How We Work Remotely

I know there’s a lot of interest in our readership about how Ian and Jamie have run this business for the past 10 years or so. It’s a small, successful, bootstrapped software business. It’s distributed, with all of the staff working remotely from home. And we’re all really super awesome. So why wouldn’t you want to know more about how we work remotely?

I’ve been planning a post on the company culture at UserScape…pretty much since the day I started working here. Anybody who follows any of us on Twitter knows we have a lot of fun at work, and honestly it’s been impossible to wrap it all up in a blog post.

So I’m going to open up a new blog series about how we work.

How we work…Remotely

We’ll start with whaHipChat logo.pngt is probably the top question I get when people hear I work from home: How do you do that? Like, literally…how?

The first answer is that “we chat.” We’re always in touch throughout the day, so it really never gets lonely or disconnected.

There are a lot of chat apps out there; we use HipChat. We have a number of different rooms, that we can enter and exit at will.

The first is the general “UserScape” room, where we all check in each morning and hang out for general business and conversation.

There’s also a room called Development, where, obviously, the developers chat about development, and one called Publishing (that’s my digs).

You can hang out in all these rooms at once, if you like, or even open private chat rooms for one-on-one conversations with specific people. You can turn notifications on or off, so your computer can beep EVERY time somebody talks in a room you’re in, or only if they tag you (@Alyssa). You can share files, pictures, and links, and it even supports voice and video chat. We use all of these features throughout the day as needed.

Mostly HipChat just allows us to feel that we’re “at work” together.

Sometimes we talk about our weekends, or the movies or last night’s Mad Men, or about the music we’re listening to at any given moment.

And it leads to conversations like this:

HipChat Conversation: Destiny's Child


Which lead to tweets like this:

We also spend an inordinate amount of time plotting our next Big Idea, which is either a podcast (An hour of ’90s rap lyrics and sarcasm? An hour where we talk about TV shows and then prank call Ian’s pal Andrey Butov?)…

…or some way to sell tickets to join us in HipChat. Because we have way too much fun in there, and you all are missing out.

It’s not all fun and games.

Actually, yes, it kind of is. We’re all extremely well-suited to work together. Our personalities mesh, we laugh together, and we’re all hard workers who have the discipline to get our projects finished without succumbing to distraction. I have to give props to Ian for building a team like this; I’m lucky to be a part of it. We get a lot of work done, and we have a lot of fun doing it.

And one thing I’ve noticed: I do not feel lonely, disconnected, or antisocial since I left the world of cubicles and started working from home. If anything I have more contact with my coworkers more often and more directly than I did before, and I’m definitely more efficient.

We have no useless meetings, no getting sidetracked on the way to the restroom and sucked into a conversation you don’t really want be in, no missed phone calls or emails sitting unanswered. No committees to run every decision through. We all have our roles, and Ian trusts us all to fill them. We have the tools to communicate as needed and then the freedom to step back, turn off notifications, and do the work.

If I have a question for Chris, I don’t send an email or schedule a meeting. I pop into HipChat, tag him, and we hammer it out. Boom. Done. Back to work.

Unless it’s time for a ’90s school dance. Break it down:

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  • Bradigan Reply

    What time you guys start working at? 7am ish?

    • Alyssa Mazzina Reply

      We work 8-5, for the most part. Since we’re scattered across the country, that varies by an hour or two for each of us. I’m the farthest west, the only one in the Pacific time zone, and I choose to work east coast hours–so for me, it’s 5 a.m. – 3 p.m. with an hour break at 8 to get my kids fed and dropped off at school, and lunch at 11. I love having that flexibility; I’m off work when the kids get home from school, and I end up working the same hours as the rest of the team on the east coast.

      Sorry for the delayed response, I was on vacation when this post published. 🙂

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