When we started Sendtask, we made a conscious decision not to have a traditional office. Our team is spread across 7 different countries. And we only speak to each other once a week – for no more than sixty minutes. These are the reasons why this setup resonated with us:
Focus on the important vs the urgent
Being in a distributed setup often allows us to work on the important things versus the urgent. In a traditional office setting, it’s easy for a colleague to come over, tap you on the shoulder and ask questions. In a distributed setup, it’s not as easy. Sometimes, this means that it will take you a bit longer to figure out something. But what we’ve seen is that over time, everyone becomes better at helping themselves, reading documentation and figuring stuff out on their own. And if a problem just seems too complicated, the colleague is never more than a phone call away.
It’s very easy to get distracted, especially in an open space office. You hear the sales people talk, there’s a meeting in the room next to you…the potential distractions are endless. This is the main reason why a lot of developers wear headphones in a traditional setup. They come to an office and virtually remove themselves from it by wearing headphones. This never made sense to me and our distributed setup has proven to be very low on noise. While we use Slack for all our communication, we don’t even require you to be online constantly. It’s ok to check Slack 2-3 times a day. If there’s something urgent, we’ll find a way to reach the team member (Whatsapp, Skype, Phone Call) but those emergencies are rare. Less noise has made us a lot more productive and allowed us to be in a flow state for extended periods.
Everyone can be productive on their own schedule
One thing that was challenging for me when I was a developer were office hours. One day I felt productive from 7 am early afternoon and the other day it was from 1 pm until late night. One thing was certain: It was very rarely 8am-5pm. Very often I was sitting in the office, trying to get work done but just couldn’t. And then I would go home and feel productive but was tired from already spending the day at the office.
In our distributed setup, we allow everyone to work on their own schedule. Not just the hours of the day, also the days of the week. If you don’t feel productive or have something more fun to do on a Tuesday – go do that. Feel productive and have a good idea for how to solve a certain problem on Saturday – why not solve it then and there?
We only have one synchronous meeting per week – every Wednesday at 2pm-3pm CET we update each other and check in on topics that should be discussed with the whole team.
When we do get together, it’s extra fun
All of that is not to say that working remotely doesn’t have its downsides. The biggest one being that you don’t get to spend a lot of face time with the people you work with. I’ve caught myself using the term ‘team crush’ lately and it adequately describes how I feel about this team. We assembled a pretty amazing team and I often wish I could just walk over and chat about life, alien movies and whiskey.
We deal with this by bringing everyone together four times a year for a week of fun and work. This is when we work on long time topics – our roadmap, vision, processes, and ideas. And we take a good part of the day off to have some fun together. On our last retreat, we went to Gran Canaria and went hiking, surfing and escape rooms. Next week we’re headed to our next retreat and we have another set of experiences planned. But that’s for another post.
We came up with the idea of setting up Sendtask as a remote company because we were frustrated with certain aspects of working together in a traditional office setup in past companies. Working in a distributed fashion helps us focus on the important vs. the urgent, reduce a lot of the noise that comes with a traditional setup and allows everyone on the team to work when they feel most productive. Still, we’re looking forward to seeing each other in real life and we bring everyone to the same location for a retreat four times a year where we make the most of the time together.
What’s your setup? Have you ever thought about going to a remote setup?