The rewards for our company are clear – access to global talent across multiple time zones (useful in our case), better productivity, and a happier group of peers with a lifestyle that suits them. These benefits don’t come organically, just by switching to remote working. You have to fully embrace the spirit of remote work to reap the rewards. In this blog, we’ll cover some of the most important aspects of culture-keeping from a distance, and how we handle them at Amazee Labs.
Communication can be difficult to master with colleagues in so many different time zones and places. Zoom and Slack have become our bridges over continents, and Google Docs gives us open and easy accessibility to our work and documentation.
We use Slack both for business and pleasure. Our channels feature lots of group discussions on topics ranging from work-related updates to a dedicated channel for pictures of #amazee-pets. Gifs and memes abound, and having this blend of professional and casual conversation gives us instant access to everyone’s knowledge or humour -- allowing us to feel that our colleagues are right there working with us.
Another great way we connect is by having daily culture-building stand up meetings with our colleagues via Zoom. This social standup occurs twice a day so that Amazees in different countries have a chance to chat during a time when their work hours sync up. Our Zurich team joins in front of large screens in the office and we chat with colleagues calling in from their laptops in the U.S., South Africa, the UK and New Zealand.
By building online spaces to get to know each other and have conversations outside the usual work handoffs, we are able to get well acquainted and closer as coworkers, and to onboard new team members more personally and openly. We probably see each other more than most colleagues working in a large office would.
Shared values are the other essential part of making remote work...work for us. We value openness and transparency that gives us all trust and security in each other. What we communicate with isn’t as important as how we communicate. We have frequent and public discussions in Slack and on Zoom and we make sure to allow enough time and the right atmosphere to ensure that everyone has a voice. During these discussions, we agree on common goals and how to achieve them, establish accountability, and make sure everyone understands each other’s roles and dependencies.
The right skill set is important for us as a tech firm, but our remote nature means we place a large importance on the need for new employees to share our values too. Our interview process is largely uniform, no matter if the position is remote or onsite, and includes an AMA session before any hiring decision is made. During the AMA any colleague is encouraged to join and ask the candidate questions to look at the team fit. The candidate, in turn, asks questions of their future teammates. From there we gather feedback, so everyone has a voice on who becomes the next Amazee.
A good onboarding experience is important to facilitate remote work. We set new employees up with all the hardware and tools they need to get started from Day 1 – no matter where they are in the world. During the onboarding process, we frequently schedule two-way feedback sessions to encourage one-on-one time with any of their colleagues and to join any common interest Slack channels so that new employees get to know the team better and settle in more quickly.
Time to connect in person
Having an established connection as a distributed team means it’s even more fun and uniquely productive when we get to meet up in person – and we prioritize this as a company too. We often visit our colleagues (the Cape Town office was a personal highlight). These meetups might happen for team building or training events, conferences, or simply flying in the extended team for a Christmas party in Zurich to eat fondue on a mountain. Because we are such a close-knit team, even when on holiday, we’ll often stop in to say hi to any local Amazees in the area.
Working as a distributed team isn’t just plug and play. Although we have a good formula here at Amazee, we know that as we grow we need to keep evolving and innovating to maintain our company culture. However, by continuing to use and find new tools to enhance our remote experience, maintaining our values of openness, and by hiring the right people to grow with us, we are looking forward to more remote colleagues in the future.