DVELP is a remote-first company and we want to share what that means for our productivity and culture. We believe it’s high time more companies adopted the practice - could remote work work for you?
We’ve been remote since 2015 and we’re now a team of 12 spread across the UK, Ukraine and Belarus. Our operations base is in Clerkenwell, London where you’ll find 4 of our team (including myself) using the working space flexibly.
Before jumping in, it’s important to clarify the difference between remote and flexible working. I joined the company in 2016 and have only met the UK-based portion of our team in person. The rest of the team in Belarus and Ukraine are also online in our virtual office at the same time and I chat to them over video call every week, but we’ve yet to have some real life face time.
Flexible working is a part of remote work. Any of our team can work from home, or a cafe, or a train - I worked from the British Library one week - we have the flexibility and choice. Julia and Ilya generally work in the same office space in Kharkiv in Ukraine, and Vitalii sometimes works there too. Remote work means that there’s no expectation for anyone to be in any particular place to do their thing.
So, why go remote? Three reasons: skills, productivity and lifestyle.
Pop on your employer hat and it is easy to see that without geographical restrictions, you’ve got a bigger and better talent pool. As the founders of 37Signals pointed out: the most talented people in the world don’t all live in the same place.
Our team is not spread out over the 3 countries for the sake of it (or so that we could arrange a fun-filled international meetup later this month!). Quite simply, we’re spread out because when we found the best people for the job, we weren’t going to worry about where they were.
When we hire the best people, we’re hiring trustworthy people with a work ethic. We trust our team members to be committed and self-directed. If you can’t trust your employees to work remotely, you shouldn’t have hired them in the first place.
Our culture of trust and responsibility cultivates a healthy, self-driven approach to work. Tom, our CEO, doesn’t feel the need to breathe down everyone’s necks to get the work done and so team members are self-motivated and confident - that makes for higher quality performance.
If you’ll allow me a little shoutout to my academic career, look at management theory. Professor Douglas McGregor of MIT developed two contrasting models of management and motivation: Theory X and Theory Y. Theory X relies upon close supervision, authoritarian management and the threat of punishment; it assumes that people have an inherent dislike of work.
On the other hand, Theory Y grounds itself in the belief that individuals can exercise self-direction and self-control in pursuit of objectives to which they are committed. These individuals are motivated by job satisfaction.
Since humans tend to behave how they are treated, these theories tend to become self-fulfilling prophecies. So, the matter of deciding between the two comes down to what kind of organisation the manager and the employees want to create. When we hire the best candidates, we’re hiring people for whom a Theory Y-esque approach stimulates productivity.
Management theory aside, everyone works differently! The flexibility of remote work means that each member of the team has the freedom to be productive on their own terms, meaning we get the best out of everyone, and no one feels constrained by ill-fit and outdated practices. Commuting into an office to stay at your desk from 9 ‘til 5 under the hawk-eyed gaze of an authoritarian boss is so 1950s.
What’s more, our team take fewer sick days than average. Last week, Julia had a cold, so she worked from home. Whilst on one hand, she didn’t spread it round the team, she also didn’t make herself more sick by commuting into an office and her recovery time was shorter. Although we encourage people to take the time they need, she didn’t feel the need to take a day off work at all.
Whilst as a company, we get the best out of our employees, as individuals, we get the best possible work/life balance and the freedom to dictate our own lifestyle. When the plumber needs to fix the shower at 2pm, you can be there. When the flat upstairs is having a day rave and the noise is unbearable, pop out to a local cafe. Walk in the woods on your break, work with your cat on your lap, be around the corner from the best sushi in town.
Jason particularly loves being able to work remotely because he is able to balance work with being a Dad. On a normal weekday, his son Liam is asleep by the time Jason gets back so sometimes it’s nice to work from home; he gets to hang out with Liam at lunch and supper instead of commuting into central London.
And that’s just it - remote and flexible working allows employees to be human. Whilst on one side, the management style treats team members as self-motivated and autonomous individuals - promoting genuine job satisfaction - it also bridges that gaping divide between the home-self and the work-self.
Remote workers don’t have to leave behind their personal needs at the office door. If you have to mould your personal life around your professional life, you’re going to be stressed and that stress will impact your work. Remote work puts them on a level playing field, and gives employees the personal authority to consider their priorities. Those are the ingredients for life satisfaction. Then of course, higher employee quality of life, in turn, benefits the company by reducing turnover (and subsequent costs).
This is why, at DVELP, we believe we have the strongest possible team. We’re trusting, we’re motivated and we’re ambitious. We’re making no secrets of our recipe - if you’re still curious you can check out CEO Tom’s article on how we went about going remote.