Remote Year Remote Company Q&A
Jeremy Payne, VP People Operations - Interview with Remote.co
Remote Year provides a foundation for professionals to work and explore the world as part of a vibrant global community. We offer year-long programs where knowledge workers whose jobs can be location-independent use Remote Year’s infrastructure and support to travel to 12 cities, spending one month in each city, with a group of 50-80 diverse professionals.
Remote Year has a unique perspective on remote work because as a business, we help professionals from other companies advance their careers while traveling the world. They can do this both by being more productive in different inspiring settings and by interacting with the 50-80 fellow “Remotes” (that’s our word for program participants), all of whom come from a variety of backgrounds. As an employer, we also offer our entire company (over 100 full-time employees) the ability to work remotely.
As a company, we see our remote workforce as a massive competitive advantage. It permits us the ability to have a footprint in markets that businesses aren’t able to have access to. Having a workforce that spans the globe also infuses every department of our company with an optimistic energy and waves of creativity that a tethered business might struggle to inject into its four walls. Along with an expanded footprint comes access to a global workforce that brings diversity of experience, culture, and work style. The diversity of our global team operating in a distributed structure that embraces diverse thought, background, and execution is a key driver in our remote workforce success.
It’s been proven through our Remote Year participants, and our own employees, that work flexibility results in fewer minutes wasted and more hours spent drumming up creative solutions (as a result of constantly interacting with different cultures, fresh faces, and new ways of working). We’ve also seen firsthand that happier employees are more productive employees.
Remote Year is a fast-growing, operations-driven company with a fully distributed workforce. If you want to be successful here, you need to come to the table with remote working experience and a passion for travel. We also look for a few other traits—startup experience, the ability to work autonomously, and the ability to collaborate—when determining who would make a good fit in our organization.
Interviews at Remote Year are done by hiring teams, usually consisting of the hiring manager, a team member on the team for which the interviews are taking place, and a member of the People Operations team that supports that team. In addition, we will often utilize projects as part of the interviewing process so we can get a good idea of the kind of work a new team member will bring to Remote Year.
We convey our remote culture in several ways during the recruiting process. First, we tend to source using job sites and other channels that are popular among remote workers. Second, from the first interview, we utilize the same remote tools we use in our day to work, such as video conferencing to conduct these interviews. Finally, we make sure before making an offer that we have answered any candidate questions on how we work, including how we work virtually and when on-site at our various locations.
Our Remote Team members have an opportunity each year to meet physically together once a year at a Haus. Haus is a Remote Year term we use to designate an event where people come together from their remote locations in order to develop as a group in ways related to both business and personal development.
One of the challenges in managing a remote workforce is employee engagement. To be successful at Remote Year, employees need to be both collaborative and autonomous. More importantly, they need to know when to wear each hat. We spend a lot of time in the hiring process looking for these traits, and we continue to find ways to support our team members globally as we continue to grow.
All Dreamers (Remote Year team members) bring their own devices. To enable Dreamers to have the equipment they need to do great work, we also offer a computer stipend and tech stipend to assist them in their purchases.
We utilize an unlimited time off policy. As a global company, we find this is the best policy to apply across all of our team members to account for differences in local holidays and a variety of other factors. This also allows employees who need to to recover from illness or time to dedicate to family.
We started out as a remote company, and our remote work policy is developing organically as we grow.
Remote companies can absolutely have a healthy company culture. At Remote Year, we are constantly discussing what needs to be centralized and what needs to be distributed. In traditional organizations with physical locations, it is much easier to centralize culture. For remote companies, we have to determine what elements of culture to centralize while also embracing local team and city cultures. The big things—values, mission, and brand—are centralized; many of the other elements of a healthy company are decentralized to teams and team leads.
Keep a keen eye out for certain WFM (Works for Me) traits that give a professional a leg up if they chose to select a remote lifestyle. Telecommuting experience, extensive travel background, and autonomy are just a few of the competencies and skills that we’ve found breed success for a remote worker. The right kinds of top talent can flourish when they’re permitted to work with fewer restrictions. Additionally, it’s important to establish communication tools across the organization that will allow employees to interact with each other in different ways.
We have found that most of our effective communication comes from two factors: frequency and consistency. Our team leads, for example, meet on a daily basis at the same time to discuss the day-to-day state of the business and to elevate any issues that have emerged since the prior day around the globe. Many of our teams have adapted a similar frequency in team meeting schedules. We also use a variety of tools for communication: Slack, Zoom, WhatsApp, Gchat, and more.
Time zones are always a challenge to address, especially in Remote Year with our global presence. We find that making sure our staff on the ground and close to our customers are equipped and enabled to react to customer inquiries a key part of our success. From an internal operations perspective, we utilize both synchronous and asynchronous communications, and we make sure to book meeting well in advance and at consistent times to give everyone a fair opportunity attend.
Managing work-life integration is an ongoing effort. I personally find looking at larger time scales—months instead of weeks, for example—is most helpful when planning in this kind of environment. At the end of the day, the question is about one’s ability to manage their energy. Finding those times in a day, week, or month where you are at your best for work and proactively scheduling that time is key. Same with life—find those times where you want to be with friends and family, and book them in advance. Building the high-level structure proactively, while it might feel constraining at first, gives you the structure on which you can build your freedom and be in the moment.
If you have ever walked through a doorway and forgotten why you entered the room, then use that same trick in reverse. Need to disconnect even for a minute? Walk outside or even into another room. There is just something mentally refreshing to cross a threshold, and it adds a simple break between work and life that you can use to your advantage.
Whenever possible, make a decision one time and stick with that decision so you do not have to keep making that decision each time the opportunity presents itself.