Remote Work At iDoneThis
New York, NY
* As of February 2020
iDoneThis Remote Company Q&A
Leif Singer, Head of Product - Interview with Remote.co
What does your remote-friendly company do?
iDoneThis is a Web-based application that helps your team stay on top of what everyone’s doing. Every evening, we send out an email that asks what you got done. The next morning, we send out a compiled digest of everyone’s replies from the previous day. Apart from email, you can also use our website to enter your accomplishments or comment on your colleagues’ “dones”. We also have a few integrations that help you use iDoneThis within your own context — for example, you can send in your dones via Slack as well.
iDoneThis is a great replacement for daily standups, keeps a history of what a team has achieved, and improves asynchronous communication among team members. While these benefits would help most companies, we believe that they’re especially important for remote companies.
How important is remote work to your business model?
It definitely has a huge influence on how we work, on our processes and conventions. Being remote changes how you communicate — err on the side of too much –, how you collaborate, and even how you celebrate company success.
While many recent tools make that a lot easier, that isn’t enough: how the company works has to default to remote work. When we design a process or a policy for working together, our default assumption has to be that we will be remote. Buying in fully into remote and being aware of it I believe are preconditions to making remote work a success.
What do you consider the biggest benefits of a remote workforce?
The improved access to talented colleagues. If we were all in the same city, we’d be very constrained to hire only those who already live there or who’d be willing to move.
From the perspective of an employee, it’s certainly the gain in flexibility. We have only very few regular meetings scheduled, so if we need to take a break for an hour because of a spontaneous visit to the dentist, that’s not a problem.
Remote work focuses everyone not on time spent at work, but on the results achieved. If someone delivers these results despite deviating from their 9 to 5, nobody will complain.
What were the main reasons to integrate remote work into your workforce?
I wouldn’t say we integrated remote work, but the company grew into it. At one point, everyone but the founders were remote and we liked it.
How do you conduct interviews for remote jobs?
We use Skype and collaborative text editors like Hackpad or PiratePad to work with interviewees. Process-wise, we have a few screening questions and often also small tasks to complete for applicants. If we’re still interested, we’ll schedule a call to get to know them better and, at the last stage, have a longer call with goal-directed tasks for them to do, some collaborative work, and some idle chatter.
One of the most important insights in hiring for us so far has been “If it’s not a ‘Hell, yes!’, it’s a ‘no’.”
How do you measure the productivity of remote workers?
We’re only five people, so we’re not yet in a position where we have to measure everyone’s productivity. We estimate how long projects take. Sometimes they slip and in a post-mortem discuss why that happened. And then we change things.
What elements are key to successful working relationships with remote teams?
If you can, by all means spend a week with new colleagues onsite. That immensely helps in building trust.
Ongoing, having regular video calls helps. Make sure to deliberately schedule for some personal or off-topic chatter to further improve the trust between you.
What is your BYOD policy for remote workers?
Everyone is free to get their devices from the company, but as far as I know everyone’s just using their own machine.
How did you implement a remote work policy?
That grew more organically, even though by now we consciously make decisions that favor remote work.
What advice would you give to a team considering to go remote?
Make it a conscious decision that everyone buys into. Connect with others who’ve made it work and learn from them — but also run your own small experiments to iterate on how your company works.
When hiring, look for motivated people who are eager to learn and want to get things done. To us, that is more important than certain credentials or skills.
What challenges have you encountered building a remote team?
You have to be very deliberate about how you communicate. You have to communicate more and clearer. That takes some getting used to, but in the end I think is a benefit for everyone because we learn how to be better communicators — and that’s helpful in so many more settings than just remote work.
How do you personally manage work-life balance?
With everyone being constantly connected I think it’s important to make sure you get enough downtime from work — even more so in a remote setting where your coworkers might be in the middle of their workday when it’s actually evening for you. I personally make sure to spend the hours around dinner with my family and not look at my phone. When the kids are in bed, I might do some work sometimes, but I’m very deliberate about not letting that become a habit.
What is your favorite business book?
“The Progress Principle” by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer is one of the most important books for our business. The two researchers — and investors in iDoneThis — conducted a study on what motivates people at work and what holds them back. Feeling a bit of progress every day, even if it’s small, was the most important thing they found. The insights from that book guide how we develop our product, and also how we reflect upon our own work.