The below is a guest post from Marie Moynihan of Scrapinghub. Scrapinghub are a regular contributor to the Grow Remote Community, helping us build awareness and education around remote work, so that we can work, live and participate locally. We’re big fans.
I started working at Scrapinghub just over a year ago as the Head of Marketing and entered the world of remote working. It’s been a great year and I’ve learnt so much. I wanted to share some of my key takeaways around some of the differences between working in an office and working remotely. I hope they might help anybody either starting out in a remote job or thinking about going remote.
First a little about Scrapinghub, Our mission is “to provide our customers with the web data they need to innovate and grow their businesses” through our data extraction services and products. We are a fully remote company that was incorporated in Ireland in 2010 and from day 1 was a fully distributed company. Since then the company has grown and now has a team of 180 people located in 28 countries. We are leaders in web data extraction with more than 2,000 customers and 1 million developers relying on our tools and services to extract web data across a variety of industries and use cases such as Product and Pricing Intelligence, Alternative Finance Data, Competitive and Market Research, Sales & Marketing, News & Content Monitoring and Retail & Distribution Monitoring. (Had to get the Marketing Blurb in there – thanks for reading)
My top 10 insights from working remotely for a year – in no particular order.
It’s all about the Tech
When I joined Scrapinghub, they had a suite of tools available that would make working remotely so much easier. Everything from day one with help getting set up with IT support on day one to ongoing communication across the company — Slack, Trello, Confluence, GSuite — all make life as a remote work possible. Getting the right tools in place for a company is important, and don’t forget to review them as you grow – what works for a 5 to 10 person company might not work for 200.
Get creative and set up an enjoyable workspace
Before I started, I created a space in my home for my work desk – I set it up as if I was in an office. I created a nice work environment that I knew I would be excited to go to every day. It is also a space I leave at the end of the day and can turn the light off – this is important so you don’t feel you can never escape from work. I would avoid working at the kitchen table for instance – you could be distracted and also not be able to switch off. You can have a bit of fun with it as well – use nice colours, art, photos – make it your own you have total freedom as it’s your work space. Also, the fun part is seeing the various work environments when you’re on a call with others.
No distractions – productivity is high
You really do get so much done – it’s not a cliche – there is very little distraction and nobody popping by your desk for a quick chat, which we all know can last for 20 minutes. I start work at 8 am and finish at 6 pm. With no commute, I get more hours at work (10 hour days) but am still home earlier than if I was commuting the 30/40 mins to work every day – for me this is a win-win.
Be on time – meetings start and end on time
One of the first changes I noticed when moving to a remote role was that all meetings seemed to start and end on time. This was very different to my other work experience where moving between meeting rooms took at least 5 minutes, plus gathering a group of people in one room always took time so all meetings seem to start at least 10 minutes after the start time. I think in my first week I got a few Slack notifications to know was I able to join the meeting? – it was 1 min past! I quickly learnt you need to be on the call a minute before the start time to make sure you are not late. The good part is that meetings also end on time – no running over.
Write it down – documentation is key
Documenting meeting notes, key takeaway, next steps, etc. is very important as you won’t have the benefit of turning to a colleague sitting next to you to double-check what was said at the last meeting or what was agreed. It’s also a great way to make sure everybody is on the same page – this took a bit of getting used to – but as most of your communication will be through the written word it’s important – and I think could be adopted in all companies – remote or not.
Face-to-Face interaction is still important
Being remote has a lot of benefits, but face-to-face is also important and for me something that is needed. As part of the senior management team, we meet once a quarter for an offsite meeting ( which lasts for around 3 to 4 days) to have the face time we need for planning, etc. This will sound like a lot of time for senior leadership teams who all sit in the same office – but we need to consolidate our time together as we don’t meet each other every day in an office. The fact that it takes place offsite ensures that the team is focused and clear agendas and actions are defined.
For day to day I am lucky as I have the ability to go into a shared office space if I need to meet up or feel like I just need to get some face time with work colleagues. If your company doesn’t offer this, I would still recommend you connect in with some local shared office spaces and interact with other remote workers.
Getting the whole company together is also something we see a lot of value in. We have tried different formats for our company retreats: we have done a full company week-long retreat in Lisbon, which was lots of fun and productive, and also done smaller regional team retreats. We are still testing out which works better – but we all believe while remote-first is great, you also need face-to-face time with your teams.
Hiring and building a team remotely
Hiring a team that you don’t meet face-to-face was also a new one for me. However, as the team would need to act and work together remotely, I think using remote channels throughout the hiring process is key. You need to be able to see how the person can communicate and process information online – will they be able for a remote working job? Even if the person I was interviewing was nearby, I made sure that at least some of the interview process was conducted online. Other than conducting interviews via video call (make sure to always use video) the process was pretty similar and you get the added benefit of not being bound by your location to source the best talent for the job.
My New Team
Loneliness – it is a real thing, don’t ignore it
Not physically meeting anybody all day can take its toll on you. Don’t ignore it and make changes to your day to ensure this doesn’t have a negative impact on you. I now have a reverse commute – I head into the city to go to the gym after 6pm – with all the cars coming against me. Anybody that knows me knows I’m pretty social, so it’s important that I make this effort and get to interact with people. Make sure you get out for lunch, go to shared workspaces, cafes and join group activities outside work, you might find that not having to commute to work has given you back some time in your day so you could use this to volunteer at a local sports or community group – this will have 2 benefits, you get to give back and you also get to interact with people. We do have the ability to hot desk at a local shared office space – which is great. I usually head in there once a week. Figure out what works for you and do it – don’t ignore the loneliness it is a real thing and can creep up on you.
Companies needs to invest in making remote work
Scrapinghub has been remote from the start, so we have some really great internal initiatives that help the company connect. When you are remote you do have to try a lot harder and some of these might feel a bit contrived or forced at the beginning, but they work and you should embrace them. Some examples that I have engaged with over the last year and have really helped me get connected with others in the business.
- Donut Pal (Randomly matched with somebody else in the company and encouraged to meet for a quick hangout)
- Watercooler (Hangout set up weekly for people to dial into if they want to discuss or just chat with others)
- Coffee with the Chief (Our CEO Shane Evans hosts a hangout meeting for anybody to join to chat about what’s happening in the company)
- All Hands (Quarterly zoom call for the whole company – we use this for updates, celebrations, welcome to new hires etc basically the same as an all hands in an office we just do it via Zoom.
- ShubTalks (Shubbers are what we call our employees. These are monthly online talks run by the employees – topics can be very broad and some are non-work related)
- Appreciation-station ( Slack channel where we can call out other people who have helped us or gone above and beyond in their jobs)
- Various Slack Channels for people to gather around common interests- Photography, BookClub, Wellness, Working out.
I am excited to continue on my journey of remote working with Scrapinghub and I’m pretty sure that my takeaways this time next year will be vastly different as we continue to grow and I adapt for this new world. We are always hiring so don’t forget to check out our jobs page for a role that might suit you.