Remote Work At WooThemes
Cape Town, South Africa
* As of February 2020
WooThemes Remote Company Q&A
Michael Krapf, Chief Fire Officer (Head of WooThemes/WooCommerce Support) - Interview with Remote.co
What does your remote-friendly company do?
We started off creating WordPress Themes. We now offer a range of themes and plugins to extend WordPress, including the fastest growing eCommerce solution, WooCommerce. With the recent acquisition by Automattic, we’re now part of a larger distributed team.
Did you switch to remote or start out that way?
How important is remote work to your business model?
WooThemes was born remote so it has always been an important ingredient in our recipe for success. Freedom of location has created a melting pot of ideas and influences that have shaped our products and culture. We pride ourselves on a quirkiness that naturally developed as a result of our diversity.
What do you consider the biggest benefits of a remote workforce?
The primary benefit of a remote workforce is freedom to find the best team members regardless of location.
What were the main reasons to integrate remote work into your workforce?
Our co-founders met and started WooThemes before ever meeting in person. Since we weren’t influenced by a history of working in an office together we were undoubtedly forced to find solutions rather than ponder alternatives.
How do you conduct interviews for remote jobs?
At WooThemes, the hiring process included two interviews, initial and panel. The initial interview involved a Skype voice chat with the standard interview questions. The panel interview took place via Google Hangout and included existing team members. The questions were geared towards cultural fit and gave the team interview experience. We’re currently blending our previous hiring process with the established process at Automattic.
How do you convey your remote culture in the recruiting process?
It’s discussed thoroughly in the interviews and evaluated in an essay question: “In a remote/distributed work environment, what does Fun, Action, Communication, Transparency and Trust mean to you?”
Do your remote team members meet in person?
We meet at various times throughout the year at conferences and retreats. The schedule is constantly evolving based on team needs, but the one constant is the all hands meet-up once per year. At the annual “Grand Meetup” we have the opportunity to share handshakes, work together in person, and maintain our sense of the company’s growth.
How do you measure the productivity of remote workers?
Productivity isn’t black and white and therefore measuring it requires an understanding of the work being done and the people doing it. In short, it comes down to the relationship between team members in overlapping roles.
Some questions you might ask to measure productivity:
- Is progress being made?
- Are challenges being identified/overcome?
- Are we accomplishing our goals?
- Are timelines being met?
What is your BYOD policy for remote workers?
Computers, monitors, peripherals, desks, chairs are provided by Automattic.
What is your time off policy for remote workers?
We have an open leave policy which reinforces our hierarchy of needs. Take care of yourself/family first and your team second which will create the healthiest environment for us to take care of our customers. Healthy environments foster teamwork, focus, clarity, etc.
How did you implement a remote work policy?
We knew no alternative so many policies were as natural as breathing. We tried to develop and lean on trust rather than develop policies.
How do you nurture your company’s culture in a remote work environment?
We focus on the pillars of our culture: Fun, Action, Communication, Transparency, Trust (FACTT).
- Fun – Meetups, video chats just to make each other laugh.
- Action – The reason we came together in the first place. Doing good work is satisfying.
- Communication – It’s the oxygen. Don’t assume. Text chat can be interpreted differently depending on the mood of the recipient. If in doubt, voice chat to convey intent.
- Transparency – Creates a sense of ownership. Insurance everyone is on the same page.
- Trust – A remote culture will crumble without trust.
What advice would you give to a team considering to go remote?
Focus your efforts on developing rapport with your team. The stronger the bond, the greater the trust, which will allow you to focus on the work rather than keeping tabs on everyone.
What challenges have you encountered building a remote team?
In a word, “scale”. As the company grows the challenge of maintaining relationships grows as well. Since success in business is highly dependent on successful relationships, we’ve had to adapt by becoming more intentional about our team sizes and communication flows.
What are the most effective tools for remote team communication?
We use all the normal apps like Email, Slack, Skype, Github. And the not so common P2. But at the end of the day, it’s less about the tool and more about the interaction. Progress is about identifying problems and finding solutions. You can’t do either without regular communication with your team and customers.
What has changed about how your remote team operates?
As the team has grown we’ve had to introduce a bit more structure which just comes down to subdividing into smaller teams. The smaller teams have allowed us to focus our attention and maintain relationships.
What is your personal remote work environment?
I work from a laptop in every room of the house.
How do you personally manage work-life balance?
It’s not easy. Even though working remotely affords complete freedom, I’ve learned that I work best on a schedule. My most productive time is in the morning, so I typically start my day around 6:30am. Starting early also allows for a couple of extra hours of family time in the afternoon.
Do you have a favorite quote or bit of business wisdom?
- Losing is part of winning.
- The more you play, the better you get.
- The better you get, the better your team gets.
- The better your team gets, the more you enjoy the game.
- The more you enjoy the game, the better your chances of improving your score.