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Interview with Børge Dvergsdal, Head of Culture at appear.in.
Our remote work culture started when one of our engineers wanted to move from Oslo to a smaller city. He was tired of commuting, the high cost of living and wanted a less stressful life closer to his family, and thus the remote work policy was born. In the early days, he was struggling with the feeling of isolation, so we needed to find a way to solve our first remote hurdle. We decided to implement our new remote work culture by involving the entire company in the process. Getting the team excited was the first task, then realizing that this is a joint team effort where we constantly look for better ways to improve our culture, how we communicate and collaborate.
To cover some problems, we first had to live them. We did mandatory “work from home” weeks for the entire team, where the goal was to identify problems and create solutions. This also improved our product to better serve remote collaboration. What started out with one person moving has now transferred into a team working from 11 different locations worldwide. We are still experimenting on how to make our remote working policies and culture work even better.
Remote workers can feel excluded from the “water cooler” type chats that helps build relationships around a physical office, but more importantly, they can be excluded from decisions or workflows if changes are made outside of a scheduled meeting. The good news is, there are ways to combat this!
We believe that if one team member is working remotely, then we are a remote team. The people in the office have the same responsibility as the remote person does to make sure that all teammates are included. Caring for each other and making sure that everyone feels heard and valued is key to succeeding as a remote team!
Here are some of our methods to fight isolation:
Culture fit! It does not matter if the person is the best in the world if he/she does not fit our culture. In our hiring process, we have small group interviews where the candidates meet different team members to get a feeling of a cultural fit.
We also look for people that are genuinely interested in our product and company. The best hires we have done are people who have used and love our product. Hire your fans!
Having experience as a remote worker is not essential, but it is important to be open to it. We have hired experienced remote workers and people who have only worked in a traditional office setting. By having a culture where everyone embraces flexibility, people adapt to a remote way of working.
Accepting a new job is an important life decision, so it is our responsibility to make the new employee feel like it’s the best decision ever made! We set up a structured program for the first two weeks to fully understand our company, with time for reflection and feedback. The first week the new employee is scheduled to meet with all employees over an appear.in video conversation. The concept is called “Coffee-Chats”, where the new employee and another team member meet over a cup of coffee to get to know each other. People have asked us if this is really necessary since it is so time-consuming for the organization. When it is a remote culture it is even more important to invest in people getting to know each other.
And of course, when onboarding new people, a lot of swag is important.
We have a Slack channel where managers and peers announce significant employee achievements or publicly thank someone who went the extra mile.
As part of building a strong culture, we have also established a Culture Team. This team is comprised of approachable and energetic individuals from different parts of the organization. The team focuses on setting up fun activities and making sure that we live by our values. Every month we announce a Monthly Superstar that has achieved extraordinary results or behavior. We make a diploma that we hang on the wall of our office and also announce them Slack and email.
At appear.in we believe people can grow successful companies and live meaningful lives anywhere! We are super passionate about helping companies and people to shift to remote work by building great tools for productive collaboration! We will also continue to experiment on improving our own remote work culture and share our learnings.