Software Executive Magazine

December 2017

Software Executive magazine helps software executives grow their businesses by showcasing the business best practices of our readers, executives from established and innovative software companies.

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what they don't realize is that it's harder and it's often very lonely." For those employees who don't like the iso- lation of a home office, Balsamiq offers each employee up to $250 per month to put toward a coworking space. And when the company has hired junior employees or employees with no prior remote work experience they all start in the office. Then they gradually work their way up to working remotely. But as a rule, no new em- ployees get the chance to work remotely unless they've done it before or have proven they can handle it. A true remote culture isn't possible unless the hiring process itself is also tailored to having a distributed workforce. After all, it's not feasible to fly candidates from the Bay Area all the way to Italy for one-on-one interviews. Balsamiq created a detailed form that takes about 30 minutes to complete (and this up-front time investment alone knocks out candidates). The form doesn't ask for a candidate's age, gender, LinkedIn URL, CV, or even a photo. Once the company has enough sub- missions, the best applicants are asked for a CV and are invited to a 30-minute Google Hangout interview. MAKE YOUR GOLDEN HOUR PRODUCTIVE Embracing remote work doesn't mean giving in to a 100 percent flexible schedule for employees. If your employ- ees are scattered across the globe but have a common hour(s) during, or close to, normal business hours, that time needs to be maximized. For Balsamiq, that means employees in San Francisco are expected to be logged on early between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., and employees in cen- tral Europe are expected to work late from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. so they can overlap. The company has only a short block of this overlap, so those hours are precious. Guil- AfterCollege Career Insight survey revealed that 68 percent of these job seekers said a remote work option would "greatly increase" their interest in a company. The data is clear: Companies (especially tech compa- nies) can no longer stay competitive if they ignore the demand for remote work options. If your software com- pany doesn't embrace a remote workforce, that means you'll have to accept an increasingly shrinking talent pool, relocation costs for when you do bring on a talent- ed new hire, and increasing office space overhead. This doesn't mean companies with flexibility and a remote-friendly mentality don't have challenges. Bal- samiq's story has its fair share of growing pains (head over to the company's blog to read about why its vaca- tion policy, one of the very few policies spelled out for employees, evolved from "Take some!" to "Take at least 20 days off a year" because its U.S. team was working too much, and other candid anecdotes about growing a software company). At the 2017 Business of Software conference, Guiliz- zoni helped lead a workshop to teach software compa- nies how to operate more efficiently with remote em- ployees. Workshop participants cited struggles with communication, culture, collaboration, time zones, scaling, and tax/accounting regulations (he admits that last challenge is a separate article that should be tackled by a professional, so we'll skip that here). His tips on keeping his remote employees engaged and productive can apply to any software company, regard- less of what time zone its workforce logs in from every day. "You have to work hard at this," Guilizzoni says. "It takes more than you think to solve these remote work problems. It's worth it, it's sustainable, and none of it is expensive." HIRING REMOTE WORKERS Balsamiq has hired employees in San Francisco, Sacra- mento, Chicago, Italy, France, Germany, and the Neth- erlands. Just because the company can hire anyone to work remotely doesn't mean every candidate is the right fit for a remote role. "It's been long enough that you can ask for remote work experience. We can't af- ford to teach you how to do remote work," says Guil- izzoni. "We ask them 'What sucks about working re- motely?' and we can tell right away if they know how to handle working remotely." It's a red flag if a candi- date can't articulate the struggles that go along with working remotely — things like distractions, loneliness, feeling disconnected from the team, and the reality that it can be harder than it looks to maintain a work-life balance. "Some people just want to work from home; they don't necessarily want to work for you," he says. "They might think they want to work from home, but You have to work hard at this. It takes more than you think to solve these remote work problems. It's worth it, it's sustainable, and none of it is expensive. EXCLUSIVE FEATURE REMOTE EMPLOYEES By A. Sorensen EMBRACING & OPTIMIZING A REMOTE WORK MENTALITY SOFTWAREEXECUTIVEMAG.COM DECEMBER 2017 26

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