Positive remote working culture a Timely affair
The founders of appointment scheduling software company Timely never intended to create an entirely remote team.
But with one founder living in Wellington, another in Dunedin and an early recruit who wanted to live in Malta for a year, it seemed remote working was the way of the company's future.
Two years after starting up, there are 27 staff who all work remotely and they enjoy a thriving company culture, despite being dotted all over the country.
Co-founder Ryan Baker, who lives in Dunedin, says the Timely culture grew with the company and a big part of it is about welcoming all aspects of remote working.
"One of the things we found early on was that a lot of people do work from home but they try and hide it, like there was something taboo about it. We didn't want to do that, we wanted to be proud of the fact we work remotely."
Search #timelylife on Twitter and that will bring up tweets from the team showing just how flexible working at Timely is.
Once they have worked at Timely for a year, staff receive a Timely bathrobe.
"We embrace the fact that we wear robes and pyjamas sometimes when we do our jobs," Baker says.
Feeling isolated is a big challenge so they started grouping people together who live near each other and a year and a half ago, they leased office space in Wellington and Dunedin, which staff could use when, or if, they wanted.
Another challenge for staff is always being near their fridges and pantries, so they have competitive, but fun, challenges to encourage healthy eating and living.
Skype, Google Hangouts and various other tools are essential to keep in touch but everyone also gets together once a year and there are smaller gatherings to celebrate birthdays and milestones.
Baker says while remote working is a great fit for his company, other business owners should assess whether a similar arrangement would work for their own customers and whether it makes sense for the type of business.
HR Shop managing director Samantha Gadd says remote and flexible working arrangements are becoming more popular as a way of engaging talent.
Culture is a crucial challenge to the success of those work arrangements and one that requires a lot of attention.
Trust, good technology, finding the right people and making an effort to get people together are key to building and maintaining a good culture among remote workers, Gadd says.
"The number one thing to make sure there is in an organisation is trust. I don't think remote or flexible working works without a really high trust environment. That starts with the business owner or chief executive."
Culture requires a lot of work but it is not something people can force onto others, Gadd says.
"If you want to grow an awesome culture then you need to work with your team to determine what that will look like. It's not something you can put onto people but it's something you can focus on and grow together."
Gadd says before business owners dive into their own remote or flexible working set-ups, they need to remember such arrangements are difficult to get right and take a lot of work.
Considerations to evaluate include:
- Why are you doing it?
- What will the benefits be?
- How will you do it?
- What technology will you use?
- How will you measure performance?
- How will you manage remote workers?
- How will all of this impact on the company culture?
Finding the right people is also crucial.
"You have to have people who are willing to work with a lot of autonomy and be productive. Not everyone's cut out for remote working," Gadd says.