Remote teams and flexible working arrangements are becoming an increasingly common occurrence in companies of all sizes these days. Part of this is thanks to more advanced technology and better solutions. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn’t – Yahoo! chief executive Marissa Mayer famously banned flexible working a few years ago, arguing that being physically together is the only way to produce the best work.
But is this still true? As more and more of our lives happen online, it seems natural that our work should reflect the same change. Many companies have embraced this remote working model so much so that entire teams are spread across the globe – and they’re achieving success. Here are 10 companies who are challenging the idea that presence equals productivity and making the ‘virtual office’ work for them.
Zapier, the integration platform that automates web apps like Salesforce, Dropbox, Office 365, GoToMeeting and more, is a true remote work champion. Their team is distributed all over the world from South Florida to Nigeria, and remote work is so strongly built into their company ethos that they’ve written a guide about it. Through task management apps and collaborative tools like Google Docs, they’re able to stay agile and keep the company running smoothly.
Although not entirely remote like Zapier, Etsy has embraced a global workforce to their advantage. Their headquarters are in Brooklyn, but they have employees all over the world from London to Tokyo to Melbourne. In an interview with software engineer Brad Greenlee (based in Washington), he says that Etsy emphasizes a ‘reply-all’ culture that fosters inclusivity and doesn’t make remote workers feel isolated or like they are not ‘first class citizens’ of the company. He also says that recording videoconferences makes it super easy for staff to catch up on anything they may have missed.
- GitLab Inc.
This software provider and Git repository management is another proud remote company. They even have a Remote Manifesto, which outlines their eight principles for effective collaboration. In a recent interview, the CEO Sid Sijbrandij says at GitLab they ‘treat remote working as an advantage, not an obstacle.’ Remote working helps eliminate unnecessary meetings or inefficient communication, and they rely on chats to work together across time zones and continents.
Olark is a live chat platform connecting businesses with customers based in San Francisco, but their team has grown into a global force. From Tiree, Scotland to Cookeville, Tennessee, it’s clear that Olark truly values their people and their well-being. Not only do they place a strong emphasis on transparency and communication, they foster a sense of digital community. They also have annual company retreats so everyone – including staff based outside the US – can hang out face-to-face and grow real friendships.
For those that haven’t heard of Geckoboard, they are a live TV dashboard software for businesses – a real-time metric and KPI tracker – and they are another champion of the remote working model. From their London headquarters, they’ve expanded across eight different time zones from Hawaii to Mumbai to give better service to their global clients. Throughout this growth, they’ve kept true to one of their core company beliefs: that having a great workplace and a great personal life mean working smarter, and you don’t all need to be in the same place to do so.
Now over 500 strong and valued at over $1 billion, Automattic is one of the most well-known remote working success stories. The WordPress developer has been remote from the beginning to tap into the best talent, regardless of location. CEO Matt Mullenweg said in an interview with Glenn Leibowitz that ‘[having distributed teams] has been amazing for the company in that we can attract and retain the best talent without them having to be in New York or San Francisco or one of the traditional tech enters.’ To stay productive, the teams communicate through internal chats and P2, an internal blog.
‘The best talent isn’t found in a single zip code, and an international clientele requires a global perspective,’ says 10Up and their completely remote workforce reflects this global attitude. 10Up, a web design and development agency specialising in content management services, has engineers and developers located from Costa Rica to Pakistan. In a Q&A for Remote.co, president and founder Jake Goldman says one of the main benefits of a remote working model is that ‘with the right team, you have a grassroots marketing campaign in cities and towns all around the country, and world. Many of our employees are active in their local meetup groups and communities, which spreads organic awareness of our brand outside of a single city.’
There’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard of Upworthy – you may have even seen one of their stories shared on your Facebook Newsfeed recently. The popular content platform is a distributed team, with most of their job positions available virtually (although some require a U.S. time zone). They value results, not hours spent working, and encourage their employees to shift their work around other life commitments.
When Adda Birnir was one of many employees laid off from her job in 2008, she realised that those who remained at the company were all the technical workers: coders, developers and designers. She founded Skillcrush to give everyone, especially women, the opportunity to learn coding, get hired and enhance job security overall – and in the process, became a role model for the remote working model. Skillcrush’s (all female) team is fully remote and scattered from Finland to Texas.
- Help Scout
Help Scout, an online customer support platform, is the perfect example of the way a remote team should work. Although they have a head office in Boston, each employee has the freedom to work wherever they want, relying on transparency, trust and videoconferencing to get the job done. Help Scout also have a unique tradition called the Friday Fika – a 15-minute chat over coffee between randomly-chosen employees to keep everyone connected, despite the physical distance.