Our brand of remote working: #timelylife
At Timely we have our own way of remote working. We call it #timelylife. Let’s take a look under the hood.
I often get asked why we chose remote working. The funny thing is, we didn’t choose it. We’ve been a distributed team since day one. My co-founder, Andrew, and I lived in two different cities to begin with. We were both there for an important reason; family. When we decided to build Timely we knew that we weren’t going to move and neither of us saw that as a constraint. So we just got on with it.
Around the same time we were talking to our third co-founder, William. He and his partner had just thrown a dart at a globe and decided to live in Malta for a year. Fine by us. And that sealed the deal. We were remote workers.
The question left on the table then was: Is this an early stage phase we’re going through, or is it a new way of working? Time would tell.
Remote working, it’s totally a thing
Remote teams are people who do their jobs without commuting to a central office location. You may have heard it called distributed teams, telecommuting or telework. All effectively the same thing, although the last two are pretty 1980’s. Remote typically means working from home but it can also happen in cafes or co-working spaces. And occasionally remote working is from a park or in a glass house.
It didn’t take long for us to realise that we loved remote working and it suited us.
Timely was proving popular and customers were coming on board quickly. When we started to grow the team, we found that we could attract amazing people by offering remote working. They were the sort of people we loved working with; self starters who are motivated by producing great work and seeing it help others. Trusting our crew to do their best work created a happy and productive work environment. It was infectious.
Our customers had to be on board
The most important thing was that our customers responded incredibly well to our remote working culture. We‘ve always placed our customers at the centre of the Timely universe. Our customers are small business owners. They blend work and life on a daily basis. Primarily being from industries like hair, beauty & wellbeing, they are also very down-to-earth. What you see is what you get. And what you get is passionate, hard-working, inspiring human beings.
It would be rather difficult to run a hospital or a farm with a remote team, but we’re lucky. With the nature of our software business and the way technology has evolved, it’s viable for us to work remotely. Our customers see that we’re not suits in a glass tower and they get to know us as people. We had resounding feedback that they liked this about Timely. Our customers’ seal of approval mattered above all else.
Remote work is a spectrum disorder
There are some great examples of fully distributed remote companies. For example Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, is operated by a team of 400 people scattered around the world. Take a moment to digest that. The company that hosts over 20% of all websites in the world, serving 15.8 billion page views a month is operated by 400 staff living in 36 countries and they have no office.
However, we found quickly that being fully distributed wasn’t going to work well for us. We missed seeing each other in person and the rare times when we did were awesome. Working in very different time zones was also tough. We love working in a collaborative way, together, bouncing ideas around and getting shit done. Doing this while your co-worker is sleeping is tough.
We needed our own way of remote working.
Enter remote clusters
Fortunately there was a simple solution to the isolation that comes from being fully distributed. We build our teams in the same cities. Folks still work from home, cafes or co-working spaces but, by being in the same city, we can get together easily when we want to. This could be to gather around a whiteboard, or cover a wall in post-it notes. But more often than not it’s to celebrate milestones together, have a few ciders or play cricket.
At the same time we adopted this approach we also added a couple of office spaces to the mix. We use these as hot-desking and meeting rooms. This mix works well for us; being able to work from home, or come together easily in our own space when we want to.
People tend to live near to where the most important things are in their life. In some cases this may be in the heart of a city, but more often it’s near a beach where they love to surf or the schools their kids go to. Remote working allows you to maximise the time you spend doing what’s most important in your life. And that’s priceless.
It’s not all rainbows and unicorns
Let’s bring some balance here because remote working isn’t perfect.
And remote working is all about balance. Or more accurately, it’s a work/life blend. Think of it more as a work/life cocktail, rather than a set of work/life scales. This can work amazingly well for some people, but it’s not for everyone. You need a strong internal compass to get the blend right. You may be thinking, “Ah yes, remote workers won’t be as productive because there are too many distractions”. If you are, then you’re not alone as I’m asked that a lot.
This is a common misconception I hear of remote working; that your team won’t be productive because they’ll be distracted by life. If anything we’ve found the opposite to be true. Making sure that our crew down their tools and keep healthy hours can be challenging. This style of working becomes addictive and it’s just as much of a problem if it encroaches on your life.
There are other fishhooks of working remotely. The temptation to regularly visit the fridge or pantry is strong and not good for your waistline. And being your own tech support when you have issues with your gear is a pain for our less-nerdy crew members.
We embrace it
One of the things about remote working is that you have to embrace it. I’m surprised by the number of people who I tell that we work from home only to be met with an almost sense of relief where they say they are doing the same thing. A sales rep I was speaking to once was so relieved she could admit to being at home while we talked. One of her young kids had dirtied a nappy and then managed to take it off themselves and start waving it around. We picked the call back up after she’d sorted her little one out. No dramas. And I ended up buying what she was selling too.
At Timely we embrace working from home. We have a Twitter account that celebrates our #timelylife. We also give all of our crew a Timely robe on their one year anniversary with the team. An acknowledgement of our more-than-casual work attire on most days. The robes are becoming so famous, the mayor of our town awarded the last batch!
If you have to cover up that you work remotely, it’s probably not for you. Embrace it. Wear it as a badge of honour.
Is remote working a phase?
So, is remote working a phase for us at Timely or is it a thing? It’s totally a thing and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. We’re at 27 staff now with almost 5,000 customers in 75 countries who love our scheduling software. We’re growing fast and there’s no signs of it slowing.
We’re always looking for exceptional people to jump on the rocket ship with us, so if this sounds interesting to you have a squizz at our careers page. We’d love you to join the #timelylife.
— #timelylife (@timelylife) December 10, 2015
— #timelylife (@timelylife) November 16, 2015
— #timelylife (@timelylife) October 22, 2015
— David Curlewis (@databasedave) December 23, 2014
— #timelylife (@timelylife) October 15, 2015
— Jess (@jessrauby) September 24, 2015
— Israel Butson (@IsraelButson) May 22, 2015