Countless articles have been written on the theme of company culture in the time of COVID, and what the ramifications of sudden "work from home for all" might be. Surprisingly, a study by Quartz noted that culture had largely improved across organizations in the wake of COVID. This speaks to the human capacity to adapt to our circumstances even in trying times.
One sticking point, however, is related to remote working: what might it mean if people didn’t come back to an office environment? Would they still receive the guidance and mentoring from institutional leaders? And how would this in turn impact company culture and performance?
As a remote-first company, Crowdbotics' approach to remote work can shed a lot of light on this topic. Our approach enables us to hire top talent regardless of where it is located, and we pride ourselves on demonstrating best practices for remote-first organizations.
A remote-first approach has proven to be especially suitable for the world of software development, as our team can make round-the-clock progress on client builds and accommodate clients who have regional constraints on the types of teams that they can hire.
A huge (and unexpected) benefit for Crowdbotics is that the COVID pandemic didn’t impact our operations at all. While most companies were scrambling to set up “remote work” for their employees, we just operated as usual.
Pros of being a remote-first company
No headquarters, no problem
Rather than invest in a "headquarters" or a set of offices from where our employees work, Crowdbotics allows its employees to work from anywhere in the world – as long as they have Internet connectivity, can attend the meetings in which their participation is mandatory, and can finish their tasks within reasonable timeframes. There are multiple advantages to functioning in this manner, including flexibility, lower overhead, and – importantly, in the present times -- business continuity.
What you see (and don’t see)
- No big office building
- Fewer cars on the road where Crowdbotics employees live
- Everyone’s on time at the all-hands meeting – can’t blame traffic
Plan work around life, and not vice versa
At many workplaces, work priorities often take precedence over other life events except in the most dire emergencies. At Crowdbotics, it’s the opposite. Employees have the flexibility to plan their work around their lives. As long as they are available for at least 6 hours during US Pacific Time for meetings, they are free to come up with a schedule that works for them and execute against deliverables.
What you see (or don’t see)
- Deliverables executed against a plan that works for employees
- Better productivity because of the time saved commuting
Be globally local in Silicon Valley
The remote model benefits Crowdbotics because it enables us to tap into a global talent pool, which would normally not be easy to access. It relies on a fundamental belief that talent isn’t localized just to Silicon Valley or to the United States. For the employee, it gives them the flexibility to work from a location where they are comfortable and yet to also be a part of a “Silicon Valley” company that’s changing how software is developed.
What you see (or don’t see)
- Regularly scheduled all-hands and standups open to the global team
- A company team page that reflects a diverse, international staff
The best pro of all, especially right now: no COVID-related interruptions!
Are there any cons to being remote-first?
Not cons, but some things to keep in mind.
- Clear and timely communication is key. Keeping open virtual channels for bottom-up communication is super important.
- Load on managers can be high to ensure that everyone is aligned with goals, and that every member of the team is contributing their fair share. It is up to the manager to make the employee successful, and to over-communicate if necessary to ensure that expectations are clear. If situations arise where the employee doesn’t fit with the company's manner of functioning, corrective action is necessary.
- Time difference can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. If leveraged correctly, time difference is a huge advantage, but this requires that managers must leave no question unanswered before their day is complete. That way, team members who start work early aren’t blocked because they’re waiting on a response.
- Clarity on deliverables is paramount. It’s best to be explicit in requirements and let the engineers know what you’d like them to build, attempt to have them break down the design, and ask you any questions up front.
- Recruiting the right person is critical. A track record of success in a remote work environment is always a plus. Beyond that, certain qualities such as patience, proactiveness, problem-solving skills, and ability to innovate, which are important to the company, are key.
- Suitability for remote operations has to be assessed. A potential employee needs quality infrastructure, a distraction-free environment, and good written, spoken, and visual communication.
Do remote working models work across industries or types of work?
Short answer: no. In fact, remote working models only work well for “knowledge work”. A factory floor, for instance, cannot be run remotely, even if most of the work is fully automated through robotics.
However, almost every industry has a certain degree of “knowledge work” which can be done remotely. Companies stand to gain a lot by taking full advantage of this. With nearly ubiquitous Internet access and awesome tools for collaboration, there is no reason that most knowledge work cannot be done remotely.
From the horse’s mouth: Crowdbotics principles for team support and successful teamwork
- Be honest with your team - always.
- No surprises: If you have an issue, let’s bring it up early and discuss it so that it doesn’t become a crisis.
- Support your teammates. I hate to hear “it’s not my problem”.
- No question is too “silly” to ask, no answer is too stupid.
- Leave your ego by the door. I will not tolerate “rock stars”.
Encouraging an open dialogue
The Crowdbotics discussion forum is a great example of our culture strategy because it's a place where users are engaging with app development solutions and providing feedback, user-to-user, in addition to our core team. This conversation is asynchronous and conducted between users in non-hierarchical fashion. If these discussions can extend beyond the App Builder or client builds to industry solutions in general, all the better.
We've seen this attention to remote work have a positive impact on the professional services experience that we provide. If you're looking for remote application development solutions from vetted domain experts, get in touch with Crowdbotics today.