Remote culture at DigitalOcean is one of my favorite things to talk about when discussing my job. When I first joined the company in June of 2015, there was already a substantial percentage of existing remote employees (better known as our “remotees”). Working with the remotees wasn’t initially a part of my function, but as a member of the Employee Experience Team, I gradually found myself getting to know many of them more personally. I learned about their experiences as distributed employees, some of their pain points, and how it influences their engagement.
Since I've never been remote, I educated myself on best practices for companies with remote employees and how we could expand our top-notch employee experience to those outside of our HQ.
Two and a half years later, our remotee population totals over 200 employees, making up over 50% of our employees, and our program has grown to support both the needs of our business and those who work remotely. To date, remotees score higher in engagement than any other subgroup at the company. This has been attributed to the attention and effort we have actively given to support the remotee experience.
Here’s what we learned and how we adjusted our efforts to better support the remotee experience:
“Watercooler talk” is an important aspect of working in-office, and it’s a practice that companies seeking to become more remote-friendly have trouble replicating. Being able to easily communicate with other colleagues helps improve team bonds and makes people feel part of the company fabric. At DO, we use several different mediums to avoid having remotees excluded from conversation and risking having information fall through the cracks:
While most of our teams at DigitalOcean are comprised of both in-office and remote employees, there is definite value in giving teams the opportunity to get together in person at different times during the year. Here are the processes we have in place to ensure teams get face time:
While some companies see working from home as a perk in and of itself, we recreate many of the in-office perks and make them available to remotees. This is key to building a cohesive company culture and experience, and one where remotees feel engaged with the company at large.
Our remotes are able to participate in our workstation program, where they get access to different monitors, mouse/keyboards, and trackpads for their home offices, as well as credit up to $100 for headphones of their choice. The equivalent of our commuter benefit for in-house employees is providing remotes a credit toward the cost of either their monthly internet bill or their monthly coworking space membership. Additionally, remotes can opt into a monthly subscription snack box (because snacks are awesome!). Finally, DO covers travel and per diem costs, and provides accommodation at our corporate apartments for remotee visits to HQ.
DigitalOcean’s employee experience programs strives to be inclusive of all of our employees. We do this by keeping both the needs of in-office and remote employees in mind, and by adjusting our programs as needed to ensure they can change and scale with our growing organization. Removing obstacles to communication between people in our offices and remotes is essential for building cohesion across teams and to help everyone be the most productive employee they can be, no matter where they’re located.
Amanda Brazzell is DigitalOcean’s Office Experience Team Lead. She has helped build an effective Remote Experience program that drives dispersed employee engagement and job satisfaction. Amanda is a California native who moved to NYC without having ever visited the city before, and has been at DO since 2015.