As part of Human Resources at Axelerant, I often reminisce on how I can help the team be as happy and productive as possible. In our decision to be a distributed workforce, we have team members spread across many states in India and multiple time zones internationally. Being a distributed team has been a pivotal factor that has enabled us to become what we are.
Being driven by a desire to get results for our clients, has caused us to think out of the box and to remove the location restriction from our talent searches. The results were significant almost immediately and we have been able to deliver solutions and results to our clients that were difficult before. Removing location restrictions has enabled us to find and hire the right people, the best people, regardless of where they happen to live.
Many a time, I have interesting thoughts and questions in my mind regarding our distributed nature of working. They might seem insignificant to some people, but I believe they are essential to get right, in order to thrive as a distributed team.
What is a base location and is it appropriate to have a base location as a distributed team?
In Axelerant-speak, base location means a principal place where team members live and work from, not necessarily where their home is. While having a base location helps accounting and HR manage travel reimbursements, plan meetups, coordinate local and community efforts, etc., we really don’t mind where you live or work. All you need is a computer with a good internet connection to stay in touch with the team and we’re off to a good start.
Do we need to have an office at the base location?
For quite a while, we only had one office in Gurgaon, outside Delhi. As we’ve grown though, we’ve opened an office in Srinagar, branched into co-working spaces, and let folks meet around a commonly decided venue and time.
Most importantly, we encourage our team members to work comfortably. At Axelerant, location independence means that we can work from anywhere in the world as we’d like and do.
In-person meetings or everything via Email, Hangouts, and Slack?
In a typical “office” scenario, where team members are at one location, it can be easy to delay meetings until all team members are in the office. We deliberated a long time on this, bounced it around, and came to the conclusion that if we need to quickly have a meeting and we are not all in the same place, we should jump onto a Hangout, even if we are in the same city.
Similarly, we have a real bias towards chatting on Slack than sending each other emails. We’ve found Slack, a team communication platform, to be used frequently, even if we’re sitting across from each other in the same office.
By not limiting ourselves to all in one spot, at the same time, we’re really embracing the goal of there being no advantage to being in the office and allowing other distributed team members to jump in and share their ideas in discussions.
What perks are appropriate when you have a distributed team?
At Axelerant, we believe that perks should be an extension of the culture that we believe in and an embellishment to an already ingrained culture.
Most technology companies pride themselves on perks such as free meals and snacks at the office, team lunches, office parties, and other ways to take a little time out and refresh. The one interesting thing I’ve noticed is that these perks are almost entirely focused around what is provided within the office.
Being a distributed team, our spin on this is that we focus on “everyone included” perks that are not tied to a physical office. With our culture of self improvement, one of our most interesting perks is that everyone on the team meets up for a retreat once a year, at a place decided via a poll, that lasts for 5-6 days. Beyond this, we recognize birthdays and anniversaries through flowers, candies, card, small gifts, or more and share them on our general Slack channel for everyone to enjoy. And that’s not all – here is the list of our perks that we have for Axelerant team members.
What if people want to move to a different country?
This one is most interesting questions. How do you manage having the right balance of people away from your base location in Gurgaon, if many who join, find that they want to relocate to a different city or even country?
I’ll answer this by sharing our reality.
- Achin moved to Sydney.
- Michael has gone twice around the world and hit 14 countries in 2014 so far. It’s a slow year for him.
- Parth went home to the Indian countryside.
- Shani walks her kids to school, in Israel.
All are happily working with Axelerant from wherever they are and we’ll see them all during our upcoming weeklong retreat in Goa.
Why Have a Distributed Team?
You’ll get the most out of people
With a distributed team, it’s almost impossible to adhere to a “normal” work schedule. However, we have learnt that people tend to do their best work when they’re able to naturally ease into a comfortable mental and physical zone.
Great responsibility, greater potential
Being a distributed team with a non-traditional work schedule means that everyone has to conform to a high level of personal accountability. As such, hiring for cultural fit and enabling self-direction is a necessity.
Collaborating is fun
Working as a distributed team has become a lot easier over the past few years. There are a slew of online tools that make it easier than ever to work together seamlessly.
One such application that has quickly become our favorite is Slack. In less than six months, Slack has become the heartbeat of our company. Whether on our computers, laptops, tablets, or phones, we are able to keep up with discussions, deadlines, file transfers, and more in real-time. Our distributed team enjoys using it and it has become an indispensable part of our in-house communication.
Growing as a distributed team has a fair amount of challenges, but as we’re open in dealing with them, Axelerant is ever becoming a top resource for clients and a greater place to work.
P.S. Interested in learning more about our team and our approach? Axelerant is hiring.