Often the primary challenge of a globally distributed company is communication. Clear communication — top-down, bottom-up, and across teams — ensures a fast flow of information, and builds trust and transparency. For decades, business schools and studies have promoted the idea that employees at high-trust organizations perform better and stay longer.
Testlio, which provides software testing solutions to digital product companies, is a fully remote company. We work with full-time people in 30+ countries and freelancers in 100+ countries, all over the world. We call our approach “distributed by design” because it drives past “remote work” (which is based on a classic central office hub and spoke model) to practices and systems that help build and maintain a high-trust, efficient, and productive work experience.
Core to building our distributed design culture is the theme of empowerment. Here are a few things we’ve done, and learned, on our journey.
Be mindful of time zones
At Testlio, we have adopted a work-from-region approach that divides the world into Americas (AMER), Europe-Middle East-Africa (EMEA), and Asia-Pacific (APAC) regions. The primary city of each Testlio worker aka TestLion generally determines which of these regions they operate within. And with our work from region structure, we offer extraordinary north-south flexibility, while concentrating teams on east-west dimensions.
When organizing cross-team meetings, leaders are encouraged to utilize the overlapping hours between their teams’ regions so that team members can maintain regular hours. However, for company-wide events such as All Hands meetings and Testlio Connections (you can read more about them here), it isn’t possible to find a time that works for everyone. Instead, large virtual events rotate between the three regions. Critical meetings are also recorded, so that no matter where you are in the world there is a live, company-wide meeting during the workday at least once a quarter, with immediate playback available otherwise.
“We started rotating the meeting times after shifting to remote work several years ago,” explained Testlio founder Kristel Kruustük. “One of our values is Foster Inclusion, and we wanted to make sure that everyone would feel included when it comes to sharing and taking in live, company-wide news.”
At an office, one might hear others talking about events in the kitchen area or “by the water cooler,” and it’s a lot easier to walk up to a coworker’s desk and start a conversation. That doesn’t happen as naturally in a remote work environment. Communication requires more deliberate energy; one has to intentionally take the time to open a Slack channel and write a message (or even better, share it in a video form). This is why we focus on fostering a culture of kindness — and a part of that is encouraging TestLions to take a genuine interest in each other. We schedule and make time to connect and socialize with others. We encourage asking questions and chatting during company-wide and other meetings. Our organization is flat and intentionally open. We’ve learned too that in structured meetings we need to pause and spend more time engaging each other on social and personal topics before diving into business.
“At Testlio, we stay connected by making sure that everyone is included,” explained Testlio people experience specialist Moonika Oras, “We believe in two-way communication, the virtual space for exchanging thoughts and ideas fits us all. We’ve created a growing, lively ecosystem of various online communities, interest groups, teams, and pathways for general information flow that are nurtured by the genuine curiosity of our people.”
We also celebrate being together; whenever people meet in person, a picture is dropped to the general Slack channel. As pandemic conditions have improved, we’ve been able to see more of each other — and that has been exciting too!
Integrate work and life
Another critical element of our distributed by design approach is the notion of work-life integration. TestLions are empowered to merge the formal boundaries of personal and professional activities. In practice, this means that a parent might pause work to visit a child’s school. An engineer might stop coding to go to the gym. A musician and marketer may practice music. And all of these things may happen in the middle of the typical work day.
With this, Testlio people feel incredibly empowered to live full lives AND do great work. While the days are sometimes longer and can stretch to early or late hours, the idea is that we want our people to get the work done where, when, and how it makes the most sense to them, and other stakeholders, including our clients. This sense of empowerment is one of the reasons our offer acceptance rate is much higher than industry standards (90%+ in 2022) and our employee NPS has been above 60 for the last three years.
Share both ups and downs
Being transparent is a major contributor to one of our core values: Team Is Everything. Honesty, realism, and candor are mindsets every TestLion is encouraged to strive for, including our leaders. Just as we share our wins either on a Slack channel or during a company-wide All Hands meeting, we also talk about struggles — whether it’s a market challenge, a customer leaving us, or a technical problem. The road to success is never linear and we shouldn’t bear and hide the challenges in work.
“In my experience in building high-growth technology companies, if you hide bad news, people sometimes think that things are worse than they actually are,” said Testlio CEO Steve Semelsberger. “To save people the energy they would otherwise spend worrying about what they don’t know, we tell them how things really are so that they can then focus on doing their best work and overcoming challenges together as a team.”
At Testlio, many new TestLions are pleasantly surprised by our widespread candor in discussing our business results and goals with the whole “Pride” (company). It plays a big part in fostering inclusion and showing that we’re in this together. Because like any growing company, often the only way we can achieve our goals is to rally and lean in together. It’s hard to do that if you don’t know what you’re rallying around.
One for all, all for one
At the end of the day, humans are social animals. We often feel our best when we’re able to connect with others. Satisfying this instinct in a distributed by design company requires a foundation of smart system design, empowerment, trust and transparency. It’s easier to build and maintain that foundation when all participants—colleagues, managers and leaders—are aligned and authentic. We must also take the time to connect. The approach that we practice helps make Testlio a workplace where people feel a deep sense of belonging and a true opportunity to do what they love, with people they genuinely care about.
Are you looking for a remote job where you can feel connected to the team despite the distance? Check out Testlio’s current openings and join our TestLion Pride! 🦁