Since October 2011, Zapier has grown to over 200 employees. You can read previous versions of this chapter written when our team size was 20 and our team size was just 6 people, to get a feel for how our remote team has scaled.
The single biggest mistake companies can make is to opt to be remote-friendly instead of remote-first. Companies often accept the idea that remote is the future of work without creating an inclusive culture to ensure it works for everyone.
Remote-friendly environment: Employees are allowed to work remotely, but work is not optimized for it. There is a disconnect between office and remote employees and team meetings exclusively occur in a co-located time zone. Water cooler chat is a space for key decisions and presence is correlated with meaningful work. Communication is synchronous-first. Managers must work in the office.
Remote-first companies: Employees are empowered to adopt remote work. Real-time meetings are kept to a minimum and recorded. Decisions are made online and performance is measured by output, not by hours worked. Communication is asynchronous-first. Managers are encouraged to work from home.
Hybrid companies function best when the entire company is optimized for remote work. Successful hybrid teams set up processes to help their remote workers thrive alongside their office teammates.
Leadership must acknowledge the various challenges remote workers face and create solutions. Create a remote work policy that keeps remote workers and contractors from feeling like second class team members. Remote workers should feel fully connected and not missing a thing.
We're all living through an unprecedented moment in modern history, the potential scale of which hasn't been seen in over one hundred years since the 1918 Flu Pandemic. As I sit here at my desk writing this at 8:30pm on a Wednesday night in the midst of the whirlwind of news and uncertainty, I, probably not unlike you, am doing my very best to answer some very important questions.
Intentionally design for the same interactions that would otherwise happen if people were in the office.
Culture is what naturally happens when a group of people gets together for any period.
A great culture happens with intentional design and influence. It's the reason you should make your company's mission, vision, values, operating principles, standards, and agreements visible.
Culture is experienced through emotions, including how your employees feel about the company, you, other leaders, and peers. That feeling is developed through human interaction at the water cooler, kitchen, or hallway conversations.