appear.in-Video meetings for Digital Nomads
How it all started?
appear.in started as an experiment in one of the world’s largest telco’s, called Telenor. In December 2017 we were spun off and merged with Videonor. Today we are 18 passionate people working to provide one of the worlds easiest video meeting tools, made by and for remote collaborators. All meetings are done from the browser — no downloads required, just one click to start the conversation. appear.in has 1.5 million monthly unique users in over 190 countries.
Børge Dvergsdal, (interviewed) is the head of culture and a passionate remote work evangelist.
2: What you guys stand for?
Our vision is to create tools that would allow people to build successful companies and lead happy lives anywhere. To achieve this, team members must be able to collaborate remotely. We have talked to hundreds of customers worldwide who are exploring new ways of working and pushing the boundaries for what traditional work looks like. We believe that the flexibility of work location allows employees to be more productive, creative, inspired, and less stressed. And that’s just the benefit to the employee — less traveling allows societies to be more climate-friendly and distributed outside of big cities. Part of the challenge of remote teams is trust, so we strive to create new technology and best practices that build this trust among teams without having to be in the same physical office.
Can people work remotely? Do you have digital nomads in your team?
We are a remote first company! One of our values is “Embrace flexibility”. We find our team performs best when we are allowed to balance our personal and professional lives, and we practice what we preach since our team is spread in 9 different locations, including cities like Oslo, Stockholm, Benidorm, Boston, Måløy (See picture!). Our team often takes “workcations” so they are able to explore and work. For example, our CMO, Sean Percival recently spent two months in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
How is this all working out?
Becoming a remote team has been a journey of experiments, and we are not perfect yet. We constantly look for ways to improve how we collaborate as a remote team. We often have team retrospectives where the topic is how to improve remote collaboration.
Collaborating with team members in different time zones are one of the hardest issues to solve. Recently our team member based in Stockholm added a new process to our team of having weekly office hours to be active in the same time zones as your team members in the US. We then meet from 5 -8 CET and work while we all are in the same appear.in room. The people in Europe then take a shorter day and log back on at 5pm. We found this to build camaraderie and be highly productive given the designated time to work through complex projects.
We have yearly off-sites where we gather the entire team for 3 days. This has been an important part of our culture and created stronger bonds in the team. All remote workers fly in to Norway and we travel to a new location every time. The trip usually involves mountains and hiking (we Norwegians love nature and are super proud of it!) and 80 % of the time is only about spending quality time and having fun together. During the off-site we also spend time working on how we can improve the culture and how we work together.
Here are some of our guidelines for working remotely:
- Try to announce in advance (the day before, or preferably add it to the team calendar as soon as you know) that you will be working remotely, so that people can plan for it.
- Have your own calendar updated if you have meetings, so people can check when you’re busy.
- If you are sick, take a sick leave day instead of trying to work on half engine. It’s better to heal quickly!
- Say “Good morning” and which location you’ll be working from in Slack #general when you have logged on in the morning, so people know they can reach out to you.
- Write what you’ll be working on in Slack in the morning, so people know whether you will be concentrating or whether it’s ok to disturb you.
- If you want to contact someone, ping them on Slack and ask them to get in touch when they’re ready. (Can also be practiced in the office)
- Be active in Slack to that people feel your presence and can follow what you’re working on. Instead of informal discussions and decisions made in the office, take the discussion in slack so others can see it.
- Say “Bye” in the afternoon when you leave, so people know that you are no longer available.
- Invite someone for a lunch break hangout or coffee break in an appear.in room if you need a break and want to socialize!
- Dogfood by using appear.in when you need video, it’s a great way to test how it works in different settings!
How do you use your tech?
We use our product as much as possible — here are a few ways we suggest to leverage video meetings:.
- Quickly solve problems that can drag out over email or chat. It is a low threshold to escalate to video conversations and sort out any miscommunication. If a discussion start does drag out in Slack we jump to an appear.in video call to make it more efficient.
- Socialize with remote team members over video to help combat isolation that remote workers can sometimes feel
- Large team meetings with screen sharing like demos, retros
- When a new employee starts in the job we set up coffee chats (getting to know your team members) over appear.in with every individual that is remote.
- Have had mandatory remote work (for those near an HQ), so we all can practice the remote lifestyle and sympathize with remote colleagues.
- We firmly believe that you can be as creative on video as you can in person, and to better improve this we have integrated Trello and Google Docs in our Business Model (more to come). Then users can interactively collaborate with your team member (isn’t that cool?) See picture below.
Security. What if I’m sharing my biggest secret, can someone stalk me?
Your deepest secrets are safe with us!
The video and audio communication in an appear.in room is only visible to participants inside a room. It is not possible for other users to listen in to the communication unless they are present in the room themselves, in which case they will be visible for everyone in the room. If you are sharing confidential information and you want to make sure no one pops in, you can easily lock your room by clicking the lock icon.
9: 3 tips on how to look great on a video call
- Set a cool background. I am a big fan of making sure that the background in the room looks awesome and welcoming. This can also be a good conversation starter/ice breaker.
- Upgrade your camera. Having an external camera with wide angles, like the Huddly GO helps you to give better presentation and storytelling.
- Use body language. Not many people think about gesture using your arms while in a video meeting. I try to bring in the same energy and gestures I would use in a physical meeting. It may feel strange in the beginning but it definitely improves the energy in the meeting.