At WoTT, we believe in remote work. It’s more than just a buzz word. It has been a part of our DNA from day one. While both founders lived in London, the size and sprawl of the city meant that getting together in person every day was too time intensive and impractical logistically. Given Viktor’s decade long experience of building remote teams, we decided very early on that WoTT should be a remote-first company.
So what does this mean?
Not having an office means that all communication happens online. In our case, this means largely over Slack (for text chat) or Whereby (for video calls). This is important because it means that nobody is left behind. In many companies that have a hybrid model, there’s often a big information gap between people at the office and those who work remotely. This is the “watercooler problem,” where information flows over non-formal channels (such as at the watercooler, over lunch or at the pub after work). This leaves leaves remote workers at a large disadvantage. By not having offices, this problem is mitigated.
This however does not mean that we do not believe in getting people in the same room. To the contrary, it is very important to periodically get teams together in person (e.g. team summits). However, for day-to-day activities, it is important to have a leveled playing field where everyone has access to the same information.
One of the major advantages to being a remote company is that you can hire from a global talent pool. While there are certainly lots of talented people in London, being able to tap into a global market provides a much larger pool of talent. (As an aside, it is a great feeling to be able to offer employment in geographies that don’t have as many opportunities available.)
While WoTT is less than a year old, we already have team members in five countries.
One of the major benefits of remote work is that it enables deep work. Have you ever wondered why many people prefer to work from home when they really need to get something done, or why most developers wear noise canceling headphones when they have to work in a shared office in order to get anything done?
Deep Work is a term coined by Cal Newport and is simply work that requires long uninterrupted stretches of focused work. A good example of this is programming, where a single interruption can mean an hour or even more of lost productivity.
We believe in Deep Work. What this means is that unless the house is on fire, all communication is expected to be asynchronous (i.e. you don’t expect an immediate response). This is very important, because it enables team members to focus on their work and when they are ready to take a break, they can check in on the status of the mailbox or Slack notifications.
Being a remote company, having to deal with time zones is a reality from day one. Yet, this doesn’t mean that everyone in a given time zone operates at the same “local time.” We naturally have different circadian rhythms (i.e. some people work better in the morning, and others better at night). By not having any set hours, unless it’s required for a meeting, we allow people to optimize their own days according to their own performance. We do need some overlap in hours to be practical and resolve issues that need input from multiple team members, but ultimately each team member has the flexibility to get their work done as they see fit.
Last, but not least, trust is paramount when it comes to remote work. You have to trust your coworkers and assume they will be adults and manage their tasks to their best capabilities (i.e not slack off because nobody is watching). This is difficult for a lot of people from traditional backgrounds, but it is a cornerstone for building a remote culture. Trust should be the default, and not the opposite. If a team member is slacking off, it is usually evident after a few weeks and you deal with that issue just as any HR issue. If on the other hand you don’t treat coworkers and as adults, they will not behave like ones either.