World Wide Web Hosting Remote Company Q&A
Tom Sepper, COO - Interview with Remote.co
What does your remote-friendly company do?
World Wide Web Hosting is an international leader in affordable Web hosting solutions for individuals and businesses. We provide shared, reseller, VPS, and cloud hosting solutions, and our focus on customer service and the customer experience is unparalleled.
Did you switch to remote or start out that way?
Yes. We have been a fully remote company since our inception.
How important is remote work to your business model?
Remote work is vital to our business model! It is ingrained in our culture, and we have never considered straying from it.
What do you consider the biggest benefits of a remote workforce?
One of the biggest benefits is an almost unlimited hiring pool. Since we are not limited to a specific geographic area surrounding a physical office, the talent pool is significantly larger.
Another large benefit is the impact on the staff. The time everyone saves without having a commute to a physical office directly translates into a happier staff and less wear and tear on vehicles!
Having a remote workforce also helps avoid situations such as illnesses and viruses making their way around the office. It also allows staff the ability to travel anywhere in the world while working!
What were the main reasons to integrate remote work into your workforce?
The benefits of a remote workforce are so great; we never seriously considered the alternatives. Our business model is to run as lean as possible, and bringing a physical office into the mix adds complexities and challenges we simply don’t need.
Our industry and how we have structured our company lends itself to operating virtually, and we’ve spent many years developing and promoting our company culture.
What traits do you look for in candidates for a remote job?
We’ve found that it is imperative to find candidates that have a social foundation outside of work. People that rely on work for this tend to be unsuccessful in remote positions, so we focus on finding people that gain their social side of life from other avenues. We always ask candidates about what they enjoy doing outside of work as this glimpse into their activities and hobbies provides a solid indication for assessing this trait.
How do you convey your remote culture in the recruiting process?
We showcase it! We make it very clear in job postings that our positions are remote, and we discuss it during the interview process as well. Often times, the natural flow of the conversation leads to our company and culture. Hearing what the candidate says and asks allows us to convey our passion behind WWWH and how and why we do what we do.
How do you measure the productivity of remote workers?
We measure productivity the same way traditional office workforces measure it – we look at the results. Being a remote workforce truly shouldn’t be a large factor in measuring productivity. Some of our teams operate in the Agile methodology of project management and development, and the teams themselves are self-measuring. The accountability that members of an Agile team have to one another pushes everyone involved.
Other non-Agile teams such as customer service have their productivity measured much like their traditional office-based counterparts. Customer satisfaction and metrics are used in a remote setting just like they are in a traditional office.
What is the hardest part about managing a remote workforce?
Communication – without a doubt. Since the “water cooler” talk isn’t possible, we provide a wide variety of channels and tools for staff to communicate. I’ve already mentioned email, HipChat, and Google Hangouts; we also have a staff forum and a social media style site for informal discussions. We have an internal blog for large announcements and official company business and announcements.
One of the most fun things we have done is have two in-person staff meetups per year. We started this a couple years ago, and they have been extremely beneficial. Since we are global, we opted to have one meetup in the USA and one in Europe to allow greater attendance across the company. By promoting an in-person meetup, we’ve allowed our staff to enhance their relationships with each other in a fun, non-work setting. This has translated to better working relationships, which in turn increases morale and productivity.
What is your time off policy for remote workers?
All staff members receive 20 days of paid time off per year that increases to 25 days after 3 years. Managers receive 25 days after 1 year with us. Since we are a global company with staff from all over the world, we group holidays into this paid time off. We respect our team’s varying cultures and holidays, so we allow each staff member to determine which holidays are important to them to take off work.
How did you implement a remote work policy?
WWWH has been a remote company since day one, so we’ve simply adapted to changing needs as the company has grown.
What advice would you give to a team considering to go remote?
Embrace it! Find others in the same industry that have remote staff and ask if they would be willing to share their experiences.
If the company is implementing a virtual team alongside an in-office team, find ways to ensure the virtual team does not feel isolated. Use video conferencing so that the remote team is brought into meetings occurring in the office. When doing a team lunch for the office staff, find creative ways of treating the remote staff as well.
What are the most effective tools for remote team communication?
The most effective communication method we’ve used is video calls on Google Hangouts. Text-based communication channels such as email and HipChat/Slack certainly have their place with us. However, text leaves out two very important communication components: emotion and visual indicators.
While voice-only phone calls add in the ability to hear emotion, they still fail to convey the equally important visual indicators. Google Hangouts has been fantastic for us to conduct meetings and planning sessions in a setting as close to the traditional conference room as we can get on a daily basis in a remote environment.
How do you personally manage work-life balance?
This has been, and I believe always will be, a constant evolution for me.
Having a home office that I can walk away from at the end of my day is key. I don’t use my home office for anything else. So when I’m done working for the day, I close the doors and go on with my personal life.
I know other people that have different personal and work computers to aid in this balance. Others have multiple user accounts on the same computer to accomplish the separation.
I also fully use my vacation days. While I keep a couple vacation days as buffer for the unexpected time I need off, I take days off here and there for various reasons. Vacations, holidays, and sick days are normal, but other times I take a day off for no other reason than just to enjoy a three-day weekend.
I’ve now been working remotely for eight years, and I strongly believe that maintaining a work/life balance is rooted in self-discipline. Without it, burnout is easy to achieve, and it’s vital for anyone working remotely to discover where their own balance is and constantly work to maintain it.
What is your favorite business book?
I can’t narrow this down to one, so I’ll name a few.
- First, Break All The Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
- Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek
- Remote by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson provides a fantastic view into 37signals’ (now Basecamp) remote culture.
- John C. Maxwell’s The Irrefutable Laws of Leadership is a great leadership book
- Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership is solid as well.
There are far too many great options to choose from!