10 Rules for a Remote-First Startup

August 23, 2016

9:00 am

The Bay area is leaking workers: thanks to high costs, startups are finding new locations along the West Coast, like Phoenix, to set up shop. But that just makes costs worse there. But come on, guys. You’re missing the point of the internet-connected tech world:

The Rules for Remote-First Culture

Paul Farnell, CEO and founder of the remote-first startup Litmus, lives and works at the company’s HQ in none other than the financially draining San Francisco. But his workers don’t, and they don’t have to live a short trip away in Phoenix, either: a truly remote-first culture can escape barriers to draw in the best of the best. And there are a lot of barriers to living in the Bay area. Little green paper ones.

Here are the ten rules to creating the remote-first startup culture you need, as condensed from a recent report from Farnell.

  1. Commit. Remote-first is a bigger deal than just allowing remote work. Encourage it by holding all your meetings through Hangouts or Skype.
  2. Communicate deliberately. You need a plan: “Edits go in Google Docs, status updates go in Basecamp, files go in Dropbox,” Farnell says.
  3. Show, don’t tell. The team’s leader is the shaper of the culture.
  4. Step back. You hired smart people. Trust them to keep up with the remote-first startup, even though you can’t see their engagement 24/7.
  5. Be clear. People can easily feel guilty about taking a break when they’re working remotely. Let them know it’s okay.
  6. Log out. Constant connection on Slack or Google chat can be a strain. Unplugging to work doesn’t mean that someone isn’t working remotely. On the contrary, they’re just being productive while doing so.
  7. Schedule hangout events. Litmus gets together to drink beers on Skype once in a while. Social events don’t become less important when they’re online.
  8. Allow outliers. Remote work isn’t for everyone. Those who feel the need to come into an office should have the option if at all feasible.
  9. Get feedback. Know Your Company is a great option, and we’ve covered the service and their weird revenue model before. They help companies and individuals get feedback.
  10. Embrace the freedom. I’m not saying you should wear just your underwear all day. But I’m not not saying that.
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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He's based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state's slogan: "sayWA." In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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