Lately, there seem to be more and more articles published online that try to cover reasons for why companies should let their employees work from home. Case in point.
On the flipside, there are other articles that are talking about more intensive and more frequently performance reviews. They’re also being called “The Neverending Performance Review.” Case in point.
As a disclaimer, having worked in the corporate world I understand both sides of this.
- I had the freedom to work from home as needed, though not every day,
- Performance reviews were done quarterly.
But in the last six and a half years, I’ve been working exclusively from home and I wouldn’t have it any other way. And it terms of performance reviews, I don’t have any real employees (though I do have some great contractors, for what it’s worth) for which I’d administer a performance review.
So I think those articles make for some good reading. I also thought that as I continue to try to write about running my own business within the WordPress space, it might be worth sharing my personal experience on slowly laying business foundations.
Maybe it’ll just be informative; maybe it’ll help others in a similar situation.
First, as I mentioned earlier, I have two contractors with which I work. The reason I don’t have official employees at this point is for a few reason:
- I’m growing Pressware at an exceptionally slow rate. This has to do with my Type-A personality, I think. I want to make sure the decisions I’m making for this business are laying a foundation for something for years to come.
- I’ve just adjusted the business plan for the business that I’ll be implementing in June. I’m fortunate to work with great companies like Reaktiv Studios and LiquidWeb as well as others. This provides challenging work with collaboration with great people.
- The way Pressware is shaping up, it’s turning more or less into a very specialized “agency.” (I use that term loosely.) It’s not in the sense that we take a project from beginning to end, do design, implementation, and delivery, but that we focus on application-like functionality that interfaces with other systems. in other words, we’re very much like an agency for hire as a “development department” for organizations.
Secondly, this provides for challenging work with new projects and it’s something that we really enjoy. But because I’m growing the business slowly, there’s not enough cash flow to pay the developers what I think they are worth.
So, for now, contracting works best. Plus, each of them is happy to have the freedom of contracting so they aren’t bound to a single company.
With that said, what are my thoughts on working from home, performance reviews, and so on.
Working From Home
Obviously, we’re a distributed team. At the time of this writing, one contractor, Eric, is in Virginia and Toby, the other is in Mexico.
We use Slack for communication, Asana for project management, and email to communicate with clients. It absolutely works with almost no headaches. It’s the brave new world.
Furthermore, I believe that many of us do our best work when we’re environments that are most comfortable to us. I’d rather have my music, natural light, and coffee so that I may focus on my work versus another environment with the noise of chatter, a gray color scheme, and a computer setup that isn’t tailored to my workflow.
But what works for me is not what works for others. So, to that end, I want them to have their own environments to do their best work. I’m less concerned about face time (which we can do via Slack calls) than I am about them doing their best work.
That’s what will help contribute to a successful, remote business. At least in so far as I’ve experienced.
I know some companies do this as a formality and some do it to truly improve the performance of their employees. I understand that. I’m not here to knock it (though I do cringe a bit at doing it “just because it’s something that we should do.”) Even still, I underwent my own and I administered my own.
But given Pressware’s current organizational structure, I don’t see a need to have a formal performance review. The team talks daily, I know who’s working on what, I know where I am with my own work, and I know the level of work, quality, and integrity each person has when we opt to work together.
The need for a performance review seems frivolous when we, as a team, are able to evaluate our progress throughout a project. We all know if we’re dropping the ball, if we’re making great progress, or if we need to course correct.
Furthermore, I’m fortunate enough to work with guys who are straightforward in saying where they are struggling with something. Which is good, because I have to share the same concerns sometimes. And in those cases, what’s there to review but one another’s code?
Ultimately, I don’t need to do any performance reviews because we’re touching base on a weekly, if not daily basis. Plus, we have enough information hooked up to Slack to monitor commits, deploys, bugs, comments, etc.
“But You’re Not a Large Company”
Not, we’re not. And I know the comparison between what we do versus a large organization is very, very different. In fact, it’s not even a valid comparison.
But don’t write off what I’m trying to say here.
The bottom line is that if you’re working in the WordPress space as a freelancer or as a small business owner, there are ways that you can build a business that doesn’t have to conform to what might be considered the norm.
The best advice I can give at the time of this writing is:
- Have a clear idea as to the type of developer, designer, implementer, whatever you want to hire,
- Look for referrals from other trusted people in the space,
- Chat with the person via the Internet (preferably via voice) to get a feel for their personality,
- Try to discover their work ethic, examine any pre-existing code on GitHub,
- Learn about their motivations and why they want to do what they are doing as well as their aspirations to get better.
I’m sure others can recommend more examples but these are the five things I’ve found to be the best ways to contract talent. No, there’s no whiteboard interview about it’s not writing regular expresses to parse a timezone from a third-party API but that’s okay. Because the people who are smart and get things done will do just that.
Again, this isn’t to say this way is better than how large companies do it or even how your company might do it (I’m all ears on questions and comments) The point is that if you’re in a similar situation, perhaps this perspective can help you go a little further faster.