Remote Work At Referral Rock
* As of December 2019
Referral Rock Remote Company Q&A
Josh Ho, CEO - Interview with Remote.co
What does your remote-friendly company do?
Our subscription-based software and services enable businesses of all sizes to run automated referral programs.
Did you switch to remote or start out that way?
We started out as remote from day one.
How important is remote work to your business model?
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.
What do you consider the biggest benefits of a remote workforce?
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.
What were the main reasons to integrate remote work into your workforce?
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.
What traits do you look for in candidates for a remote job?
Strong communication and accountability are paramount. Everyone wants that, but without those traits you can’t run a remote organization.
How do you conduct interviews for remote jobs?
All our interviews are on Zoom with video. From the first screening, through a project review, and to final interviews.
How do you convey your remote culture in the recruiting process?
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.
What is your hiring process for remote workers?
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.
How do you conduct onboarding for remote workers?
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.
Do you have remote communication protocols for your remote workers?
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.
What elements are key to successful working relationships with remote teams?
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.
What is the hardest part about managing a remote workforce?
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.
How do you keep remote employees engaged and feeling part of the bigger picture?
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.
What is your time off policy for remote workers?
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.
How did you implement a remote work policy?
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.
What advice would you give to a team considering to go remote?
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.
What challenges have you encountered building a remote team?
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.
What are the most effective tools for remote team communication?
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.
What has changed about how your remote team operates?
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.
How does your team address different time zone challenges?
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.
What are the biggest benefits of being a remote worker?
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.
How do you personally manage work-life balance?
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.
What tips do you have to disconnect when working remotely?
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.