Our Remote Agreement

We’re a remote tech team, fully distributed, and spanning multiple timezones. Working remotely allows us to live our lives well: We travel, we take care of house chores, run errands, or live a nomadic life. All the while we’re more effective than we’d be in an office, and we achieve this by sticking to a few rules.

Mindset

Habits and attitudes that serve us well in an office aren’t necessarily helpful when being remote. Internet is down? If you’re in the office, get a coffee—someone will fix it. But if you’re remote, it boils down to:

Your freedom, your responsibility

Because you choose where and when you work, it’s ultimately on you to be effective. And it’s not just about Internet access: Organize your day. Get rid of obstacles. Get answers. Manage your habits, your body clock, your procrastination.

By and large you choose where and when you work, but it’s a two way street:

Flexibility goes both ways

Sometimes you wrap your work hours around your yoga class, because yoga is important to you. At other times your yoga class needs to make way for work, because a customer needs you.

We’re a small team and “someone else” usually doesn’t exist. That being said:

Talking with each other is good

Almost every problem disappears when you talk about it. Because of misunderstandings or assumptions. Because of missing information or missing feedback. When we’ve a problem, we talk (specifically with a video call, see below) and we figure it out.

Working together

Being able to talk to each other is so important to us that we insist on overlap:

We have a few overlapping work hours every day

“A few hours”? This is vague by intention. The point isn’t to measure hours. The point is to have a guaranteed time for talking and collaborating with anyone else on the team—while we have “daylight”. It’s about solving problems fast, it’s about keeping in touch, it’s about caring for each other.

Naturally, this limits where we hire from and where we can travel while working:

We roam in “UTC+” timezones

UTC+ means we work from places between Portugal (UTC+0) to New Zealand (UTC+14). We don’t hire from the Americas. That way we can work during daytime and have overlap.

Time overlap is only useful if your colleagues know about it.

We communicate overlap hours and keep those commitments

That way, our colleagues can rely on us being around, which in turn helps them in managing their day. No need for unnecessary promises, either. Announce some overlap hours for collaboration, that’s it.

Communication

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that…

We use Slack for chatting

Hopefully it’s also no surprise that we don’t use chatting for everything.

We use video calls for team meetings, to cool things down, to speed things up

Humans pick up a lot of things non-verbally. That’s why faces matter, and why we use video calls for all meetings.

What are other situations? When you find yourself chatting via GitHub comments, it’s time for a call. Generally when there is too much back and forth. Speed matters and calls help to clarify things fast. When someone gets annoyed or grumpy, it’s time for a call. (Or maybe a break first.)

Since we rely on video calls for critical communication, they’re not optional:

Everyone can use video calls when working

It’s worth being explicit. We need calls, so we make sure our internet connection is good enough, that our microphone works, that we’ve a camera.

The point

It’s worth remembering:

The rules are rules, but they’re not the point

We stick to the rules, because they make us effective as a remote team. We will adapt them, when they don’t.