Remote Work At Bitovi
* As of December 2019
Bitovi Remote Company Q&A
Paula Strozak, Chief Business Officer - Interview with Remote.co
We help build amazing applications.
Our team is comprised of expert-level developers and designers. We offer development, training, and user experience/design services, as well as open-source tools and products. Bitovi’s open-source tools power the web applications we build for our clients.
We started out as remote.
Extremely important! Remote work gives us the flexibility to work with the best talent anywhere and everywhere in the world. It has enabled Bitovi to create a team with varied perspectives, skill sets, experiences, and backgrounds, which best supports our mission to deliver amazing applications.
We find the following are great bonuses of a remote workforce:
- Talent – A remote workforce makes it possible to connect and work with the best talent from around the world.
- Flexibility –
- With our clients: We can resource our projects to match clients time zones when possible and stagger team member work hours so clients have maximum support.
- For ourselves: Working remotely allows you to work from wherever you choose in an environment and location that is best suited to each individual. We’ve had team members travel to Europe or India without having to take one day of PTO.
- More time – There are no commutes, dress codes, or mandated reasons to shower every day (I half kid about this last one!), which means more time to spend on things that matter to each individual whether it’s work or personal.
- Employee happiness – Remote work enables employees to work and live wherever and however they choose. This puts each individual in a position to make the work/life choices that line up best with their lifestyle and goals.
Bitovi’s founders Justin Meyer (CEO) and Brian Moschel (CTO) set out to create a team to build amazing applications the right way. With this as the driving mission, remote work was a natural choice.
We use Google Hangouts to conduct a number of video interviews. If a candidate makes it through these, the final interview is conducted in person in Chicago. Despite being remote, an in-person interview is still a mandatory practice for us.
We do not have explicit communication norms set for our team. In terms of responding to communications, it depends on a number of factors and we trust our team to make the judgement call regarding when they have time to answer and what is appropriate to the situation.
There are two key things we overemphasis related to communication that are part of our core operating principles:
- Set Expectations: Work is often fuzzy, especially when you’re on a remote team. We constantly work with our team to set and update expectations responsibly, transparently, and honestly. In reality, this might include sending a short email summary with next steps and owners after a meeting or being honest with a client about a potential project delay, immediately, regardless of who is at fault.
- Ask questions: We encourage our team to build a mental model by asking questions—quickly, loudly, and shamelessly. We’ve learned that the best Bitovians have no shame when it comes to asking questions. We coach our team to build a gap-free mental model of every problem or proposed solution, to never spin their wheels when stuck, and to lean on each other for efficient answers. In the words of Brian, our CTO, “Our collective team efficiency is much more important than any one person not being distracted.”
Yes! We organize three all-company events per year. One focused on working together on specific company projects, one focused on training, and another focused on annual planning and goals.
We’ve learned that it’s very important to give our team “free or unstructured time” during these weeks to get to know each other, bond, and hang out on their own. Initially we scheduled a lot of activities and received feedback that it was too much and therefore not as fun as we had hoped. As a result we’ve minimize pre-scheduled team meals or fun activities to one to two per week and let the rest happen organically.
Bitovi has three annual all-company events. We get together as a company three times per year to work together for three to five days each time. We work hard these weeks but also set aside time to have fun and hang out together. We always leave these weeks feeling re-energized and, as a result, more motivated. Past retreat locations have included Austin, Las Vegas, Chicago, and Amelia Island to name a few.
We have monthly meetings to communicate company updates, discuss and track progress towards our company goals, and conduct project demos.
On a more individual level, regularly scheduled (quick) project check-ins are conducted monthly with all project teams and one-on-ones are held with all team members every eight weeks. We also encourage a peer one-on-one program for team members to meet monthly and connect about anything and everything of their choice.
Lastly, our team has numerous Slack channels. We have channels for everything from #client projects and #general company information to #fitness, #music, #hobbies, #dogs, and #parenting to encourage interaction between our team members and facilitate the “water cooler” conversations in a non-traditional way.
We offer 20-26 paid time off (PTO) days and seven paid holidays. The PTO days vary based on how long you’ve worked for the company.
Bitovi started with remote work from the beginning and the rest is history.
Ensure your culture and management support it. It’s one thing to allow remote work, but it’s another to fully support it.
If “face time” and in-person attendance plays a role in how successful one is at your company, it may not be a great option to give employees. However, if you can cultivate a culture to enable remote work and a management team to support it, then give it a try.
If you do go down this path, ensure there are clear expectations in place and everyone is aligned. Also keep in mind that remote work is not for everyone. You will need to review your hiring process to align with it and you may have a few employees leave in the process who may not be an ideal fit.
Onboarding – It can be challenging to onboard new hires who have never worked remotely before. Day one looks quite different being remote vs. being in person. We’ve learned that the ideal time to onboard a new hire is right before a company-wide event so they can meet the entire team in person in the first month or two. We constantly get feedback that the company events are the clincher to making someone new instantly feel like part of the team!
Turning Work Off – While remote work offers flexibility, that flexibility also has a downside. With the ability to work anywhere, it can be hard to turn work off some days. This can lead to inefficiencies and burnout in severe cases. Setting boundaries for yourself and being respectful of other’s time during their “off hours” helps with this challenge.
Feeling Isolated – In the words of one Bitovian, Lela Kodai, “Just because you work physically alone, doesn’t mean you have to be lonely.” It’s critical to be pro-active about setting aside time to connect with others, whether that includes making social plans in the evenings, setting aside time for casual Slack chats with coworkers, or grabbing lunch with someone. Setting aside time to interact with others and being conscious about your individual needs are important aspects of remote work.
We use a number of communication tools and place an emphasis on over communicating. Our daily internal communication tools includes Slack, email, Google Hangouts, Zoom, and Screenhero. In addition, we document internal information in a company wiki that we call the “Brain” on GitHub and use a number of technical tools in our development and design project teams.
I set aside separate space for work. When work is over, I shut my laptop and put it out of sight in an effort to disconnect work from my family life. I also put my cell phone in a kitchen drawer until my kids go to bed. I may check it once or twice but I’ve found that an “out of sight, out of mind” strategy helps me check it less and spend quality time with my family.
I make it a goal to stick to set hours, understanding there will be times and days I work outside those hours but my set hours are my “norm.”
I try to get out of the house 1-2 times per week. For me, this means working at my local coffee shop or maybe grabbing lunch out of the house. It breaks up my week and helps keep me focused.
Happiness is a journey, not a destination.
Worst would be any coffee shop where the Internet goes out. I’ve had video calls stopped dead in their tracks due to this. Thank goodness for Google Hangout sessions on cell phones as a back up though.
The best is the beach while on a long vacation with my family.