Remote Work At Timely
* As of February 2020
Timely Remote Company Q&A
Ryan Baker, CEO / Founder - Interview with Remote.co
What does your remote-friendly company do?
Timely is booking software for service businesses like salons and spas. We make it easier for small business owners to work, grow and live their lives.
How important is remote work to your business model?
Remote work is a genuine competitive advantage for Timely. We demonstrate every day how to be time efficient and successfully blend work and life. Our customers in industries like beauty and wellbeing are passionate about the same things. They love being on a journey with us to optimise their time and squeeze every bit of joy out of their busy lives.
What do you consider the biggest benefits of a remote workforce?
Happiness. When you allow someone to work remotely they are trusted and valued. You also give them freedom to do things that are important in their life whether that’s family, friends, or personal wellbeing. When you’re next asked at work how you’re doing, try answering “I’m really happy thanks.”
What were the main reasons to integrate remote work into your workforce?
We were remote from day one, with our three founders in three different cities. Once we realised it wasn’t a phase and that our customers loved it about us, we never looked back.
What traits do you look for in candidates for a remote job?
Some experience of having worked remotely, or from home before is important. You don’t really know until you’ve done it, if you will be happy. It can take some time to find the right balance working remotely.
How do you conduct interviews for remote jobs?
In a pretty traditional way. Written application, phone interview, a few in person interviews, practical tests, reference checks etc. We’ve started using a cool quiz app for recruiting called Weirdly. Check it out.
What is your hiring process for remote workers?
Probably the big difference is that you look harder for personal passions. The applicant’s raison d’être. If they are turning up to work remotely every day because they have to, it won’t work. They have to love the role, or at least aspects of it, and it has to enable them to do the thing they love the most in life outside of work. When you find that win/win it’s hiring time.
Do you use third party testing or evaluation services when hiring remote workers?
We’ve just started using Weirdly which lets us have fun quiz style applications for roles. It’s cool.
How do you conduct onboarding for remote workers?
Call us old fashioned, but we get together in person. 🙂
Do you organize remote team retreats?
Yes we do, and they are awesome. My tip would be to keep the work content to a minimum. A brief session on how the company is going with discussion is enough. The rest of the time just enjoy each other’s company. With remote working there is so much distraction free focus on your work in between retreats. At the retreat, just get distracted with each other.
Do your remote team members meet in person?
Yes, because we are semi-centralised we meet regularly. This includes once a year we all gather.
How do you measure the productivity of remote workers?
By their outputs. This is the fundamental shift with remote working. We don’t focus on inputs of hours worked, widgets stacked, queues cleared etc. We focus on the outputs of those things like NPS, Apdex, conversion and churn rates etc. The output is the part of each other’s work that we see and value. The output of our work is how we communicate with each other.
What elements are key to successful working relationships with remote teams?
There’s the obvious ones like trust, transparency and regular communication. One of the things I’d also add is structure. This doesn’t get talked about much in conversations around remote working. But a remote company doesn’t mean that you throw out all structure and process. We are a relatively traditional company in all other ways such as goal setting, strategic planning, people & performance, professional development, governance, regulatory etc.
What is the hardest part about managing a remote workforce?
Not seeing them in person every day. Most people think the hardest part about managing a remote workforce is about productivity. It’s not. We have incredibly talented and interesting people on our team. As a founder, you get to selfishly hire people who you’d hang out with whether you worked together or not. So not seeing all of them every day is a tad sad panda. We may have to double down on retreats.
How do you keep remote employees engaged and feeling part of the bigger picture?
All of our staff are shareholders and that was very important to us. On top of that we have a transparent culture where all staff have access to company performance, goals and progress.
How did you implement a remote work policy?
Policy is a dirty word in a healthy remote working culture I think. As soon as you have to legislate your remote work, you have lost. It works best when you have a team of people passionate and connected to a cause.
Can a remote-friendly company have a healthy culture?
Of course. There’s many examples of it. It’s not easy though. The short answer to “How?” is: a lot of thought, care, attention to detail and love of what you’re doing.
How do you nurture your company’s culture in a remote work environment?
We embrace working remotely rather than shying away from it. All of our crew get a Timely robe on their one year anniversary. We celebrate all of the small things, good and bad, about working remotely.
What advice would you give to a team considering to go remote?
I’d only give advice to new companies starting with a clean slate who are considering remote. For an existing company, it would be more complex and not something I’m qualified on. For a new company, I’d just say to give it a whirl. You don’t know until you’d lived it, if it’s right for you. Make sure it makes sense for your customers. And be prepared to be trusting and transparent.
What challenges have you encountered building a remote team?
Isolation is the main one. We are human beings and making sure we spend time together in the flesh is crucial. We’ve made that easier by being semi-centralised in a few cities.
Being your own tech support is a pain in the proverbial. Even for nerdy crew members like myself, having a tech issue with your home office equipment is annoying. We’ve made good relationships with the “dial a tech” services in our areas.
What are the most effective tools for remote team communication?
Slack is awesome. We use Google Hangouts. Most importantly for us is that we hire people who live near each other and so we can get together easily. Remote working is awesome. But there’s no substitute for getting together in person to celebrate and spend time.
What has changed about how your remote team operates?
We found quickly that being fully distributed wasn’t going to work well for us. We missed seeing each other in person and the rare times when we did were awesome. Working in very different time zones was also tough. We love working in a collaborative way, together, bouncing ideas around and getting shit done. Doing this while your co-worker is sleeping is tough.
So now we build our teams in selected cities. Folks still work from home, cafes or co-working spaces but, by being in the same city, we can get together easily when we want to. This could be to gather around a whiteboard, or cover a wall in post-it notes. But more often than not it’s to celebrate milestones together and have a few ciders.
Where is the best or worst place you’ve worked remotely?
Worst location is probably going to be tomorrow. It’s my youngest son’s first day of daycare. I want to be present, but not get in the way of him integrating with the programme. So my plan is to find a corner and do some work in a room full of 2 year olds. If that’s not work/life blend, I’m not sure what is. 🙂
Best location is, of course, home.