There are undeniable advantages of working with a global team that can keep your company running at all hours. But juggling time zones can quickly become a headache—or a significant source of burnout—without a flexible plan.
In the fourth episode of the “Remotely Possible” podcast, I spoke with Zach Rattner, Co-Founder & Chief Technology Officer at Yembo, to discuss how his global team keeps projects moving seamlessly without forcing a structure that frustrates them. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation, including how he builds connections with his remote team and the importance of asking for feedback.
Introducing Zach and His Fully Remote Team
Yembo is a computer vision company providing estimation services for home services brands (primarily moving and property insurance companies). Its team of approximately 70 people is fully remote, spanning India, the Philippines, Ukraine, and the U.S.
“If we’re starting a new product, it’s always an inconvenient time for somebody. We’ve had to put together processes and workflows so that people are able to be productive and make meaningful progress when it’s not business hours somewhere else,” Zach said. “I feel like the benefits way outweigh the cons and that you can make 24-hour progress without burning anybody out because everyone’s working an eight-hour day.”
Zach and his team have developed a strategy that empowers each department to decide how they work, focusing on flexibility.
“You should strive for harmony, not homogeneity. Things don’t have to be identical across different teams, but everyone needs to get along,” he said. “One-size-fits-all solutions compromise something in a way that leave things to be desired. Letting each department head figure out what their team needs to do has been a bit more impactful for us. [We’re] able to be flexible and nimble and adapting to the needs of folks on the team, as opposed to trying to impose a top-down organizational structure that makes nobody happy at the end of the day.”
How To Build Connections And Stay Efficient When Working Remotely
Savvy remote work leaders understand that teams must come together occasionally for some work or at least to get to know each other. And there needs to be a budget for this.
“Shared experiences are what drive a team to gel. If you are remote and not careful about this, you don’t have shared experiences; everybody is a Slack interruption in your day, a little red blip that can show up in the corner,” Zach said. “We aim to go out of our way to make opportunities so that people can get to know each other, get to know each other’s strengths.”
Yembo hosts an annual company retreat, YemboCon, and quarterly executive offsites. If teams are facing a particular problem that’s easier to solve in-person, there is a process to request an offsite. The key, however, is that Zach prioritizes free time during all company offsites.
“The unstructured time is actually super productive,” he said. “You have a unique opportunity when you’re a remote company and you bring everyone together, so I’ve been focusing less on trying to pack the schedule with all these productive outcomes—work meetings and things like that. Leaving enough room in the schedule so people don’t feel overwhelmed. And not just making that OK, but encouraged.”
During day-to-day operations, Zach’s leadership team prioritizes clear communication across teams, ensuring everyone understands what they need to do when they first sign on for the day. Part of this involves using the right tools to assign work and communicate updates, and Zach shares his tech stack in the recording.
“If someone’s on vacation, they shouldn’t have to go read 100 messages and scroll back to figure out what went on,” he said. “The end result should be somewhere that they can pick it up.”
At the end of project planning meetings, to foster an environment of continuous improvement, Zach surveys his team to understand if they gained value from the meeting, asking:
- Did you get what you needed out of it?
- Was it helpful?
- What would we have done better?
For more of Zach’s insights into running an effective remote team, listen to the Remotely Possible Podcast, episode 4. You can also read his book Grow Up Fast: Lessons From An AI Startup to learn more about the challenges his team has overcome.
Interested in sharing your distributed work experience with our listeners? Apply to be my guest for a future episode.