From our first full-time remote colleague to a (temporarily) fully remote team

These days (April 2020) lots of companies have (temporarily) closed their offices and have their teams working from home. The switch to fully remote working is just one of the challenges businesses are facing, but at FindHotel we are well prepared for this switch. In the last years we’ve had a growing remote crew and we have the tools to make it work for everyone. The first full-time remote joined our team 4 years ago and we have come a long way since then!

In the beginning, it was Sasha

Sasha started working with FindHotel in Amsterdam, during her studies. At the end of her degree she decided that she preferred to move back to Russia. Her work and input had always been great, which is why the FindHotel leadership agreed to give remote work a try.

Subsequently, between 2016 and 2017, the doors were opened and a couple more employees joined, or moved, to be full-time remote.

While the intentions were always the best they could, at the time things didn’t work as well as everyone hoped. Contributing from far away was more complicated than anticipated; it was more than a lack of conferencing tools, it was just very challenging to translate all the rituals and culture of a company that was born co-located, and to make sure employees in other places would feel included in the whole.

As it became apparent that there was room for improvement as for remote working and effectiveness, FindHotel decided to freeze full-time remote hiring in 2017, and until the summer of 2019 no new full-time remote people were added to the team. This didn’t mean however that the experiments in this regard stopped completely: the remote team members sticked around, and learned to cope with the tradeoffs of a non-ideal, but still accomplishing situation and team. A single one left the company, but in parallel, the people of the office started embracing flexibility more and more. It became quite normal to work while traveling, to have ad-hoc or fixed work from home days, and so on.

Summer of 2019

Over time Remote Work became more common in and out of FindHotel, and as of last year, full-time remote hiring restarted, with a deliberate effort to fix all the issues that had made the first try a bit clumsy. It’s not just a matter of opening the hiring pipeline, but also to understand the specific challenges of the context in which FindHotel operates, the differences in employee happiness between office and remote, and the specific challenges that the team as a whole is facing.

In September, we ran a survey to get some baseline data. The basic, most interesting conclusions drawn after compiling results and comparing them over location and tenure were:

  • Generally speaking, FindHotel peers are a happy bunch and they’re satisfied with their work, team members and conditions.
  • Remote employees who have been around longer noticed a marked improvement over the years both in the attention and the actual ability to collaborate with their peers remotely.
  • For remote employees in general the challenges are about isolation, missing out on social activities and celebrations, and being able to follow the conversations that happen organically at the office.
  • For office-based peers, it’s not always easy to keep remote peers top of mind, and so they used to find the relationship and collaboration hard. Lack of meeting rooms, virtual processes and tools made working together harder than needed, and ‘missing their colleagues’ at social events and celebrations.

Beginning of 2020

The past few months have been quite intense with initiatives aimed to the improving the points above, the addition of three more full-time remote peers, and  the opening of more roles to remote applicants.

We have a People Squad now (also partly remote!), busy with improving the employee experience across the board and making sure we can scale while maintaining the company culture alive.

Some of the initiatives we took:

  • A completely new onboarding program, including induction at HQ so new remote hires have a chance to ‘feel’ the company and meet their teams while acquiring the knowledge they need to get up to speed
  • Improved meeting and conferencing set-up in the office (powered by Zoom)
  • The role of ‘Remote Hero’ for meetings - a dedicated person who makes sure documentation is shared beforehand, meetings are inclusive, and content is recorded or summarized in writing for async fruition.
  • Introduction of Miro for virtual Agile collaboration
  • Started celebrating birthdays by sending cards, and making sure that as soon as we have new company swag, it is sent to everybody.
  • More frequent 1:1’s and chats with our remote colleagues
  • Regularly scheduled quarterly trips to Amsterdam for all remote peers located within Europe

We’re constantly aiming to do things better, and the company is growing faster than it used to. We’re considering a lot of other initiatives to act as the glue of our team as we scale - and we’ll keep posting our findings here regularly.

Some squads have more remote presence than others, and we’ve seen that as soon as there is more than one remote person in the team, the whole dynamics spontaneously shift towards finding the most effective way to collaborate. In fact, in February we composed the first fully distributed squad.

March 2020

On 12th of March we decided to stop supporting office work and to go fully remote to guarantee our employees' health and wellbeing during the corona outbreak. A big change for the whole team. Finding a quiet place turned out to be more difficult for some than for others, especially with the children at home as the schools closed their doors only a few days later. But being fully remote also requires a different approach to meetings, collaboration and communication. Luckily we have plenty of tools already available to make this transition smooth.

And in the meantime plenty of initiatives have been arising to have fun together and to nurture social interactions. For example:

  • We keep an open zoom where everyone can join in and say hi whenever they feel like talking to someone
  • We are experimenting with online quizzes and daily challenges to have some fun
  • Plenty of colleagues have come with ideas to play or do some exercise together

After the first week of being fully remote, we asked our employees to share their experience and best practices. These were some of the top learnings from the surveys we sent to the team members:

  • Many of the on-site colleagues came to realise remote working is “not bad at all”.
  • Switching to a fully remote set-up has been easier than expected
  • For our (all-time) remote colleagues the collaboration has improved now everyone is working remotely
  • The overall spirit in the company is high and many colleagues feel this period helps us to bond even more as a team
  • Most appreciated advantages of working remotely are the better work-life balance, better focus/higher productivity and less commute
  • The biggest challenges of working remotely are related to the lack of (spontaneous/face-to-face) communication, not having a comfortable working station and managing working hours and/or the kids at home
  • There is room to improve our meeting etiquette

Join us remotely

One thing is clear: remote is here to stay and to grow in FindHotel. Currently we have full-time remote colleagues in Poland, Spain, Russia and Brazil. We are hiring, but for most of our roles we are (for now) hiring colleagues who are located in time zones between UTC-4 and UTC+6, to guarantee a smooth collaboration with the colleagues in Amsterdam. Curious to know about our open roles? You can check them here!