If you had asked me at the end of 2019 if I thought we’d be terminating our lease a year later, I’d have said “no way”. I love our office. It’s a vibrant, welcoming space that we put a lot of intention into designing. Plus, we’ve had an office continually since 2013.
And yet: as of December 31, 2020 NewAperio will no longer have an office. We will remain a fully distributed team, as we have since March.
This was a big decision for our small team, however it’s not entirely surprising. We were already partially remote—and have been since 2016—but the backdrop of current events catalyzed us to transition fully after providing (or, more accurately, forcing) a 9-month experiment with it.
In reviewing this decision, I want to talk about why we made the change, what the business case is for going remote, and what we’re still struggling with.
Why We’re Becoming a Remote Team
It’s simple: quality of life.
First, without a commute, our team realized they were reclaiming an hour or more of personal time each day. This meant less time driving and more time for things they enjoyed: time with family, friends, or just exploring hobbies.
For me, as a father two small children, it meant seeing way more of my kids. Especially on days when they’re at home—I get to steal moments throughout the day I’d never have otherwise. And now, when I finish work, I get to see them immediately. It's priceless!
Additionally, for a lot of us, working from home has comfort advantages. You’re in your own element and can set up your work space to your preferences.
There’s also a flexibility advantage in terms of how you spend your time during the day when you're not on the clock. If I'm taking a quick break, I can walk the dog, fire up a video game, or—if we’re being realistic—put on a load of laundry.
All of these extra moments add up to a much calmer, fuller life. That’s a huge benefit.
Business Results of Being a Remote Team
Since we became fully remote in March, we haven’t seen any impact on our team’s productivity. The velocity of the team remains the same, our projects continue to stay on target, and our clients remain happy.
Speaking of clients, one of the reasons we felt comfortable making the switch is that none of our clients minded meeting remotely. Traditionally we have found software development to be very realtionship-based. It’s a highly collaborative process. The process has continued to work despite switching to remote interactions and none of our clients have indicated they’d otherwise prefer to meet in person.
I think a lot of this is part of the zeitgeist: everyone is doing everything remote these days, so they’re comfortable with it. But I don't think these skills will evaporate. In fact, I’m betting more work will continue to be done remote.
I think these results speak for themselves. Largely I think we were able to achieve this because of our company’s culture. Specifically, two of our key values are trust and flexibility.
Trust in this case helps because our team feels empowered to get things done without micromanaging. We’re all trusted to do the work we’re accountable for, whether we're in an office or not. That certainly has carried over and accounts for our productivity remaining high.
Flexibility is also important. Software development is fluid, so being flexible means we can always respond to our clients’ needs. In this case, flexibility was helpful as it allowed us to remain nimble in light of a very challenging time. I think our team’s ability to adapt helped make this transition smoother.
What We’re Still Struggling With
We’re excited for this change—but it hasn't been without its challenges!
One of the primary losses from no longer having in-person interactions is “water cooler” time—or just time you can spend with your team to shoot the breeze. I actually think this is very important for team building! When going remote there’s a real loss here.
To compensate for that loss, we’re currently experimenting with a standing, biweekly coffee break time that is opt-in for our team to hang out.
Another early issue we had to face is dealing with urgency. When you can't say “hey, I need this now!” across the office, it can be difficult to communicate when you’re blocked by or need help from someone else. The entire change in communication—from sync to async—has been a struggle at times and we’re still formulating processes to combat this.
One area that is still undecided on this front is hiring. (We’re hiring now! Interested? Get in touch.) On one hand you’re open to new candidates, but hiring without meeting someone in person is tough! We’re going through this now and hope to have more to share soon.
Have you made this transition? What issues did you have and what tools or processes did you develop to compensate for the changes?
Certainly 2020 has presented its share of challenges and opportunities. I’m glad we've taken the opportunity to make this specific transition. Time will tell if we remain remote forever, but it’s the right thing for our company at this moment in time.