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Tips and observations on remote working from a remote company. (Hint: It’s us!)
Hotjar was always going to be a remote company, long before the coronavirus pandemic. In 2014, when Hotjar began, our three founders all lived in Malta, yet they didn’t know how long they’d be there and where life would take them next.
So, they set out to create a remote company, and what better way to practice than by working from different corners of the island? It could’ve been easy to have a Meetup and work alongside each other, but David, Marc, and Jonathan started as they meant to go on.
Now, a few years and over 100 employees later, and in the spirit of one of our values—build trust with transparency—we’re ready to share some tips with the world. We asked Hotjarians about their experiences of working remotely and we’ve summarized them below.
Last updated24 Sep 2022
Reading time7 min
Think of it as removing physical barriers
Our Founder & Chairman, David Darmanin, thinks we should think about remote working as removing physical barriers, rather than creating digital ones, exploring this in an interview:
“I think when you are in an office together, there are obviously huge advantages — like the fact that you can bring everyone together and just talk directly.”
Yet David said his gut feeling is that working together can lead to “certain political situations” created by “where you are sitting and who is close to whom”. He went on, “Then when you are too big, you need to think about why certain people don’t speak to certain people.”
Referring to physical distances, he said, “I think remote offers an interesting opportunity, which is, it instantly gives you equality. As long as your internet connection is as good as everyone else’s, for example, I’m the same distance away from everyone in the team.”
But don’t completely forget about face to face
Support Lead Mafalda Melo said, “The thing I miss the most are those ‘Hey, let's go have lunch!’ or ‘Let's have a coffee’ moments. But at Hotjar, we get to do that too, because we’re lucky to have a few colleagues together in the same country. So we get together to work, which we call ‘Work Togethers’. We did one recently in Porto and it really gave that ‘working in an office’ vibe.”
We also recognize people might struggle with a completely remote working environment. So we encourage everyone to be very open about how they’re feeling. This is one of the reasons we regularly host ‘Meetups’ in different hubs over the world. And we even fund ‘Work Togethers’—usually hosted by one Hotjarian—to meet others and collaborate.
We find these opportunities both scratch an itch and also give us the benefits that can come from real-life conversations (and ‘let’s have a coffee moments’) with team members.
Use a remote culture to attract talent
We’ve always aimed to recruit the best talent in the world and, to do that, we help people work in the way that suits them. Through being entirely remote, we can hire anyone, anywhere.
When we asked Hotjarians whether it influenced their decision to join us, most people said yes. Some people were looking for entirely remote, where, more interestingly, some people were looking for companies with the credentials to do it well.
On searching for a new role, Jake Parker, a member of our Customer Support team, said, “I was only searching for 100% distributed companies for my next opportunity. Any company that was planning to return to an office environment was immediately skipped.”
And while not everyone at Hotjar is as set on 100% remote working, Hotjar Director of Finance, Mark Wilson, said, “The ability to work remotely for a company that knows how to do remote working properly was a big part of the decision.”
“The ability to work remotely for a company that knows how to do remote working properly was a big part of the decision.”
Trust your people
We believe in a world where all businesses treat you with love. And, as employers, we like to think our people have some of the best work-life balances in our industry.
And that doesn’t mean they do less work, either. Many of them appreciate how they can be trusted to get their work done and also experience the benefits of sorting important issues in their personal lives that naturally come about.
This means different things to different people, too. Melissa Mauk, who leads our Business Operations team, said, “Our flexibility at Hotjar has allowed me to support my child who has needed a variety of evaluations and therapies over the years.”
“Also the last two summers we've spent 3-4 weeks in the mountains in the summer working and taking leave, and that wouldn't be possible without remote work.”
And as well as life priorities such as childcare, Software Engineer Ross Whitehouse acknowledged there are also “a thousand little things… I can do the dishes in the daytime, I can cook whatever I want for lunch, I can take the dog for a walk in the day, I can finish when I like to go do something else. That freedom is pretty amazing.”
Practice ‘Radical Candor’
We practice something called ‘Radical Candor’, which is based on the book of the same name by Kim Scott. When communicating through text, voice, and video, it takes conscious effort to convey our sentiments and read emotions. This means we have to be direct and even more vigilant when giving each other feedback.
We’ve found you have to actively encourage honesty and talk often. Checking in with colleagues is how you discover issues you never would’ve known about or realized. It’s also an important way of solving small problems before they become big problems.
“Psychological safety is a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.”
Create a place where people feel safe
Radical Candor can only work in a psychologically safe environment. Harvard Business School Professor, Amy Edmonson, says “Psychological safety is a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.”
At Hotjar, we create this by allowing every voice to be heard and every question to be asked. But how does this work in practice? An example is our team all-hands meeting, where we answer Slido questions from the Hotjarians in attendance. Every question is answered – with no exceptions and no judgment.
To create a safe space, we know people also have to have self-awareness for their own unconscious bias. Our Marketing team recently did training on this with self-proclaimed ‘Nudger’ and ‘Word Magician’, Kevin Groen, and here was some of their (glowing) feedback:
“The session with Kevin was a much-needed wake-up call. Oftentimes, we think we're aware of our biases, yet he showed us it's only the tip of the iceberg, and did it in a fun and insightful way.”
“I really really enjoyed Kevin Groen's session. I think it is SO necessary and it personally made me re-think a lot of things in life and at work. Thank you very much for that.”
And, highlighting that remote working can create safety in physical spaces, as well as digital ones, Marketing Performance leader Bee Strydom said:
“I moved my young family (2 children under 3) from Johannesburg city to live close to my parents in a small beautiful coastal village on the Garden Route in South Africa. This is life-changing and has afforded my children greater safety, an idyllic, peaceful environment and quality of life. I could not live here without Hotjar and the privilege of being able to work remotely!”
To be totally transparent, we should say we’re far from perfect at Hotjar, or at least we’re not there yet. We did a survey at our last team gathering and here’s the feedback below. It’s always a work in progress.
Take meetings to the next level
When you’re remote, it forces concise meetings in a good way. We’ve got used to asking questions like: ‘Do we need a meeting?’, ‘Can we pre-share an agenda to help those who might want to prepare?’, ‘Can we record it for people to watch later?’, and ‘Shall we share learnings afterward?’
On being a remote company, Conrad Holtzhausen, one of our Software Engineers, said, “It forces you to be more deliberate in communicating. To me, online meetings also give a lot more structure.”
He added, “The tools we use allow for things like raising your hand in an organized manner, asking questions on Slido which get dealt with one by one, and being forced to wait your turn simply – because if you don't, nobody will hear what anyone else said.”
Get your onboarding and documents on point
We’re also tireless about documentation when it comes to onboarding people, which has taken years in the making. People have a 4-week guide on what we expect them to learn, and when.
Plus, people’s managers create a list of expectations for their first months at Hotjar. Beyond that, we have a set of tools that we continuously improve and question to make documentation seamless and as self-serve as possible.
“Now I'm here, I'm hooked. Couldn't work for a non-remote company again.”
Be prepared for people to love it
We’ve endless testimonials from Hotjarians who love remote working and wouldn’t go back:
Senior Product Marketer Phill Agnew said, “Now I'm here, I'm hooked. Couldn't work for a non-remote company again.”
Steph Mifsud said, “It would be hard to go full-time in an office, or to an environment where I miss out on vital information because I work remotely while other folks are working in an office somewhere.”
Adrià Cruz from the Brand team said, “I hope I don't have to.”
Let’s keep growing
Another one of our values at Hotjar is that we’re challenging ourselves to grow. So, to help you grow with us and to hopefully inspire our Hotjar community, we’ll keep sharing tips, experiences, and stories on remote working.
Let us know if you have any advice of your own, questions, or anecdotes from your organization that can add to this conversation.
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