In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about remote work worries? Are people working hard enough?

Remote teams are relatively a new thing in the startup world, and deciding whether to allow your staff to work remotely can be a challenge. Questions about managing team members while they are working remotely are inevitably going to come up and how you address these issues is important.

In this week’s episode, Steli and Hiten talk about founders concerns about implementing remote teams, how some people are better at working remotely than others, why hiring the right people is very important for remote teams and much more. 

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic.

00:35 Why this topic was chosen.

01:10 Hiten’s thoughts on how to handle remote working.

02:36 How some people are better at working remotely than others.

02:58 Qualities a good remote worker needs to have.

03:15 The number one challenge of remote working.

03:34 How managing a remote team is ultimately the same as managing a non-remote team.

04:07 Why having good processes is important for remote teams.

05:29 Why hiring the right people is very important for remote teams.

07:21 Why Steli doesn’t worry about his remote teams. 

3 Key Points:

  • I don’t hear this specifically because I think people are not just willing to ask me.
  • There are certain people who are better at remote working than others.
  • The ability to direct themselves and be proactive about getting things done it super important.


Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.


Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.


Steli Efti: And today on The Startup Chat we’re going to talk about remote work worries. Are your people working hard enough? Here’s why I wanted to briefly talk to you about this. This should be a fun little episode. This is the number one… I don’t know what your number one thing is that founders ask you regarding to remote work, but the number one thing founders and CEOs ask me when they meet me somewhere and they learn that I run a fully remote company. The number one thing that they seem to be worried about is that they, and usually they lower their voice and they look me deep in the eye and they look around as if it’s some kind of a dangerous thing to say. They look around and they go, “How do you know these people are actually working hard enough?” And I’ll tell you what my answer to this is, but I would die to hear two things from you first Heaton. Number one, do people ask you this as much as they ask me as well? I mean, I also direct a lot more internationally with people. This might be much more something people bring up in Europe than they do in the U.S and I would assume in the Bay Area it would be even less. But I’m not sure, so I’m curious. So do you hear this often or as often as I do or at all? And then what would your response be to this particular concern of remote work? And then I’ll give you my…


Hiten Shah: Yeah, I don’t hear this. I don’t hear this specifically because I think people are just not willing to ask because I think people are just not willing to ask me. And I also live in the Bay Area where even if people were thinking that, they probably wouldn’t ask unless they were… I have been asked it. When people are considering going remote, that’s the situation I’ve been asked similar things. But then it’s very tactical about, not out of curiosity, but out of, “Hey, how do I deal with these things that are easier right now when I’m remote? So right now I’m not remote. Our team’s not remote, we will be remote. How do I deal with these thing?” And so if the question is very specific like you said, my response to it would be, there’s a bunch of things you do. Well, one, there are certain people who are better at remote than not. And there are certain characteristics about it that make them great at it. And one of them is an ability to communicate about their work. What they’re working on, what the status of it is without a tool. So, how do you determine that someone can do that is a big one. That relates to them being self-directed, as in the ability to just direct themselves and be proactive about getting things done. Or asking when they don’t have things to do and they want more and they need more. Right? So, it boils down to, because the number one challenge with remote work ends up being communication. No matter how you slice it, all the studies, all the reports end up being communication. So, I think the reason people ask it is it’s so much easier to go walk over to someone’s desk or even just look over their shoulder, or talk to them at lunch, or go on a walk with them and just figure out what they’re working on. We’re not used to bugging people on Slack in general. And we have all these bad words for things that I think are just work like micromanaging and things like that. And it’s like ultimately the way you make sure people are working in a remote environment is the same way that you make sure people are working in a non-remote environment in my opinion. Which is you have such good process that you just know what everyone’s working on. I mean, I used to say this back in the day where like I, and I still believe it. I can walk into an office, walk to some random person, ask them basically what are they working on, why are they working on it? And if I just get answers to those two questions, I pretty much know everything about the culture of the company. Everything I need to know about the work culture, about getting work done. And so an example is what are they working on? Well, do they have a clear crisp reason why and how it impacts the business? Yes or no? Number two, why are they working on it? Are they saying they’re working on it because someone told them to work on it or because it’s a right thing to do for the business? That’s it.


Steli Efti: I love it. I love it. That’s super powerful. That alone is such a great framework. I’ll tell you what I tell people that come to me with that particular worry. At the end of the day it’s about… There’s a lot of things that you can do as a company in terms of the technologies that we use to make fully… The processes that we use and the culture that we have to make everybody’s work incredibly transparent. So there’s no place to hide because everybody’s work is so obvious on the table for everybody else to see. But I think more importantly, the very first thing that you have to do and the reason why we never had a problem with this is you hire the right people. And for us, one of the things that bounds us all in our culture and the kind of company that we work on is that, we do, we love to hire people that live full lives, that have hobbies beyond their work, that travel. A lot of people in our company have families and children and like a really full life. But what also connects us all is that we are, to some degree, incredibly passionate about work. And many of us are, if you want to use a negative word for it, workaholics or would be tagged a type of workaholics because we love our work. And so I tell people that we select the type of people that are passionate about their work, that have a track record of being passionate about their work, of being prolific around their work, of being productive at work. They have a track record. That these types of people, they leave a trail, right? And so when you interview them, you can look at the amount of work and the quality of work they’ve done and you can see the drive and the progression in their career, and you can tell that these people are passionate about their work and they’re willing to be part of something great. And so, for that type of person, my biggest worry with our people and with our team and with myself is not, are we working hard enough? It’s mostly, and usually who is overdoing it, who’s working too much? And so we have like, we had to come up with all these internal processes to make sure that we have red flags and yellow flags that pop up when somebody isn’t taking enough breaks, isn’t taking enough vacation days. In some cases, we’re very casual process between the three co-founders, between the three of us. Many times we had to force one of the three of us to take a vacation. We’re like, “All right, this is it. Next week you’re off from work. Find something fun to do but you need a break. You need it now.” Like we’ve been taking care of each other and have protected each other from overworking ourselves. And so, the reason I’ve never been worried about our people working hard enough, one, is we just don’t hire people that need to be monitored and motivated every day. Otherwise, they can’t work. That are not honest, transparent and authentic and don’t have the type of integrity that they would want to take advantage of you and lie and do pretend they’re working for you while they’re working somewhere else or whatever. We spend so much time trying to get to know somebody before we make a decision to offer them a job that these kind of, these big issues of not having trustworthy people and not having people that care about their career and their work when these things are never an issue, you don’t have the issue of like, “Oh, I don’t know if the people that I pay a salary to, just because I don’t see them in an office, I don’t know if they’re working.” It’s never been our problem. And then when you have, as a modern remote company, when you use the software, the tools, the processes to have real or to have a ton of transparency internally when it comes to people’s work, there’s no place to hide from people because of that. You take those two things together and really honestly in, I don’t know, in now seven, eight years, seven years maybe of running a fully remote company, are people working hard enough has never been the top of my mind as a big concern or a big issue. We’re never going to run into this as a big issue. So if you select the right people, that is the 80/20 that makes all the difference in the world and it’s definitely made one for us. So when founders whisper in my ear, “How do you know these people really work and aren’t you worried that they’re not working enough?” I always tell them my biggest worry is they’re working too much. Not too little.


Hiten Shah: Yeah. That makes sense.


Steli Efti: You go, that’s it from us for this episode. We’ll hear you very soon.


Hiten Shah: See you.