Small steps towards remote work

Marko Vasiljevic
Mar 9, 2020 · 5 min read

After presenting this option to the team and getting general buy in, we are kicking off with one remote day a week to start. The idea is that we can feel the pain gradually as we move forward.

Here’s the summary of the kick off deck. Note: The information below is heavily influenced by the resources mentioned in the first post of this series.

What does remote-first mean?

Remote people are not an afterthought, they first class citizens. Everyone should enjoy the same involvement, opportunities, and impact.

We are intentional about the tools that we use, how we plan a company culture to be as inclusive as possible of remote people while allowing everyone to be the most productive.

Videoconferencing by default. Keep meetings inclusive to all.

Accessible, structured, and documented meetings. Use tools that allow everyone to get involved.

Document, document, document. Record work in progress, as well as decisions, so everyone knows where they were made.

Hallway conversations need to be shared. Keep the conversation flowing, just remember to share the results.

Plan Together Time. Nothing beats face to face time for very creative work and team bonding.

Pros

Hiring remotely will give us access to a wider and more diverse talent pool.

Increased productivity. Fewer distractions, you have more control over your environment. You can tune your personal performance and lean into your strengths.

Better quality of life. Less time commuting means more time for your family, friends, exercise and fun.

Get stuff done during the week (e.g. receive a package, do laundry) so that you have more leisure time.

Save commute money.

Live in other areas or cities.

Better work processes and increased trust.

Increased employee retention.

(Potential) Cons

All of these can be avoided with proper planning.

Communication. Creating and maintaining a human connection over chat or video can be challenging. Plan in person meetups to create deeper relationships.

Iteration is easier remote, innovation is easier in person. Use the right tool for the job. Meet in person when needed. Being able to meet face-to-face at least once in a while is really powerful. Working remote is great for focus and execution. Meeting in person is great for building relationships and creative innovation.

Loneliness. Meet non-work people. Find a shared office. Meet regularly in person.

Feeling isolated and/or missing opportunities. Making remote a first class citizen means this should never ever be the case.

Not having a productive place to work. Plan an area just for work. Make sure everyone around you respects that boundary. ‘Remote — Office not required’ has some great strategies.

Distractions. Reduce them by controlling your environment.

Technology. Invest in a great internet connection.

Always-on mentality. Make sure you create clear boundaries between work and the rest of your life.

General Guidelines

  • Remote work is available to everyone on the team, but it’s completely optional
  • We’ll start slowly and increase the number of days gradually
  • For fully remote people, we’ll make sure we get enough face to face time
  • To keep it easy to start, we’ll stick to time zones from PST to EST
  • We’ll figure out the best tools to use as we go (iteration)
  • Need great AV setup at the new office and people need good setups at home
  • It takes about 5x the process upfront, but it pays back massively
  • People are “fast decision makers”, comms is “slow I/O”. Optimize autonomy.
  • Asynchronous > Synchronous
  • Public Slack channels > private chats
  • Documented/recorded knowledge/demos > Verbal explanations
  • Documented process > On the job training
  • Everything is public by default. Need a good reason to keep private.
  • Everyone can edit everything by default
  • We need to define our culture, vision and mission. Need clear strategy and high-level goals.
  • We will let engineers, Product Managers and Product Designers take ownership over teams and projects
  • We will let engineers and Product Managers take ownership over the product they build, but also the goals they commit to (strategy goes top-down, execution bubbles bottom-up)
  • We’ll have strong onboarding documents and employee handbooks and let new employees improve on them
  • We’ll be explicit in communication
  • We’ll be explicit about which are expected rules and which are not
  • We’ll wait for problems before you introduce solutions (esp. processes or infrastructure)

Work Day Expectations

  • Be available during regular business hours. We aim to have people online between 10am and 3pm PST to have at least a few hours where we are all online for synchronous communication if needed. Being remote doesn’t mean you’re available 24/7, so we have to make sure you create proper boundaries.
  • Set your Slack status to Working Remotely
  • Set up working hours in Google Calendar. If you’re not in PST, set the calendar to display both your local time and PST.
  • Respond to Slack messages and emails within a reasonable amount of time
  • Lean towards over-communicating
  • Try your best to be in sync with the rest of the office. For example, eat your lunch between 12 and 1pm PST (unless you’re in a different time zone)

Team Commitments

  • If you have any meetings, check with the meeting organizer if you need to be physically present ahead of time (when possible)
  • If you have any meetings, make every call with video. Be presentable and make sure you have a dedicated workspace.
  • If you have any local interviews, please try to avoid working from home, or if you have no other options, please communicate with HR to make sure they can re-organize around your absence
  • For anything that requires a face to face, use Hangouts Video calls

Tactical details

  • We’ll run smarter meetings. Before each meeting, we’ll send out an agenda and give everyone a chance to contribute to it. After the meeting, summarize the outcome and list the actions that should come from it. If possible, send an agenda by the end of the day preceding the meeting so that everyone has a chance to review it beforehand.
  • If there is a meeting that has any information relevant to the team, you need to document key points and action items. Post into Slack meetings channel. Focus on decisions and todos, not discussions
  • Retros will be documented, and link to them shared in the Slack meetings channel
  • Post mortems will be documented, and link to them shared in the Slack meetings channel

Weekly demos (will be recorded and shared). We’ll answer these questions:

  • What are the numbers this week?
  • What has been done engineering-wise?
  • What has been done product-wise?
  • What has been done company-wise?

At the beginning of the week, I’ll be sending Weekly Notes:

  • News of the week
  • Goals of the week
  • Roadmap this week
  • Done last week
  • Team event (who is off, who is where)
  • Link to the recording from the weekly Demos

We’ll do daily check ins in the Slack check in/out channel

  • What will I work on today?
  • Am I blocked on anything?

We’ll do daily check outs in the Slack check in/out channel

  • How did you feel today?
  • What have you done today?
  • Have you been blocked by anything?
  • What have you learned today?
  • How efficient did you feel today? (1–5)

Next Steps

We are using Geekbot for our daily check ins/check outs and meeting notes. We’ll see how this goes and I’ll provide an update in the next post. We are also going to be testing out some remote friendly tools like Miro, Loom and Tandem.

RemoteFirst

On building remote-first companies

RemoteFirst

On building remote-first companies

Marko Vasiljevic

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Tech Entrepreneur

RemoteFirst

On building remote-first companies