Remote Work At Edgar
* As of February 2020
Edgar Remote Company Q&A
Tom VanBuren, Content Manager - Interview with Remote.co
What does your remote-friendly company do?
We’re a SaaS company, and our signature product is Edgar, a social media scheduling tool. Edgar makes it faster and easier for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and bloggers to share and re-share their content on social.
Did you switch to remote or start out that way?
Yes! Our company has been 100% remote since day one.
How important is remote work to your business model?
Remote work is extremely important to our business model! In theory, we could do what we do from a central location like an office, but we don’t have to. That means we get the flexibility of hiring the best person for any position regardless of where they are, which in turn means we can create a better product and grow a more successful business. In many ways, working remotely actually helps us build and maintain a more cohesive team, because we get to focus on priorities other than someone’s location on a map!
What do you consider the biggest benefits of a remote workforce?
Getting to choose from a wider, more diverse pool of candidates is an obvious benefit – we get to focus on what makes a candidate a good fit for the job and for our company, rather than just hoping the right person lives within a certain geographic radius. We also benefit from significantly lower overhead, because we’re not paying to maintain a physical office that our company simply doesn’t need.
Ultimately, the benefits of working remotely extend to our employees as individuals, too – not just the company itself. Everyone enjoys a level of freedom that would be significantly more difficult to maintain otherwise, whether that means they can travel, take care of a family, move, or just work in the comfort of their favorite onesie. The work/life balance benefits are huge, and being able to offer those benefits is important to us.
What were the main reasons to integrate remote work into your workforce?
Our company has always been 100% remote, and a big part of that has been because it all started with one person! We’re completely bootstrapped, so the company evolved from what started as a social media coaching business to info products to, eventually, the development of Edgar. As the company grew, so did its needs, and we’ve been able to grow one person at a time by always finding the best candidate for any given job, wherever they may be.
What traits do you look for in candidates for a remote job?
Written communication is a big deal in a remote company – after all, this is how we communicate with each other for the majority of the work we do. We also look specifically for people who are highly self-motivated, with a natural inclination toward working closely with a team. Remote work is ideal for people who prefer isolation over collaboration, but our company’s structure is very team-oriented, so we look for people who are interested in that sense of connection.
How do you convey your remote culture in the recruiting process?
We’re completely transparent about our company values and culture in everything we do, including our actual job listings. We don’t want anyone to have to wonder about what type of company culture we maintain – and our applicants frequently cite our culture as something that made them enthusiastic about applying!
What is your hiring process for remote workers?
We very rarely get to meet people in-person during the interview process, so we hold multiple video calls in order to expose applicants to a diverse cross-section of our company. This gives us a more well-rounded idea of who they are, and allows them to better understand who we are and how we work from different perspectives. We also rely heavily on test projects for our top applicants, so that we can get a reliable feel for what it would be like working with them – not just in terms of the quality of their work, but in regard to their communication habits, and how they adapt to the demands of remote collaboration.
Do you have remote communication protocols for your remote workers?
We treat Slack like our “office” – when you’re working, you’re logged in, and when you’re not, you’re not. We don’t have time-based response rules, but if you don’t log in to Slack, it’s the equivalent of not showing up for work. Ultimately, this makes it easy to maintain consistent work/life balance for everyone – if somebody isn’t on Slack, you know they can’t be expected to respond to (or even see) anything you send their way.
Do your remote team members meet in person?
We do! Twice a year, we gather the team for weeklong retreats, so we can both work together and get to spend quality time getting to know one another outside of a work environment. Because our company always grows between retreats, it’s also a great opportunity for new hires to get comfortable with the team, and develop a rapport with their coworkers!
Our company’s growth has also meant that individual teams within the company are expanding, so we’re now encouraging those internal teams to arrange smaller, shorter coworking trips, as well. It gives them the time and opportunity to strengthen their own bonds, and to focus on their own priorities without budgeting time for company-wide activities, too.
What elements are key to successful working relationships with remote teams?
Communication and trust are the two most important things – and if you want them, you need to empower your team and give them the resources they need to succeed. In some cases, that means tools that simplify communication and task management, like Slack, Zoom, and Asana. Sometimes it means making sure they have consistent access to information – we maintain a company wiki full of how-to guides, important files, and more. And sometimes, it just means establishing clear boundaries, especially between work time and home time. What starts as a “make your own hours” policy can easily turn into an expectation that remote employees are always available, and in our experience, it works better for both the business and its team members to establish a clear distinction between expected working hours and time off.
What is the hardest part about managing a remote workforce?
Making sure everybody has the same access to information, which is a matter of making information both available and easy to find. We manage this by using tools that allow us to centralize information – in the past, that’s included private wikis, but has shifted over time toward Google Drive and other internal help doc databases. (We’ve found that as a company scales up, wikis can grow unwieldy – information is added without the central oversight it often needs to stay organized.)
How did you implement a remote work policy?
Organically. We don’t even have a headquarters-type office – we’ve always hired remotely.
Can a remote-friendly company have a healthy culture?
Absolutely – if anything, it’s especially important for a remote company! It takes extra effort to prevent the remote work experience from feeling isolating, so an inclusive and welcoming attitude is always important to maintaining a healthy culture. Along those lines, it also helps to manufacture the aspects that people might miss from a traditional work environment. For example, our company maintains a Slack room dedicated exclusively to watercooler-type conversation, and individual teams hold short daily standups that help them stay connected both professionally and personally. Generally, the risks of team members isolating themselves are far greater than those of over-communicating, so create an environment in which communication happens as organically as possible.
How do you nurture your company’s culture in a remote work environment?
It all starts with the hiring process – we put a lot of time and effort into hiring people who embody our values, like taking ownership, choosing kindness, and providing value. We document those values and make sure we reinforce them with our behavior and in our daily operations, too. Treating our company and each other with respect is a team effort – it’s up to everyone here to lead by example and maintain a culture of positivity and communication!
What advice would you give to a team considering to go remote?
Hire carefully! Some people may be excellent candidates for an open position, but not necessarily the best candidates for a remote work environment. Pay close attention to their speed and style of communication – are they reliable, accessible, and effective at articulating themselves? Do they seem frustrated by the unique demands of remote collaboration? (A good way to answer these questions is to assign a test project as part of the hiring process, so you can get a sense of what working with them might be like.)
What challenges have you encountered building a remote team?
We still haven’t quite figured out a remote equivalent of bringing in donuts for the team! (Though we once arranged surprise, synchronized pizza delivery for everyone at lunchtime.)
What has changed about how your remote team operates?
The biggest things that have changed are directly related to scalability – the routines and policies we maintained as a team of six people just aren’t as relevant or effective for what’s now a team of 16. For example, we’ve significantly cut back on the amount of time we spend in company-wide meetings, and replaced them with smaller departmental meetings. Making changes like this help us stay efficient and respect everyone’s time as we grow.
How do you personally manage work-life balance?
I prefer to maintain a distinct separation between my work life and my personal life – it makes it easier to focus when I’m working and to get out of that headspace when I’m not! While a lot of my teammates love working from home, I go to a coworking space every day, because keeping those physical spaces separate is important to me. I don’t check my work email during off hours – I don’t even use the same browser for personal stuff that I use for work! Keeping strict boundaries like these makes it a lot easier for me to maintain a healthy work/life balance for myself.
Do you have a favorite quote or bit of business wisdom?
“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” (Earl Nightingale)