We hold a fundamental belief that the future of work is remote! And we practice what we preach.
From day one, we have been a 100% distributed team. Our team was initially spread across the country and we would outsource freelancers from all over the world. Now, we have full-time remote employees working from different corners of the world.
We always believed in hiring people that would get the job done instead of people living in the same city as we did. And it worked out pretty great for us!
Sure we’ve had some hiccups along the way. But it only added to our experience of managing, leading and scaling remote teams.
Our journey and various other fully-remote organizations like Buffer, Trello, Zapier and more are proof that it is possible to scale a remote team.
Whether you’re a small team or a large, if you want to dip your toes into remote work, consider this your crash course!
Remote Culture isn’t Built Around Ping Pong
An organization’s core values, discovered or developed by the team members define its culture.
It is crucial for you to understand that culture is built more on the basis of how teams work on a day to day basis. The occasional engagement activities are sure a part of it but they do not define it. Since you hire employees to work, the culture should define how rewarding that work is for your team members.
Team culture should be built based on how teams communicate and collaborate on a regular basis and how they work together.
For instance, we use Slack to celebrate the success of a project or task. Our virtual office, over time, has developed its own personality through inside jokes, gifs, and a collaborative environment.
3 Ingredients to Scaling a Remote Team
Clarify Core Values
As we began to grow, we realised the importance of defining our core values and objectives for the team. It is necessary to lay down your processes for your team to collaborate better. I know defining a process might seem ‘boring’ or ‘rigid’ in the beginning. But if you think of the process as a medium to define the ‘way you work’, it will all make sense to you.
Besides, when we started documenting and sharing our values and objectives with the team, we realized how it served as a foundation for our organizational culture and nurtured a sense of community among the team members.
Your core values unite your team! They are the base camp for everything that you do, and as you grow, they will serve as a compass for your team.
Invest in Quality Technology
Technology holds a distributed team together. Whether your team relies on instant messaging or video calls, investing in the right technology will lead your remote team to success.
In our team, we have various tools that help us work efficiently and create the ‘water cooler moments’ that would otherwise be very difficult. For instance, most of our team meetings happen over Zoom. Getting the entire team on a video call not only helps us have clearer and better communication but also get to know each other, joke around, and create a friendly virtual work environment for the entire team.
We also use many other tools that help us fasten our processes. For instance, we use Slack for daily standup meetings and Trello for managing various projects as well as monitoring individual productivity.
Retain Employees by Fostering a Culture of Feedback
When new employees join a growing team, your responsibilities hike up . You need to delegate the increasing work and at the same time provide an opportunity for everyone to grow and evolve as an individual.
By fostering a culture of positive feedback, you are able to motivate your team members and help them improve at each stage. A feedback mechanism is also a great way to engage employees and create a positive virtual environment for everyone.
To inculcate the same positivity in our team, we conduct a review meeting every Friday where each team member, as well as the manager, is open to feedback and suggestions. This provides us with a new opportunity to show the team that we value their input and they are an integral part of the organization.
[Case Studies] How These Remote Organizations Scaled Their Distributed Teams
Automattic, The Company Behind WordPress
The most fascinating thing about Automattic is their strong organizational design. It serves as a backbone for a 100% distributed team with over 400+ employees. The company has been running for over 10 years and is worth more than 1 billion dollars. And, their CEO, Matt Mullenweg, chooses and supports having a fully distributed team over the traditional office cubicles.
In 2017, Automattic sold it's San Francisco office space and went 100% remote. Since then, the organization has had the opportunity to hire the best employees from around the world and rapidly build their workforce. They were also able to save a lot of money on office space (and when I say a lot, it’s really a lot!).
According to their CEO, Matt Mullenweg, “This mirrors the meritocracy that makes Open Source great and treats people on the quality of their ideas and their work whether they’re in San Francisco or Argentina. (Or if they started in San Francisco and moved to Argentina.)”
Mullenweg says that the flexibility to work from anywhere in the world is the single greatest perk provided to their employees. Instead of investing thousands of dollars in an office space, Automattic prefers taking their remote teams on retreats where team members can get to know each other and learn how to collaborate better as a team.
Mozilla, the nonprofit organization behind the Firefox browser, has employees from over 30 countries globally. Although Mozilla has 13 global offices, they support any employee’s decision to work from home. They have also successfully built a strong culture within their teams whether working in their office or working from home.
The presence of an inclusive organizational culture has helped them in keeping their teams together and scaling a semi-distributed organization. The same extends to hiring as well.
“There’s little to no distinction between contributors who pop out of nowhere, contractors, and employees. Mozilla is the community,” says Brian Bondy, a software engineer at Mozilla.
At Mozilla, one of its core values is transparency. They believe that transparency is important for building trust within teams, especially with a semi-distributed team. Maintaining this transparency has helped them in treating all employees equally and enhance their productivity.
Start Now - Lead And Scale Remote Teams
Efficiently leading remote teams is the core to scaling remote teams. We’ve realized that adding people, tools, and processes is what every remote team requires in the end.
The biggest lesson we’ve learned while scaling a remote organization is that the growing pains are natural and a part of it all. It’s how you tackle them as a leader defines how far your team goes. Not just that, they are also an opportunity to grow and rethink the way you do things and get things done.
An organization with defined processes, strong inclusive culture, and a positive work environment, is definite to grow in a virtual environment.