At the beginning of 2016, we presented some of our tools and practices to build a fully remote first company. Since we are physically distributed, let’s review how it worked so far, and discuss what could be improved.

Remote work: 6 months later

We love meeting and working with people from everywhere. When TailorDev became a thing, it was clear that this company had to be remote first, not just remote friendly. Since last summer, we are distributed in France and Germany. Consequence? Nothing has changed. :trophy:

For both personal and professional reasons, the last three months have been particularly complicated and stressful for us. Such a situation challenged our remote work setup a lot. We learned that we still could manage the company, especially when most of our plans did not come together. If it works in that case, then it should be fine when things are smooth, right? Let’s put it differently: why would you require all the people of your company to be in the same building?

  • Communication? Asynchronous communication combined to Slack / GitHub allows us to be more verbose as we can leave a message to anyone at any time. Yet, writing implies to think and to carefully choose our words before actually hitting the “submit” button;
  • Meetings? We hate meetings anyway, but we are happy Appear.in users when it is necessary;
  • Making sure people are… working? Oh, come on!

We believe that this time is over, especially for IT companies. Given how Automattic (+400 people), Buffer (~80 people), GitHub, and so on perform, we are not afraid of the future. At TailorDev, we have worked with people we did not even meet in person so far, only via Skype or similar. Yet, we have talked a lot with them!

Do not get us wrong, it is definitely great to meet in person, to shake hands, grab a coffee together, etc. but what is the value, professionally speaking? Well, it depends. We recently started training and consulting services, for which meeting in person is both mandatory and a plus. But there are many other things we do that do not require to be on-site or to meet in person. It is true that remote is not for everyone. It works well for us and we are very productive and efficient that way, but it also requires a bit of discipline.

Our only office is Slack.

For example, we think that our habit to over-communicate via Slack, GitHub and iDoneThis has been very beneficial to date. Now that we are physically distributed, we also have more face-to-face conversations on Appear.in, which slightly improved our internal communication. We try to write a minute after each call, but we do not do this every time to be honest. This is something we would like to improve in the future. To the contrary, and after several months, it became part of our daily routine to briefly catch what has been done in iDoneThis or #activity (our special Slack room for most of the notifications) in the morning, and to leave feedback, comments as well as dones (iDoneThis entries) before “leaving the office”.

Talking about offices, we still have our Head Quarters in France, which now looks like a small co-working space. Indeed, we are happy to host remote workers from other companies and, generally speaking, we welcome everyone! Ping us on Twitter if you travel nearby :wink:

Nevertheless, the only office shared by all the tailors is Slack, and that is why we pulled even more features within it. For instance, we now manage our Modern Science Weekly newsletter from the #msw channel thanks to Hubot, and we receive notifications from Wave Accounting, our accounting application. The main purpose is solely to keep everyone in the loop.

Because Slack is for every day conversation too, we sometimes loose context between a discussion in Slack and an issue in GitHub. That is why we taught Hubot how to create “checkpoints”. We try to step back regularly in order to see what could be missing or what tends to be a repetitive task we could automate. These are only examples, and we are sure you will easily find similar use cases that work for you too!

As for the other tools, we abandoned Waffle.io for Kanban boards, not because GitHub introduced its “Projects” feature a couple months ago, but because we have a great way of managing GitHub issues and little need for Kanban boards right now. This might evolve in the future though, and we will be happy to keep sharing our new findings!

To infinity and beyond!

This setup works well because we challenge our tools and processes all the time, but also because we work with people in the same time zone as ours. We are now looking forward to working with people from other time zones! It should be both exciting and full of surprises :sparkles: