Remote Work At Referral Rock
* As of December 2019
Referral Rock Remote Company Q&A
Josh Ho, CEO - Interview with Remote.co
Our subscription-based software and services enable businesses of all sizes to run automated referral programs.
We started out as remote from day one.
I believe remote work is core to our people and culture, which in turn is a large part of our business model to stay leaner and more efficient than our competitors.
From a business perspective, I think the biggest benefit is retention and talent. I feel like I can find good people that do great work. They can work in a startup environment and keep good balance in their life.
For me, working from home has been my default state for many years, even before Referral Rock. In the early days, it was just me working alone on the product in my home office on nights and weekends. As the business grew, I added people to assist me and join my team in the way I was already working. We figured to just keep growing this way as we found no compelling reasons to change.
Strong communication and accountability are paramount. Everyone wants that, but without those traits you can’t run a remote organization.
All our interviews are on Zoom with video. From the first screening, through a project review, and to final interviews.
First is how we write our job postings. We try to write them a bit more conversational to convey our culture.
I like to tell interviewees about our people and how we work with specific examples. I feel strongly about having the candidate have a great understanding of what it is like to work at Referral Rock. It’s remote, and not a free-for-all. You do have liberties and freedom, but within our structure.
We don’t do phone screens. We immediately want to do a Zoom video call and set the precedent of how we operate as a company.
We have an internal training course that is led by a key staff member. They learn all about our business, customers, and product. The training is assisted with videos and projects. Overall it should take a couple hours a day over two weeks.
We operate more like a regular office, where we are all here during EST/CST business hours. We are trusting of our team where if they need to take time in the middle of the day, they can just make it up later.
Face-to-face as much as possible. Our default for meetings is Zoom with video.
Recurring public Slack “check-in/standup” updates. Depending on the team, these are daily or weekly.
Teams also post a summary of what the team has accomplished on a weekly basis. This helps everyone see what other teams are working on.
It’s harder to have a general “pulse” of your team. You can’t see their body language and moods as much on a day-to-day basis, so you’re left with fewer signals to interpret how people are feeling.
We set OKRs for each team that are talked about in every all-hands meeting. We also have a #winning Slack channel where teams post a weekly update on what they are working on.
We have a few set major holidays as company holidays and instead give more PTO days for team members to use as they please. Funnily enough, we started out with even fewer holidays, but many of the team members felt a bit miffed that they had to use PTO days for certain holidays even though we gave more PTO days. Even though the number of days was the same, the perception was not great, so we made some changes.
Our remote work policy has evolved organically. As we built our core team and internal processes, our policies have been created based on the work-life schedules of the team members.
Commit to remote work, then figure out solutions to keep making it work. Avoid the knee-jerk reaction of just rolling it back.
Trust your team will operate responsibly. They shouldn’t feel like they are being tracked and monitored. Be conscious of your policies early and gravitate on the stricter side to avoid abuse. You can always be more lax vs. your policies in practice.
Try to incorporate other nuance elements of “work” into remote work like casual and watercooler-like conversations.
We have to incorporate process and procedures much earlier based on the number of team members. With five people in an office, it’s easy to know what people are working on and the state of progress on projects. With five remote people, all the organic communication is lost, so you need better practices to keep everyone on the same page.
We use a central system for tracking all tasks and projects (Asana). All task/project relevant communication is in that system instead of those conversations going in Slack and interrupting everyone’s flow.
We introduced using a wiki to keep all internal processes and documentation organized. We used to use Google Drive and Google sites, but it was not quite as fluid and easy to use as a team.
We work in EST/CST business hours for the most part. Certain roles that are not client facing have more flexibility, but we still require at least half of their hours to cross over in the main EST/CST business hours so they can interact with their peers in real time.
Flexibility in life as life happens and no commute. Just saving on commute time is huge. Also, the ability to have deep work and not be casually interrupted.
Having a dedicated, consistent workspace is huge. I’m fortunate enough to have a home office, but even a specific desk or space in your dwelling makes a big difference in making the shift of work vs. home life.
My last trip I uninstalled Asana and Slack from my phone and only a few key team members could call me in an emergency. If those apps were on my phone, I’m sure I couldn’t help myself to see what was going on.