Remote Work At RunRepeat
* As of February 2020
RunRepeat Remote Company Q&A
Jens Jakob Andersen, Founder & CEO - Interview with Remote.co
What does your remote-friendly company do?
We aggregate reviews of running shoes, sneakers, and sports shoes.
Did you switch to remote or start out that way?
We started 100% remote from day one.
How important is remote work to your business model?
RunRepeat.com wouldn’t exist with only a local workforce. Talent is scarce, and expanding quickly wouldn’t be possible.
What do you consider the biggest benefits of a remote workforce?
The freedom. This is what I, as well as my colleagues, believe. The mother/father who takes off to spend more time with her/his kids, the hobbyist who need to book a tennis court at 10 a.m. instead of 5 p.m. due to availability and better pricing, etc. It’s like freelance, but with a company culture. Most freelancers I know want to work for a company, but they don’t allow the freedom they have as a freelancer.
What were the main reasons to integrate remote work into your workforce?
Initially, going remote was a matter of equally good talent working from countries with lower living costs. I learned that I, as the founder, really enjoyed the freedom of working on a remote team and decided to keep it that way. I wanted to give this freedom to everyone else. While it’s true that we could start an office, I do not think it would be beneficial for the business. We’re remote only, and we intend to keep it that way.
What traits do you look for in candidates for a remote job?
For this, I’d like to focus on one specific trait that I’m looking for. Proactivity. The job application process is built up in a way that only applicants who take action themselves are able to land the job in the end. We encourage proactivity from the beginning by asking the applicant to set up a call with the most relevant colleague, and the applicant must find this person themselves. Such a small task tells a lot about a person.
How do you conduct interviews for remote jobs?
The process goes like this: a) we make an engaging job post that requires the applicant to answer specific questions, along with sending over a CV and motivation letter; b) a small test task—anywhere from five hours to 20 hours of work, which we pay for; c) call with a colleague working in a similar position; d) call with the hiring manager; e) test employment for three months; f) full employment. Hiring the right person is our most important task.
Do you organize remote team retreats?
We meet once a year and vote for the location that most people want to do. So far, we’ve been to Barcelona, Bulgaria, the Philippines, and Thailand, and next up is the French Alps. We meet for 7-14 days. Most often people want to be away for around 10 days.
How do you measure the productivity of remote workers?
Here, we might distinguish ourselves from other remote companies. We pay everyone by the hour. Everyone is using a time tracker. Unfortunately, we experience that around one in 15 cheats. I’d love to trust everyone, but one in 15 is too many. We’re working on a more natural system for trusted employees who have been here longer. I’m not fond of the current tracking system—it feels wrong, but at the same time necessary, for now. Everyone can work as much as one likes with a minimum of 25 hours per week on average.
What is your time off policy for remote workers?
You can take off whenever you like, but we pay you by the hour. You get one to five weeks of vacation depending on how long you’ve been in the company (three years in the company, three weeks vacation, etc.). There are no working hours and we work from most time zones. I think that the nature of the business has a great impact on what makes sense. For us, we do not need instant replies. We don’t have any customer service or similar. About vacation—one must take off and be 100% off unless there’s something urgent and important to answer.
What were your biggest fears in managing remote workers?
My biggest fear is that I do not always know what employees feel. When I make an update, what do they think? Sure, they give a thumbs up or another funny emoji, but what do they truly feel? Also, when we make our biannual survey of how happy employees are and see positive results, are they true? What are the thoughts behind? Some might not want to write in detail about their feelings.
How did you implement a remote work policy?
Well, I think we have a huge advantage of being remote-first or remote only—whatever you call it, remote is natural to us. So, I’d say it happened very organically. Now, we’re 50 people and might soon make a huge expansion. This is only possible as we’re remote.
How do you nurture your company’s culture in a remote work environment?
The best thing we do, I think, is our yearly meetup. It’s a very democratic meetup, meaning that we vote on everything—where we want to go, for how many days, what activities we want to do, and so on. We don’t do hotels, but huge mansions. I believe that too many remote companies use hotels, which aren’t very personal. Keep it personal. Rent a vineyard in South Africa or a farm in Italy. The purpose of the meetup is always to get to know each other. For the meetup, everything is paid for by the company except for souvenirs. It’s optional to join. We’re not the only remote company doing meetups, but what differentiates us, I think, is the community and democracy when doing meetups.
What advice would you give to a team considering to go remote?
First off, when reading online about remote work, one must consider the abundance of positive information about remote work. Consider the drawbacks as well. There are equally as many. Not all positions are great for remote work. If you do want to progress, the biggest question will be if you’ll do a mix of a headquarter and remote, or 100% remote. I believe that it can create some cultural challenges if you do a mix—not that it’s not possible.
What challenges have you encountered building a remote team?
One can only talk so much good about remote work. There are drawbacks as well. Number one is the culture. Culture is always there, but in a remote company, it simply is a lot harder to create a strong culture. On the other hand, remote companies seem to be aware of this and actually do a lot to ensure they build some sort of a culture. I personally also have the belief though that work doesn’t have to be everything in life, and that motivations for having a job are different. Some have a job to earn some money for their families or for the time they’re not working, whereas others are career people. We shouldn’t try to make the workplace everything, I think.
How do you personally manage work-life balance?
I take off during the day. I do a variant of the Pomodoro Technique, where I work for 45 minutes, followed by 15 minutes off the desk. During the day, I often take three to five hours off to do sports, socialize, or read. I also enjoy working on Sundays. No one else is working, and I have no distractions. On the other hand, I might be off on Wednesdays. I have all the freedom I could dream of, and do my utmost to get the most out of it. Tomorrow, I’ll start working at 11 a.m. as I meet with some friends in the morning to play padel tennis. Tonight, I’m working late as I have a lot on my plate. Similarly, I flex depending on my motivation. Right now, it’s high, and I might work 60 hours per week. Other times it’s low, and I work 20 hours in a week.
What is your favorite business book?
The best by far is How to Win Friends and Influence People. Everyone should read it. The title is very catchy, I know, and in many ways the stories are very basic, but if one could just live by 10% of what’s said in that book, one would be a success, for sure.
Do you have a favorite quote or bit of business wisdom?
A few things are underestimated in life, one of them is thinking long-term. Too many have short-term gains in mind. Thinking long-term is a lot more fun as well. Here’s a good video interview with Jeff Bezos about thinking long-term.