by Scott Meiklejohn
Five years in, with over 200 team members scattered across multiple continents, ReCharge has been fully remote since we first started. What allowed us to be most successful was simply this: We embed a remote-first mindset in our culture. It’s foundational within our company.
Along the way we worked out the kinks and found our best practices. With many businesses having to quickly adapt to working remotely we wanted to share what we learned.
It wasn’t all sunshine and roses along the way. We encountered challenges and obstacles and fine-tuned our approach. With all that in mind, here is what we believe.
Starting with a remote-first mindset
To get the full picture of why we champion a remote-first culture, let’s start at the beginning of ReCharge. Our co-founders had just started the business and were looking to grow the team by bringing aboard new developers. They soon realized that due to resource constraints, they had to look for talent outside their home base of Los Angeles. Not only that, office costs in LA were not cheap and required a long-term lease.
That constraint created an opportunity. They expanded their search and started to work with a few contractors from South America. Even in the early days, that resulted in a team working together across two hemispheres.
This unplanned approach to working with remote employees started to take off and thus the co-founders decided to make it a foundational part of the culture at ReCharge. They embedded the remote-first mindset in our day to day collaboration and the tools we used to connect and collaborate.
How do you make that a successful endeavor? By embracing the advantages of a remote-first mindset and quickly finding and addressing the disadvantages it has over more traditional office-based companies.
ReCharge’s CEO, Oisin O’Connor, often shares a quote by Peter Drucker during bi-weekly townhall meetings which explains it best:
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
Simply, any company disconnecting the two are putting their success at risk. It’s imperative to have a team that’s agile, accountable, communicative, and innovative. This can’t be stressed enough for remote work.
Keeping it human
Remote work means you’re interacting through a lot of screens. That can feel disconnected, lead to miscommunication, or miss out on the natural collaborative conversations people can have hanging out at the coffee machine on their break.
Finding ways to mimic that collaboration is key to help people feel part of a team and embrace their individuality.
During the aforementioned townhalls, we bring everyone together to reinforce our culture and values, emphasize how we collaborate, and most importantly tell stories. One highlight is the failure and success of the last two weeks, acknowledging that celebrating failures is actually a good thing and it helps us grow.
New hires are mailed ReCharge swag bombs (ReCharge branded hoodies, water bottles, stickers, and more) so they touch and feel an aspect of ReCharge. Getting this swag week one is a huge morale boost and provides a sense of ownership and community for teammates no matter where they are.
Department retreats take place multiple times per year and we have an annual retreat that brings everyone in the company together. In the past six months alone the Growth team met up in Palm Springs, the Developer team flew into Orlando, the Customer Support team split their time in Denver and Serbia, and we all witnessed the first snow of the season during the annual retreat in Vail.
Be who you are
An employee at ReCharge was thrilled that she was able to train for a marathon every day on her lunch break. An infrastructure engineer for the first time in 12 years was able to go to the bus stop at 3pm and walk his daughter home from school. A CS lead was able to continue pursuing her passion of sailing on tall ships knowing ReCharge trusted her to get her job done.
Most recently, in response to COVID-19, ReChargers have been empowered to do whatever they need to take care of themselves and their loved ones, like being able to go out midday to pick up or deliver groceries. ReCharge also hosts daily check-ins, guided meditations and restorative yoga classes through Zoom. Perhaps our most exciting initiative was a COVID-19 charitable donations match program where the company will match any donations made from its employees.
Avoiding silos and vacuums
As a remote worker you’ll work very closely with your team but not have as much day to day interaction outside your department. We recognized early on that talking in a vacuum of 10-12 people is not optimal for growth. So here’s how we solved that potential stumbling block.
Retreats are one way to stay connected, but on a day to day level we have various Slack channels designated for ReChargers to meet and engage with different team members. Topics range from movies, cooking, gaming, sports, gardening, and hiking; there truly is a channel for everyone!
We encourage new Slack channels so team members can share their passions and form bonds with other people outside of their work teams. A favorite Slack channel at ReCharge? #Wanderlust, where team members can share where they’ve explored recently or the view of where they’ve been able to work from. That’s where you can find gems like this picture taken earlier this year:
In addition to fostering a remote-first culture , the following is a list of high impact tips for navigating your day as a remote worker and getting the most out of your remote teams.
Find your own work from home style
- Find where you work best. If you have the luxury of a spareroom this could mean converting that into your remote office. If space is limited, carve out a spot in a room and make that area your dedicated work station.
- See if working in more traditional business attire makes you more productive or if dressing more casually allows you to get more done.
- If your department allows it, try different start times.
- Your work from home style is a process and you can only learn by experimenting.
Prioritize documentation and communication
- Better to over-communicate than under-communicate.
- We communicate in three different ways: Slack channels for informal messages, email for more important matters, and in a townhall to reinforce verbally.
- With remote work, the onus shifts to you to express if you’re feeling overwhelmed, confused or going through something in your personal life.
- We do our best to make sure team members at ReCharge feel comfortable speaking to their leads so they can live their best remote-first lives.
Create boundaries between work and life
- Separating work from your personal life is important.
- We recommend time blocking your day so you have a clear start and end time.
- If you can, create a workspace that you can close down or leave at the end of the day.
- Some ReCharge team members take a walk before going to work and after they ‘clock out’ for the day. Not a bad commute if you ask us!
Make yourself visible at work
- Ensure you are visible in the digital space (using statuses on Slack to display what you’re working on or where you are).
- Weekly one-on-ones with leads allow for check ins on a personal level and any work related questions or issues.
- We’re a big believer in asking, “Are you getting what you need from me?” to anyone on your team to make sure you’re contributing to the big picture.
- Find a project management tool that works for your team.
- It’s very important to timebox tasks and stick to those schedules.
- Encourage team members to have a task list and check items off as they work.
- Have everyone use the same calendar tool to book meetings and time off.
Video meeting etiquette
- Turn on your video. It’s that simple. Give your team members the courtesy of seeing your face so they’re speaking to a human, not a collage of profile pictures or empty windows.
- Be presentable. Don’t look like you’ve rolled out of bed and don’t participate in a meeting from your bed.
- Be attentive. Don’t fiddle with your phone or work on other things. Make sure the meeting stays on task by outlining the goal of the conversation off the top. If you are taking notes, share them at the end of the meeting with concise next steps.
Schedule time for socialization
- Working from home shouldn’t make you feel like you’re always at work.
- Turn off or snooze notifications when you clock out.
- Occasionally scheduling happy hours at the end of some work days is a great morale boost. Team members across departments can hangout and chat while enjoying their favorite beverage.
We believe the future of work is remote. As more and more businesses make the jump, it’s paramount to start, as our cofounders did, with a robust remote-first foundation. Whether you’re a remote employee looking for tips or an employer looking to maximise the potential of your remote team, we hope you gained valuable insights from this article.
We’ll be sharing a companion piece to this blogpost with a more detailed look at the tools we use in our day to day operations as well as best practices for interviewing, hiring, and onboarding for remote work. Part 2 will be posted shortly, so stay tuned!