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Remote-Ready: Geoff Evason from Envato about creating empathy for remote work in a hybrid-remote organization

04. November 2019

In this article series, we feature successful remote-ready companies and ask them how they collaborate effectively in a remote environment. 

Over two million people worldwide buy products from Envato every year. The various marketplaces run by Envato offer everything from design assets, audio/video templates and effects, mockups, presentations, fonts to website themes. This huge portfolio is created by a community of more than ten million creatives around the globe.

While the headquarter is in Melbourne, Envato has come to embrace the benefits and amenities of remote work over the last couple of years. We spoke to Geoff Evason, the Engineering Manager for Envato Market, about the remote culture at Envato.

How does your current organizational setup look like and in which units do you work remotely?

Envato is a very remote-friendly company, headquartered in Melbourne, Australia. We have nearly 600 people, spread across a range of teams, products, and countries. Many of our remote staff live in Australia.

How does your collaboration practice look like on a day-to-day basis?

At Envato, our teams have a lot of autonomy. As a result, there is no “one size fits all” answer to this question. We always seek to improve the ways in which we work. This leads to regular discussion and experimentation around how we collaborate.

Teams typically have regular synchronous video meetings. We combine this with asynchronous written communication. We hold a company-wide, fortnightly „all-hands“ meeting. This is a great touchpoint for connecting the entire organization.

Do you have any key paradigms or must-haves for organizing your remote work collaboration?

There are two notable things that contributed meaningfully to the success of our remote culture. The first was a decision that those located in Melbourne were able to work from home. This was a step-change that enabled genuine empathy for remote work. The second was setting up systems that made booking remote-friendly meetings frictionless. All meeting rooms are automatically set up for a video call when meetings are booked.

We do recognize the value of physical presence and support that.

Australia based remote employees have a budget for visiting HQ regularly. We run a “Back 2 Base” week once per quarter, and those in Australia are encouraged to plan their visits for this week.

Which are the most important tools for your remote collaboration?

Video-conferencing is the most important tool. It is important to see colleagues face-to-face, even if that’s through a screen. Most remote employees have video calls daily. Our commonly used tools are Zoom, Google Meet, Google G-Suite, Trello, Slack, Github, 15five, and Figma. Each of these has its own sweet spot for the type of collaboration they enable for us.

How do you reflect the remote work specifics in your approach to leadership, coaching and mentoring?

Our approach to leadership, coaching, and mentoring is designed to be remote-friendly. Our People Team provides great support, tools, and training to help develop people. These things are designed with all employees in mind (remote or otherwise).

Which key skills are important to work effectively in your remote work organization?

Communication is a critical skill when working remotely. Within the teams, daily communication is important for maintaining the right focus. Communication between teams is just as important.

Teams are expected to offer a lot of visibility into their work and progress.

We use a number of channels for this: regular demo meetings, fortnightly team status updates via email, release notices, a launch wall, and high-level roadmaps for all of our major products.

Which tips can you share to have fun working remotely?

One thing that I personally like to do is to create a bit of space in meetings for small talk. I’ve found that’s something that is easy to overlook when working remotely.  We also run virtual coffees, virtual lunches, and our Back 2 Base weeks. These all encourage stronger personal relationships. We have slack channels for pretty much any topic that more than one person may be interested in.  Most of all, it’s important to recognize that you do need to make an effort to keep things fun.

Do you believe in the future of remote work as we do? Then head over to www.dl-remote.com, our talent platform for remote employees.

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