Buffer: The Joys and Benefits of Working as a Distributed Team
Below is an article originally written by Joel Gascoigne, the founder and CEO at PowerToFly Partner Buffer, and published on September 16, 2018. Go to Buffer's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
Buffer is a fully remote team.
It's a decision I made at the end of 2012, when Buffer was in its infancy, and it's interesting to reflect on that decision now. I am happy to report that I am in love with the choice we made to be distributed all across the world.
When I say that we're a remote, distributed team, I mean that we're literally spread across the whole world. Buffer is a team of 79 right now, and we have teammates on almost every continent and across timezones worldwide.
The sun never sets on Buffer!
The worldwide, remote Buffer team and the timezones we cover. (Visual courtesy of timezone.io.)
6 reasons why being a remote, distributed team is so exciting
I think the distributed team discussion is often focused around the challenges. I wanted to share from our experience the fun side of being distributed, which I think far outweighs the challenges:
1. Our team is super productive
The thing about hiring people for a distributed team is that they need to be self-motivated and productive working at home, coffee shops, or a co-working space.
During the hiring process, we look especially for people who have worked as freelancers or on startups. Everyone on board is incredibly smart, and it's humbling to work with them.
2. Team members have incredible amounts of freedom
Have a family event coming up and need to travel on Friday? No problem.
Want to take off to Bali or Gran Canaria for a few weeks and work from there? Awesome – please share photos :)
These things have all happened and are regular occurrences within our distributed team.
It's the little things too, like being able to avoid a commute and spend more time with family. We don't have working hours, and we don't measure hours at all. We're all excited about our vision, and we focus on results, balance, and sustained productivity.
3. It feels like the future
Even being able to share the locations of all my co-workers when I meet others and chat about Buffer is so fun and exciting. I think it provides a great story, rather than all of us being in the same office each day.
People ask how we manage it and I share our workflows and remote work tools. We call Slack our office, and Zoom is our conference room. Here's a look at some of the team in a recent Zoom call:
A team call on Zoom, the tool we use for video calls. You can check out our full list of remote work tools here.
I genuinely believe that how we're set up will be very normal in a few years. There are certainly challenges and we're still figuring a lot of it out. It's fun and a huge privilege to be able to be part of this innovation and experiment and share our learnings.
4. I'm learning so much about the world
People within the team speak lots of different languages, and talking with each other we learn about what it's like to grow up elsewhere in the world. We think carefully about shaping our culture further and how our choices might affect the various cultures within the team.
5. We travel the world to work together multiple times a year
Part of the DNA of Buffer is that we traveled all over the world for much of the first two years. This is something that has been sustained and is part of our values (and many in the team have lived up to this value by traveling as part of the team).
In order to have deliberate face-to-face time together to bond and have fun, we have regular teamwide Buffer retreats each year where we gather the full team, and we hold mini-retreats throughout the year for smaller teams and areas of the company.
A team work session from our 2017 retreat in Madrid, Spain.
On our all-company retreats, we spend a week working together and also do activities like sightseeing, boating and safaris. Most recently we gathered in Singapore!
6. Timezones make you awesome
Finally, you can look at timezones as an inconvenience, or you can embrace them and discover the magic of the time difference.
A key part of our vision is to set the bar for customer support. We obsessively track the happiness of our customers and our speed to respond to them. We have more than a million users and we reply to 80% of emails within 1 hour. We couldn't achieve this level of service without being spread across multiple timezones.
Timezones are a huge help for our development cycle too – with engineers in the US, UK, Asia and Africa, we literally never stop coding.