I’ve never worked for a single-site team, so in practice I’ve found there is a remote-work aspect to my job. I’ve had a better experience with satellite workers than multi-site teams, and would prefer remote work if the organization was remote-first. The technology for remote work has been around my entire career. The culture hasn’t.
I wonder if remote-first organizations are stable, however. There are a lot of advantages to being on the same site. I’d expect people in a remote-first organization to naturally migrate to working in person because of those advantages.
Does anyone have any relevant experience with remote-first organizations?
Our org is not fully remote-first, but I’m one of several fully remote members, so say 50% relevant: we are so geographically distributed that “migrating to working in person” would mean literal migration, or a lot of hiring churn. It’s hard to imagine it happening incrementally without an explicit policy decision (“e.g. we will stop hiring remote”).
I expect your situation is far more common than remote-first work. It’s what I kind of expect to see, honestly. What tensions do you see between your remote workers and the site teams? My best remote workers call or chat pretty frequently just to catch up. My worst remote work experiences have my peers in such different timezones they’re difficult to coordinate with.
Tension-wise I think I can only echo common wisdom: it’s harder with people many timezones away (limited overlap) or when people don’t respond quickly to e-prodding (mail, chat, etc).
One trap we’ve seen is over-specifying: because you want e.g. a design concept to be remote-friendly you write down all the details that went into it, but then as the design changes over time you have to maintain that ever-growing document. I think the solution is to prefer collaboration over handoffs but that’s somewhat aspirational for us at the moment. (I imagine this can be a problem in any team, but I think our remoting exacerbates it because it raises the difficulty of the collaboration option.)
My company isn’t remote-first, but has two big offices in Cincinnatti and Arlington, along with a decent number of remote folks in other places. I am, however, on a remote-first team with only a couple of people who work from the office. This arrangement has seemed pretty stable, and our team is noted for being quite mature and productive.
Yeah I’ve worked with a small company that was entirely distributed/async. Five people in each of Auckland (self), Tokyo, Malmö, London, and somewhere on the east-coast US.
We met up several times over the course of a year, but mainly for social gatherings than really to work per se. I don’t think being in the same place really added much in terms of productivity (it probably decreased it) - it was just fun to hang out together occasionally.
More companies need to organize themselves in this way IMO.
Was your hiring process different in any way to account for the unusual structure of the company?
Hires were just pre-existing connections, but that’s a bit of an atypical case because the company was (and still is) so small. But small can be good! You can often get pretty far with a handful of people.