Most companies in Australia struggle to integrate their remote employees into company operations and workflows.
It’s not that they fail to grasp the benefits of telecommuting, nor are they stuck in the mindset that employee productivity is measured by time spent in the office.
According to the team at Launch Group, the sticking point most companies have is actually understanding how to manage their remote team members. Less than half of Australian businesses offer senior management any special training in supervising distributed teams, Launch Group says, citing research from Regus.
Still, several companies in Australia have solved this onboarding problem — and some are growing rapidly thanks to their distributed teams.
The 13 companies below are ahead of the curve. If your company is struggling to understand how to manage a remote team, look to them for examples of best practices.
X-Team brings together ad hoc teams of full-time developers for any clients who need to have software built. By being totally distributed, the company has the flexibility to scale its dev teams up or down to whatever the client’s needs are.
CEO Ryan Chartrand frequently writes on the X-Team blog about the challenges of leading such a company. One tip, he says, is to break the ice among team members by having each person host a Q&A chat on Slack.
“For example, we do AMAs in our #travel channel whenever someone gets back from a nomading trip to another country,” he writes. “… It allows people an opportunity to learn something new from someone with hands-on experience and/or a ton of passion around the topic.”
Red Guava is the company that built Cliniko, a healthcare practice management system that clinics and hospitals in 55 different countries are currently using.
The company’s apparent secret to success is pretty straightforward, too: Focus on people. Not in a sterile, “people-centric outlook” kind of way, but in a way that demonstrates real compassion.
For example, one of Cliniko’s killer features is its support community, which includes an active forum plus responsive phone and email communication. And internally, the company extends that same kind of compassion to its team: Standard terms of employment include full-time pay for a 30-hour workweek.
Envato is one of Australia’s great success stories. Millions of people tap this marketplace for creative work — website building, software development, graphic design, etc. — every year.
As with Red Guava above, Envato’s growth is built on a pretty simple premise: “We believe good ideas deserve a chance to grow. We believe people deserve to earn a living doing what they love. We believe in making it easy to get things done.”
WP Curve, which announced it was joining GoDaddy at the end of 2016, has been one of the Internet’s go-to providers for WordPress help for a few years. Note that WordPress powers about a quarter of all websites, which is why WP Curve’s team is handling more than 4,000 jobs per month.
And like X-Team, WP Curve has employees all over the map. That flexibility allows the company to offer 24-7 support to WordPress users, no matter the time zone.
SuiteBox’s entire offering is built on remote workflows. The company has patented a handful of tools and processes so that its clients can conclude deals remotely. This includes group video conferencing, document collaboration and even legal digital signatures.
Banks, financial firms and insurance companies especially have adopted SuiteBox because no longer having to meet clients on site lets them scale their operations exponentially.
Campaign Monitor is actually better-known for being one of Australia’s best places to work. The email marketing provider — which turned heads a few years ago by closing a quarter-billion-dollar funding round — does leave room for remote roles among its team members, though.
The perks there are nice, too: Remote employees receive an additional allowance, a brand new Macbook Air, and ample flex and holiday time so they can find the work/life balance that best suits them.
Perhaps the most important lesson we can learn from Campaign Monitor’s success is the importance of values. These lay the foundation for company culture, which like everything else has to be strong enough to scale rapidly at a tech company, CEO Alex Bard says.
Having that kind of values focus changes the discussion. It’s no longer about where an employee is located — the office or elsewhere — but whether you have in place “the framework on which to base key decisions like hiring talent into new offices.”
Appen is one of the veterans on this list. Founded in Sydney in 1996, Appen was building out linguistic technologies long before software began to eat the world. In those 21 years, Appen has navigated a company merger and a name change, and it has partnered with some of the biggest names in technology.
For example, in 2010 after the Haitian earthquake Appen worked with Microsoft to build machine translation tools so disaster relief teams could understand Haitian Creole.
Canva is among the best-known and fastest-growing startups in Australia. As at Campaign Monitor, Canva’s executive team understood that a tech startup needs to be flexible with its employees to scale at the speed it’s built for. That’s why employees are given the option to work from home as much as they need to.
“We know people work best when they’re happy and challenged to keep getting even better at what they do,” the company says. “So at Canva, we look after our team.”
INCSUB, short for “Incorporated Subversion,” builds some of the most-used blogging tools for WordPress users. The company’s headquarters are in Melbourne, but its team is located all over the world. In fact, the company says just about every time zone in the world is represented on its team.
This policy, the company says, means it can recruit the best and brightest from anywhere. The company also puts a special emphasis on diversity because providing equal opportunity employment to all applicants makes the company better.
Quiip provides online community management for companies around the world, who hire Quiip to moderate forums, update social feeds and respond to blog comments, among other things.
This means there is a 24-7 demand for what Quiip’s team does.
To meet that demand, the company has a policy of what it calls radical flexibility: “The notion of the 40 (or 60) hour week is a legacy of the long-gone days of industry and we can do better. Why not create jobs that are 10/20/30 hours a week. Not job-share, not part-time, just simply a role in itself that suits the employee.”
CloudPeeps — which makes the list by having an Australian founder, though the company is based in San Francisco — is a marketplace for freelancers and service providers. These professionals are vetted and then connected with clients for specific projects.
Founder and CEO Kate Kendall was herself a freelancer before she launched the company in 2015. Kendall spoke with Remote.co at the time to discuss the challenges of building relationships on a distributed team:
“We place a strong emphasis on transparency, authenticity and being direct. We do monthly one-on-one feedback sessions, which we call ‘pair calls,’ where we run through challenges, positive feedback and constructive areas to improve. These are non-hierarchical where openness and honesty is encouraged. It doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO or the newest member of the team — we share how you can improve coming from a kind place.”
Fifty Acres is the first virtual communications and government agency in Australia. The agency’s principal, Jo Scard, says she baked remote work flexibility into the foundation of her company because the rigidity of a 9-to-5 schedule excluded so many working mothers.
“We don’t need an office,” Scard tells Nina Sochon (a New Zealand-based consultant who has built a career by teaching company leaders how to help their remote teams thrive — the very weak spot SMEs identified in the Regus research).
“… As a result we can avoid passing on office costs to our clients, which has helped to keep our charges down.”
Jobvibe is another Australian company that builds remote working into the core of its offering.
Jobvibe’s software lets teams share feedback in real time so that companies can establish a culture of transparency and trust, even if team members don’t share an office or time zone.
While the company’s headquarters are in Sydney, it relies on a network of contractors around the world build out and scale up the business. The secret to making that structure work? Trust.
“Everyone is treated as an adult, so we work from home from time to time, and we don’t care so much about when you start or finish,” the company says. “It’s about getting the job done.”