Buffer is a fully distributed team. It’s a decision I had to make at the end of 2012, and it’s interesting to reflect on that decision now. I am happy to report that I am in love with the choice we made to be distributed all across the world.
When I say we’re a distributed team, I mean that we’re literally spread across the whole planet. Buffer is a team of 25 right now, and here are the locations of our team members.
6 reasons being distributed is so exciting
I think the distributed team discussion is often focused around the challenges. I wanted to share from our experience the fun side of being distributed, which I think far outweighs the challenges:
1. Our team is super productive
The thing about hiring people for a distributed team is that they need to be self-motivated and productive working at home, coffee shops or a co-working space.
We have a 45-day contract period to see how this goes and we look especially for people who have worked as freelancers or on startups. Everyone on board is incredibly smart and it’s humbling to work with them.
2. Team members have incredible amounts of freedom
Have a family event coming up and need to travel on Friday? No problem. Want to take off to Bali or Gran Canaria for a few weeks and work from there? Awesome – please share photos :) These things have all happened and are regular occurrences within our distributed team.
It’s the little things too, like being able to avoid a commute and spend more time with family. We don’t have working hours and we don’t measure hours at all. We’re all excited about our vision and we focus on results, balance, and sustained productivity.
3. It feels like the future
Even being able to share the locations of all my co-workers when I meet others and chat about Buffer is so much fun and exciting. I think it provides a great story, rather than all of us being in the same office each day.
People ask how we manage it and I share our workflows and tools. We call HipChat our office, and Sqwiggle is our conference room. Here’s a look at all of us on a regular day:
I genuinely believe that how we’re set up will be very normal in a few years. There are certainly challenges and we’re still figuring a lot of it out. It’s fun and a huge privilege to be able to be part of this innovation and experiment and share our learnings.
4. I’m learning so much about the world
People within the team speak lots of different languages and talking with each other we learn about what it’s like to grow up elsewhere in the world. We think carefully about shaping our culture further and how our choices might affect the various cultures within the team.
5. We travel the world to work together 3 times a year
Part of the DNA of Buffer is that we traveled all over the world for much of the first two years. This is something that has been sustained and is part of our values (and many in the team have lived up to this value by traveling as part of the team).
In order to have deliberate face-to-face time together to bond and have fun, we have multiple Buffer retreats per year, where we gather the whole team in a single location.
We spend a week working together and also do activities like sightseeing, boating and safaris. Most recently we gathered in Cape Town, South Africa, and we’ll be getting together again this fall in New York City!
6. Timezones make you awesome
Finally, you can look at timezones as an inconvenience, or you can embrace them and discover the magic of the time difference.
A key part of our vision is to set the bar for customer support. We obsessively track the happiness of our customers and our speed to respond to them. We have more than a million users and we reply to 80% of emails within 1 hour. We couldn’t achieve this level of service without being spread across multiple timezones.
Timezones are a huge help for our development cycle too – with engineers in the US, UK, Asia and Africa, we literally never stop coding.
Here’s a look at all our various time zones in a neat app created by Dan.
Do you have experience of working in or growing a fully distributed team? Or do you have any thoughts about working in this way? I’d love to hear from you.