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Remote Work at Canonical

Team Members
London, UK
*As of September 2015
Canonical Team

Canonical Team

Canonical Remote Company Q&A
Claire O’Connell, Director, People & Culture - Interview with Remote.co

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.

Yes, Canonical has always had a remote workforce.

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.

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.

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.

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.  

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.

Depending on the position, we will utilize a background check service to conduct a background check on that specific person.  

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).

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.

  • Quality of work completed
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Ability to meet deadlines
  • Results
  • Feedback from the business/360 Reviews
  • Performance Reviews
  • Objective Setting

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.

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.

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.  

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

I work from my home office in Florida, USA.  

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.

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.