Scott Downes is a CTO for Invisible Technologies, Inc., a company that was remote from the start with around 200 people around the world. He describes, “We take business processes that companies want to outsource and drive them on the path to automation.”
How do you deal with burnout while working remotely?
When it comes to burnout, I think that a lot of us have been through it personally. Working from home can erode boundaries and make it hard to set boundaries. Notice those indicators. In my experience, it is not always driven by working too much. It’s more about making sure that the person is in line with the company’s values, and their own personal mission and values. I actually experienced a sort of burnout at a time when I worked too little or had too little impact. Make sure that people understand how they can contribute and how they can fit into the story of the company. A big part of it is about mutual accountability. We are looking out for our sisters and brothers and that is a big part of the story. Sometimes it is easier to see what is going on in someone else’s face than it is to see what is going on in your own mirror. Those of us who have experienced it look out for each other and look out for the signals.
How can a company increase motivation and specifically, initiative, when people are working from home?
First, you have to hire the right people. There are people who are suited to the kind of work that we do and there are people who aren’t. I have been with a lot of startups who talk about people having an ownership mentality. But do we really mean it? There are people who have an entrepreneurial spirit and want to make a dent in the world. We have to make sure that this is a kind of contract with people who are ‘partners’ (as we call people in Zapier). People who are part of the core team are part of the partnership. The expectations of having an ownership mentality, include: Having clear incentives. People are compensated on clear targets, everyone knows what our goals are, everyone is the star of their own movie. People see themselves progressing in their own financial goals and their career goals. When you tell people to have an ownership mentality, you have to mean it. You have to give them an opportunity to own their own area, and you even have to give them a chance to fail. We are not prescriptive or top-down. We hire brilliant people who are owners. We tell them, “There is the target, go get it.”
How do you deal with the hours?
Does everyone have to work at a set time, or is there flexibility as to hours, with a set of goals to achieve?
Don’t judge people based on whether they are sitting at their desk at a certain time. It is not only about optimization. If I have to signal to you that I am present, it shows that you don’t understand the work that I do. Have expectations that are outcome-oriented. Use an asynchronous work structure, focusing on outcomes. We discussed asynchronous work structures and creating expectations that make us more outcome-oriented.
So, what approach can you take to enable that productivity and focus on outcomes?
I am talking from the angle of a software engineer. You can use different methodologies such as Scrum and Agile and adapt them to your needs. Set sound goals, and check your progress towards them. Have a limited number of synchronous meetings. We ask, “What does our product roadmap look like?” “What are we achieving this week? How are we getting there?” That is how we create alignment. People know what the goals are, how we are going to get there, and how it will impact the company.