Incsub Remote Company Q&A
Ronnie Burt, Product Manager - Interview with Remote.co
Incsub is a team of WordPress experts behind the projects of wpmudev.com, edublogs.org, and campuspress.com.
Growing the team remotely has given us quite a few advantages. We get the best of the best in new hires thanks to a completely global applicant pool. And having team members in all timezones makes it easy for us to support our customers and respond to anything at all hours of the day. Someone is always around when needed. This is especially important as our business is global too, with customers in nearly every single country in the world.
The biggest benefit would be that we have the freedom to hire the best candidate for positions regardless of their location. I personally consider the flexibility of working remotely as our greatest perk. Not only are we remote, but we have flexibility in our daily schedules, vacation time, etc. Many of us have taken months-long trips around Europe, for example, while keeping up with work responsibilities. Being remote has been great for striking that work-life balance.
We have been a boot-strapped business from the beginning, having never outspent our revenue, taken any loans, or investor money. This means we have to be much more careful with handling how we grow. There is usually way less overhead with hiring remotely too.
We rely heavily on written communication. So candidates that may have a great background or experience, but that are not precise in their communication, seem to not understand our written instructions for the short test projects, or are slow to reply, won’t make the cut.
The most important trait is eagerness – which is often shown by demonstrating an understanding in what we do. The majority of people we hire have actually interacted with us already as a customer in some capacity.
Our hiring process generally starts with some small “interview project” we ask candidates to complete related to the position. We hardly ever do traditional interviews at all. The ‘interview project’ is designed to be completed in the amount of time someone may prepare for and attend the traditional interview.
We also always start out with a trial/probation period for each new hire allowing the new employee to complete a larger project. We typically give the option during this trial period for the employee to work part time so they can continue on with any existing job they have until they know it will work out with us.
We have lost a few people during this trial period – some our decision, and some the candidates. Ultimately, this allows us way more insight than a traditional interview process would into how good of a fit someone is for our team (and how good of a fit we are for the candidate).
This varies depending on the team. But at minimum, all emails should be returned by the next business day, and chats replied to as soon as they are seen. We are all to be signed into our chat service whenever working.
We aren’t too formal in this area, but our project management tool keeps track of everyone’s tasks as they are completed. The entire team can see the status of a project and how much work is completed and when at any time.
It really isn’t that different than in a traditional office environment. Employees that know expectations and plans, have access to the tools and resources they need, and are included in regular (two-way) communication, will be successful.
We ask that everyone let their team members know about any planned time off with as much advance notice as possible. There’s not limit, but everyone is always expected to make sure there projects are taken care of.
We were 100% remote for the first 7 or 8 years of the company. How we work remotely has changed considerably as we’ve grown from a small team of just a handful of employees to the larger and separate teams we have today.
How we work and communicate is something we certainly will continue to work on. We’ve gone through cycles of relying heavily on email, to regular skypes and hangouts, too, as we are at the moment, regular real-time chat communication via ‘Slack’.
Working remotely can be isolating, especially for new hires that are used to traditional office settings. Companies should encourage employees to participate in local activities, relevant meetups, co-working groups, and the like, to foster those face-to-face relationships.
Also, it is even more important in remote environments to make sure new employees get as much attention during the onboarding period as possible. Having a mentor that handles a similar position, for example, as a go-to for questions is a great start. And making sure that employee expectations are very clear – like hours to work, how quick emails or chat messages should be replied to, who to notify when not working, etc.
Planning around time zones may be our biggest challenge. For example, when two people are working on the same project, one in Australia and the other in the US, it can be much slower to reply to emails, as they’ll probably each just get one reply in per day. If both were in the same timezone, they could share several back and forth within the same day. Scheduling hangouts for voice chats can be even more of a challenge. It requires flexibility by all to sometimes have chats at odd hours late in the evening or early in the morning.
Several times a week I will take a few hours during the regular work day to go do something fun – usually the gym, tennis with friends, or a run. I’ll then usually make up for this by catching up for a few hours during an evening or on the weekends.
I also have developed a group of friends that work remotely for different companies. We try and meetup regularly to work and have lunch.
Worst: Whenever getting my car’s oil changed or something else done. At least the time is productive.
Best: Anytime I find myself sitting on a patio at a restaurant on a day with really nice weather. I think of all the people stuck in their offices while I am hard at work, perhaps with a cold pint nearby.