We are a Remote Team
The tech team at engageSPARK is fully remote. It’s also geographically distributed. This way of working is more common nowadays, but isn’t always successful. After a lot of failing and learning, we feel like we’re an effective remote team. And we like it so much that we think more people should do it. That’s why I’ll explain here how we work remotely.
Always good to start with “why”, right?
When we started our reason was pragmatic: we needed to hire people we could not find locally.
Why do we keep it? Simple: it’s so fun and liberating, there is no going back.
What’s a remote team?
Okay, in the remote case (yes, yes) you are not quite sure what a remote team is, here is one aspect of it:
There is no office.
A very different idea, probably more to the spirit:
In a remote team it doesn’t matter where each member is.
This doesn’t even mean that everyone works apart—but it means everyone might.
Everyone works from home? Yep, a remote team.
Everyone is on the road, traveling? Yep, a remote team.
A team member decides to travel for half a year and the team doesn’t need to adjust much to cater to that? Yes.
Everyone can do home office twice a week? Nope, not good enough.
And yes, remote work is not a new thing: sales teams that go knocking at doors all week have practiced remote work for a long time.
At engageSPARK, all of us work apart most of the year, from Asia, Europe, Egypt. Sometimes it’s only on a video call that the rest of us realize that a colleague traveled to a different city or even country. If you don’t notice you’ve got yourself a remote team.
Sensible Overlap Hours
I believe the best teams talk to each other. Not just chatting or emailing, but talking. I believe it’s an efficient method to solve certain problems and to avoid other problems in the first place.
That’s why at engageSPARK we insist on overlapping a few hours a day. During these hours you can talk to someone. And we need this overlap to happen at humane times, so everyone can live their lives.
Focus on Output, Trust with the Rest
How do we make sure that work gets done?
I fundamentally believe that if you get the right people in the right place, they will want to deliver excellent results that they’re proud of. That means in my role as CTO it’s arguably my most important job to make sure that we get the right people in the right place.
But, how do we make sure that work gets done while everyone is literally out of sight? As far as tech is concerned, it’s good to remember that engageSPARK only moves forward when we deliver results.
For example, in my job I move things forward by writing a specification that helps my colleague deliver the right feature fast.
What matters is that I pin down that bug. That I pull someone out of a rabbit hole. Or deploy that config update.
In contrast, if my brain feels like a roasted zucchini, it matters very little if I spend 12 hours in front of my screen that day.
Likewise, I expect my colleagues to deliver results. And I trust them to manage their energy and time well.
What I am concerned about is throughput and that everyone cares about what we want to achieve on some level.
Our Remote Agreement
The above boils down to a couple of rules and intentions. I wrote them down in Our Remote Agreement. Feel free to copy it, if that helps your team.
Meetings are Few but Enough
Some people believe in “no meetings”, we don’t. We do as many meetings as we think are necessary, and not one more. Here are the weekly meeting the tech team participates in at the moment:
- Monday: We play a board game for 1h, see below. Afterwards we quickly sync up for a few minutes.
- Thursday: We discuss who can help whom.
- Friday, biweekly: At our Company all-hands we show off what we’ve done and we look at our numbers.
Yes, those meetings take time. That’s fine. The point is that we stay a team. And that matters.
We play games. Board games, to be specific. Each Monday instead of talking about.
Why board games? The games we play are round-based, and that means there is plenty of time to talk: about the weekend, things that happened, about stunningly bad moves on the board, or anything that distracts the one whose turn it is.
We meet in person
As Buffer and other remote companies found out, meeting in person matters and a lot. That’s why, when traveling, we try to make meetings happen.
Hiring Remote Developers
We want overlap hours at humane times, and that restricts where we hire. The company was founded in the Philippines, and our gravitational center is still here. That means we’re not hiring in the Americas.
Are you looking for a remote developer job? Are you out to hire a remote developer? Have a look at our list of remote job sites.