Remote: control? The joys and challenges of remote working

6 days ago

Jason Fried – at Basecamp – and Deborah Rippol – at Buffer – are writing the future. Exemplars of a new world of working where our offices are less important than our intellects. Both champion working remotely and letting our workplaces being secondary to our home lives.

Jason is the author of books like Rework and Remote. Deborah is the People Success Manager at Buffer.

Jason transcript:

JASON FRIED: Yet most work environments don’t allow people to actually do that. And so what they end up having to do is they end up having to work late nights or really early mornings or on the weekends because that’s the only time they have uninterrupted stretches of time to get work done. Their work days – which is what they’re being paid for – have been shattered into you know dozens of moments. There’s no more work day there’s work moments you’ve got like 15 minutes here and 30 minutes there and 45 minutes there maybe an hour if you’re lucky here and there but that’s it. And so it’s frustrating because I see people working longer hours and it takes a toll on their life and their family and all these sorts of things. And I don’t think it’s because there’s more work to actually do. I think the amount of work stays pretty constant. What happens though is that people don’t have the time to do the work anymore and that frustrates me that people have to chip away at life to make up for the stuff that work screws you over.

Because you talk about a few things. You talk work. You say that 40 hours is plenty enough to get a job done. So consequently that sense that we need to work longer and into weekends you think that’s just because work’s configured wrong, is that right?

JASON FRIED: I do. I mean I think and lately I’ve been talking about 40 hour weeks but I really want to bring it back to eight hour days because it’s a simpler concept. Eight hours is a lot of time. It’s the amount of time it takes to fly from Chicago to Paris. That’s a long time. If you’ve ever been on a flight like that you can be on a flight four hours and you think you’re kind of getting close. You look at your watch. ‘Holy shit I’ve got four hours left which means I can watch two movies or I can maybe read you know 200 pages in a book’ or whatever. That’s a lot of time. Eight hours is a huge amount of time. And even when people fly they end up getting a lot of stuff done like in a two or three hour flight that what they normally would need to get done in a whole work day at work because of the interruptions. So I just think eight hours is enough time if you actually have eight hours to yourself and that’s what I believe companies and managers or owners should care about. It’s making sure that their employees have a full eight hours to themselves to actually get their work done because if they do they can get a ton of stuff done. And then you add up five days at eight hours or 40 hours and that’s enough. You can go home and be rested and come back Monday to do it again.

I just think there’s plenty of time there’s ample time, there’s enough time. If you squeeze out all the stuff that doesn’t matter.

I saw you talking about No Talk Thursdays. And it struck me the combination of what you’re talking about there, the idea of Deep Work and No Talk Thursdays I wonder if to some extent what you’re describing is the perfect world of work for introverts. Would that work for everyone or is this construction deliberately designed for those who revel in time on their own.

JASON FRIED: Well I think it has to do with the type of work, the nature of the work at some level. Obviously if you’re working in – let’s say in sales or something – and you’re constantly on the phone and you’re not really involved in a job that requires an extended period of time. You might make 10 or 15 sales calls in a day or five or six whatever it is but you’re kind of bouncing around between opportunities – that’s maybe a different job. But I don’t think introversion or extroversion has a lot to do with the fundamental need to have uninterrupted stretches of time in order to do creative work. I just think you need that. I don’t think great work is coming from people who have to bounce around in an hour and do four different things. Context switching is very costly it’s very difficult to do. It just keeps shaving away at the margins. You know you feel like you can do four things in an hour for 15 minutes each. You don’t really have 15 minutes each to do four things in an hour. You have maybe 10 minutes each because there’s buffer’s at the edges and you’ve got to get back into the zone. And by the way that’s not even enough time anyway. So I’m not sure if it’s introversion or extraversion I think the No Talk Thursdays thing even if you’re an extrovert one day a week (or even one day a month) where everyone’s just quiet, just give it a shot. You might be surprised that you’re extraversion or your extroverted tendencies might really appreciate just the ability to get down and get to work. And there’s plenty of other time to talk to people. I don’t think it’s one or the other I do think in some ways if you really had to put on a scale, I do think it’s slightly more advantageous for introverts but I don’t think that the fundamental basics are that are that different.

So let’s go into just talking about remote working. And I think when I was reading Remote, your opinion piece on that. What I was struck by is that the thing you talk about is just the waste of time with commutes. The hours that we spend in this really unproductive time in commuting. Why do you think that so few companies have even taken the step to challenge that. It feels like we’re associated with so many industries that thrive on innovation. But this seems like one easy economy that every company could make. And I’m just surprised so few companies are doing it.

JASON FRIED: It’s funny isn’t it how you have a lot of innovative companies and companies are always talking about disruption and this whole thing. Yet they’re terrified to shatter the the basics of how they work. It is odd to me. Here’s the thing though it is hard to change to a remote working environment. I think that the companies that have the best shot are the ones that are starting up from that point of view versus the ones that have you know 200 employees who have all worked locally forever. All of a sudden they’re going to hire their first remote employee – that doesn’t work. But I think you can ease into it by allowing people who normally come to the office to work from home one day a week or one day a month. Begin to slowly ease into it and just see the world’s not going to come to an end, the company is not going to go out of business if people work from home one day a week or one day a month or whatever it might be. And just start to become comfortable with that notion. Part of the problem though too is that traditional managers, a lot of them manage by walking around. They feel like they need to see people in order to get the sense that they’re actually working.

But seeing somebody at a desk typing away or walking by their screen doesn’t mean that they’re working all they’re doing is sitting at a desk typing away at a screen. The output of work is what you can judge. If someone’s capable of doing that remotely then they should be allowed to do it remotely. If they’re incapable of it that’s a different story. If they’re capable of it allowing them to work remotely makes a lot of sense. It’s fundamentally about respect as well. So for example I don’t think as a business owner that I’m entitled to tell somebody where they can live their life which is what most jobs are. They require you to be in a physical location so if I want to go for XYZ company I have to go move to Boston to do it for example because they’re based in Boston. Well you know granted you could say ‘well just get another job’ but it’s not that easy some times. You go to work somewhere and then say your husband or your wife or your partner, they need to move because whatever they need to go somewhere else. For family reasons or even work or whatever. If you move with them, if you move with your family, if you move with your life you may lose your job. That strikes me as really unfair. I feel like if anyone works for us and they want to go somewhere else that’s great we can keep them they can keep their job and everyone’s happy versus saying hey you’re out of here because something else in your life is changed. I just don’t see why businesses feel like they have the right to dictate that.

So much of this seems to be especially when a company is feeling weak or vulnerable then control and just grasping onto the the old fashioned legacies of control seem to be the critical thing. Because you mentioned, and it was in the news, a couple of years ago Yahoo cancelled all of their remote working practices. You often see that don’t you, in businesses that are trying to assert control over what’s happening remote working seems to be the first thing that goes.

Yeah you know that’s a great example. So Yahoo is a good example. And of course look the problem with Yahoo is not the remote workers. Let’s just face that. The problem with Yahoo is that Yahoo doesn’t know who it is. They don’t know what they’re doing, their company is all over the place. They’ve had a series of management changes and CEO changes. The company is rudderless. It’s not that 3 percent – or whatever it was – of their workforce were working remotely. That wasn’t the problem. Twitter did another thing. Twitter laid off a bunch of people and a significant percentage of people they laid off were remote workers. And IBM recently did something too. They’re struggling to change into a different subject matter, into services more and more. And I think they’re struggling a bit. So they basically called everybody in as well. It’s typically not companies you see that are doing really well that are that are calling everyone to come back in. It’s companies where something’s wrong. And so they grasp and they feel the first step is to get everyone in the same room together. Maybe that works for some. It’s fair to say that for some it might work. I just don’t I don’t see evidence of that actually panning out. Perhaps people will prove us wrong and if they do that’s great. I’m open to other points of view on this. It’s just that the patterns don’t really necessarily suggest that these are moves made because the company is doing well and that they’d be doing better. It’s because something else is wrong in there.

I know a lot of companies also, rather than having layoffs and announcing layoffs they’ll basically do this thing where they’ll say ‘you have to come work in the office so we’re not going allow remote working’ which allows people to basically quit or leave. And it’s a different way of saying we’re laying people off. Unless it’s like we’re not laying anybody off but you have this choice ‘either come or you go’. And if you go then you go and they knew they’d lose 15 percent of their workforce that way and they’d be happy to do it. It’s a lot softer to do than and lay people off. So there’s a lot of other strategies at play here unfortunately.

It’s interesting isn’t it because there’s so much conservatism. The status quo just wins so often when we come to the process of reinventing work. To change anything you seem to have to prove that not only are you equal to the current status quo in work but you have to be better. The burden of proof is always on the reinventing party.

JASON FRIED: And that’s fair by the way. I do think it’s fair, if you’re going to say ‘we used to do things this way and now we’re going to do things this way’ or let’s say X way and Y way. That is a leap of faith and I get it. Everyone has new ideas all the time so we shouldn’t be probably shifting the way we work constantly. But I think outright dismissal out of hand of new ideas and in that regard. And also there’s there’s plenty of evidence in great companies that remotely and do a variety of other things. There’s plenty of evidence out there to say some of these ideas are worth a shot. But here’s the other thing, at the end of the day it doesn’t matter to me if other companies change. What matters to me is how we run our business because that’s all I have control over. Hopefully what we’re able to do is, by sharing these ideas is we’re able to get other business owners, who are curious about running a better business or starting up a brand new business to give away our way, the way we represent, a shot. But I would not expect big corporations to embrace what I’m talking about – nor should they – they are going to do their own thing. I’m not really out to save anybody or rescue anybody in that sense I’m out to share a point of view that hopefully other people who are getting started who are small enough and eager and interested and are willing to change can give it a shot.

It seems like if there was one concept the remote working work in your mind it’s this idea of Asynchronous Working. People not necessarily having to to do the same job, in the same place at the same time. You talk about the first step towards is becoming ASAP Free. Do you want to just explain that.

JASON FRIED: Yeah I think there’s too much real time communication happening in companies these days. It’s getting worse and worse and it’s causing people to be more and more distracted and feel like they’re missing out on conversations that are happening right now. If they don’t jump in right now they won’t be heard. There’s just this conveyor belt of conversation. If you’re not in it while past your station that then you miss out. It’s like we’re factory workers again but with information this time. Our point of view is that real time communication is handy occasionally when you really absolutely truly need it. But in most cases you’re better off communicating asynchronously. So for us in Basecamp that means posting messages or writing comments on threads that are attached to something that stick around and don’t move away from you when other conversations start. So not just Basecamp but email is another form of asynchronous communication. There are a variety of other ways to communicate asynchronously. But the principle is that I’ll write something down and you’ll read it in your own time and you’ll get back to me when you’re ready to. Versus real time communication where there’s this assumption that if I say something you’re going to get back to me immediately. There’s a very distinctly different feel when a company is all real time where everyone is just talking constantly expecting immediate responses. Versus an asynchronous company where people write stuff up and other people respond in their own time. Asynchronous communication is a much calmer method. It also allows everyone to own and control their own schedule, their own time. Versus always being pulled away from what you’re doing by someone else who wants an immediate response. The other thing about asynchronous is a lot of people think that remote companies need to be real time. That they need to have all these real time tools all the time. Actually real time is quite bad for remote companies that are spread across time zones. Because what it does, real time communication across timezones extends everybody’s workday. Because they feel like they have to be on, if someone’s two or three hours ahead and when the only way we can talk is in real time then I have to stay a little bit longer so there’s a little more overlap. I have to have that one conversation that I need to have and that they need to have before I go off. So the thing is with Async you just write something up and the next day you get a response and that’s fine. And there’s no feeling of like having to stay on until someone else’s time overlaps. Things just happen at night when it’s someone else’s night and your day or whatever. It’s just a much calmer way of working it and a much much healthier way of working.

When you’re thinking about how work will look in 10 years, do you think all these things will happen or will it be unevenly distributed?

JASON FRIED: Unevenly distributed basically I think, just like always. There will be some enlightened companies who are willing to give some of these new ideas a shot (and actually some of these old ideas a shot). Not all the stuff is new. It’s a return to common sense. Of course you can’t get your work done if you’re being interrupted nonstop. How could you? That’s not a new idea. That’s actually an old idea. So I think there’ll be a series of enlightened companies and some companies that function better than others who will be more willing to try this stuff. And then there will be other companies that are unwilling to but I do think over time more and more of these practices will become more common. So think you’ll have a better shot when new generations of companies come up and all generations of companies wind down. I think there will be a bit more of a change over time.

Deborah Rippol

Thank you so much for talking to me Deborah. To kick off could you just explain who Buffer are and what you do for them?

DEBORAH: Yeah absolutely. Buffer is a social media automation tool. That makes it possible to save time and stay flexible with your online marketing strategy down to the very minute. With Buffer they idea is that you can post into the future so that the next two days or the next two weeks or the next two months are taken care of no matter where you happen to be.

And it’s also a way to manage your social media presence and manage your customer support and many things like that. And I guess what’s interesting is that a lot of people know Buffer for the product but we’re sometimes known not just for our product but also we’ve been known for our culture as a company. We’re fully distributed and we we care just as much about what we build as about how we build it. So my role is People Success Manager of Buffer. And I focus on making Buffer an exciting place to work and developing individual careers as well. I help improve teammates’ lifecycle. That can be things like developing career frameworks or working on management development programs or doing learning development policies or doing hiring which is what originally – when I joined Buffer two years ago – what I started to do.

And tell me this. So a couple of things you hinted at along the way there… the first is that Buffer have no office (or you have no HQ, you work in places but just not in a place together). Before we go onto the culture of transparency that you’ve also got can you just explain… it is that a weird transition? Because you used to have an office right? How do you get from ‘we’ve got this office, with a few people working remotely’ to ‘actually now there’s no Buffer’.

DEBORAH: Yeah, I guess that’s an interesting one. It honestly started as a bit of a circumstance thing in the earliest days of Buffer. Joe and Leo they were both in the UK but they didn’t quite work together every day when they cofounded Buffer because they were just living half an hour apart and had other commitments. And then when Buffer really kicked off they moved to San Francisco to try and raise money. When they did it just turns out they didn’t have visas to stay there so they had money but they couldn’t stay in the US. So they kind of flipped Google Maps and went ahead and went to Hong Kong for six months. And then I think they went to Israel for three months after that. It’s super interesting because they were all over the place and started being a remote company just the two of them and kind of grew a little bit from that to being six people.

Then they moved back to San Francisco and had to make a bit of a tough decision there because they all wanted to be in San Francisco at that time but also understood that talent could really come from anywhere and they have to decide whether they were going to hire from everywhere or just in San Francisco. That’s when they talked to team members and realised that remote was the way to go for them.

And yeah they decided to be fully open. It was a bit of a sensitive decision as well as they were trying to hire at that time. So they had to think on the spot and just went ahead. And now we have people from about I’d say about 40 cities and sixteen countries and eleven time zones. So I’d say the transition has been more natural. Because we did an office in San Francisco. We had it up until last year and completely closed it just because nobody was going.

And some of the basic things that I guess people in that situation might say, they might say if someone requests a meeting at your offices how do you get round that? Or are requesting on your territory, how do you get round that? And do you ever feel the sense that work feels less tangible. I mean I’m not even sure how to articulate it. This idea that when you go into work you know you’re in work and albeit that you can do emails from anywhere you know that works a place as well as a verb. Do you miss that?

DEBORAH: That’s a really good question. I’d say it’s more difficult for others than it is for us. I find that I can be in the zone from the moment that I have headphones on. I can be just about anywhere if I have good wifi and a coffee by my side. I can basically work from anywhere and I feel like I’m at work. It’s difficult for others to really see that though, very often you get interrupted while you’re on a call just because it’s not obvious that you’re actually working and that it’s really important. So I don’t really find that odd I’d say something that does help though is having routines regardless of where you are. So waking up at similar times every morning and things like that. That’s what really makes it a bit more tangible.

Tell me this, I chatted to a professor of Organisational Behaviour and he describes something called Geek-sploitation. The idea that firms introduced foosball tables and and allowed people to wear their own clothes so people worked longer, because it blurred the distinction between real life and work. And to some extent not having an office does the same do you end up working an unhealthy amount of time or how do you achieve work-life balance when work and life look exactly the same.

DEBORAH: I guess that can definitely happen if you don’t pay attention. That’s definitely a risk of being entirely remote and having no office and working from home as well. I’d say if you don’t pay attention to that as an individual or as a company that can feel a little tricky. As an individual I think paying attention is maybe not blurring the line too much the other way around.

So when I’m at home and it’s working hours I try to avoid doing personal things. Sometimes I go out and do an errand but I’ll still realise that any time I take, maybe I’ll stop now and do some laundry – I know that’s time that I will want to make up for later in the evening when I might want to go and have a beer with friends. So I think it’s a matter of just really isolating a little bit your time and place. As a company is also a matter of showing that’s not your intention at all. So very often you have surveys in the team where we’re tracking happiness levels through various ways. One of them is we try to ask people ‘how many hours do you work a week’ and we try to reduce that amount to a maximum. We don’t people not to work but we want people to work smarter not harder.

So you described along the way that you’d done six weeks working in Mexico. I mean it just sounded like a dream. So is this one of the freedoms that you’ve got. If work is just a laptop and a pair of headphones you can go and work in these places and absorb life in different places or is that just a one off.

DEBORAH: I guess I try to do that quite regularly. But I think my intention has shifted. And in the last few years that I’ve been at Buffer I’ve actually been travelling less and less whenever I travel, I travel longer and longer. So for me really the ability to travel would mean that I am able to go and visit friends more often. So it’s not about taking the backpack and going to Thailand by myself and just being out there. I personally don’t feel that’s what I need. But seeing friends and family more often that are spread across the world. That’s super pleasant and really fulfilling so I really enjoy that part. And then whenever the opportunity arises, like discovering a new city in slightly different angle, say Mexico. I actually really enjoyed Mexico so much that I’m going back again in October for a month. And so it’s super nice because you discover a place with a different angle than if you’re on vacation. I tend to stay longer so that I can enjoy weekends in. I just feel like it gives you a different view of the place.

And one the other things that I was interested in, your job’s evolved now but you used to be responsible for finding new talent. Right. I guess the opportunity for most people when they’re finding talent is you’re in this city so you can limit people by the amount of people in that city and then the amount of people who can do that job. You’ve got the whole world of people you could hire. How do you – when you read exclusively doing that job – how do you begin to look for people who can work in this different way.

DEBORAH: I guess you know we’re really lucky with Buffer is that we have a lot of inbound applications. A lot of applicants come from where we have customers – in a sense that’s where our audience is. That’s where people hear about us and essentially look for jobs at Buffer. That’s one aspect of it but we don’t have to look for a lot of people, we have a lot of inbound. Which makes it really nice. And I guess we try to gauge for the ability to work remotely that doesn’t only come from someone having worked remotely. Sometimes it’s just you’re able to gauge if someone’s very driven and can just keep things up by themselves in the morning and get work done. That’s more of a sign of a good remote person then anything else. The ability to assess people remotely is something I get asked a lot about. People just imagine that you have to have a face-to-face interview with someone to get to know them. But really for us we’ll be working being with them remotely every day. So if we’re not able to gauge the way they communicate or if they’re not able to show us their work through video calls and through communication then they’re not going to be working well with Buffer.

Right. Wow. But I didn’t even work that out. So you’re hiring people and you’ve never met them face to face. Wow okay. That didn’t even occur to me, I presumed that you would go and meet them. Wow. So, some of these people might be working in a remote corner of the world as long as they’re doing their job. And that’s what you’re looking for. Do you ever have difficult discussions then where it’s not working for them?

DEBORAH: You mean after joining us.

Yeah.

DEBORAH: I think we try to engage for that. Normally if our hiring process is working well… and we have what we call Boot Camp in the first 45 days where we have a very intense period of feedback and back and forth. And giving people an understanding of how things work usually. That’s when we figure things out if it’s not working for them remotely it’s usually within those 45 days. If things aren’t going well in that respect after we mostly try to coach people. I wouldn’t say that we figure out that if someone doesn’t really handle working remotely a long time after they join, that would be more of a motivation problem. If their role is not fulfilling for them then you can find motivation is lacking to get up and work, it’s not at all because they can’t work remotely.

One of the things I saw you describing was that when you working remotely – so everyone’s on different time zones or maybe on different time zones – and you talked in an interview I saw you gave about communication becoming asynchronous and actually one of the phrases you used is ‘communication becomes more intentional’. That’s interesting? What does that mean?

DEBORAH: Yeah. I guess the intentional communication or asynchronous communication is what we found was one of the ways we could solve effectively working remotely. Basically what we want is for team mates to be happy wherever they are. They means anyone wherever they are has the ability to reach decisions and opportunity to collaborate with others effectively. And for that synchronous communication doesn’t quite work well. If you have a cluster of people that are in the New York time zone. You’d have to the ability to communication on Slack. Back and forth. And then a decision is made. And then France and Singapore wake up and they’ve not had their say in what’s going on.

That’s one of the things we’re trying to solve or to involve everyone wherever they are at Buffer. And I think we have a few values that help us with that intentional communication. And one of them is ‘take time to reflect’. It means we’re intentional about giving constructive feedback in discussions and we consider things when they are presented. We try to think about many different cases ahead of what we’re trying to present.

Then another one of them ‘choose positivity’. It’s a funny one because really when you realise that you have different energy levels through the day you also self realised you have a lot of empathy when communicating. So say if I’m in Paris and my day is ending it’s six or 7pm, things are slowing down and my energy levels are really low – and I really help from someone at Buffer. I message a team mate but if they are in San Francisco and they’re just waking up. If it’s not very positive, or attacking then honestly that could just ruin their day. It’s just not super nice. So thinking ahead of things like that, if you’re remote just don’t know what’s going on in that person’s life – even more than when you’re in an office. Being more intentional about what you write is really key. And I guess we ask that you communicate with clarity so that’s a really important value for us we try to be as clear as possible to be efficient. If I’m going to write something and there’s going to a thousand back and forth on it because nobody’s really understood what I said in the first place that’s not efficient communication. And we try to avoid things like “What are your thoughts on this?” when it’s new. Open ended questions like that. If you have an eight hour or 12 hour time difference with someone you have to be more specific about your question is in order for them to answer it.

Yes it makes a lot of sense I’ve just read Cal Newport’s Deep Work and actually he talks – I don’t know if he uses ‘intentional communication’ but I think it’s it’s along the same lines – to be more specific about what you want in an email to avoid the ping-pong of back and forth. One other thing I want to understand is that your culture is remarkably transparent. You publish a lot of information about what people earn, what they do. Does that take a lot of getting used to? I can understand the remote working as a way to allow people to live a complete life and be more fulfilled. But what’s the reasoning behind the transparency of everything else.

DEBORAH: I think it has many folds, I’d say how empowering the transparency is is super important The founders really early on they realised they could question many things. So the idea was ‘why do we do that that way?’ And why not another way. I think it started originally with salaries being transferred. We have all of our salaries open on our website. You can just check out anyone’s pay at Buffer. Internally and externally transparent. I think it started off with that, where the idea was ‘maybe it could help others create their own salary grade with our salary formula. We think we pay people fairly. Why would we hide it. At first we did that that and then we realised how empowering that was. You know the power of having information and then it can spread to your everyday communication. On Slack all of our channels (I’d say about 90% of our channels are open) to ourselves within the team . We have very few one on one conversations and we just realised that what you think might not be important for someone else. It could be helping them chime in and include their thoughts and things like that.

BRUCE: [00:19:37] So through the transparency – and you publish a lot on your blog – and I think in the last 12 months you’ve made a few job reductions and there was sort of a statement about one of the founders was moving on and the elements like that. I ended up reflecting that your working style seems the definition of reasonable. It seems like the most benign and considerate and I ended up thinking ‘wow is it the elements of work that are unreasonable that lead to unreasonable level results?’ You know is your work a lifestyle business where people can live good happy lives and you achieve good results but not incredible results. Is that right. Is that a wrong reading of those facts?

DEBORAH: [00:20:31] No I think its a perfect reading of it in thats solely the intention of the founders. They really want team mates to stay to stay for as long as they want to stay. They don’t want people to be forced to leave Buffer just because they are moving places. It think it helps think ahead what could work look like if we took some of those boundaries out. Some boundaries are physical boundaries and also transparent hierarchy boundaries I think we are trying to build the future of work. And I think our way of doing it it’s funny you described it as reasonable because that’s exactly how I see it. To me it’s not just lets do crazy things that will get us in the press, but more in a considerate ‘why would we do [the old way] in the first place, can we test that out? We can see if it works. We also tried to publish things whether they were good or bad. It’s just easier to talk about your successes. If you’re not able to talk about things that aren’t working out and you’ve had to lay people off then the honesty is useless.

I guess my interest is that maybe this is a wonderful place to work but you wouldn’t want to invest in it, in the sense that maybe the way that a company explosively grows is that they just force everyone to work 70 hours a week until those people are done. Your approach seems very sustainable. Like if a friend of mine was asking to go there I would say I’ve heard so many wonderful things you should definitely go there. That’s what I’m trying to work out… you’ve remove the unreasonable things and therefore your growth will be slower than other companies. I guess that’s what I’m trying to get to the heart of .

DEBORAH: That is a really good question and definitely at the heart of many things we chat about every day. It’s super interesting question there. I think that I would agree with you that we’re not aiming at super fast growth. If an investor someone wants to join the journey and invest in Buffer – if we were going to open more rounds I’d say fast growth is not in our books and it wouldn’t be a place for that. We are superlucky with our investors there’s many people in the world these days who want to invest in more sustainable growth and sustainable businesses that will make people happy to work – and also that will make for happier customers in the long run (which is always a good point!) I think those would be more people that we’d want to invest in us.

Tell me this can people cope with leaving Buffer? I’d have thought you’ve got such a considerate balanced flexible way of working, if you want to sleep tomorrow because you’re exhausted and then you want to make up the time tomorrow night Buffer can let you do that. I can’t imagine any anyone being able to cope with going back to nine to five… what’s happened to people who’ve left?

DEBORAH: Yeah I guess I could not agree more! It’s a very tricky thing to do. I think that it’s almost something to consider. It’s very tricky I think but not necessarily for the reasons that people would imagine. The things you describe people being very kind and considerate I think – in the long run – I think those are the things that would keep you somewhere. And not necessary the perks and the remote life so I wouldn’t say the problem would be going back to a 9 to 5 so much as going to a place where potentially you don’t have that level of trust and can for team mates – and the remote aspect is just one of the many ways you can show that you trust your team-mates to do their best work everyday and to be very driven individuals. Personally at least I could say that I would really struggle with going to a place that doesn’t really trust that I’m going to do that by myself and that needs to behind my back and watching that I’m doing it. And if that needs to come with being in an office to make sure that I’m doing any work and potentially that would not agree with a lot of people.

I’m fascinated. I am very envious actually. It sounds like the sort of enlightened place that I do wonder if some workplaces will never get to that level of flexibility and enlightenment.

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