What it’s essential know to construct a completely distant startup


Many startups adopted versatile distant working as a brief time period necessity in the course of the pandemic — and in consequence, those that’ve maintained hybrid or distant work practices will not be correctly set as much as thrive. 

Storyblok is pretty uncommon in that it has been totally distant because it was based in 2017. We’ve grown to a workforce of 175 folks in 38 international locations, spanning dozens of timezones. This has meant we’ve had to spend so much of time creating processes and insurance policies that match distant work, and using know-how to create a contented and productive workforce. 

Right here’s find out how to construct a completely distant startup.

Distant startup work tradition

Don’t attempt to bend or impose your present tradition — create a brand new one. Absolutely distant or hybrid working requires a degree enjoying subject the place everybody looks like they’re equally concerned and engaged. This implies your important drivers of tradition can’t be work socials, advert hoc stand ups or desk tennis at lunch. You can not favour folks within the workplace over everybody else. As an alternative, tradition ought to revolve round self empowerment and autonomy. 

At Storyblok our variety helps outline our tradition. Group initiatives embrace making a cookbook or restaurant information that covers meals and places everywhere in the world, the place our workforce is predicated. Equally, everybody is inspired to share their cultural traditions and holidays so we are able to have fun all of them collectively. We additionally attempt to assist folks work together on a extra private and particular person degree. We organise randomised “espresso chats” the place folks converse for half-hour to their colleagues in numerous groups. This allows folks to interrupt the ice with folks they could not get the possibility to frequently work together with. 

A lot of our actions — similar to blood donations and tree planting — are created and pushed by workforce members in any respect ranges. It’s because folks must really feel that they’re trusted and have their very own voice — to do their job and interact socially within the method they see match. 


One of many largest challenges of managing a distant startup is balancing monitoring with micromanagement. Utilizing software program to watch workers is an absolute no go. There is no such thing as a sooner method to undermine belief. As an alternative, construct a construction of standard conferences, stand ups and clear objectives that covers each workforce member. At Storyblok, folks have weekly stand ups with line managers, a weekly workforce assembly and a month-to-month all palms assembly. 

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Good managers will know who’s performing irrespective of the place they’re. Speaking this clearly and transparently throughout the enterprise ensures everybody is aware of the foundations of the sport. Making extra data-driven assessments of efficiency can assist to take human bias out of the equation. For instance, some managers might subconsciously favour in-house workforce members they discuss to face-to-face and reward them accordingly. Relying extra on the onerous info can take away this hazard and likewise assist with variety and inclusion. 

Constructing a distant startup workforce

Not everybody generally is a distant employee — in the identical method not everybody works finest in an workplace. So it’s essential take into consideration particular persona traits when you’re constructing a startup workforce that may function in each a digital and in-person atmosphere. We favour people who find themselves significantly self-motivated, open minded and, importantly, have a transparent understanding of the fact of  distant working life. In spite of everything, switching in your pc alone on a darkish January 4th morning and getting motivated to work might be robust and must be acknowledged.  

Equally, how are your pay and promotion or annual critiques arrange? Are there standards that favour one group over the opposite? Does a one measurement suits all strategy truly work? Reviewing all of those processes is extremely vital to make sure equity and create the tradition of belief that allows distant working to work. 

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Usually standards round whether or not somebody is a workforce participant can manifest in odd metrics like how enthusiastically they converse at workforce conferences or how a lot they have interaction in social actions. Not solely does this clearly favour in-office employees, it’s also biased in direction of extroverts. 

We’re very cautious to take away these flawed data factors throughout annual efficiency critiques. We take a look at what the information on Notion tells us, what different workforce members say based mostly on a set of properly outlined questions and, crucially, the views of the person being assessed. The expertise is tailor-made to the person however the best way we construction assessments is constant proper throughout the workforce. 

There’s nonetheless extra work to do, which is why we’re making the method extra quantifiable and clear by getting a “HRIS” system up and operating. It will imply that efficiency, achievements and future objectives are all totally outlined, measurable and accountable. 

Tech stack

Know-how has an enormous position to play in enabling your hybrid or distant startup to work effectively and productively. From day one, we invested in Notion, Slack, high finish IT tools similar to webcams, microphones, headphones, G-Suite, Salesforce and easy time savers similar to DocuSign. 

We developed insurance policies and coaching to make sure they have been used how we supposed. It’s simple sufficient to purchase a shiny new platform however truly getting folks to undertake and embrace it requires self-discipline and diligence. The management workforce must set the instance by being constant, and onboarding processes for brand spanking new arrivals want to offer loads of coaching so folks perceive not simply find out how to use collaboration instruments however why they’re used. 

We use Zavvy to help onboarding. One week earlier than becoming a member of workers obtain all their tools, an intro to the workforce and a tutorial on the instruments we use. Then, for one month, they undergo a normal onboarding course of to fulfill everybody, study processes and become familiar with their job. We additionally assign a “buddy” and an onboarding supervisor to assist help new hires and rapidly reply any questions they’ve. 

The dangers of totally distant startup groups

Giving folks extra flexibility in how and once they work alongside free flowing communication additionally comes with the danger of burnout and an absence of boundaries. It’s very simple for working time to bleed into leisure time and for distant employees to worry taking breaks or pushing again on deadlines. Leaders play an vital position in setting this instance. 

Be clear that you just don’t anticipate speedy responses or weekend working and encourage folks to take holidays. Create a scientific strategy to checking in in your workforce’s psychological wellbeing and make use of each psychological well being instruments and well being and wellbeing perks and advantages. You do not need anybody falling by way of the cracks and it is rather simple for a distant employee to endure in silence. Vigilance is vital. We offer common check-ins for workers, very fast one to 2 query surveys to see how persons are feeling, discourage additional time and encourage taking all paid day without work. 

There is no such thing as a one measurement suits all distant employee and in consequence, there isn’t a one measurement suits all strategy to distant or hybrid working. All the things I’ve listed actually comes all the way down to creating environments the place your startup can belief and be trusted by its workforce. Belief is constructed on equity, honesty and confidence. It’s when the whole workforce feels they’re handled equally — they’ve entry to the identical instruments, advantages, flexibility, engagement and alternatives. 

Constructing a distant startup tradition is not going to occur in a single day, which is why it’s important to hearken to your workforce — What do they need? What works properly for them? — after which be prepared to alter your strategy. Merely including “working from house” as a profit on a job description will not be practically sufficient and can finally result in bother. The world of labor has modified — your startup must too. 

Lydia Kothmeier is vice chairman of operations at Storyblok.


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