While other companies take a remote-friendly approach, which means their employees have the flexibility to work from home now and then, Z1 has always been remote-first. In fact, 35% of Z1’s workforce worked remotely before COVID-19, making the transition to full remote working due to the crisis much easier.
We’d like to pass on a little of what we’ve learned about building a productive, inclusive, and convivial work culture with a distributed team. We hope it helps in these challenging times as everyone adjusts to a new working reality — at least for a while.
Z1 team members are posting pictures of their home workspaces on Slack. It’s a few days before government measures were taken in Spain to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and Z1 has already made the transition to working fully remotely.
In her picture, Michelle, Z1’s Head of Partnerships, looks out from her home office at the snow-capped mountains of Vancouver, Canada.
- "Look Manuela!! Michelle has babuchas too 🧦,” laughs Seville-based Marta, on noticing Michelle’s slippers visible in the photo.
- “You see! If Michelle wears them they are trendy 💁”. Manuela, also in Sevilla, soon joins the slipper admiration.
- “I live in these slippers” admits Michelle.
- “So comfy 😊” says Marta.
More pictures appear on the thread from employees around Europe and North America. Some show Z1 employees working on laptops as their kids do school-work at the same table. Another shows a work desk sitting like an island in a sea of toys. One of the most-liked photos simply shows a thermometer on a desk, captioned “coronakit.”
Adi, in New York, posts pictures of various views of his home office. The final one is of a drinks cart.
- “More importantly, the view behind me when times get tough.”
- “I feel you 😂” responds Gabriel from Sevilla.
The camaraderie is a product of our commitment to a culture that makes all employees feel valued — no matter where they live and work
The easy camaraderie of these Slack communications is a product of our commitment to a culture that makes all employees feel valued and empowered — no matter where they live and work.
“When we founded Z1, we did it already working remotely” says Carlos, COO and founding partner. “It’s something we’ve had in our DNA from day one.”
Our aim is to find the best talent, wherever they live. All Z1 team members are full-time, fully immersed in our culture and practices. Remote working, for us, doesn’t mean outsourcing, or what some think of as “offshoring.”
Z1’s delivery team HQ is in Sevilla, with some team members working remotely around Spain. We have product managers in New York, while our parent company and head of partnerships is in Canada. Our client list spans the US, Canada, and the UK.
Our culture is not just remote-first, it’s results-first. A distributed organization needs to be an outcome-driven organization.
Michelle, Z1’s Head of Partnerships, had worked alongside the Z1 team for nearly a year before finally travelling from Vancouver to meet her team mates face-to-face at the HQ in Seville. “From abroad, I try to share of myself first to offer my workmates a digital lens into my daily life, my family, my interests,” she says. “Upon arrival in Spain, I was already stepping into friendships.”
Our culture is not just remote-first, it’s results-first. “Working in a different timezone can feel like wasting time or earning time depending on the time difference,” says Héctor, CEO and founding partner. “A distributed organization needs to be an outcome-driven organization.”
Remote working provides the flexibility for Z1’s team members to adapt their own workstyle and schedule to deliver great outcomes. More than simply being at home, employees are encouraged to take a higher degree of ownership in their work wherever they are.
“As in all aspects, there will be people who fit into remote work more quickly than others,” says Emilio, Z1's CTO. “But with will and time, it is possible to achieve dynamics that work. Dynamics that will eventually become part of the company culture.”
The recent crisis means millions more people in Spain, the US, and around the world are now working from home out of necessity. However, remote working has been on the rise for some time.
We Work Remotely, an online job board for remote positions, has analyzed their own data. They saw remote job postings rise from a few hundred in 2013 to over 3,000 jobs in 2019. The number of remote-first companies with no physical HQ also rose dramatically, from 2.5% in 2014 to 21.5% in 2019.
Matt Hollingsworth, Head of Operations at Tiny Boards Ltd (the company behind We Work Remotely), and host of The Remote Show podcast, acknowledges the difficulties faced by companies adopting remote working at short notice: “Companies are having a hard time right now, and managers are very scattered and overwhelmed with the idea of remote employees,” he says. “Be transparent, and do your best. We’re in this together, and we’ll get through it.
Because most of our clients are in North America, we’ve learned a few things from working across timezones. “Reachability is crucial,” points out Héctor. “Even when you can’t act because the team is not operating, it’s important to reply back and confirm you understand the tasks/issues, etc. The main goal has been always to provide that feeling of work done when our clients start their day,” adds.
“Although our people are separated by thousands of miles, we’ve built a productive partnership with Z1 by emphasizing clear, frequent, and responsive communication using digital collaboration,” shares Amardeep Manhas, CTO of Field Trip Health, a Z1 client with its head office in Toronto, Canada. “The result is that Z1 feels more like an extension of our team than a vendor.”
As the whole world turns to tools like Zoom, we have been relying on video calls to feel approachable and human for some time. A good process of weekly calls is important to establish a close relationship. Meanwhile, written communication is great for confirming notes and leaving asynchronous feedback and messages.
“The main goal has been always to provide that feeling of work done when our clients start their day,” says Héctor
We like our clients to start their day feeling like we have completed some work. Daytime work hours are dedicated to internal collaboration and conversations, while we dedicate time to clients in the afternoons and evenings. “I think our clients value an outcome-based engagement,” says Michelle. “The people who love our team trust our process because we are consistently delivering beautiful, high-quality work.”
Our communication with clients involves smaller, more frequent, informal touch points to help create a feeling of sustained connection. We’ll favour a quick chat over Slack to validate small decision points, rather than a large and long meeting with big product reveals. “We always try to do the right thing, and have conversations with clients about product decisions like we are teammates working to grow the same business,” says Michelle. “Ultimately, we want to create a feeling of shared success.”
“In selecting a technology partner, it was critical for Field Trip to find a passionate team who is as excited to craft a delightful client experience as we are,” expresses Field Trip CTO Amardeep Manhas. “That is far more important than working in the same city or even time zone.”
The Z1 leadership team has been perfecting the art of building relationships and collaborating remotely for many years now. Here are some of their tips for managing remote teams successfully.
Héctor, CEO: Have empathy and share knowledge
Carlos, COO: Trust your team and use the right tools
Emilio, CTO: Always communicate and stay secure
Michelle, Head of Partnerships: Build a strong culture
Struggling with the transition to working remotely? We surveyed our team of experienced remote workers to provide some quick tips during this crisis:
👉 This Toptal Playbook is a superb guide that covers all areas of the remote work experience.
We also asked Matt Hollingsworth for some of his general rules that can help if people are having a hard time adjusting. He recommends the following:
If you are trying to get to grips with remote working, please get in touch. We’re happy to try to use our experience to help you out with some advice or tool recommendations.
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