes the statement, “I will communicate as much as possible, because it’s the oxygen of a distributed company.” We communicate through P2s (WordPress.com blogs that use the P2 theme), Slack, and video hangouts. We communicate not only about work projects, but also about personal things. We have watercooler P2s that focus on music, games, literature, fitness, home ownership, pets, tattoos – about just about anything that creates a bond between Automatticians. We have one all company meetup each year, where we all gather for a week to work on projects together, learn new skills, and socialize together. We encourage product teams to get together once or twice a year in person for the same reasons.
What advice would you give to a team considering to go remote?
It has to be something embraced at every level of the company, or the old ways of working will still prevail.
What challenges have you encountered building a remote team?
If this is the first time someone has worked remotely, they may not anticipate that they may have feelings of isolation. We pair people with a mentor in a similar time zone when they first join, so they have a designated person to chat with if they have questions about how we operate, or if they just want to chat. We provide a USD 250/month co-working allowance if Automatticians would like to work with others on a regular basis.
What has changed about how your remote team operates?
When Automattic first started, everyone reported to Matt (Mullenweg, our founder). When we reached about 50 people, we divided into teams. The teams have evolved over time. We’re open to experimentation with our organization structure, because we want to continue to have as little hierarchy and bureaucracy as possible.
Where is the best or worst place you’ve worked remotely?
Airplanes can be the best and worst place to work, depending on your seatmates and the flight. I often get some of my best thinking time on airplanes (especially transatlantic flights) because they’re one of the few places where you have fewer interruptions.