Freedom and Responsibility Go Hand in Hand in Remote Teams

By Charlotta Liukas on March 19, 2019
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Here at callstats.io, we’ve become proficient at working remotely over the past 18 months, as our growing team hails from more geographically distributed locations, including Kraków, Boston and Raleigh. We’ve become a remote-first, collaborative team that can work well together across time zones and cities to build a product we’re all proud of. Our team members share tips for coordinating our work  and effective communication practices.

Last year we opened an office in Kraków, Poland and have grown the team there to 5 software engineers. In this post, we talk to three of our recent hires about their experience working in a remote office and collaborating in a distributed development environment. Krzysztof Dziadowiec, Damian Więcek and Mateusz Zawadzki are members of our Features team.

So, how do we make it work?

The first thing to notice is that time zones are especially kind to us: Our Kraków office has a one-hour time difference to the Helsinki office, and 6 hours to the US East Coast. This means, we have a few hours of all-team overlap every day, from 14:00 EET to the end of our work day. The time differences enable our team to avail of the second shift benefit - our engineer in Europe might wrap up their day by sending an item over to a product manager in Boston, who will have responded by Euro morning.

In our distributed team’s toolkit, we have services like Status Hero for daily activity updates, and we follow European mid-day core working hours to make sure our Features team overlaps with the Analytics team during a work day.

We also eat our own dogfood: We use tools like meet.callstats.io (Jitsi) to run our regular meetings, like daily-syncs and weekly company town halls. Each meeting has a dedicated host in Helsinki, who sets up the conference and connects it to our audio/video setup. The Helsinki host’s device is used as the conference master presentation runner and shares the screen for the conference participants. We like Jitsi features like hand-raising to allocate speaking slots. When remote conference participants want to demo, they switch to screen sharing (our meetings are so remote-friendly that on any given day, even Helsinki-based team members opt to join remotely).

In the below, our Kraków team members share their experiences so far.

Hi, Krakow team & welcome to callstats.io! Tell us about your work? What are you working on currently?

Krzysztof and Damian: “We’re working on new features to improve our product’s user experience, such as updating the on-boarding tour, user registration flow and integration processes. We are part of a four-person fullstack project team, and our work spans across multiple services, from our React dashboard through the Django hosting our dashboard back-end, to many different microservices doing the heavy lifting. Inside the team, we have assigned responsibilities. For instance, the two of us are doing feature development, and the rest of the team are focused on general maintenance and improvements, as well as possible support issues that require our attention.”

Mateusz: “I work with Martin Varela in a fully remote team and we’re currently doing calculations and optimizations for our Objective Quality stats. It’s my 3rd month here, and I’m also spending time with WebRTC and contact center technical research.”

Krzysztof and Damian: “We actually work face-to-face on a daily basis, mostly from our office in Dolnych Młynów. The biggest change for us has been working remotely with the larger team. Being a part of distributed team, communication is not necessarily always instant, and we need to be conscious of the amount of communication going back and forth with people like our team lead Juho.

For Mateusz, who has worked in a globally distributed software development team before joining the company, there are both up and downsides, and he acknowledges that not being able to talk in-person can be challenging: “It definitely involves more coordination and documentation. If we all sat in one big office, I could see when my colleagues are, for example, in meetings and I’d know they will not respond. I wish Flowdock, our instant messaging tool, had a feature for posting personal status updates like, 'I’m at lunch,' or 'in meeting,' to help me understand what the time horizon for a response might look like. On the other hand, I can see my colleagues’ calendars, which helps me plan my day. I also enjoy being able to set my own schedule.”

The whole team agrees on what the best part of distributed work is: Freedom and responsibility.

“You don’t need to plan your day around when someone else is working, or wait for them to respond. The way I see it, you become more responsible for what you are doing, when you don’t constantly have someone to ask questions of. I only talk to our team lead when something is important enough, otherwise I figure it out myself” comments Krzysztof.

“Remote work is still not that common in Poland - I think some of our friends are jealous of the flexibility we have here at callstats.io”

On the most important discovery for successful remote working: “For me, I discovered that creating a quick conference link and sharing my screen with someone else can be really helpful and speed up my work. This way, a video call is just like having a normal meeting,” Damian says.

“Usually, we don’t turn on video for daily-standups as the discussion is short and centered on our kanban board anyways. But for team weekly meetings and 1:1’s, using video is much nicer than audio-only.”

Interested in working with modern tools, flexible work hours / locations and building a world class analytics product? Callstats.io is recruiting for fullstack and dashboard UI engineers in Kraków and Helsinki. For more, check out our open positions.

Tags: Recruiting, Remote Work