Since July we’ve been asking companies that previously switched to working remotely about their journey. Now it seems that working remotely will stay with us for a while – as the pandemic lingers – we thought it was time to ask some of the troopers how they have been handling working remotely all along.
At the starting of October, the Washington Post wrote an extensive article about the remote trend, with Twitter being seen as the leading (American) character of this movement. The HR chief of Twitter, Jennifer Christie, even believes that “flexibility for workers is the fourth industrial revolution.” How exciting is that?! We will be following this development closely – that’s for sure.
Today’s interview is with Adam Highfill of Quaderno, a company that always has been remote and has employees all over the world. Their company philosophy is quite outspoken – unique, we could say – as a full-time job at Quaderno means 25 hours of work a week.
Can you tell us a bit about Quaderno?
Quaderno is a complete tax compliance toolkit for online businesses. It automates the VAT, GST, and sales tax process from end to end so savvy entrepreneurs can focus more time and energy on the work they love. We currently have 13 people on our team.
Can you give us a sketch of the working method that Quaderno has? Has the COVID situation had an impact on this?
We encourage as much asynchronous communication as possible by maintaining a culture of thorough written communication and eliminating unnecessary meetings.
A core part of our team DNA is that we prioritize productivity over the number of hours worked. We like to work hard, but we also believe in balance. That’s why we only work 5 really focused hours per day, ensuring everyone has plenty of time to exercise and enjoy life. No toxic meetings, no endless phone calls, no bullshit. Just focused work. The rest of the day is dedicated to family, friends, pets, and hobbies (you know, the important stuff).
The impact of COVID on our work culture has been minimal yet beneficial. We have taken extra measures to improve processes and workflows and streamline communication across teams. This has proved invaluable to support and sustain the growth we’ve experienced in 2020 despite the pandemic.
Apart from that, we were forced to cancel 2 scheduled company retreats in 2020 because of COVID-related travel restrictions.
Looking for new employees, how do you promote the job offer and how do you choose candidates?
We post our available positions on the main platforms (LinkedIn, AngelList, etc) and also use our personal networks and relevant communities (Facebook groups and local entrepreneurial networks) when looking for the right candidate.
We believe in diversity and we are committed to creating a home for everyone, no matter your gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, education, age, or other personal characteristics.
When choosing candidates we look at capacity and fit. The right candidate needs to be GREAT at what they do, but also fit well within our company culture.
Once a new employee is hired, what are the next steps in the onboarding process?
We assign a team member to the new employee (buddy system). That person will help the new member with all the questions they might have. We are a small team so it’s pretty easy to integrate newcomers. Their team leader also makes sure they are feeling comfortable during their onboarding and have clear directions and expectations as they get their feet wet in their first few tasks.
According to you, what are the success factors for remote work?
Focus and big-picture understanding. We’ve found that short-term execution roadmaps help to increase focus and productivity. For example, our product, engineering, and marketing teams work in 8-week cycles. Each of the projects that are executed during these cycles is clearly aligned with our long-term vision and direction, so everyone can understand how their tasks relate to the big picture.
Communication is key. Working with people across languages and cultures is always an added challenge, especially with an asynchronous and remote environment. We have to take extra care of how we communicate and connect with each other. If we do this well we are more productive and have better relationships with our colleagues.
Extremely proactive, organized, and responsible. Each team member needs to take initiative and have a “bias toward action” while working independently and as part of a dynamic team.
How is the team staying aligned, productive, and motivated?
We place a high priority on maintaining a positive and open culture. Because we understand everyone sees things from a unique perspective, we seek out and value feedback from all team members on major decisions. Additionally, we actively check in with each team member to solicit their feedback on team processes or how to improve strategies they are involved in.
Apart from work, we provide space for everyone to share their interests and what is going on in their world via our “off-topic” communication channels and monthly discussion of interesting books, TV shows, or cultural things each team member is enjoying.
Finally, each week we have an all-team “Fika” meeting where we just grab a coffee and chat. During this time we do not discuss any business. This has been a nice element to increase cohesion and alignment among team members who live and work thousands of kilometers away from one another.
Written by Liza Roodnat
Liza Roodnat is a curious sociologist that is fascinated by the good, the bad, and the ugly of life. She is currently doing an internship at the Surf Office and very passionate about the future of work in these revolutionary times. Her ambition is to become a writer and content creator – while being able to work remotely from all over the world!