Remote Work At Canonical
* As of January 2020
Canonical Remote Company Q&A
Claire O’Connell, Director, People & Culture - Interview with Remote.co
What does your remote-friendly company do?
Canonical was created alongside Ubuntu to help it reach a wider market. Our services help governments and businesses the world over with migrations, management and support for their Ubuntu deployments. Together with our partners, we ensure that Ubuntu runs reliably on every platform from the PC and the smartphone to the server and, crucially, the cloud.
Did you switch to remote or start out that way?
Yes, Canonical has always had a remote workforce.
How important is remote work to your business model?
Everything you do at Canonical has the potential to improve millions of people’s lives and have a real impact in the world. We have a long-term vision, and work at a fast pace to make the future happen now. To achieve this we need to view the world through global lens, tapping into the best talent in the industry, regardless of their location. Our very approach provides us with a market of talent that may have been overlooked due to their ability to travel to a traditional office, further supporting diversity across the organisation.
What do you consider the biggest benefits of a remote workforce?
Not being limited by Visa’s / office space. A melting pot of different cultures and ways of approaching work allows Canonical to benefit from diversity and variety in everything we do. Employees can undertake their work free of stressful commutes and comfortable in their own environment.
What were the main reasons to integrate remote work into your workforce?
As an Open source company we are already supported by the Ubuntu community that has a global reach. It made sense for us to have the same approach to permanent employees and thus potentially being able to engage the Ubuntu community in every country with the ability to offer permanent employment to the right people.
What traits do you look for in candidates for a remote job?
Although our focus is always on academic rigor, skills and experience, if a candidate has prior experience in home working and a stable career then this is always reassuring.
How do you convey your remote culture in the recruiting process?
There is an emphasis on the diversity within the workforce, opportunities for travel and how home workers allow us to have coverage as an employer across every continent. It allows us to engage the Ubuntu communities in more places and offers employees the flexibility to be home based.
Do you use third party testing or evaluation services when hiring remote workers?
Depending on the position, we will utilize a background check service to conduct a background check on that specific person.
Do you have remote communication protocols for your remote workers?
As with an office based role, remote workers are required to be available during the working day. Generally most managers will establish the norms, as appropriate to the role and timezones.
There are various tools used to support instant and general communication, email, Internet Relay Chat (IRC), and video calls. If a remote worker is in a meeting or away from their desk we encourage them to update their IRC to reflect this (AFK).
Do your remote team members meet in person?
At any point across the year there will be teams attending ‘sprints’ in locations across the globe. Sprints provide an architect for groups to come together for training, working sessions and valuable team social time.
How do you measure the productivity of remote workers?
- Quality of work completed
- Customer satisfaction
- Ability to meet deadlines
- Feedback from the business/360 Reviews
- Performance Reviews
- Objective Setting
What elements are key to successful working relationships with remote teams?
As with any successful recipe, there are a number of important ingredients to a successful remote working organisation. These include:
- Establishing a culture of trust in our people, products and services.
- Top down approach to empower and engage our employees, ensuring clear communication and expectations are set and shared.
- Using the right tools. Google Hangouts are a lot more personable than a phone call while obviously not as personal as a face to face meeting. This seems to be a happy medium for home workers that ensures they do not feel isolated and still have people they can physically identify with as colleagues.
What is the hardest part about managing a remote workforce?
Without the luxury of seeing colleagues each day, it can, at times, take longer to identify issues. For this reason managers need to see engagement and communication as key priorities for their team.
What is your BYOD policy for remote workers?
Canonical requires that all team members (remote or office based) use their own device. Team members have the flexibility to choose their preferred laptop or desktop of their choosing and download Ubuntu as their OS.
What is your time off policy for remote workers?
When working with a globally remote workforce, it’s important to observe local laws, regulations, and customs. We observe country specific holidays and offer a leave policy anywhere from 15-25 days off per calendar year depending on the location.
To support the work life balance of our workforce, Canonical provides team members ‘Swap days’ which can be used to make up for time lost due to travel requirements.
How do you nurture your company’s culture in a remote work environment?
There are a number of events and all staff communications that strengthen relationships and ensure we have an engaged, high performing organisations. At any point across the year there will be teams attending ‘sprints’ in locations across the globe. Sprints provide an architect for groups to come together for training, working sessions and valuable team social time.
What advice would you give to a team considering to go remote?
Anyone can work from home but it is vitally important that the right people are hired to work in such an environment. Many people value being with colleagues and an office atmosphere. While working from home can sound immediately appealing to most, it is important to put emphasis on the challenges of working within a globally dispersed team and the need for a particular mindset to be successful.
What challenges have you encountered building a remote team?
Finding the people who are happy working from home in the long term rather than just having a short term appeal. Each country brings a different culture, customs and employment laws that all have to be considered with each new employee.
What has changed about how your remote team operates?
Remote working had previously not been as widespread as it is becoming. New tools and ways of working has made it easier to accommodate home workers. The world is becoming smaller which makes regular sprints / meetings easier as well.
What is your personal remote work environment?
I work from my home office in Florida, USA.
How do you personally manage work-life balance?
Establish trust, make deliberate choices, be proactive, be organised and place equal importance on work and family. The scales may never be completely in balance as priorities, in both work and personal life, change so it’s important to remain flexible.
Do you have a favorite quote or bit of business wisdom?
When you really listen to another person from their point of view, and reflect back to them that understanding, it’s like giving them emotional oxygen. Steven Covey
Live your dreams, don’t dream your life.