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5 Lessons I’ve Learned While Working Remotely from 22 Countries

Last week marked my 2-year anniversary at Toggl so I decided to do what everyone seems to these days – write a blog post about what I’ve learned while trying to make sense of the things I might’ve missed out on.

Toggl has quite a unique culture and I’m proud to be a part of it. We operate in a results-only work environment, get to work anytime and anywhere we want – for us, the future of work is already here and we love it.

Here are some things I learned while working at Toggl from 22 different countries:

1. Focus is crucial

I came to Toggl with a rich background in startups where I wore many hats. As a marketer, I was involved in user onboarding, customer support, sales and more. I expected here would be the same and came armed with a spectre of ideas for all departments.

I quickly learned that at Toggl, everyone contributes with what they’re best at. This initially felt like a cold shower but ended up helping me focus on what I do best and learning the true importance of doing one thing thoroughly.

Do fewer things, but do them better.

I still communicate with other teams and collaborate across the company but letting go of ideas actually taught me to focus and execute better on the most important ones. Great work and leadership is about letting go and focusing on what you’re truly great at to be able to contribute more and do your best work.

2. Metrics are king

We have a specific setup at Toggl – we don’t work set hours or make anyone work any number of hours, only the results you bring matter. Which is why all teams have specific metrics they track and keep improving. If you can’t tie your work to improving a certain metric, you’ll most likely drop it for something more effective.

This allows us to focus, weed out things that don’t work and kill time-wasting tasks in favor of proven methods that make us more effective. Just ask the marketing team – we always experiment with new ways to work less and achieve more. 

3. Do things that scale

Only the servers should be working all the time, everyone else deserves a balance that allows them to spend time with family, trying out new hobbies or whatever gets them really excited.

The 3 Pillars of Productivity – outsource, automate & delegate.

This is why we always try new ways of automating and scaling things without losing touch with the work. If a project takes too much of your time, you’re doing it wrong – outsource, delegate or automate and try again. This affects our culture a lot, we get to focus on the important things and do only the work we find truly meaningful. 

Check out more about our team, values and culture in Out of Office – a lovely guide to setting up a successful remote company culture.

4. People matter

Who you work with matters more than anything else.

I love the work I do but my teammates are the true reason I’m motivated to get up and work every day. Working with talented, dedicated people across the world taught me to truly appreciate the company we’re building together. I’m also always learning from my team members and find it hard to imagine ever going back to working with a less diverse bunch.  

Being picky with hiring means we surround ourselves with the best people imaginable and that’s an environment we thrive in. Having the ability to hire from anywhere in the world also means everyone has a different starting point and brings a different perspective to the table. This diversity really brings out the best in people and allows us to tap into knowledge unavailable to monocultural teams.

Feeling dumb around other people is also an excellent indicator of growth. It’s also great to have people around you who can do something you can’t. Feeling dumb is good, because that means you’re learning new things.

Mart Virkus

 

5. Future of work is already here

 

 

How do you get people from different cultures and backgrounds to constantly overdeliver and stay motivated without burning out?

The answer lies in our company culture and a flexible work schedule is a big part of that. We don’t make you work long hours or check if you’re online and available at all times. We trust you to own your work and work from wherever you like, whenever you like.

We believe awesome people do great stuff anywhere and moreover, we’ve realized that more freedom means better results and happier people. We’re picky with our hiring but once we find the right person, no micro-managing is needed.

Should you go remote? This guide lays out the pros and cons of building a distributed team, make sure to check it out!

The remote setup allows us to hire the truly best people not just best people in a certain location. It’s great that every team member can choose where they want to be and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Not a lot of companies can brag with having people on 6 continents, working in 19 timezones.

 

We love remote work so much, we wrote Out of Office – a guide to setting up a successful remote company culture with lessons from Help Scout, DuckDuckGo, Zapier, Todoist, InVision, Buffer, Flexjobs, Gitlab, Jobbatical, Teamweek and yours truly.

 

Check it out and let me know what you think, it’s kind of a shrine to my work at Toggl so far! 

By On May 22, 2017

  1. Thanks for an interesting post.

    > we don’t work set hours or make anyone work any
    > number of hours, only the results you bring matter.

    How exactly do you measure the results a particular programmer achieved in a given week/iteration?

  2. Hi Dunja, I agree with all the points described and just because I’ve the experience of working in a corporation with an open office workspace I realize how useful could be an app like Toggl. I’ll give you an example: let’s say that from 50 people working in an open office workspace, on average, 10 are on Facebook, 10 are bothering others instead of searching information, 10 are searching house furniture/ clothes/cars/make-up or other personal needs, 5 are drinking coffees around all day long, 5 are doing administrative tasks and maybe about 10 people are literally working and therefore they’re the only ones productive. As a manager, obviously, you can’t walk around their offices every 5 minute and scan their displays, let’s be honest would be horrible, and maybe we’re not all charged with the right amount of integrity to realize how important and satisfying is to be productive, the results, rewards and just the simple fact of realizing something can change you. Therefore, with an app like Toggl all could monitor themselves and have visual reports of their own work and productivity and in this way, they could be invested with a dose of consciousness and inspired to be productive, not just for the financial aspect but also for their own fulfillment.