When GitLab released their '12 Steps to Better Remote' test a few months back, we were excited because it's always great when an organization shares what they know. We think this is especially true in today’s world of automation and remote work.
With GitLab's 12-step test, we decided it was time for us to take this journey and share our results with everyone! We got 10/12 questions correct; how do you measure up?
1. Are senior leaders remote by default?
✅ Yes! Bird is a fully remote team, with one out of three co-founders in London and two in Berlin, where we have a tiny office that our Berliners rarely use. The rest of the team are spread across Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy, Pakistan, and Canada.
2. Are team members empowered to define their working hours?
✅ Yes! Since we're a remote team, we don't have a traditional 9-6 routine. We have an eight-hour workday, but everyone works according to the hours that suit them. The early starters generally start at 9, those who prefer to work more in the evenings start from noon.
We’ve set our core working hours between 2 pm to 6 pm CET, where most of our team are. Having these core hours helps us have a predictable period where everyone can get ahold of others in real-time. In addition, we pride ourselves on our approach to work-life balance. Having this balance means that if anybody can't be available during the core hours, they just need to inform the team.
3. Is most communication about work done asynchronously?
✅ Yes! Slack and Notion (full agenda, record of meeting notes). Product planning once every two weeks. Game night, Show and Tell, etc. — all using Around.
4. Are your values, and how to live them, explicitly defined and documented?
✅ Yes! Our CPO Jacky documents our vision, mission, principles, and everything else to be easily accessible on Notion.
5. Does every functional department surface work in a single tool with company-wide visibility?
🚫 No. We don't use any of the tools that are mentioned in GitLab's article. However, here’s a look into what works for our small team:
- Linear is our source of truth for department work. The majority of our tasks and their status can be seen here.
- We receive Linear notifications in Slack, where some of the more sync conversations happen. If there are conversation highlights or important news on Slack, we usually leave a link to them in Linear. We also use Slack to share high-level highlights and accomplishments relevant to the whole company.
- Github for feature development, code collaboration, PR reviews, and as our CI/CD pipeline.
- Notion houses our long-term documentation, including meeting notes.
At Bird, we like and encourage cross-disciplinary collaboration and open dialogue and feedback as early in the process as possible. We try our best not to have any knowledge silos. We want to have as much transparency as possible within the company, except for safeguards that need to be in place to protect sensitive personal information in customer or HR processes.
6. Does your organization work handbook-first?
✅ Yes! Thanks to our organized Notion, anyone can easily look up answers on Notion. We make sure to document all big and small changes and inform people about the changes through Slack and/or our bi-weekly chat so that nothing falls through the cracks.
7. Is informal communication formalized?
✅ Yes! And we want and plan on doing this even more! Here are some that we have implemented:
- Several public channels on Slack to share and talk about non-work topics, like our #bonanza-coffee-shop channel, Bird's own virtual coffee shop, a place for banter, current affairs, and general non-work chit-chat. Another very active one is our #soysauceislife channel, where foodies assemble and shamelessly post what they’re eating — photos mandatory, discussions optional.
- Considering the small size of our remote team at the moment, every new person has to schedule 1:1s with each team member. This, of course, will be updated to a specific number of 1:1s once the team has reached a larger size.
- Bird Show & Tell: a bi-weekly session where the team shares an update/demo of what they've been working on.
- Bi-weekly game night, where we play favorites or try out new ones that people share.
- Friday banter: a bi-weekly session where the team gets together for a friendly, witty conversation about anything and everything over their favorite drinks.
8. Are communication expectations documented in a single source of truth?
✅ Yes! Our team can easily find communication expectations in our Employee Handbook on Notion. Taken straight from our handbook:
“We generally work asynchronously. This takes a little getting used to as many working environments work synchronously. Practically speaking, this means: respond to messages in your own time, unless the sender requests a quick response. We prefer to prioritize time to get things done over being distracted by every Slack notification. When you're not used to this, it might feel like the others are slightly ignoring you, but in reality, they're just focused on their work and will respond when the timing is right for them. We believe this to be a calmer way of working and puts you more in control of your own time.”
“Meetings - many of us have come from experiences of having too many meetings, starting every day with a full calendar - most of them are a waste of time. So we make an effort to keep meetings to a minimum and short = more time to get actual work done.”
9. Does each team member call/collaborate with their own equipment?
✅ Yes! Despite having a small office in Berlin, we almost always work remotely. This means that our team always uses their own equipment (camera, headset, screen) in calls and discussions.
10. Do you have a documented and defined in-person strategy?
✅ Yes and 🚫 no. With four out of 12 people based in Berlin, we try to schedule a Berlin catchup (dinner followed by drinks) every three months. This might sound infrequent, but catchups can be tricky with most of our Berliners working remotely out of town or abroad.
We plan to have an annual company trip once the pandemic allows it. We also plan to further map out our in-person strategy as we kick up hiring this year.
11. Do you hire, praise, and promote on values alignment and results?
✅ Yes and 🚫 no. We haven’t formalized this yet as a small startup, but we plan to. We just hired our first Talent Partner this month, who will be helping us to do so. Here’s our current approach:
Hiring: our values are currently embodied in our team and how we work or believe in the company. To ensure we're hiring someone who would "fit" all candidates go through multiple interviews with a mixture of people they will be working with. The last step in the process is where our founders interview candidates and share more insights on our culture, values and what they can expect when joining Bird.
Praise: as part of identifying our values, we like to recognize when someone performs in a way that is worthy of note. This is also a useful way to gauge whether it resonates with other team members. So we share praises in relevant Slack channels and also in relevant meetings. And in general, we aim to show our token of appreciation to people in the team by having company events and trips in the future.
Promotion: as we're still a small and relatively new team with mostly senior people, promotions aren’t something we have formalized yet. Promotions in the future will depend on various criteria, including results and values alignment.
12. Do you find individual workspaces and reimburse for out-of-home office use?
✅ Yes! We support our people with setting up their home office with the latest hardware, including a brand new MacBook Pro (or PC if they prefer), displays, and accessories. As for workspaces, our full-time employees can create their own coworking contract, and we will reimburse their costs.
As our team grows, we will remain focused on building and optimizing a remote organizational culture and practices to support our growing remote team.