Working remotely at InVision

Hi all!

Today, we’re having a closer look at distributed companies: businesses that don’t have any physical offices but that are profitable and growing, and where employees manage to be efficient working from home. We wanted to check our facts from our previous article on remote working, so we met with Kristin from InVision who kindly accepted to sit with us in Austin and gave us some precious insights! Do people really get anything done when constantly working from home? How to make them feel a part of the company if they don’t physically work together? Let’s find out.

Who’s Kristin?

Kristin runs the  InVision Blog, a design publication with 2.5 million subscribers. When she started the job just 2.5 years ago, it only had 500,000 subscribers.

She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English, though she says she got her real education while working at the university’s humor publication, The Texas Travesty, first as a staff writer and then eventually as editor-in-chief. After college, she worked in traditional offices until she was hired by InVision, a fully distributed company with over 400 employees (they were just 100 two years ago). The InVision Blog is mostly written by guest contributors—designers and other tech industry pros who have something valuable to share. Kristin works with them from initial idea to publishing, often stepping in along the way to offer guidance and feedback and make edits. She also writes blog posts and works on other InVision projects as needed.

Are you really more productive at home than at an outside office?

It turns out that our last article wasn’t too far from the truth: remote working makes you a lot more productive. You’re not constantly interrupted. However, reaching this productivity stage requires some commitment. If you’re working from home, you definitely want to have your own work space, dedicated to working, and only that. Kristin realized after two months working from her dining room table that it just wasn’t a good work environment—there were too many distractions, like her husband, who also works from home, coming down to make coffee and grab snacks. Plus, dining room chairs just aren’t comfortable. . Moreover, without this dedicated space and schedule, she would feel that she wasn’t getting anything done, which you stress her out so she’d end up working until 12 am, talking about the ‘imposter syndrom’.

"The day I did that, everything changed!"

Don’t you feel disconnected from the rest of the company?

There is an adjustment period to overcome there. Even for Kristin, it wasn’t that easy.

"When you go from a highly social office environment where everybody has lunch together and hangs out after work, working remotely can feel pretty lonely."

Having constant communication on a private Slack channel helps a lot. The content team is a small team, less than ten members, but they stay in touch all day long, both about business related and personal matters. This group chat appears to really compensate for the long-gone water cooler breaks. "feel like I know my teammates really well. They make me laugh all day long, and I know I can ask any of them for feedback or a quick gut check any time I need it". She met one of her coworkers for the first time about a month ago, and felt like she knew him: "we just happened to be talking in real life". Same thing goes for her manager, too. Talking about the culture, Kristin considers it her job too to create a good environment and working culture, because ‘you’re not entitled to a good work culture, you’re responsible for it’. Remote workers need to make an effort to get to know their teammates. It seems that the company’s culture mostly relies on social leaders to create a strong social link between them and keep people engaged in the company. They also have some interesting practices, such as a $25 fund they each receive every month that they can send as a bonus to coworkers who helped them.

In any case, we can’t argue the fact that a specific mindset is required in order to make a good experience out of remote working. It is intrinsically relying on a strong sense of autonomy and trust. It’s actually pretty close to freelance work. So "You can’t need to be baby-sat". Meaning that “working remotely isn’t for everybody".

Is virtual communication really that good?

One golden rule in making a video chat worthwhile and balanced is to actually turn on the video. It seems to make a huge difference, surely giving it all a more human touch. Although there is no secret recipe or magical wand to wave around and make a meeting perfect. It is still hard to hear many people talk at the same time, and for shy people during big video chats it could be easy to get lost and not say anything. You just have to be assertive and you have to speak up.  

"If I didn’t do my job even for a day it would be obvious."

The fact that you can screenshot or record any Slack or video chat conversation changes the communication game, probably for the best?

When it comes to performance reviews, 1-on-1 meetings occur on a pretty regular basis: twice a month. They’re based on video chat, like all the other meetings.

How can you balance work life and personal life when working from home?

Most of the time, work-life balance is pretty much respected. Once again, it all relies on conscious choice and personal decision-making: with Slack, you can turn on the option of not receiving any messages from 8pm to 8am, for example. However, it still feels like you would have to have a management that is explicitly promoting this balance and that actively deters workers from working excessively.

"I would not be willing to go back to an open office, they’re not good for work, they annoy people, despite being often presented as a benefit for employees. That would be a dealbreaker, especially if you’re doing creative work, you just need a place to be alone."

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