Remote Work At Fog Creek Software
New York, NY
* As of May 2016
Fog Creek Software Remote Company Q&A
Allie Schwartz, VP People & Operations - Interview with Remote.co
What does your remote-friendly company do?
Fog Creek Software makes developer tools to help the world’s best programmers make better software. We make Fogbugz, Kiln & Hyperdev. We also created Trello, which spun off into its own company in 2014.
Did you switch to remote or start out that way?
No, we made the switch after 13 years. We made the transition initially to allow long time creekers to move away from New York, it was kind of our test to see if remote work worked for us. Then we began to hire remotely.
How important is remote work to your business model?
Our philosophy is if you hire the smartest people and give them everything they need to create, they’ll make the best products. Hiring remotely has allowed us to continue to be competitive, and to take that first step that makes the whole process work.
What do you consider the biggest benefits of a remote workforce?
It allows us to hire the best people, regardless of where they are. It also gives our employees unparalleled flexibility to travel, move, do for their families, etc., which makes them happier and more productive.
How do you conduct interviews for remote jobs?
We use appear.in to conduct our remote interviews. We typically set up a room we use for the entire day so the candidate only has to remember/navigate to one place. Then we have the interviewers jump in and out as their portions of the process begin/end. Our interviewers alert each other privately in our Recruiting Slack channel when they’re finishing up an interview so that the next person can be on deck. We never leave the candidate alone in the appear.in, and we make sure to offer plenty of time for breaks along the way.
How do you conduct onboarding for remote workers?
We typically bring new remote employees to the office for their first week. We bring their team in as well so that training and onboarding can happen in person. We also use our sister company’s product, Trello, to create an onboarding board tailored to each new hire. The board has lots of background about Fog Creek and lays out important tasks for the new hire to complete before the end of his/her first week (ex: filling out paperwork, etc.) At the end of the week, I (Allie) meet with each new hire to go over particularly important things on the Trello board, explain our company org chart, and to get the new hire an opportunity to ask questions
Do you organize remote team retreats?
Yes – see my blog where I wrote the definitive guide to planning an offsite.
Do your remote team members meet in person?
We meet in person once a year at our all company offsite. Last year we went to a resort in Austin and this year we’re going to Colorado!
We also give each team the opportunity to get together once a year at a location of their choosing for a team offsite.
Individually, if our remotes want to come see us at HQ, we cover the cost of the flight or hotel once a year. If we’re asking someone to come in for work reasons, we put them up for the full week. This happens typically in the case of a remote employees first week – we bring the new employee and his/her team to the office for training.
What elements are key to successful working relationships with remote teams?
Communication is absolutely the most critical part of having a successful relationship with your remote employees. Not only is there a need for a lot of channels, but also for a creation of a common language and process through which you and your remotes can chat.
What is the hardest part about managing a remote workforce?
Managing a remote work force isn’t terribly hard as long as your rapport with your remote employees is strong. Doing the initial work during onboarding and offsites to build trust amongst employees and managers goes a long way toward making remote management simple.
How do you keep remote employees engaged and feeling part of the bigger picture?
We do a lot of remote fun-time activities to help our remotes enjoy the jovial parts of our office culture. We have remote beer bashes, play remote trivia, have a once a weekly optional all company remote meeting just to chat and hang out with one another, and we even give our remotes vacation time when our HQ employees are out of the office taking part in one of our traditional New York based summertime excursions.
What is your time off policy for remote workers?
Each Fog Creek employee gets unlimited sick time and 20 vacation days per year. After being an employee for 3 years, that vacation time bumps up to 25 days.
How did you implement a remote work policy?
We put certain formal rules in place, but the culture of our remote teams continues to organically form. We pay close attention to our remotes, get a lot of feedback, and form policies based on what they need/want. For example – as our teams have grown, we’ve added communication coaching & tools and changed our offsite and structure to better suit teams’ needs.
What advice would you give to a team considering to go remote?
Communication between remote teams can make or break them. Remote teams function very differently than teams that are entirely in house – work hard to teach your employees how to communicate remotely.
What challenges have you encountered building a remote team?
Personality conflicts are particularly difficult to resolve remotely. We’ve found that when a team is having a hard time seeing eye to eye, the only real way to move things forward is to get everyone in a room together.
What are the most effective tools for remote team communication?
Once a year, at our annual all company offsite, we sit down all together and talk about communication, our channels, how we give and get feedback, and what speaking respectfully means to us as individuals and as a team. Having the company decide together how we’re going to go about communicating makes everyone responsible for keeping the process alive and healthy.
How do you personally manage work-life balance?
I try to make sure that when I’m at work, I’m at work, and when I’m at home, I’m at home. I don’t have my work email or Slack on my phone, and I don’t read my personal email during the day.
What is your favorite business book?
I like the Harvard Business Review Books on Managing People and Change Management, and I love “The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni.