An inside look at managing a distributed team across six different time zones from our Head of Employee Experience.
Talkpush has been a distributed company since the very beginning, since its inception in 2014 we have honored our tagline: the world truly is our talent pool!
CEO, Max Armbruster, wanted to create an unconventional model that would give Talkpushers the freedom to create their best work, on their own terms. In his words:
“Some of us work from the office, some of us work from home. We don’t keep track of time. We don’t count the amount of vacation we take. Some of us wear suits, some of us wear shorts and sandals. We don’t think the work/life balance debate makes much sense. We come to work because we want to change the world every day, a little bit at a time. Honestly, it’s the only way to live."
Basically, we have the flexibility of being lonely wolves, far from the coffee machine, working in our PJs. Or, we can go into one of our five offices world-wide, and follow a tight schedule — Talkpushers can choose the model that works best for them or mix them up.
We’ve come up with some company policies to make it an inclusive experience for all, for example, remote Talkpushers can ask for a co-working space membership. As the Head of Employee Experience, I’ve noticed that this flexibility is impacting our ways of working and forcing us into discipline.
We gave some tips on how to take advantage of a global talent pool last month, but I wanted to share additional thoughts from a managerial perspective: What does it mean to be distributed? How does it work in practice? How do we collaborate?
The Reality of Distribution
A distributed team is a group of people working for the same company, without a traditional office environment. Interactions amongst teams and across departments happen thanks to key technologies: videoconferencing and messaging apps. We’re big on Slack and Zoom —for work — and use a slew of WhatsApp groups to connect with each other on a more personal level, like sharing what we had for lunch, or even pictures of our pets.
At Talkpush, we have a hybrid model:
We have offices in some locations, when some of our staff fancy having a workplace
We are also dispersed worldwide, having staff in 10 countries means that a few Talkpushers are the only ones in their city.
It’s fascinating, and really gives us an edge in our pursuit of adapting to a global market. Each Talkpusher brings their own local experience and gives our company the chance to be a part of a range of cultures. Our Head of Engineering lives in Paris, our Content Writer spends her days cranking out communications from a beach in the Gulf of Mexico. I am a nomad myself, and like to personally connect with teams in each of the Talkpush offices: in Hong Kong, San Jose, Costa Rica, Manila, Philippines, and Mexico City.
The Right Tools and the Right People
From a recruitment perspective, we make sure to hire people who fit within our independent culture and can thrive under a fully remote model: our staff knows the importance of being self-efficient, proficient in time management, and trust-oriented. Everything we do is interconnected, so we trust one another to do our part. Our targets are shared and publicly available, our hours affect our colleagues and their targets.
To do this, we carefully built our tech stack, selecting the tools that would best support our multicultural vision through our distributed team:
Zoom: extensive use of video conferencing.
Slack: to communicate asynchronously, but constantly, with each other.
Whatsapp: for personal interactions (and urgent matters).
Trello: we use it very seriously. Our tasks have to be absolutely clear and easily monitored.
How do we Collaborate as a Company?
Company, departmental and individual contribution is essential to support Talkpush growth:
Town Hall: We gather in a company-wide monthly call where we discuss objectives, product updates, sales results, personnel announcements and where the CEO takes time to answer all questions.
Company news: We share every “not-to-miss” news on Slack and WhatsApp.
Publicly available objectives: We constantly review our objectives – every 4 months- and all our staff has access to everybody’s objectives, even the CEO’s.
Collective engagement: Talkpushers can raise their hands should they want to support some objectives. This helps us stay focused, but also in making sure people work on projects they’re passionate about and where they can contribute best. This keeps us aligned and motivated.
Weekly or monthly team calls: To support departmental collaboration. Being far from the coffee machine can decrease the interactions we have. Making sure departments have some time allocated for sharing concerns and advancement is what works for us.
Flying to offices when needed: We are not afraid of jumping on a plane and traveling the world to concretize a project and to gather together — in fact we love it.
How do we find a balance? When does work start, when does work end?
Like Max said, we don’t think the work/life balance debate makes much sense. We’re part of Talkpush because we want to be — we believe in our mission: to make recruitment automated yet conversational first; and work hard to achieve it.
With the team spread out in the four corners of the Globe, there is always someone at Talkpush working on something. There is always one Talkpusher who is hacking away at a problem. Maybe that Talkpusher sends a message in the middle of the night… We won’t stop the Talkpush night owls from sending messages… and only we can stop ourselves from reading them!
We know that working from home with people in multiple time zones, in an industry we all love makes it easy to lose track of time. That’s why we stress the importance of boundaries and using each tool for its intended purpose. Talkpushers are encouraged to turn Slack notifications off when their workday is over, we always have Whatsapp as a back up when something truly cannot wait. But, most of the time, it can.
Our advice for our staff: Do not stress about replying to messages in the middle of the night or in the middle of the weekend. You can get to them when you get to them. That’s the beauty of asynchronous conversations: you can continue them whenever the time is right.
The truth is, we are big fans of our distributed model. It works for us, because the people we hire truly love their job; they are invested in our company’s success — because each one of us is directly responsible. We are all accountable, and Talkpush gives us the resources and freedom to produce our best work.