The Key For Successful Remote Work Will Surprise You

In the old world you were expected to be in the office at 8 a.m. Your boss might be living in another continent, but you still show up every morning at 8.am. That's the way things worked. 

Today, the word office has really lost its meaning. Your office can be a coffee shop, your own sofa or a friend’s kitchen table.

What executives told us

How to get the most out of your “office hours” in the new world, in 2015? We asked for advice from executives attending the startup conference Slush in Helsinki. Some of the answers were in common: a lot of communication through different channels, autonomous teams, but most importantly real-life meetings were seen crucial by everyone we talked to.

Slush event in Helsinki

Paul Varga, cofounder of London and Vienna based startup Playbrush, which will ship its toothbrushing game later this month, says he and his cofounders at both locations travel all the time, back and forth trying to get the best out of both home towns.

“It’s back and forth, it kind of works for us,” Varga told Hybe in an interview. "We are heavy Slack users and it really works for us. We are doing a lot of calls. We have found a good way to solve this communication issue, but that is the biggest difficulty obviously."

Offline meetings once a year with the family. Plus Skype.

Small new browser firm Vivaldi has people in Russia, Europe and both coasts of United States. “It’s no question, it would be easier if we would all be in the same place,” founder and CEO Jon von Tetzchner told Hybe in an interview, who lists Skype, Slack and email as the key online tools.

On top online tools Vivaldi teams meets offline for a month every summer in United States, with staff travelling with families, on top of more regular meetings in Europe.

“Gatherings have been very useful for us. It’s a holiday for the family and it’s a very great bonding experience,” von Tetzchner said. “It's needed when people work in different locations, it so easy for people to struggle in their communications, sometimes even quarelling because they dont understand each other."

Slush Microsoft surface Hybe

Autonomous teams

E-commerce service Zalando uses all modern means of communications, but new staff at the Helsinki site also scheduled a week in Berlin during early days, to get acquinted with key partners and the wider company culture.

“The culture is based on autonomous teams. How do you eat an elephant? You slice it up and eat piece by piece,” said Tuomas Kytomaa, head of Zalando’s Helsinki office.

Small tech startup Nuviz, which builds a navigation display for motorcycle helmets, has its small team split between faraway sites. Its tech team in Finland is 10 hours ahead of the rest of team in San Diego. The solution is simple: early morning calls, late night calls.

"Nowadays the barriers to make this happen are much lower than what they used to be … and there are so many tools available,” said Nuviz co-founder Malte Laass.

No barriers

All in all, the key to sucessfully working remotely in 2015, is to use one communication tool such as Skype or Slack and keep constantly in touch, no matter the distance.

Surprisingly, all say face to face interaction is crucial for making remote working successful, but you don't have to see your colleagues every day at 8 a.m. to work successfully together.