TeamSnap Remote Company Q&A
Andrew Berkowitz, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer - Interview with Remote.co
TeamSnap is a web and mobile app for organizing and communicating within recreational and youth sports teams (or any group). We help coaches, managers, players and parents stay sane before, during and after the game.
We started remote.
Extremely important — we’ve been this way from day one. Remote work lets us hire the best people from anywhere. It creates happier employees who cherish and live work-life balance. It makes TeamSnap an attractive destination for employees with families, who are typically more mature, empathetic and users of our product. We aggressively avoid set working hours, encouraging employees to work when they want to, how they want to. We judge people entirely on the work they produce and not when, how or where they do it. We’re not paying people to sit in a specific chair from 9-5 — we’re paying them to get work done.
Happiness, productivity and retention. People love having the flexibility to work this way, and because you don’t score points for sitting at your desk it’s impossible to pretend you’re working. Not being in an office greatly reduces office politics and employee conflict, yet our always-connected tools like Slack and Google Hangouts means that we actually know our co-workers better than many companies where people share cubicles in the same building.
When work doesn’t happen 9-5, in one building, a lot more work can get done a lot more hours of the day.
We started as four people working out of our home offices, and as we grew we never saw a reason to change the model. Everything happens in the cloud these days, so why would we go to the hassle of opening a giant office and moving people around the country when we can just spin up best-in-class employees wherever they happen to be? Remote work makes us more flexible to hire, onboard and retain talent.
To start with, almost all of our interviews are done remotely, so that’s a pretty good tip-off about how we work. We talk about our remote culture on our Jobs page, in our job descriptions, and extensively on our blog.
We’ve also had good luck with job postings on FlexJobs, where we’re preaching to the converted.
Be generally available, coordinate with your team to be most effective, realize that working remotely means overcommunicating.
Twice a year, the entire company gathers for a week-long retreat where we laugh, learn, review and plan. Even though we haven’t seen each other in person for six months, it’s like seeing old friends and the excitement and joy is contagious.
Smaller sub-teams (developers, product teams, management) sometimes get together in person to meet as well. Over the years, we’ve actually gotten so good at working remotely that we’ve found less need to meet in person. Meeting in person is now mainly about bonding and connecting personally, and less about needing to get specific things done.
By the quality and quantity of the work they output, period.
Scheduling meetings can be tricky because we cover a lot of timezones and some people may choose to work very early or very late, depending on their preference. This may be more of a feature than a bug, since meetings are generally a waste of time.
The other hard thing is convincing new employees that they really do have the flexibility to work where and when they want. If you want to work from Portugal, work from Portugal; you don’t have to ask for permission. Just get your work done.
We provide all equipment people need to do their jobs. If someone wants to use their own device, that’s fine too.
No specific policy. Work when you want, take time off when you need it. Coordinate with your teammates so your time off is not disruptive to everyone’s progress. Use your best judgement on what’s right for you and for the company. Maximize your productivity over time. Avoid burnout. Have a life.
It was entirely organic. The biggest challenge as we’ve grown has been not letting the trappings of traditional office policies creep in. For instance, once we hit about 60 people we considered whether to implement a vacation, sick leave or PTO policy. But we realized that it made no sense to track what hours people weren’t working, when we don’t track what hours they do work. We focus entirely on what people produce.
We have Slack channels dedicated to all sorts of interests, from fitness to cooking to travel. Our teams meet anywhere from daily to weekly by Google Hangout, and we usually have a weekly happy hour Hangout where anyone can drop in and socialize.
Compared to companies in a physical office, we find that our culture and communication transcends departments or workgroups and it’s easier to get to know people across the entire company.
You have to build your company culture around trust. Objections to remote work usually revolve around “But how will I know if anyone is working?” Figure out how to measure productivity in terms of work completed and let go of evaluating employee success based on the number of hours they work or where they are physically present.
The more people who are working remotely, the less problem you’ll have with remote workers feeling like outsiders. Set up your entire company so that anyone can work remotely, and use a great tool like Slack so that everyone can have water cooler chats from wherever they are.
If you have the right people, let them figure out how to work most productively and watch productivity soar. If you don’t have the right people, get better people.
We use Slack all the time. It’s for work, play, water cooler topics, silliness and direct messages. It’s the hub of our culture. We also use Google Hangouts a lot, for daily team meetings, for quick 1-on-1 chats and for afternoon happy hours when people just want to gather to socialize.
We also have an internal company blog for longer dives on work or personal topics. We strive to over communicate.
I have a home office that is unremarkable, filled with the cheapest possible furniture, an outdated MacBook Air and a comically old and small Dell monitor. I work from the road a lot, so I just never saw much point in investing a lot in my home office. I do have three cats, which I think are crucial to success.
I’ve been a remote worker for my entire career, so to me it just feels natural. I think the key is to love your job and love your life, so you never have to feel like one is infringing on the other.
“If you’re not ‘Hell yeah’ about something you should say no to it.”
In the last couple years I’ve worked from Spain, Thailand, Nicaragua, Argentina, Costa Rica, Mexico, the Netherlands and Colombia. It’s all been awesome.