If you’ve been freelancing for a while, you’ve likely worked with clients across states, maybe even countries. You’ve perfected time zone management and know all about the best remote work tools and tips. Some of your clients may be fully distributed, others might have some team members in the office, some remote and some freelance. Some may have mastered the remote team dynamic, others are likely a work in progress.
As a freelancer, you have the opportunity to help pave the way for companies getting the hang of managing and working with distributed team members. For inspiration and examples of how it’s been done successfully, here are ten industry-leading companies who’ve mastered the remote work dynamic, and how they’ve been successful.
Yes, Trello makes a great collaboration tool for remote (and non-remote) teams. They’re also 50% remote and passionate about empowering their own team members to work where they’re most comfortable. Lydia, Trello’s recruitment coordinator says that their success with remote work culture was born out of a focus on continued growth. It’s much easier to recruit the best of the best when you’re willing to hire someone outside of HQ.
But as you continue to scale a distributed team, it becomes more difficult to maintain a sense of company culture. To overcome this, Trello has implemented a few key tactics that keep their team members connected and culture inherent across departments. One is Remote Week where all team members gather in the same place and work together for a week. They use Trello to manage the coordination of the entire week – from travel and accommodations to events and lunches, and beyond.
Another is what they call “Mr. Rogers.” Two employees are randomly paired each week for a 15-minute video call to get to know one another. Mr. Rogers is optional and Lydia tries to make sure each pair are in different locations and/or departments. This allows team members to learn more about what the company is working on as a whole. Exercises like this build empathy and inclusion. The team embraces a “remote first” mentality, meaning that even if one team member is remote and the rest are in the office, everyone will default to a video conference.
AgileBits also builds a tool remote teams love: 1Password for keeping passwords securely saved and shared, no matter where you are. With headquarters in Toronto, the AgileBits team is 80% remote. Like Trello, they’ve embraced remote culture to hire top talent and support customers spread across time zones. Having support team members across the globe who speak several languages has allowed them to embody their ethos of being a customer-focused company, according to a Remote.co interview.
Because AgileBits is a flat organization where team members are encouraged to run with their ideas, remote team members feel included without having to force it. They’ve found that it’s empowering to not have to get permission from someone else to do what they think is the right thing. To maintain their positive company culture, they encourage people to bring their whole selves to their work.
They also believe effective communication is key to successful working remotely. In addition to normal work-related Slack channels, they also have channels for people to connect over their love of games, literature, music and craft projects.
Behavioral messaging automation tool Customer.io has headquarters in Portland, Oregon with a team that’s 60% remote. Co-founder, John Allison even spent a year as a digital nomad traveling the world in the company’s early years.
Customer.io goes a step beyond pair calls to remote pair programming within their engineering team. Normally, pair programming happens by sharing one computer screen. Because their team is mostly remote, every day, they share screens and text editors, discuss plans for features and bugs, verbalize their thought processes, and collaboratively iterate on new features for our product. This approach allows them to tackle every product project with two perspectives and double the brainpower for finding and squashing bugs. The company also allocates budget to remote team members who want to work at a co-working space.
Did you know that the Etsy team is partially remote? Pretty cool, right?! Headquartered in Brooklyn, NY, they have offices across the world in Germany, Ireland, Japan, Australia and beyond. They also have employees who work remotely from wherever they want with a wifi connection. In an interview with Fog Creek, Derrick, one of Etsy’s remote engineers said that the company has even embraced remote culture within its headquarters, as the office is so spread out. The entire company chats via IRC. They also believe in a “reply all culture,” including entire teams on critical communications so that everyone is in the loop.
Derrick added, “We’ve got a culture of sharing and being inclusive, documenting meetings, and critical mass is the most important thing when it comes to remotes being successful on a team, meaning just a single remote on a team doesn’t tend to work out as well. You basically need enough people remote that communication defaults to remote-friendly mediums like chat, that or just sending an email, that’s probably the most common thing.”
5) Product Hunt
According to Corley Hughes who leads operations at Product Hunt, more than half of the Product Hunt team is remote. In an interview, she said, “A physical environment needs to become a manifestation of the team. So at Product Hunt we don’t have offices, we don’t even really have conference rooms. We have open spaces, couches, and work side by side. We have one room that is closed off and that is a closet with a beanbag that is used for calls.” She added, “We also surround ourselves with things from makers and founders from all over the world. We love getting notes and things from different people that we’ve impacted, so we display those items as a reminder of why we work every day.”
To make the team inside and outside of Product Hunt’s San Francisco, CA HQ more collaborative and productive, they moved most internal communications outside if the inbox and onto Slack. To create an inclusive culture, they start each week of with an all-hands standup. They use video for these calls as they value the importance of face-to-face communication. They also occasionally bring all remote team members to the office for IRL face-time and make sure to get to know each as a human, not just a face on a screen. They know one team member has a hairless cat and another loves Super Duper.
London-based Geckoboard, the maker of metric dashboard application, has a team that’s about 30% remote. Geckoboard originally became a partially distributed to scale their support team and provide global customers with 24/7 assistance.
With much success in doing so, they’ve since hired remote team members working on the marketing and product teams as well. They also have a flexible work from home policy. The company understands that sometimes its team members need to pick up their child from school or be home for a delivery. They believe work should not prevent you from living your life. As a result, employees are even more dedicated to getting the job done and transparent on what they’re working on, from where, when.
They rely on Slack for internal communications. In addition to normal Slack channels fro work across departments, they also have a #remote channel for remote team members to chat about where they’re working from, travel and more. The company uses Zoom.us for team meetings (either weekly or bi-weekly, depending on the team), and for weekly company-wode show and tells. Where company standups are for planning, Geckoboard’s show and tells let the company celebrate weekly wins and progress together.
There’s an astounding number of large corporations who employ hundreds of remote workers, some who’ve been doing so for over a decade. Mozilla is one of the large organizations that believes its employees should live where they want to. One of the first statements you’ll find on their careers page is, “We are a proudly non-profit organization driven by a culture of openness and collaboration. It’s a value we hold strong and it’s how we work together, day in and day out.”
It’s no surprise that they’re dedicated to making remote work … work. Even with 13 global offices, they support their employees in being comfortable wherever they want to work. As an organization that embraces transparency,everything they do is out in the open and shared on our own live-streaming and video platform called Air Mozilla.
8) American Express
American Express is another huge company embracing remote culture to attract the best talent and support its global customer base. In a Remote.co interview, Victor Ingalls, Vice President of World Service said, “Having a remote workforce allows us to cast a wider net, reaching prospective employees who may not live within commuting distance of one of our brick-and-mortar customer care locations. We also can attract people who have the right profile but who have specific needs that make virtual work a good fit, such as parents, students, veterans and their spouses and people with limited mobility. Having employees across time zones and with a more flexible working model also helps us respond to volumes and be there for our customers when they need us.”
They also believe in offering flexibility to their employees – the second most desired benefit of today’s workforce. With a remote work culture, they’ve been able to offer more part-time and even split-shift options because those flexible work arrangements appeal to many of the employees who work virtually. To maintain a feeling of inclusion, the company relies heavily on face-to-face communication for team meetings, feedback sessions and to celebrate achievements.
9) Stack Overflow
Stack Overflow, tech’s favorite Q&A communities, may have a headquarters in New York, NY but are 70% remote. Having been founded by an entirely remote team, now their distributed team members are on the product and engineering teams. They credit their remote work policy for hiring the best people, maintaining their retention strong and keeping their team members productive.
Like many companies on this list, Stack Overflow likes to bring the entire team together for a yearly meetup. But rather than focusing on specific projects or planning the next year, they keep it casual for team members to get to know each other. They also have remote hangouts every Friday where everyone is invited to hop on a hangout for casual conversation. Additionally, they have a program Stack Roulette that matches you with 2 people from different locations and departments in the company to get to know coworkers you otherwise wouldn’t. For project management and collaboration, they rely on Trello and Basecamp. Here’s more on how they work so well together remotely.
10) Sticker Mule
Sticker Mule, the company that makes the vinyl stickers adorned on most beloved MacBooks in startup world, is 75% remote. Sticker Mule became remote not out of some great plan, but because the people they wanted to hire were located elsewhere. Traditionally, manufacturing companies find it more effective to have customer service teams in the factory. But Sticker Mule wanted to look at this differently. They found that by having a remote team, they were able to fix problems in their process and run operations much more smoothly, according to a Remote.co interview.
Rather than stressing on individual productivity too much, they focus on metrics for each functional area that they try to improve all the time. They’ve found that this – with remote work – is an effective way to encourage productivity. They credit Slack for being the biggest factor in instilling a sense of company culture among a remote team. Co-Founder Anthony Thomas shared many more tools they use for daily operations in this Growth Hackers AMA.
The power of working remotely
We at CloudPeeps truly believe that remote and distributed teams are the future. We ourselves are a remote team with a strong company culture. Some of the biggest and most successful tech startups are operated by 100% distributed teams. These companies have found that remote work in many ways, brings a team together. Everyone is focused on doing their best work towards the same goal. With remote work, time spent as a team together becomes less of a distraction and more of a valuable opportunity to get to know one another.
If you’re looking for freelancers to hire remotely, check out the sea of talent across marketing, community, social media, design and more in the CloudPeeps community.