In the modern world of work, remote teams are more common than ever, but how can you support your team when it's a sudden scenario?
For many employees who might suddenly find themselves out of the office for an indefinite amount of time, the change can be jarring, to say the least. That’s why we put together a special panel episode of Inside Intercom to discuss how best to collaborate when being face-to-face isn’t an option.
You’ll hear loads of different hacks for optimizing your work-from-home setup – from how to maintain the proper work-life balance to how to build trust among your teammates. But one basic principle that hasn’t failed us yet is the ACE method, which encourages teammates to:
- Assume positive intent
- Clarify ambiguity
- Express themselves
As a global company with five offices, we’ve learned a lot about working when teams are split between locations. We’ve brought together three of our most experienced remote folks for a roundtable discussion (hosted remotely of course) to talk through what they’ve learned and how to operate at your best while on your own. In this episode, we hear from:
- Ruairí Galavan, Senior Manager of Customer Engagement: Based in our Dublin office after working remotely for four years in Berlin.
- Jade Shearstone, R&D Operations Manager: Now in our London office after working in Customer Support while traveling the world.
- Jack Jenkins, Product Education Manager: Currently working remotely from France (and previously New Zealand).
Here’s Phil Byrne (Manager, Product Education & Advocacy) with some great advice to help you use Intercom as part of your COVID-19 response.
Short on time? Here are five quick takeaways:
- Protecting your work-life balance can be a huge challenge. It’s essential to build in a buffer on either side of the day so you can avoid jumping in directly after waking up – or working straight through dinner.
- It’s a good idea to set aside a special space for work within your home (stay away from the bed or couch). Or if you live in an open-concept environment, consider using music to separate work time from recreational time.
- It’s normal for loneliness to creep in. When this happens, speak up. And if someone is reaching out to you because they’re feeling isolated, be a supportive ear. It could be more important than you realize.
- Clear communication is absolutely key. Err on the side of overcommunicating by including more information than you think might be necessary at first, and be sure to ask if your message is understood.
- Being a remote manager can sometimes be the most difficult job of all. It’s important to avoid micromanaging your direct reports – and to build trust by sharing experiences in person from time to time.
If you enjoy the conversation, check out more episodes of our podcast. You can subscribe on iTunes, stream on Spotify or grab the RSS feed in your player of choice. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of the episode.
Where in the world
Dee Reddy: Thanks all for joining us today on this very special episode of Inside Intercom. We haven’t actually hosted a remote panel discussion before on the podcast, so it does seem fitting that the first time we’re doing it, it’s to discuss remote working practices. I’ve no major experience of this myself because of my line of work, and I’m sure that’s the case for a lot of people listening. So Ruairí, Jade, Jack: to kick us off, do you want to give us a bit of background on yourselves, your work and where and when you ended up working remotely?
Ruairí Galavan: My name’s Ruairí, and I’m Head of Customer Engagement here in our Dublin office. That’s broadly three areas: it’s customer lifecycle marketing, product education and customer advocacy. I joined Intercom about six and a half years ago as a video producer at the time, making help screencasts and writing product docs. But I did that remotely from Berlin for the summer. My first four years as an Intercom employee were remote. Eventually, as the team grew and the role started to expand, I moved back to the Dublin office.
Dee: Brilliant. And Jack, you work remotely currently?
Jack Jenkins: That’s right, I work remotely from France. I’m a part of the Customer Engagement team Ruairí just mentioned, but I was hired at Intercom originally as a member of the support team when I was still based in New Zealand to do support for our APAC customers. Prior to that, I’d been working remotely for about four years, so close to seven years working remote in total.
“I was just at home talking to the cat, and I got real cabin fever”
Dee: And Jade, you used to work remotely, but you’re based out of our London office now, right?
Jade Shearstone: Yes, that’s correct. I’m currently the Research and Design Operations Manager. When we’re in the office, I’m based in London. But I actually joined Intercom two weeks after Jack about four years ago as part of that APAC support team, which was a 100% remote at the time. When I was part of that team, I was traveling for most of it, and that was about two years before moving into the office in London.
Dee: Great. And just to give everyone a bit of context on where everyone is right now, you’ve all got fairly unusual recording setups for yourselves.
Jade: Yes, I can go first. I am currently encompassed inside a white sheet, and I can’t see outside.
Jack: I’m on a landing upstairs surrounded by a pillow fort of sorts.
Ruairí: I was, up until a few minutes ago, propping up a mattress against the wall, lying on the floor, but my mobile phone, which I was trying to connect to the internet through, wouldn’t allow me to do that. So now I’m speaking over a large blanket from my front room on my laptop.
The challenges of working remotely
Dee: Lovely, all very professional setups all together. Seeing as you guys have such broad experience of working remotely yourselves, tell us what are the biggest challenges people face in terms of their output?
“That’s the one that comes up all the time: not knowing the boundary between home and work and not being able to separate it.”
Jack: Certainly something I faced when I originally started working remotely is the isolation and being away from people and not communicating with people as much. I was originally doing web development, so I was just at home talking to the cat, and I got real cabin fever. Since then, working on the customer support team and then working with a team of people at Intercom and chatting in Slack and chatting with our customers and having a bit of that banter – even digitally – totally cured me of the cabin fever.
Jade: I’d say maybe one of the biggest challenges was actually too much output, in the sense of not looking after yourself and not taking time if you need it because you’re already at home. Or not taking those breaks and then getting your work-life balance in place. It’s quite easy to forget about that when you’re feeling more isolated at home, working by yourself – or you’re not in the office with those kinds of distractions that come into your day naturally.
“What you really need to do is define an area and create that physical boundary, because that’s the place that you can walk out of in the evening and close the door”
Ruairí: That’s the one challenge that comes up all the time: not knowing the boundary between home and work and not being able to separate it. It’s definitely something you don’t see coming at the start, and then you realize you’re working too late, or you’re waking up first thing and opening your laptop, and you really shouldn’t be doing that.
But yeah, going back to what Jack said, the isolation mixed with the time zone thing was a big challenge for me initially. The person I reported to was over in San Francisco, and I’d wake up in the morning, and a bunch of stuff would have happened the night before, and Slack would be full of messages, and conversations would be concluded. Getting my head around how to work around that dynamic I found really, really tough at the start, because you have to learn to assume the best intent. If you’re not part of a discussion or a decision, that’s okay. You just have to follow it up the next day and loop yourself back in. That was one of the big challenges I remember at the very beginning, trying to adjust to that.
Preparing your environment
Dee: In terms of maintaining that work life balance if you’re working out of your own home, how do you recommend people set up a home office for themselves that’s not the exact same spot they’ll watch TV in later that evening?
Ruairí: The temptation is definitely to be super flexible and be able to work from your kitchen table or your sofa or – as I have been doing this week with my kids in the house – even on the staircase. But what you really need to do is define an area and create that physical boundary, because that’s the place that you can walk out of in the evening and close the door and leave your laptop in there.
“I think creating that rhythm and routine for yourself in your own space can help as well in terms of those boundaries”
Jade: I would say even in smaller places, if you’re in a one bedroom apartment or even a studio with no walls that you can close, I’ve heard of people using music as something that creates boundaries in the day. You might have something that you start your day with – maybe a certain song or type of track you have your coffee and breakfast with. Then you have your work music for the day. And then at the end of the day, you can then move into evening mode. Personally, I would like a bit of jazz. You don’t necessarily have to have the physical door, but I think creating that rhythm and routine for yourself in your own space can help as well in terms of those boundaries.
Dee: That’s a really lovely idea, Jade. Are you saying you could produce different playlists for yourself that would be suitable to different times in your day?
Jade: Yeah, definitely. Playlists are obviously a super easy way to do it. I’m not a huge music buff, so I tend to use playlists that already are created on Spotify. They’ve got loads of options, so if that works for you, it’s definitely something worth trying if you don’t have a huge space to operate within.
“It can be easy to slip into just trying to make it work without talking about it”
Jack: I can definitely attest to that working. I’ve always gone with a really flexible work setup, because I traveled a lot while I was working, so I didn’t have an extra monitor. I’ve only recently gotten a proper seat to sit. It’s just been me and my laptop, which did make it difficult. But I actually do have a playlist I listen to while I work. If I’m doing a personal project on my laptop in the evening, I won’t use that work playlist. Even if it’s good for focus, I’ll use a different one to really separate that space.
It also helps with having the family around. The kids see the headphones in, and they see that as an indicator like, “Oh, Daddy’s focusing right now.” And they know it’s not a great time to come and have a chat. But if they’re out, I know I’m not doing super focused work, and it’s cool for them to come and hang out. So that’s helped to be another physical barrier without being an actual door.
Jade: It’s important to have that conversation up front. I know a lot of people are facing a situation now where their partner is also working from home, or their kids are home from school now, or their flatmates are all in the same space. Having a conversation up front about who needs what to make this work would be super helpful. I’ve tried to work from the family home before with my parents, and they didn’t quite understand that I was actually working when I was sitting in front of them on my computer. Ask the questions: What is work time? What’s not? When do you need quiet space or quiet time? So everyone’s on the same page.
“Just by chance, you’ll end up meeting their family, their kids, their pets, seeing their bookcase behind them”
Ruairí: Yeah, we definitely do have those conversations. And again, it can be easy to slip into just trying to make it work without talking about it. In the last couple of weeks, we’ve been having morning briefs: “Okay, here’s my calendar for the day. These are the times of my calls. These are the times I need to get work done, and these are the times I’ll be around for the kids.” We’re doing it on a day-to-day basis, trying to get organized.
Jade: Like a family standup.
Ruairí: Like a family standup, exactly.
The bright side of working from home
Dee: Let’s focus now a bit more on the positives: what are the lovely, beneficial things in your life that you’ve found from working remotely?
Jade: Look, I personally love working remotely for the positive parts. There’s definitely pros and cons for both setups. But what I’ve learned through the experiences of working remotely is just how personal you can make those connections with your teammates. It seems counterintuitive when you’re not in the same space, but for the first 18 months of the team that Jack and I were first working on, none of us had actually met in person. Yet it was probably one of the strongest teams I’ve ever been part of. And that was all built through remote connections and really reaching out.
It forces you to get a bit more personal in the fact that when you’re having a video chat with someone, you’re almost brought into their house. So just by chance, you’ll end up meeting their family, their kids, their pets, seeing their bookcase behind them and what books are on the shelf. There are all these chances to have more of a personal insight to each other, which helps you build empathy with your teammates. You know when their kids are sick, or something is happening with the dog at the vet. You’re part of that already. And I think it just creates really strong bonds between teams.
“Take stock of where in your workday you have time for personal interactions”
If it’s not something your team does naturally anyway, creating the opportunity to do that is definitely worth the time and effort. Take stock of where in your workday you have time for personal interactions. Just like you would in an office when you go and walk to make a coffee, or when you go and get a snack, or even when you’re just walking to a meeting room from your desk. There are all these little micro interactions you have during the day; how do you facilitate those online through tools like Slack to still build those same relationships despite not being in the office together?
Dee: I think that’s a really interesting insight you’ve shared there, Jade. Because the default position would be to assume that remote working is less personal. But as you’ve said, it allows you to see aspects of your coworkers’ lives – like their art choices or their book choices or their kids – that you might not otherwise see. Jack, have you any thoughts on that?
Jack: I can definitely second everything that Jade said. We were on the same team, and even now I’m on the other side of the world from the rest of that team. So is Jade. I still talk to them more than some of the colleagues I’m in the same time zone with. We all got super tight. And I think it came from having to overcommunicate in a lot of ways, because you’re not present in an office. You not being in the office isn’t a good enough indicator that you’re not available. So you’re going to say, “Hey, I’m going to be out for this or that reason.” You’re talking about these things. And we made space in our Monday standups to just take 15 minutes and go around the room and say, “What did you guys get up to on the weekend?”
“It’s about compartmentalizing different spaces or ways of thinking about your surroundings based on what you’re doing at the time”
Even when some of the team moved into an office, we continued that tradition for the people who were still remote. And it’s just making that concerted effort to do it. It was great. I always really looked forward to hearing what people did. We would do fun little things like, “Share the last photo in your camera roll, whatever it happens to be.” Or, “Tell us how your weekend was using only emoji.” Just little fun things to build that interaction, because it can be a little bit awkward at first to force those. But there are definitely ways to make it fun.
The other huge bonus for me has definitely been the flexibility to be able to travel. I did a coast to coast trip across the United States while working New Zealand support hours. I just worked in the evenings, and I got to go sightseeing and hung out with the family during the day. I certainly couldn’t have done that from an office, so that was amazing. I can go and have lunch with them without having to drive home from anywhere. And if someone has a tumble, I can go and give them a hug to make them feel better. I really appreciate that.
Dee: Ruairi, what about you? Because I know you established almost like a little circuit of cafes for yourself that you used to go to, which you found useful for compartmentalizing your work.
Ruairí: Yeah, you spoke about working from home. I actually didn’t do that much working from home, especially when the kids came along. I used to get up and leave every morning and come back in the afternoon, early evening. I wasn’t going far. I was going to my local coffee shop, or to a co-working space down the road, where I had rented a desk. Co-working spaces are actually super distracting places; there’s not a whole lot of work being done by some people and not a lot of focus or quiet. There’s a lot of chatter and things going on all around you. So I actually found them really difficult places to work in.
“When you’re working remotely, the less necessary calls and meetings tend to start slipping away… you get more time to focus on stuff”
I started getting a little bit frustrated some afternoons and going to various coffee shops close by. And I found that I was going to loads of different ones around the city in Berlin, and the one I’d be in would be dependent on the type of work I was doing. Over four years I just developed a circuit of about 10 places. I was like, “Okay, I’ll go here to triage email, and I’ll go here to focus on writing, and I’ll go here for a call because it’s always quiet.” I can’t really explain why that worked so well for me, but it meant that I was on my bike three times a day for a 10- to 15-minute bit of exercise to the next place. I got lots done and was able to plan my day by location.
Dee: That’s interesting, and I think it actually relates back to Jade’s earlier point around the music. It’s about compartmentalizing different spaces or ways of thinking about your surroundings based on what you’re doing at the time. Presumably, though, with people not being able to go to a coffee shop at the moment, do you think there are ways you could do that on a more micro level within your own home?
Ruairí: Totally. The other thing I would say about the positives of working remotely is the focus. When you’re working remotely, the less necessary calls and meetings tend to start slipping away. You’re not getting pulled into a room for a quick chat as often as you might be if you’re in the office, so you get more time. And if you’re like an IC, or a producer, or a writer, you get more time to focus on stuff.
And certainly when you say time zones are an issue, they spring up loads of issues. But that also allowed me, in those early days, to have almost an entire day to do a job or produce a thing. And then when my boss would log on at like 4 p.m., I’d have something finished and complete and able to send over.
How to combat feelings of isolation
Dee: Especially if people aren’t used to this style of working, things can get lonely at times. What advice do you have for people in terms of keeping their mental health in a good place?
Jack: There are definitely times of the day where I will randomly select people and be like: “Have you ever thought about this? Have you ever noticed that?” Or: “I was just listening to the song. It totally reminds me of this other one.” If these are people you normally work with in the office, they would probably love it for starters. And if you’re someone who’s always remote, dealing with other people who maybe don’t know you, I’d say they would also probably love it. I’ve never had anyone be like, “Oh, why are you bugging me?” They want to have those little chats and interactions, as well – as much as it can feel like you’re bothering someone, because you’re sending them a message, which I think we associate with sending someone an email and taking up their time.
“If anyone decides to have a random chat with you about something, be that welcoming and inviting ear for them. It could be more important than you realize”
You can interact and chat with people casually, whether you do it in private messages or if you have a channel set up specifically. We have probably close to 100 channels in our Slack at Intercom about different topics. There are channels for cooking and gardening and movies and books. People who want to go and chat about X, Y or Z have a place to go and do that comfortably. I think it’s really just about creating those spaces and giving it a go.
Like I said, I’ve never had a negative response from having a random chat with a coworker when I felt like a chat, or even, you don’t have to have anything to say. You can say: “Man, I’m super lonely. This is really weird. This is boring. This is hard. I’m stressed.” I’m sure other people are feeling the same thing, and they will be probably far more welcoming of a chance to have a random chat about it than you’d realize.
On the flip side, if anyone decides to have a random chat with you about something, be that welcoming and inviting ear for them. It could be more important than you realize. Like you said, this is mental health, and it’s serious. People should be able to have a chat with their coworkers about how they’re feeling or what they’re thinking, whether it’s a big deal or just a song they heard.
“I’m proud to say I’ve done more press-ups this week than I have probably in the last month”
Dee: That’s really, really good advice – particularly the advice of being open if other people come to you. Jade, what are your thoughts on that?
Jade: To echo Jack’s point around putting people on Slack, I do want to give a shout out to one of our old teammates – Tim from Brunei – because he was fabulous at this. I probably was one of the people who got a bit too stuck into work sometimes, and hearing from someone like that to check in and have a quick two- to five-minute chat was always appreciated. And it was definitely something I was always grateful to hear.
The other thing for me was maybe not so much around loneliness. Maybe this is more the compartmentalizing the different parts in your space. I used to drink a lot of water, and that was one of my favorite hacks, because it meant I had to go to the bathroom quite a lot of times. I had a Post-it note on the wall that I passed, and every time I passed it, it just reminded me to do some squats and pushups.
That sounds a bit weird, but when your whole routine is shaken up, and maybe you can’t get out of the house to do your normal run or go to the gym like you normally would, it’s amazing to me how those little things add up. It ended up having quite a positive effect on my mental health. That was obviously when I was working from home a couple of years ago, and it’s the first thing that I reinstated to my work-from-home life at this time. I’m proud to say I’ve done more press-ups this week than I have probably in the last month.
“Exercise for the win”
Dee: Ruairi, what about you? Because I know you’re a big advocate for exercise in the middle of the working day, and I think a lot of people don’t feel that they can or should take time out to do that.
Ruairí: They totally should. Like Jade, it was the first thing that clicked back into gear for me the last couple of weeks. I was doing lunchtime runs straight away. During that time over in Berlin, as I said, I was cycling a lot. I was going from coffee shop to coffee shop, but I would also make time during a lot of days to go out for a big, long run or a big, long cycle in the middle of the day. I made sure I was getting that done. As everyone knows who exercises, it’s so settling for the mood, you get an energy boost out of it, and it gives you a much fresher afternoon if you do it midday. So yeah: exercise for the win.
Dee: Noted. I’m going to do a dance class in my bedroom for my next break. This is all brilliant advice on an individual level, but let’s look at the wider team. Jack, you previously have put together a really great talk that I know that you’ve shared with some of us in Intercom, called Working Across Land and Sea, now a very popular blog post on our blog. What is your advice for teams adapting to this style of working now?
Jack: I think a lot of it is very similar to what we’ve said about the individual level, but to me, it really comes down to establishing that super clear communication. Because if the communication among your team isn’t clear, then everything else will fall apart. And this isn’t just when you’re working remotely. We also have offices around the globe, and this was a talk that I was giving for people whose teams were split across offices. I use an acronym: ACE.
Assume positive intent. It’s really easy to misread a message and think that it’s been said in a nasty or negative or patronizing way. There are a million different ways you can take a message, and chances are, it’s not at all the way it was intended. It’s so easy to get it wrong when you’re writing it, and it’s so easy to think the worst when you receive it. I like to read the message with a smile, because it will force you to take it in its most positive tone, and you’ll realize: “Oh, wait. This reads totally differently this way.”
Clarify any ambiguity. There’s this weird dynamic I think we’re so used to when we read content in a magazine, on a website or wherever: we can’t get clarification from whoever wrote it, and we’re used to the onus being on us to interpret and understand it. But when you’re communicating via chat or email, that’s not the case. These are a proxy for speaking, and in spoken conversation, the onus is definitely on the speaker to make sure that they are being understood. Have the confidence and the freedom to know that, if someone says something to you that isn’t super clear (whether that’s how they feel about something or what they actually mean) you can ask more questions and dig in a little deeper. It will not only help you understand exactly what’s going on, but it can maybe highlight areas where they’re not being super clear, which they can then work on when they talk to other people. It has a flow-on effect. You should encourage that among your team: anyone can ask lots of questions and there should be no, “Oh, I’m stupid because I didn’t understand this thing that was said to me.” Just ask the questions. In person, you’d just make a confused face. It’s basically the same thing.
Express yourself. It doesn’t take much effort to throw an emoji at the end of the line or to share GIFs in Slack. These really help to get across how you feel about things and also to build some of what’s missing from written communication. You don’t get the facial expressions and the tone of voice and the hand gestures. But they’re really easy to replicate with emojis and with GIFs. Throw in a bunch of extra exclamation marks, use all caps, use italics – whatever it takes to express yourself a little bit more clearly to try and make that a richer experience when communicating in text.
Dee: It’s an interesting point, because I think in more traditional business mediums, there’s an expectation that using emoji or multiple exclamation marks will read as unprofessional. But when you’re working in this style, they really are necessary according to what you’re saying.
Jack: Yeah, I really think that they are. When we speak in person, we don’t try and aim for a monotone and a very rhythmic pace of speaking, because that’s not professional, that’s robotic. You know? Like I said, these are a proxy for real in-human conversation, and so they should be as close to that as possible. And it really is easy to include them. Maybe if you’re writing an email to the CEO or some big sales lead or something, and you’re concerned and you want to be professional, sure, button it up. But for communication within your team, encourage it to be much more human and make it personal.
Dee: Guys, any thoughts on that yourselves?
“There’s a time and place for everything, but I think sometimes those light moments just break the tension or give people a laugh and a bit of a reprieve, and it’s really nice”
Jade: Yeah, I’m a big fan of emoji. And as Jack said, it’s not a hard thing to do. You’d be surprised how creative things can get, and what ends up organically surfacing from there. We had things like emoji chains going on for a while. Again, it’s a weird thing that cultivates on Slack, but it comes out of people just willing to be expressive, and to jump on and create a bit of team dynamic around that.
Jack was notoriously our breaker of emoji chains, which is basically like a flash mob in Slack. Someone would post an emoji, and the people afterwards would post the same emoji. So it’s just the same emoji getting added and added and added until someone breaks the chain. We started this in the Support team a few years ago, and it’s something that actually the whole company started doing a couple of months ago in our general channel. There’s a time and place for everything, but I think sometimes those light moments just break the tension or give people a laugh and a bit of a reprieve, and it’s really nice.
How to manage a remote team
Dee: That’s really, really sweet. Ruairi, moving away now from the actual team to the managers themselves, what do you guys need to do? Are there particular practices you would recommend to keep your team operating collaboratively and at peak performance?
Ruairí: Yeah, there are a few things. The one that jumps to mind straight away is that overcommunication is really, really important when you are working with people who aren’t in the same physical space as you, across all channels. If I’m writing something, and I’m trying to describe something, I’ll always throw that extra sentence in just to preempt any questions that might come up. Especially when time zones are an issue. If you’re writing an important email to somebody, and they’re not going to be able to ask you questions when they open it because you’re asleep, it’s always worth spending those extra few minutes just writing a sentence or two or three to preempt any questions that they might have at that point. I find that to be really effective, and I always ask the team to do the same.
“Face-to-face video calls are really important. You can’t do everything over Slack or email”
Another thing would be using video. If I’m asked to give feedback on some work that’s been done, oftentimes I’ll just jump into a quiet room and open up one of the screencasting tools and give my feedback in real time with the piece of work on screen. It’s way easier for me to compose that feedback, it’s way easier for the person who’s receiving it to receive it, and it’s just more personal and connected.
Dee: It’s probably closer to what you’d do if you were there in person, where you’d just say, “Oh, do you have a couple of minutes?”
Ruairí: Exactly. It mimics that dynamic. Likewise with meetings: I would always be open to, “Hey, can we just jump on a call right now?” If you’re communicating over Slack and something isn’t clear, and we need to clarify something, it’s just going to be quick or face-to-face, I suggest you just jump on the phone. And so face-to-face video calls are really important, obviously. You can’t do everything over Slack or email.
And then something else I’ve always forced on is making sure expectations and plans and strategies are explicitly understood. So you know, again taking that time to ask: ”Are we clear? Have we got everything?” Because if you’re not going to speak to that person for a day or two, and there’s been a miscommunication of some description, it can be two days wasted if one of the parties has misunderstood something. Take those extra few minutes just to double- and triple-check, “Are we clear on what we’re doing here?”
“If you’re managing remotely, you need to be able to trust. Trust is the key word.”
Managing, in my opinion, doesn’t work all that well remotely. Having transitioned from an individual contributor role into a manager role while remote and then gone to being a manager in an office, it isn’t as good as being right beside that person every day, for lots of reasons. If it’s one or two people it’s okay, and it works, because when you’re not having those little micro communications everyday, you do find more time in the calendar to catch up with people, but that means your calendar fills up quickly, because you’re probably having an additional one-on-one per week, or you’re having calls on particular projects that you might not need if the person sitting beside you. If you multiply that out by two, three, four, five people, suddenly it’s a lot of additional time every week.
On the flip side, I would actually be of the mind that being remote works brilliantly for anyone who’s in an individual contributor role because of the focus and the time and flexibility and all that stuff. But from a management point of view, I’d rather be on-site with the person.
Dee: But don’t you think – in a scenario like we’re seeing at the moment – having already established that trust will help?
Ruairí: Definitely. I think you absolutely need to have a really solid relationship with the team. If you’re managing remotely, you need to be able to trust. Trust is the key word. You need to be able to trust that person to be autonomous and be able to make decisions on the fly without you there and things like that. It’s important, as well, to meet these people on occasion. I don’t think being remote and staying remote forever is ideal at all. We try to do half-yearly or yearly off sites with just our team, where everyone gets together and meets. People who are remote visit the office from time to time, as well, just to meet the team. That’s really important in building that trust, and building those relationships.
Dee: What does that mean in terms of folks who are trying to hire people at the moment? How do you go about that in a scenario where you never get to actually meet them in person?
Ruairí: Yeah, it’s hard. I would roll out a more robust hiring loop and make sure that maybe a couple of additional people meet these people on VC calls. Make sure you put a couple of different rounds in, and you do all the extra bits and pieces you might not always do in terms of reference checks and that kind of stuff. It is riskier if you don’t have that connection with people. But you know, we’ve been lucky so far, like the people we’ve hired have been working out great. I haven’t run into too many issues, but it’s always been top-of-mind for me when hiring someone that’s going to be remote to be double-sure you’re going to be able to build trust with that person.
Dee: Well guys, thanks so much for sharing all your expertise with us today. I know it’s going to be very, very useful to a lot of our audience out there, and there’s plenty of stuff that I am going to be taking onboard and putting into action straight away. It’s been an absolute pleasure chatting to you all. Thanks for joining the show!