Remote Work At Envato
James Law, HR Director
What does your remote-friendly company do?
At Envato we help people bring ideas to life. We run Envato Market where millions of creatives buy and sell digital goods. These include website templates, motion graphics, audio tracks and more. We also connect people with freelancers through Envato Studio. You can compare prices, portfolios and community recommendations to find someone perfect for your job. Envato Tuts+ is an education platform with both free and paid tutorials and courses so you can learn about coding, design, video, photography and more.
How important is remote work to your business model?
It makes sense to tap into talent from all over the world rather than setting geographical boundaries. For some teams having people work across different time zones works in our favour, for example the Help Team can support our community 24 hours a day! We also see remote work as simply keeping up with a changing workforce. There is no such thing as work life balance any more, there is just life and work is a part of it like everything else.
Team members who are based in Melbourne, near Envato’s head office, still have the flexibility to work from home (or wherever they like) on a regular basis. They can also work from anywhere in the world for up to three months a year. Providing this kind of flexibility makes it easier for team members to factor in other aspects of their life like family, hobbies and travel.
What do you consider the biggest benefits of a remote workforce?
We have a huge pool from which to find our amazing talent here at Envato! If we find someone great and they work on the other side of the world, they don’t have to move. They can still be a productive member of the team without having to uproot their lives. As much as we love Melbourne, we understand not everyone is in a position to move here. It also gives people choices and options who can’t or don’t want to be in the office all the time.
What were the main reasons to integrate remote work into your workforce?
We say Envato was ‘born global’, which is as much about our team as it is about our community. From (almost!) the start, we have had people work for Envato who are based all over the world. The Co-founders, Collis and Cyan Ta’eed, wanted to travel and work so when they set up the business they had that in mind. In the beginning they even ran Envato remotely while they travelled the world for 18 months. Remote work has always been a part of Envato. It allows us to encourage amazing people all around Australia and the world to work for us and it gives people who have responsibilities or other passions the chance to fit them into their daily lives.
How do you conduct interviews for remote jobs?
Google Hangouts for the win! We use screen sharing apps as well for code tests and working through case studies and problems in real time
How do you convey your remote culture in the recruiting process?
We have some fantastic videos and make sure that everyone meets an appropriate number of people who can discuss the good, bad and the ugly of working at Envato and how it works for remote workers
How do you conduct onboarding for remote workers?
Everyone has Trello boards with information, tasks and suggestions to work through. Team members spend a bunch of time on line with their manager, have a Hangout with the HR team, are allocated a ‘Wing Buddy’ and we use Blissbook.com as our Induction Handbook. This bit is critical and we put heaps of emphasis on making sure everyone has everything they need from day one, and a connection to people who can answer any questions.
Do you have remote communication protocols for your remote workers?
We don’t have any overarching rules or norms, other than to ensure that mandatory meetings are remote-friendly. Each team sets their own norms as necessary. People need choice otherwise you lose the flexibility that is supposed to be part of the benefit of remote work.
Do you organize remote team retreats?
We don’t organise retreats, but we do have a ‘visit Melbourne’ subsidy where we reimburse remote workers $1,000 if they wish to visit Melbourne and work at HQ for a few weeks. Tenure and distance travelled is also taken into consideration for additional reimbursements.
How do you measure the productivity of remote workers?
One of the core Envato Values is that we ‘focus on results’. One of the biggest myths about remote working is that people won’t work hard enough. In fact, the opposite is often true. Without the daily commute or distractions of an office, remote workers can be incredibly focussed on the task at hand. Each manager is different, but it’s fairly easy to spot when a team member is not pulling their weight. At Envato we focus on results, not how many hours someone is sitting at their desk. Outputs are more important than inputs!
What elements are key to successful working relationships with remote teams?
Communication is key. It gets tougher when factoring in different timezones, but it’s really important to make sure team members can join meetings and reach the people they need to. It’s also really important to make sure tools like Slack are available where remote team members can have a bit of fun with their colleagues in different locations. We have Slack channels dedicated to our pets, to food and culture, to music and a number of other shared interests so remote workers can still interact with teammates on a personal level.
How do you keep remote employees engaged and feeling part of the bigger picture?
Most managers have a mix of head office and remote workers in their teams, and work hard to ensure people feel included and communicated with. All large meetings (e.g. that a whole division or the entire company is invited to) are filmed, as well as being available via video conference so people can participate live or watch later. Conversations are kept online as much as possible so people can contribute regardless of where they are. And every Christmas Collis Ta’eed (Envato’s CEO) hand writes the cards that accompany gifts the remote team members are sent.
What were your biggest fears in managing remote workers?
There is always fear that collaboration is based on face to face contact but it turns out it is not! People can work on things together asynchronously and be just as effective!
How did you implement a remote work policy?
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!
What advice would you give to a team considering to go remote?
Try it, it’s not as scary as it seems! If your company is focussed on outputs and not inputs, then it shouldn’t matter whether your teams are sitting next to you or thousands of miles away as long as they are delivering!
What challenges have you encountered building a remote team?
As the Melbourne office grew initially it was ensuring we had a culture that supports people working remotely. We didn’t want people to feel as though they had to come in to the office if there was a big meeting on, or for people to not attend meetings if they were working outside the office.
Now, regardless of where you’re working, it is a normal day where you can dial in or access anything you need.
What are the most effective tools for remote team communication?
We use Google Drive so everything is cloud based and easily shareable.
We have set up the hardware we need in our head office to keep communication easy between those in the office and those working remotely. Most of our meetings include at least one person on a Google Hangout, and all the meeting rooms in Melbourne have a large tv screen and a Google Chromebox to make video calls easy!
We also use Slack so people can collaborate and chat easily without geographical boundaries.
Also teams use Trello and other online project management tools to help organise workflow and make it easy to see what others are working on.
What has changed about how your remote team operates?
In the past we have had more remote workers, but in recent years our Melbourne team grew so it became necessary to focus more on integrating remote and local team members.
How do you personally manage work-life balance?
I usually work Thursdays from home which allows me to take my kids to school, coach my kids basketball team and feel more connected with my community. It really is one of the highlights of my week and doesn’t affect my output at all. The time I would usually spend commuting is spent contributing to my family. Win-Win!
What is your favorite business book?
Drive by Dan Pink. Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose is my mantra!
Sign Up for Our Weekly Fresh Jobs Newsletter