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A few months ago, I decided that I wanted to move back to Amsterdam. Having been in Prague since the start of last year, I had begun to miss my friends, my family, and the beautiful capital of the Netherlands. I tried to power through, but I just couldn’t find my comfort zone in Prague.
At the same time, I really didn’t want to leave productboard. And when I told our CTO, Daniel, that I wanted to move back, he replied:
“Maybe this would be a good time to start experimenting with remote work!”
Yeah! Living in Amsterdam and keeping my awesome job at productboard sounded like the best of every world.
Fast-forward a few months, and I’m now back home and working remotely. Plus, I’ve been tasked with an amazing challenge: to build the first fully remote product team at productboard. In this post, I’d like to share with you how we’re approaching this exciting new chapter.
More and more companies and going remote, and there’s plenty of variety when it comes to how remote work is practiced. There’s the ol’ work-from-home on occasion option, then there are companies that are 100% remote, like Basecamp or Buffer.
productboard currently has two offices: one in Prague and one in San Francisco. We’ve always had the option to work from home, and there are some people who work remotely most of the time. But we don’t yet have teams that are 100% remote, meaning teams in which each member works in their own preferred place, without any physical proximity to the others.
Fortunately, the fact that we have two offices in entirely different time zones means we are already well accustomed to remote collaboration. For example, we host company all-hands meetings via Zoom, the video calling platform. A lot, if not most, of internal communication takes place in Slack.
What we don’t have yet is a clear set of guidelines when it comes to building fully remote teams. What will our hiring process look like? How will we onboard new starters? How will we make sure that remote employees fully immerse in the productboard culture?
Building a fully remote team is one thing. Making it function efficiently is another. Not only are there practical issues to address around communication and expectations, there are also human issues to consider. We want our remote staff to feel like they are a part of the company and connected to their colleagues, just like our onsite staff are.
To address these issues, here are some of the aspects of remote work I’ve been thinking about.
We want our first remote team to be based in Europe to eliminate one of the biggest obstacles to effective communication: time zones. And with our engineering hub in Prague, it makes sense for us to build the foundations of remote work in Europe. This way, the team will be in roughly the same time zone while also having the option to travel to Prague easily.
To ensure that the remote team understands productboard’s culture, we expect them to travel to Prague roughly every six weeks as they get off the ground. This way, everyone on the team will have ample opportunity to get to know their in-office colleagues and experience culture firsthand.
We expect remote team members to clearly share when they’re working and when they’re not on the communication channels we use (like Google Calendar and the team Slack channel). This keeps expectations clear and encourages a better work-life balance — something that remote teams often struggle with.
During the hiring phase, we want to schedule at least one face-to-face interview. This might mean that a candidate travels to Prague or an interviewer travels to meet the candidate in person. It’s actually one of the reasons why I’m writing this post on a train right now — I just had lunch with a candidate for the remote team!
Lastly, we believe that onboarding should be done onsite in the office. Each new hire is expected to spend their first week in the Prague office to get up-to-speed. More importantly, they will have a chance to get to know their colleagues. Spending a week in Prague is no problem for new recruits as we have an official productboard apartment five minutes away from the office. How convenient!
We currently regard remote work at productboard as an experiment. If it doesn’t succeed, we might not adopt remote as a strategy for growth. If it does, however, it could open up a whole world of new possibilities.
I’m forever grateful for this opportunity, and I’m incredibly motivated to make this experiment a success. If you’re interested in joining our experiment, let’s have a chat! You can check out our career page to see the fully remote positions we have open now.
If you have any thoughts about our approach, please let me know. I would love to hear your thoughts!
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