How did you implement a remote work policy?
We did not implement a remote work policy. Building a distributed company was our intention from the start. Dr. Chris Waters (my co-founder) and I wanted to leverage the lessons we learned from our 20-plus years working in Silicon Valley. We knew that we could build a wildly successful product and company remotely — if we hired the right people.
For our core business, live answering, the implementation had to be formal. We needed our customer experience associates to be able to take our clients’ calls with the same reliability they had in the call center. In addition, in order to realize the cost savings of a smaller office, we needed many employees to make the switch at the same time. So, we tested a remote location before making the change, and then moved iteratively.
I would say more organically to begin with. We had employees volunteer to work remote to test it out. Then it became more formal over a period of time when we began to see the benefits to the company and our employees. At that time, the position was converted to a remote-only position.
From its inception, Appirio has had one headquarters with the rest of our United States employees working remotely. Globally, we have six offices: Indianapolis, San Francisco, Tokyo, Jaipur, Dublin, and London. Each of our global offices has varying levels of remote work flexibility. However, the remote work flexibility has been in place from day one of Appirio. We provide the tools and technology that allow our team to work anywhere in the world!
Our remote work policy is very structured and clearly defined from the beginning. While everyone is remote, we still need our team available during (roughly) the same business hours. Before any new team member is brought on board we make sure those expectations, as well as the general daily workflow, are understood and agreed upon.
We don’t have a formal remote work policy like tracking time or something like that. We mainly look at defining outcomes that we want to see using OKRs and then work towards them individually or in pairing sessions. This has worked quite well so far. I guess it helps if you have a team of people who are already familiar with remote and distributed scenarios.
It began organically — the company co-founders lived in different geographic areas. As the company began to grow, it made sense to implement a remote work policy that was a bit more formal, though we focus less on stringent remote work guidelines and more on a culture of trust and transparency.
It happened both organically and formally. Formally in that it was something we deliberately wanted to champion and structure. Organically in that during 2014, we were struggling to find the balance of remote and non-remote – and it did come to a turning point in the company where we had to decide what we wanted to be. The decision came to the forefront when we’d just hired an incredible team member who was based in a different city than the current team. This meant we had to switch communication to be online versus in-person. Slack was a huge catalyst for making this transition seamless. All in all, I think remote work functions best when a company has committed to it. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing – in that some people might work in a centralized office, and others in satellite locations. It just has to be part of a company’s cultural fabric, processes and communication flow to work best.
It started very organically; we tried lots of different things and would discuss what we liked and disliked the most. From there, we were able to develop basic outlines which we used on new employees. With their feedback, we were able to develop an easy-to-understand and efficient way of communicating with each other and others. At that point, we implemented a much more formal exercise for getting new hires acquainted with remote work best practices.
Our remote work policy was implemented formally in 2009 via Dell’s Connected Workplace program. This program enables eligible team members to work remotely, at variable hours or in other flexible capacities that fulfill the needs of both their job and their lifestyle. Before Connected Workplace, flexibility at Dell was informal, with most arrangements being made one-on-one between team members and managers.
The idea of building a remote company wasn’t something we explicitly discussed at the start – it simply grew out of necessity. One of the challenges when you start out as a bootstrapped company with an unknown brand and little cash on hand is access to talent. Hiring a remote team was the best solution to this challenge and we’ve stuck with it since day one.
As with most things at Envato, what started organically has become a little more formal now that the Envato team is around 280. Formally acknowledging guidelines also ensures everyone knows what’s available to them! In the HR team we make sure all our guidelines (the word ‘policy’ sounds a bit too formal for us!) are written in plain English. And there is usually wiggle room for personal circumstances too. We like to trial things first, see if they work, get some feedback, iterate and then try it again. We copied this idea from our amazing product delivery teams!
One person at a time! We’ve been all-virtual since our founding in 2001. When we were hiring our first team member, the “perfect” candidate lived in Colorado, not in the Philadelphia area. We decided not to let her location stop us from hiring her, because our services aren’t location-dependent. For our second hire, the “perfect” candidate lived in New York. Again, we hired her despite her location. After these two initial hires, we realized that by allowing people to work virtually, we could attract and hire top talent no matter where they lived.
Since we’ve always done it, it’s been a bit of both. It’s dynamic and continuous improvement is a must. We must adapt to the best communication platforms and consistently be growing our team’s EQ. It’s who we are, so when someone new comes on board we need to help them adapt easily and comfortably into this “world” if it’s new to them.
Definitely organically. FlexProfessionals is owned by three moms. We started by working remotely ourselves, when it was just the three of us. Our remote workforce grew from there. We do have policies and structures in place, and we make a concerted effort to regularly review and tweak them. They need to work in a business environment that is constantly growing and evolving.
We put certain formal rules in place, but the culture of our remote teams continues to organically form. We pay close attention to our remotes, get a lot of feedback, and form policies based on what they need/want. For example – as our teams have grown, we’ve added communication coaching & tools and changed our offsite and structure to better suit teams’ needs.
I’d definitely say it came about organically as a result of both the way the company grew and the nature of our product. We’ve always tried to be clear and explicit about our policies around remote work though, because it’s really important to us that everyone’s expectations are on the same page.
Our remote work policy started organically when the founder, Ryan O’Connor, unexpectedly attracted clients from around the world–Australia, UK, India, U.S.– looking for help improving the User Experience of their apps and websites. As a small agency, it made perfect sense to recruit talent from around the world to support this global need for talent.
As we transitioned from being a traditional print marketing company to an all-digital firm (in 2006), we simply began hiring remotely. And once we began hiring remotely, we treated our existing Philadelphia staff the same, allowing them to work 100 percent from home, though they do have the option to go into the office if they wish.
Greenback has been 100% remote since the beginning. We have learned so much over the years about how to manage a remote workforce and feel that we have created a successful, positive and productive environment in which our team members can thrive. Our hiring process is very stringent and in-depth to ensure that the team members we hire have the right skillset, as well as the outstanding communication and technological skills to be productive in a remote environment.
At the beginning our approach to remote working was pretty ad-hoc. But as the years have gone by, we’ve begun to understand more about how to do remote work well and we’ve actually started to document our processes and policies in much more detail. As a natively 100% remote company though, we don’t have to wrestle with the same struggles that many newcomers to remote work might need to handle. That makes things a lot easier for us and means that we don’t really have to impose rigid rules to protect our team members who might be working remotely.
We were 100% remote for the first 7 or 8 years of the company. How we work remotely has changed considerably as we’ve grown from a small team of just a handful of employees to the larger and separate teams we have today.
How we work and communicate is something we certainly will continue to work on. We’ve gone through cycles of relying heavily on email, to regular skypes and hangouts, too, as we are at the moment, regular real-time chat communication via ‘Slack’.
Because we have always been mostly remote-based it wasn’t necessarily a policy that had to be implemented – it’s just how we have always worked and even though we have a small headquarters it’s important that everyone keeps a 100% remote mentality so that our culture doesn’t develop a sense of “us vs. them” (meaning office workers vs. remote workers).
We realized fairly quickly that we had to have a set of tools that could stand on its own in the absence of daily in-person interaction. We developed a simple, yet powerful, dashboard that provides real-time visibility for everyone in the company. It includes information like who is currently working on what team, company priorities, team priorities, project due dates, weekly status updates etc. In addition, we use a number of great commercial productivity tools such as Slack for real-time communication, Github for code management, Hangouts and Zoom for video conferencing and Trello for project prioritization. Whether your team is distributed or local, it is so important to implement the right tools for clear communication, visibility and context setting. Having everyone sit in the same room won’t necessarily solve the communication challenge for you.
We’ve been distributed from day one. Our only requirements are that our team be available for our morning scrum, that they track both their billable and unbillable time in Toggl (our time tracking software), that they are available for the projects they are a part of, and that each team member is available for a weekly one-on-one with either my partner or me at a time that works for each of us.
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.
We started organically with a few employees to test tools and processes. After that, we offered it to everyone, along with the option to keep their desk in the office. Initially a few folks kept their desks, but a year later, and no one has a desk. We converted our office spaces into shared workspaces that anyone could use, anytime.
Although certain policies have evolved as the company has grown and our needs have changed, we have always had remote workers and have always known that clear and formal policies are important for protecting both the company and our remote workforce. In addition, each remote worker completes an extensive company training course upon joining our team to ensure that they are adequately trained and able to fully leverage the Scribendi platform to reap the benefits of this business model.
We use Slack to communicate throughout the day; Google Hangouts and Skype for group calls and demos; Jira for spring planning, executing, and bug tracking; and Trello for general product and marketing planning. Except for sprint planning, we don’t implement any strict policies and work mostly organically.
Organically. We implemented policies where we felt we could do better and from lessons learned over time. Team understanding (why we need it) and buy-in (how it’s going to help you) are necessary for implementing any work policy, remote or otherwise! Our team is very opinionated and highly conscious of inefficiencies so we’re quickly able to identify what works and what doesn’t.
Skillcrush has been a remote company from the start and because remote work aligns so well with our mission and lifestyle, it was a no-brainer! Here at Skillcrush, our entire team is scattered all over the world from Finland to Florida, and we have the freedom to work from wherever we choose—whether that’s at home with our dogs, at our favorite coffee shop or coworking space, or even while paragliding in Romania (one of our designers once logged into a team meeting doing just that!).
That’s the beauty of remote work. It’s not one-size-fits-all. It’s about what fits YOU best.
First of all: confidence. Relations have to be built on trust. Each team that is working for a client takes responsibility for all the issues: financial stuff, agreements, customer relations, etc. It wouldn’t make sense to have one person managing all these projects. When one of the developer teams needs to buy iPads for everyone to do the job well, why force them to ask the board for permission. They know best what they need for their project.
Furthermore we have a wiki. We put all the rules we have in the company. There’s a starter page for everyone to read through. And it just describes all the basics and how we are running. That’s a good thing to have. And when there are things we just can’t agree upon, we vote. And the result becomes a law. And there’s a special place for such laws in our wiki. But the laws become official only when we feel the need to make something official, because it itches us not to have The Way Of Doing something. So formality grows organically 😉
It was completely organic. We noticed that we had more success with remote workers than local talent so we stopped caring about the proximity of our employees and focused on hiring the best people regardless of location. We don’t have a formal remote work policy. Our attitude is simply to try to hire the best possible people and accepting remote candidates let’s us do that.
We had a team member move to another state and we used her as our Beta. Originally, only a few wanted to work remotely – accountants hate change, so we then kicked everyone out of the office for one month and forced them to work remotely. They surprised themselves and found out that they actually liked working from home. All but four team members work primarily outside of the office.
Organically. As we grew and worked through this work model and faced different challenges and overcame those challenges, we shaped up a better and a stronger communication pattern that forms as our work policy and also acts as a special ingredient of our secret sauce.
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.
I would say remote work for us is more about the culture (the values and norms), rather than the process. Even though I know that as we grow we need to spend a bit more time on the latter as well, to make sure that the people joining later get on the same page and become as effective in this environment than the early joiners are.
From the very beginning, our founders (Damien and Derek Hoffman) knew that we would be a completely virtual company. Most media companies are based in New York City, but Damien and Derek don’t subscribe to the theory that NYC is where all the best talent is. The fact is that there are extremely talented employees living all over the country and we want to recruit the absolute best. So this was a conscientious choice.
We make a call about whether a position is virtual as we shape the job description. While the majority of our jobs are flexible location, meaning staff can work from a home office every day, anywhere in the United States, we do require certain staff work on-site: some central staff who need to interact face-to-face in our central office (such as our office manager and software developers), and some program staff, who work from client offices. Having staff embedded in district offices helps us better understand the challenges our clients face and provides us with real-time insights into how our work is playing out on the ground.
We expect all staff – virtual or on-site – to follow the personnel policies outlined in our employee handbook, which outlines our typical work hours, computer policies, and so on. Yet we generally approach working from home flexibly, providing advice and resources but giving staff the leeway to figure out what works best for them. To help new staff adjust to that flexibility, we provide guidance to ensure that staff who work from home have the support they need to excel (from practical considerations, like a home office budget, to opportunities for connection, like our Work from Home Affinity Group).
As we’ve grown, we’ve evolved our systems to better support our virtual employees. For instance, when we became too large for everyone to stay connected via email and phone on a regular basis, we invested in an interactive intranet – our wiki – for folks to share news and updates on their work, find resources, connect and collaborate.
We knew that in order for it to work, everybody in the team had to become “remote” workers and adopt the new mindset. So the switch from the old system to the remote work affected everybody, even those who are based in Tallinn, Estonia and choose to come to the office every day – they also needed to adopt the reality of remote team.
The remote work policy was implemented when we started the company, on day zero. Almost all the people at TOK.tv have previously worked remotely or as a freelancer. This makes things easier, since the most difficult task to learn is time management, as well as respecting colleagues’ way of working (and times).
My co-founder Kerry takes all the credit for setting up our amazing guidelines, policies, compensation packages and benefits programs. She worked closely with a Seattle based HR expert who has helped guide us in all aspects of HR. Creating remote policy is not that different from traditional brick-and-mortar HR policy. We have had to set up things like 401k, medical, dental, PTO and so on.
We run a fairly relaxed environment and we have core hours from 10am Pacific time to 1pm. That ensures the team is guaranteed to all be online at the same time for a few hours every day.
Besides some basic guidelines and policies, we rely on being able to trust our team members will do a great job. “Trust” is a core value of ours – if you’re able to trust your teammate to do a great job and not have to constantly check in on how they’re doing, everything else almost takes care of itself.
Our earlier years had one office, in addition to a remote team. But eventually the office became irrelevant and, if anything, a way to make us less productive. So moving to 100% remote was organic, but ultimately the best decision for achieving our goals of maximum productivity and being able to help change lives across the world.