ezhome Remote Company Q&A
Liz Peterson, Operations Manager - Interview with Remote.co
What does your remote-friendly company do?
We are a home services company. We’re using data and technology and full-time service professionals to revolutionize the way U.S. consumers maintain and improve their homes.
How important is remote work to your business model?
Remote work is key to our success and fundamental to our identity. Co-founder and CTO Odysseas Tastalos previously founded oDesk, now Upwork, and is passionate about providing the best work opportunities for the best talent regardless of location. Additionally, our eagerness to hire remote gives us access to a global talent pool and allows us to hire experts without the typical challenges of market constraints.
What do you consider the biggest benefits of a remote workforce?
There are many! One of the biggest benefits is the fact that we increase the talent pool we can pull from. We’re able to give employees a really awesome and interesting work opportunity while they live in an environment that makes them most happy. It may be a nomadic lifestyle or living outside of a major city where very the best companies are located.
What were the main reasons to integrate remote work into your workforce?
It is in one of our founder’s blood that remote work is the best way to work. We want to be able to hire the best people for a given job, not the best people available in a given market, and remote work allows us to be able to do this.
What traits do you look for in candidates for a remote job?
Working remotely and working for a startup requires a high level of autonomy and action. The ability to “find answers” and “figure it out” are crucial to a new employee’s success. Throughout our interview process we may intentionally be a little ambiguous about requirements to see if a person is able to find the information that they need on their own or if they are crippled by the lack of detailed instructions. This isn’t meant to be frustrating, but actually as a way for us to understand if there’s a good match.
How do you conduct interviews for remote jobs?
Our interviews for remote workers happen over Skype and Google Hangouts video calls.
Additionally, some candidates are also able to partake in a bootcamp, which is a paid trial. This allows us to see how we work with this person in a true work environment and allows them to experience what it’s like working with us. It’s a really great way for potential employees to know if they love working our hours, with our team, etc., or if there are parts (e.g., GMT time requirement) that are too difficult given their lifestyle.
Do your remote team members meet in person?
Absolutely. We have some very structured events such as week-long annual engineering team meetups. Many of our remote team members also come by headquarters in Palo Alto on an annual (or more often) basis so they are able to build stronger relationships with teammates and see our operations happening live.
Also, wherever we’re traveling, we look for opportunities to stop by each other’s home cities. It’s lots of fun to meet people in-person who you’ve been working with for months, and additionally you get lots of insider tips on great cities all over the world.
How do you measure the productivity of remote workers?
We are a very metrics-oriented company. Every employee knows the company’s annual and quarterly Objectives and Key Results (ORKs) and corresponding Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). On a quarterly basis each employee reviews their previous quarter’s results and also sets individual OKRs for the upcoming quarter. It’s an exercise that keeps us very focused and enables all employees to prioritize their work on a daily basis.
What elements are key to successful working relationships with remote teams?
Trust and transparency. In order for our team to work together effectively across locations and time zones there must be a very high level of both trust and transparency across the company. Trust for people to get their jobs done and transparency so they can do so even if half or more of the company is not online.
How do you keep remote employees engaged and feeling part of the bigger picture?
We do this in lots of ways that aren’t too different than if we were all in the same office. We have company-wide, all-hands meetings; weekly questions to the founders; and lots and lots of large Slack channels (for work and fun). Additionally we do things like company newsletters where we profile employees, play company trivia, compete in March Madness, and have health-month competitions—similar things you’d see in an office environment.
What is your time off policy for remote workers?
We have an unlimited paid time off policy for all of our staff. It’s easier for employees to simply work with their manager to take the time off that they need to stay refreshed and engaged vs. having to work within the confines of a restricted number.
How did you implement a remote work policy?
We implemented a remote work policy formally. After our founders, our first two employees were remote—one in Wisconsin and another in Ukraine—and since then we’ve been growing both our HQ and global team focusing on finding the best people for the job regardless of location.
What advice would you give to a team considering to go remote?
Building a successful remote workforce doesn’t happen 100% naturally. It takes intentional effort.
What challenges have you encountered building a remote team?
Remote workforces are amazing, but they have their own unique challenges, just as a local workforce does. While in-person, one-off conversations may work great for local decision-making, in a remote work environment, written documentation becomes much more important for scaling knowledge sharing.
Additionally, the ability to access information regardless of perceived need is crucial. For us, everything (Google Docs, Slack channels, etc.) is accessible to anyone at ezhome by default and is only made private if it is truly confidential.
What are the most effective tools for remote team communication?
We’re power users of Slack (in two years we’ve sent more than 10,000,000 messages!), Google Hangouts, and shared documents via Google and Dropbox.
Additionally, whenever possible, we try to get the team together. Whether this is for an international engineering meetup, remote lunches, or Field Manager Invasion at headquarters, we don’t underestimate the impact of in-person interactions.
How does your team address different time zone challenges?
Our entire company is online from 3pm-7pm GMT which means we have a 4-hour window for all hands meetings, daily standups, and the off-hand meeting or video call that will help overall productivity. This works great for some time zones and is more difficult for others. We know it’s a restriction and will narrow our pool of potential employees, but for us this overlap is highly important.
What are the biggest benefits of being a remote worker?
I used to live in San Francisco and loved my job at Dropbox. However, when my husband was offered an opportunity to move to Barcelona with work and we had the seemingly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live abroad, we knew we had to take it!
Then came the difficulty of navigating a new location, new language, and new work environment. Remote work is perfect for me for two reasons:
- I’m able to continue to work in a market (Silicon Valley!) and industry (Tech!) that I know and love.
- I do not have to sacrifice my personal life to do so. This means both living in the same city as my husband and having the flexibility to travel lots while maintaining a full-time job.
What tips do you have to disconnect when working remotely?
Just do it. Yes, it’s easier said than done, and I’ll admit I’m not perfect at this yet, but at the end of the day, you just have to disconnect. Just do it.
Turn off Slack notifications and don’t check email after a certain time of day. Let your co-workers know your working hours and be true to yourself by sticking to these. If you don’t, you can get onto the slippery slope of always being connected which is a quick slide down to burnout. Do yourself and do your company a favor by knowing and communicating your limits.
What is your favorite business book?
It’s not necessarily a business book, but a book that resonates with me in my work and makes a lot of sense for the ezhome business as well: The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.