RemoteWork

How do they do it? Remote teams that make it look easy

14 February 2022

It took a global pandemic to convince most companies that going remote was a smart move. The fears, the hesitation, the scramble for control over this new way to work was palpable in 2020. Turns out, it was all unnecessary. According to a study by Owl labs, almost 70% of full time workers got into the swing of working from home without much fuss. So much so, a quarter of people would now take a pay cut to make it their permanent practice. Emerging from the deep end unscathed, a hybrid working system with at least 3 days from home, is expected to be the way forward for 80% of people.

While the rest of the world arrived late to the remote party, some companies had been on the dancefloor for a long time. They had established a steady groove with their own teams, learned from their own mis-steps, and even took it a leap further with the fully remote, distributed team model.

The following are a list of remote working trailblazers and some of the most important lessons they learned:

Discord hails death to the power struggle

With 150 million users across 19 million active communities, the communication app Discord is one of the most popular in the world. The ad-less app that actively avoids selling user data relies on subscriptions to increase revenue. Sounds like too big a ship to navigate on remote waters? The opposite is true. Although all employees have the option of working from their HQ in San Francisco, each job posted is also advertised as remote. According to Founder and CEO, Jason Citron, “sustained productivity comes from healthy work-life harmony.”

At Discord, life comes first and work falls into place around it. A parent may work early hours to ensure they spend more time with their children after school, while a night owl might thrive after dark. The work-life of each individual is tailored to their own unique needs so they can be at their most productive when they sit down to start. If there is any wavering in performance levels, staff do not have to wait for an annual review to find out. Everyone at Discord provides constant, real time feedback to ensure a faster learning cycle. “Feedback is a dialogue at Discord and we recruit everyone to participate regardless of position,” said Citron, “Team members are encouraged to give their feedback to leadership as much as leadership is encouraged to share feedback with their team members.”

Zapier strikes when staff are online

The SaaS powerhouse Zapier seamlessly integrates web applications for its users and, just as impressively, it orchestrates a workforce of over 550 workers around the United States and 38 other countries. With half the team asleep while the rest are ready to work, it is not surprising that a solid system needed to be established to keep everyone in the loop.

Instant messaging became Zapier’s touch-stone, as colleagues could mark themselves as ‘away’ when not available, indicating to the rest of the team who could be contacted and when. Used as a way to arrange meetings, discuss projects or simply check in, instant messaging has served as a clear way to connect with the team.

Buffer masters the balancing act

Buffer is a fully distributed team of 85 people in 15 countries around the world - all working together to build brands and grow businesses on social media. Like Zapier, they use asynchronous communication in the form of instant messaging - meaning not everyone has to be online at the same time to get the work done.

Primarily using the tools Discourse and Slack, the team members drop into discussions whenever they are online. To alleviate the negative aspects of this method, Buffer set out a list of 10 Agreements to manage communication and ensure a healthy work-life balance. With guidelines on things like managing your own downtime and prioritising focus over chat feeds, staff know exactly what level of interaction is expected of them.

Hotjar harnesses connection with co-workers

Personal connection is a priority for the fully distributed user insight company Hotjar. From day one, the company embraced a remote and flexible working environment - with a 40-hour week planned as each teammate sees fit. With over 200 Hotjarians spread across Europe, the Americas and Africa to keep happy and productive, the company has dedicated itself to virtual team-building.

It’s not just virtual coffee - the team conducts ‘10 things about you’ sessions, where staff share insightful or unusual facts about themselves, and Wednesday bonfires, when the entire company gets together to share anything that piqued their interest that week. Values are a primary focus in their recruitment process and they maintain a standard of treating people with love throughout the working week, along with providing personal budgets for wellness, vacation, and home offices.

Hubstaff

For some entrepreneurs, a passion for improving remote working actually became the entire focus of their business. Take Dave Nevogt for instance, the co-founder of the productivity and workplace management company Hubstaff, which currently employs 90 global team members. Disillusioned with the daily grind of an office job, Nevogt began building his first online company in his walk-in closet at night, while holding down a job during the day. Once it became a success, he believed the obvious move was to establish an office and scale the business - but he openly admits in his blog that it was a big mistake.

“Offices don’t do anything except add to commute time and negativity,” he said, “All the same pain points from working in a corporate world came back, and I felt trapped all over again. My creative juices dropped. I felt like I had to be in the office at certain hours of the day and essentially, I was stuck back in a larger cubicle of sorts.”

This key learning was the inspiration for Hubstaff, as Novogt made personal freedom the number one priority. The software service is dedicated to making remote teams more productive and giving them a better understanding of the priorities of their company, whenever and from wherever they decide.

“We get to work where we want, and when we want. We have no office, and probably never will unless something drastically changes. To me, it feels like living the dream.”

Wrapping it up

In line with the free spirit of remote working, there are no set rules for how this type of company should run. It is a tailor-made process that adapts to suit the needs and culture of the organisation. See how we do it at Double in the next blog…

Written by Tracey Halloran

In summary:

  • A hybrid working system is expected to be the way forward for 80% of people

  • Instant messaging tools have become vital for many successful remote working companies

  • It is essential that systems are put in place to ensure a healthy work-life balance

  • It is common practice for remote staff to choose their own working hours