Fully Remote App and Web Development Agency
Stanwood is a fully remote app and web development agency with 20+ professional designers, developers and product managers. Their remote team is covering 18 locations across 9 countries and they also have development hubs in Berlin, London, Tel Aviv and Warsaw.
Most people work from home
Most of Stanwood’s 20+ team members work from their homes and have at least a dedicated desk if not a room for working.
They’re also renting some desks at co-working spaces for team members who enjoy working in a more busy environment. As loneliness can be the most difficult part of remote work, it can be healthy to get out of the house at least once in a while.
Working with a view. Ubud, Bali. Did you notice the monkey in the background?
“The luxury of working remotely is to choose flexibly where you can work best in that situation,” says Hannes Kleist, who is the CEO of the company, about which places they prefer for work. This means you don’t have to choose where you work. Start a week in a co-working space, spend a couple of days at home and end Friday in a nice coffee shop.
This kind of flexibility is built right into remote work. Work locations depend often on person’s mood or a weather season.
Stanwood illustrates nicely the awesomeness of remote work: “Some of our team members love to work outside in their gardens or on their balconies during summer, some do workations and join our weekly video calls with a nasty palm tree and beach background."
“I have my desk with three monitors set up in the middle of our open plan living room because I want to be a part of family life when my kids are home,” describes Stanwood’s CEO his workplace, but adds that this is not for everyone, “My wife for example is a copywriter and locks herself into her home office upstairs to stay focused.”
There’s a huge value in dedicated or at least a familiar workplace. Their experience has taught them that when working from coffee shops while travelling you’ll have to deal with bad wifi connection, find a comfy seat and tune out of the buzz around you – there are just a lot of distractions that people need to deal with, so most aren’t as focused and effective as they would be in a more dedicated surrounding.
One of the perks of remote work – having the flexibility to spend precious time with your kids. Does that mean they work less? No! But they work differently. If remote work is well-organized, your work is more focused, you're more productive and generate more output in less time compared to an office job with constant distractions, long meetings and daily commuting times.
Developers need time for deep work
Video calls are an important part of every remote team. It helps to build a strong remote company culture and team spirit. Stanwood is mostly discussing project and company related topics in video calls and use Slack for posting status updates, sharing company news or new tech stuff and other fun things with the remote team.
“That’s a fun environment to work in, it’s good for the team spirit, for building a remote company culture and it gives us a feeling of belonging,” describes CEO the importance of Slack.
They see the value of deep focus time:
“To produce great quality code, developers need time slots where they can dive deep into a problem and get lost in the task at hand.”
Stanwood arrived to Bali for the Running Remote conference.
This is something that a lot of developers value. Often managers need answers to questions quickly and it can be really hard for developers to quickly switch from a coding topic to chatting about a problem.
It’s important to find the balance as it’s not often possible to just switch off from all communication channels for a longer period of time.
“That’s a challenge for a software development agency like us with many different projects and clients who want us to respond quickly to their requests.”
Stanwood’s policy is that people need reply to a message aimed at their personal handle within 2 hours, but it’s totally okay to answer “ok, got it – will get back to you tomorrow”. This helps the remote development agency to ensure their team members get deep work done, but also keep in touch with fellow team members.
Remote hiring process can be tough
It can be hard to decide if a person fits the team when meeting in real life and it can be even harder remotely. Stanwood has established a quite long and thorough hiring process to make sure that they get to know the person as best as possible.
Candidates have to do interviews with five different people, among them are future colleagues, team leads and even the CEO. This helps to make sure that they get to know the person as much as possible, but more importantly – to eliminate the personal bias.
“Did you know people decide within ten seconds if they want to hire a person or not? The rest of the time, they subconsciously try to justify their decision,” explains Hannes.
But people shouldn’t get intimidated with remote company’s hiring process as it really works both ways – while the company wants to know the person, the future employee also wants to know the company to make sure that they would be a good match.
“Don’t try to impress us and pretend to be someone you are not,” recommends Hannes to be yourself, “It will come out over time and bite you and us in the ass.”
People will be hired with all their strengths and weaknesses and everyone makes mistakes: “The important thing is to analyze those mistakes and learn from them. That’s the only way to become better developers, managers and people.”
Workation with a view.
“Video intros are a nice gimmick to stand out in the first selection round,” says Hannes, "but skills, personality and experience are what really count. “Videos show an image of what a candidate wants us to see, but we want to get to know the whole person, not just the image of who this person wants to show us."
While this can be a lenghty process, Stanwood hires a person only when all five interviews want to hire the person. This is what they call a “Hell Yeah” criteria: “If there’s just one who’s against the decision, we don’t hire the person”. Wrong staffing decisions cost much more time and money than taking your time until you find the perfect candidate.