Finding Success by Going Remote
As the world becomes more digital, companies are taking a step back from their traditional hiring processes to consider remote workers. After all, if you can hire the top talent from all over the globe, then your potential workforce can exceed 6 billion candidates.
Some businesses have perfected the art of the remote workforce and have built their companies around completely distributed teams. Conference calls are organised by time zone, and everyone feels included, no matter where they are in the world.
Applying to a distributed team is a wonderful option for those looking to move to a foreign country, or for spouses trying to rebuild their careers after moving with their significant others.
Here are 25 distributed companies sharing why their business model works.
They View Time Zones and Culture Differences As a Plus
One of the best parts of having employees all over the world is the 24-hour customer service. “A key part of our vision is to set the bar for customer support,” says CEO Joel Gascoigne on the Buffer blog.
“…We have more than a million users and we reply to 80% of emails within 1 hour. We couldn’t achieve this level of service without being spread across multiple timezones.”
Most distributed companies give up micromanaging and traditional work hours in favor of task-based evaluation. “There is no point trying to make someone function at a time when they should be sleeping,” explains Paul Slezak, co-founder of RecruitLoop.
“It’s more important to look at the contribution someone is making to the business as opposed to when they might physically be online and working.”
As long as your schedule is approved by your team, and your hours aren’t hurting the business, you can work wherever and whenever you want, software engineer Richard Dowinton explained on the ScrapingHub blog:
“We allocate teams who share similar time zones and give each member control over their own schedule. You can work mornings, nights, or during whichever time you feel like. Day-to-day rearrangements can always be made and agreed upon within the team, and this flexibility has shown to be a win-win for all.”
“Most employers will either ask you to relocate, or they just won’t entertain the opportunity if you’re not going to join them on-site. I love how Treehouse lets us choose where we want to be, and where we want to build our lives.”
They Create a Strong Culture and Team Mentality
To create a sense of collaboration across teams, distributed companies need to create a digital culture. “If you are looking for a magical bullet list to solve all your problems, then you are doing it wrong,” Deekit Founder and CEO Kaili Kleemeier writes on the company’s blog.
“Remote work is about team culture, and building culture takes time. It evolves, and you can simply set directions.”
Your culture is meant to help your company thrive. You can change processes and location, but your values dictate who you are.
“Having a clear, concise and inspiration set of values means we can grow and fail intelligently, building our strength and supporting culture as we move into our next stage of expansion,” Stuart Thompson, Director of European Expansion, says on the TINT blog.
Even if you’re working 3,000 miles away, a strong team will support one another. “It’s helpful to create a system of positive recognition,” 10Up CEO Jake Goldman tells SkilledUp. “Employees in good company cultures recognise each other’s successes and share information about their wins.”
Most companies have access to the same industry tools. It’s the people who make the companies grow.
“Tools aren’t the reason that teams succeed,” Alex Turnbull explains on the Groove blog. “Teams succeed because of culture, principles and vision, and the habits you build around all three of those factors.”
They Get to Know Their Team Members
Often, knowing your team involves understanding their tone and reading between the lines in written communication. “Body language is an important part of communication, but perhaps not as important as distributed team detractors make it out to be,” CTO Andrew Montalenti explains on the Parse.ly blog.
“Distributed teams do need to learn another individual’s personality type. Once that is accomplished, their brain will be very good at filling in their body language in future communication.”
This knowledge extends beyond the skillset, and into global cultural differences.
“Some cultures will have reports ready a day before deadline, some will feel that a few hours after the deadline is still on time,” says Dan Virgillito on the AdEspresso blog. “It’s important to actively listen and study each member, and then facilitate their values by modifying your approach towards them.”
Most importantly, everyone needs to feel included, regardless of country and culture. “A distributed company is one in which the vast majority of employees work from wherever they are comfortable and productive,” explains CEO Jeff Robbins on the Lullabot blog.
“Perhaps most importantly, communication and culture are moved outside the boundaries of a physical location so that everyone is able to be included wherever they live.”
They Hire Self-Motivated Individuals
The best people to hire know that working from home doesn’t mean hardly working. “You need to hire people who are Professional Remote Workers™,” founder Josh Pigford writes on the Baremetrics blog. “If you hire people who aren’t self-motivated or capable of major problem solving, then yes, productivity will suffer greatly.”
Self-motivated employees often do better when they’re able to decide how and when to work, instead of someone telling them what to do. “We have learned that self-directed people can perform at a higher level and simultaneously take better care of their lives when they’re able to design for themselves how, when and where they work,” 15Five Customer Acquisition Lead Luke Ryan writes on the company’s blog.
When people are in control of their own schedules, they become more accountable for themselves and the project’s success.
“Ultimately, being geographically distributed means that we have to be more accountable to our teammates, our clients, and even to ourselves,” senior consultant Misty McLaughlin writes on the Jackson River blog. “When approached with care, the model can work beautifully.”
The good news is there’s less opportunity to get annoyed by desk tapping, smelly lunches, and poor taste in music. “One of the rarely talked about benefits of being a distributed company is that there’s much less opportunity to get irritated with your co-workers,” CEO Andrew Berkowitz jokes on the TeamSnap blog.
“The traditional office model of spending eight to nine captive hours in the same physical space increases the likelihood that everybody’s individual working styles and habits will drive each other nuts.”
They Communicate Effectively
If you’re working across several time zones, you probably cannot pick up the phone and call a colleague when it’s 3 a.m. their time. “When you’re distributed, you have to write things down,” Hitlist CEO Gillian Morris tells Justworks.
“…Whether in chat (we use Slack), or in task managers (we use Asana for marketing/business and Phabricator for engineering), or simply in shared Google Docs. This makes it easier to track progress and know who is responsible for what.”
On top of written communication, project management software creates project paths and keeps everyone on task. “Additionally, if you intend to have remote employees, it’s imperative that all team communication is persistent,” says Laura Frank, engineer at Codeship. “A task manager is a good fit for this because it allows for the communication record to be persistent and searchable.”
Of course, every company has their own communication rules. “The next time you catch yourself writing ‘See below in bold/red/underline/whatever,’ stop” says Breanden Beneschott, co-founder of TopTal. “If you don’t have time to write the thoughtful response you want, pick up the phone and call the person, or knock on their door virtually.”
Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you hiring remotely is worth it. The talent and community always beats convenience. “We overcome remote challenges through transparency, trust, and video conferencing.” Help Scout founder Nick Francis writes. “The reward is worth the effort — we’ll take talent, skill, and diverse perspectives over local geography any day.”
They Use The Right Tools
Your distributed team needs to completely integrate with the company. They shouldn’t feel like they’re a continent away, even if they are.
“If you’re looking to add remote teams to existing operations — make sure to setup remote workers and local workers to be working with the same tool set,” Zapier CEO Wade Foster told NomadList. “If remote workers are treated as second class citizens then it’s doomed to fail from the start.”
Whether it’s Skype or Slack, connecting with the team as a whole can increase motivation and reinforce a team mentality. “Remote work can be isolating,” Universal Mind Solutions Architect Peter Traeg explains on the company blog.
“Decide on a collaboration tool to engage with your co-workers during the day. Your team should also be having daily scrums/standups to foster daily communication among team members.”
They Invest in Their Remote Employees
Remember, distributed employees want to grow, too. They don’t want to stay at the same place professionally all their lives.
“Investing in the personal and professional growth of your employees is critical if you want to cultivate a culture of continuous learners, forward-thinkers, and motivated leaders who know how to inspire others to reach lofty goals,” Accelerated Partners Director of Talent & Culture Emily Tetto says.
Whether the company covers the cost of a co-working space or employees visit a coffee shop or Internet cafe, getting out is an easy way to escape a routine and enjoy human communication.
“While remote work provides the convenience of working from home, being confined to your house day and night can lead to cabin fever,” Adam Feber writes on the Chargify blog. “With the rise of co-working spaces across the globe, most cities have affordable options worth checking out.”
While training often falls on the employee, employer-provided education goes a long way toward retention and advancement. “We always urge employees to master their roles, which results in both professional and personal self-improvement,” says Chris Dyer, founder of PeopleG2. “We offer the autonomy to get the job done within the boundaries we provide.”
Remember, today’s entry-level employees are tomorrow’s managers, even if they’re a world away. “[It’s] crucial to make sure that the junior engineers working in the team get the chance to learn, progress and tackle the more complicated tasks together with the senior engineers who are not always co-located,” Kaisa Holsting confirms on the Fleep blog.
There are hundreds of companies that are willing to work with employees remotely as long as they have the right skillset, but which one is right for you? Remember to look for these criteria as you are interviewing: Communication, flexibility, advancement and community.