Day in the Life of a Remote Company: Flow




Day in the Life of a Remote Company




Trusted by world-class companies like Shopify, Red Bull and more, Flow brings hundreds of thousands of teams together every day from all around the world with their modern task and project management software. Built for remote teams by a team with over a decade of remote experience. With headquarters in Victoria, Canada, and Boulder, U.S., the team has been semi-remote since their founding 10+ years ago. Now 100% remote, their small but mighty team of 10 is spread across four countries: Canada, United States, Costa Rica and the Philippines.

Get to know this remote-first company and see how they use their own tool to foster remote and company culture!

Company Info

Company name:Flow

HQ: We have small offices in Victoria, Canada and Boulder, U.S. but we work 100% remotely day-to-day.

How many people are in your organization? We have a small but incredibly productive team of 10. 

How many countries or cities do your team span across? We’re spread out across four countries: Canada, United States, Costa Rica and the Philippines.

Day in the Life of

We don’t really have a “typical” day on our team since things change so rapidly and we work at a fast pace. We try to keep the mornings blocked for deep work and we don’t book meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But on a day where we do have meetings, it generally looks something like this (Pacific Time): 

  • 4am-5am: Our Customer Experience Specialist in the Philippines starts her day. Usually checking the customer inbox in Front and asking any questions in our #cx channel.
  • 6am-8am: The Eastern Canada teams signs on and the online chatter starts to pick up in #flow, our main product channel. 
  • 8am-10am: US, Costa Rica and West Coast folks start to sign on and by 10am, chat is in full swing — cue the cute cat-laying-on-desk pics and #watercooler banter about random global events. 
  • 10am-11am: If we have any company-wide updates, birthdays or Flowversaries, they’ll be posted around this time in #team-news or #celebrations 🎉 
  • 11am-1pm: On event days, we’ll usually get together for a lunch ‘n game between this time, or if it’s a Friday, we’ll be in our team huddle. 
  • 1pm-2pm: We have our product standup where current progress, blockers and wins are discussed. For the non-West Coast folks, it’s nearing the end of the day.
  • 2-4pm:  You can normally find the rest of the team in project-specific calls, 1on1s or client meetings during this time.
  • 4-5pm: Western team is finishing up the day, usually posting end-of-day cat and dog pics in our #pets channel.


Why and how did you decide to go remote? 

We’ve been a semi-remote company since our founding over a decade ago. Giving our team the freedom to work from anywhere and on a schedule that suits them has been super important to us from the beginning. The ability to do great work shouldn’t be tied to a physical location and through our remote-first practice, we’ve been able to build a team of exceptional people from around the globe. Whether it's from home or a coffee shop, we want our team to work where they can be most present and focused. 

In 2017, we moved from being semi-remote to a fully distributed team. This truly allowed us to practice what we preach. At the time, most of our in-office folks worked from home a few days a week, so the transition was practically seamless. For us, this change was an incredibly positive one. It gave everyone on our team equal opportunity and flexibility around the way they work. It also gave us the chance to re-evaluate some of our practices and introduce new and better ways of working that could be implemented company-wide. Some of these included no-meeting Thursdays, monthly remote team building events, and an annual in-person retreat, to name a few. 

How does your company advocate for remote work?

We advocate for remote work in several ways — beginning with our own product. Flow is a hub for team collaboration and communication so naturally, our product is a great fit for remote teams. We’ve always been intentional about the products we build and make sure that the decisions we make are improving the way teams stay connected.

We also post articles on our blog around remote culture, we've built a team of amazing individuals that believe in the power of remote work, and we always try to share tips with other companies looking to make the shift. Our CEO, Daniel Scrivner has also shared our journey and some of our views around remote work on a few podcasts — Intercom, The Effective Founder, and Rocketship.fm

Lastly, we’re committed to living and breathing this work into our company culture. We empower our team members to build their life around working remotely, whether that’s working on a schedule where they’re most productive, living in different cities around the world, or working while traveling. We’re deeply committed to the well-being of our team and that means supporting autonomy and flexibility around work.

How has being remote impacted the success of your company?

Overall, we’ve seen immense success with being remote and wouldn’t go back to working from the office at this point. Not only has it positively impacted our bottom line, it’s also provided us with the ability to bring on talented individuals from all walks of life —  individuals with unique backgrounds, skill-sets, and perspectives. Finding amazing people to join our team is much simpler when we can hire the best talent from any corner of the world and diversity helps ensure that we’re always challenging each other and evolving.

How has being remote influenced Flow's organizational structure?

Flow has always had a relatively flat structure. We’re a small team that values full autonomy and ownership of work and by having a more horizontal company, we’re able to empower each person to be their own leader.  We’re incredibly proud to have built a team of self-directed individuals who own their work, aren’t afraid to make mistakes, and produce exceptional work as a result. Because of this structure, communication is more efficient and decision-making is quicker, allowing us to build and ship in much less time.

What cultural practices set you apart as a company?

Our most important work, besides building a great product, is how we work together: our shared principles, ideals, and ways of solving problems. We put a lot of effort into spending time together inside and outside of work. Some of the ways we do this include getting together for bi-weekly game nights, lunches and happy hours; holding a monthly team huddle where we discuss work that’s underway, share company-wide updates and celebrate wins; and flying our entire team somewhere every year for a fun-filled week of team building, workshops and discussing company vision. Here are a few snapshots of our 2019 team retreat on Salt Spring Island:
 

What benefits do you offer your employees to ensure they are comfortable in their role and working remotely?

All new team members receive a $1,000 remote bonus to set up their home office or put towards a co-working space. We also provide a company MacBook and everyone on the team has access to an annual equipment fund of $300 to purchase any additional gadgets they’d like such as headphones, keyboards, etc. For physical and mental health support, we have a $300 annual health and wellness fund, and access to counselors, psychologists, massage therapists, and acupuncturists through our extended health plan. We offer flexibility around combining our funds together so if someone wants to spend $600 on health and wellness, that’s totally fine.  A healthy work-life balance is also really important to us so to support that, we offer unlimited vacation time with no cap on the number of days our team members can take off during the year. We also close down for 2 weeks of paid time off during the holidays so everyone can relax, restore and spend time with their family before the new year. 

Continuous learning is a huge part of our culture and over the years, we’ve learned that providing ongoing support in this area helps our team members stay motivated and happy in their roles. We try to do everything we can to help our team grow so we offer an annual learning and development fund of $1,000 and often cover additional expenses beyond that such as long-term training programs and courses. We also created a Flow library with a list of recommended books, learning platforms, subscriptions and games that we encourage everyone on the team to explore, on our dime.

How do you address common remote challenges for your employees?

We’ve been around since before Slack, Dropbox and Zoom lead the remote world! So since day one, we’ve relied solely on Flow to keep us connected and on track(but don’t take our word for it, here’s our very first promo video).

We hold ourselves to a very high bar when it comes to our products and we’ve rarely looked to external tools to keep us in the loop. That said, having a team spread across different time zones does come with inevitable challenges. For us, being 100% distributed requires us to set very clear expectations and processes when it comes to communication. Although our long-distance model works best when we have at least a couple of hours overlap during the workday, that’s not always possible. To ensure everyone is on the same page, we practice asynchronous communication, meaning we don’t require anyone to respond in real-time. Everyone on the team understands that when you ping someone, you may not hear back right away or even until the next day. Luckily, there’s a pretty steady flow of activity happening in company-wide chat channels so if there’s something that needs immediate attention, there’s usually someone around that can help (snapshot of our Flow channel on a typical day below).

We know that human beings are wired for connection and sometimes text-only communication isn’t enough. To help with the feelings of isolation, we try to get together twice a month outside of work. Some of our past events have included trivia nights, lunch n’ games (usually Skribbl.io or Uno) and team movie nights during Halloween or the Holidays. We also just started working with a company called Thriver who will be hosting some fun new events for us in 2021!

What’s your tool stack?

Flow: Of course, we use Flow! For managing projects and team communication
Slab: Documentation is super important on a remote team, we store all our company knowledge here
Dropbox: We use Dropbox for file sharing and Paper for doc collaboration
Beamer: We use Beamer to announce our latest product updates and gather feedback
Google Workspace: For email and calendar management
1Password: We use 1Password to manage all of our individual and team passwords
Pitch: We use Pitch for slide decks, commonly for our bi-weekly team huddle
Front: For all customer communication including support, success and sales
Canny: For user feedback & tracking bug reports
Figma: We use Figma for all of our UI/UX design needs
Zeplin: For sharing designs before they’re implemented in the app
Amplitude: We use Amplitude for tracking growth funnels and key user events
ChartMogul: To track key business metrics such as MRR and churn
Recurly: Recurly is our billing and payment system
Segment: For transferring and organizing data between tools 
Xero: We use Xero for all of our bookkeeping and accounting
Other engineering tools: AWS, Heroku, Digital Ocean, Elasticsearch and GitHub

What advice do you have for companies who want to go either fully remote or hybrid?

  • Formalize your team’s values and principles before the transition — this will help connect everyone to a shared purpose and give new hires a smoother transition onto the team. 
  • Don’t neglect face-time (encourage your team members to turn their video on in calls)
  • Motivate your team to book casual Zoom catch-ups -  a great way to do this is to offer a monthly drink budget where they can grab a virtual coffee or tea with a teammate. 
  • Offer more support than you think you should & lead with empathy
  • Have your team document their experience along the way so you can continue to iterate and improve as your remote team evolves 
  • Block out times or days for deep work (ie. no-meeting Thursdays or Fridays)
  • Trust and empower your team to own their work (no micromanaging)
  • Document all of your processes and policies as you go and keep them in a central place that your entire team can access (we use Slab)
  • Measure the quality and results of the work vs. the time put in
  • Work on making asynchronous communication the norm

Why do you believe remote work is here to stay?

Remote work has always had its place in the world. But in light of this year’s global events, it’s becoming clear that people’s relationship to work is drastically changing. More and more candidates are searching for remote-only jobs, and we don’t expect that to change any time soon. We’re experiencing a massive shift from the traditional ways of working to a new approach that lends itself to greater inclusion and diversity, something that many leaders are prioritizing more often than not. In order for companies to compete in this new era, they’ll need to offer more flexibility and autonomy around work. For most industries, the days of micromanaging and keeping tabs on the number of hours your team members are working are long gone. And in our experience, giving your team members the freedom to work in the way that suits their needs is the best solution to building high performing teams and creating sustainable growth. So all things considered, we’re big believers that remote work is here to stay!


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