In our digital era, it’s more and more common for companies to go completely virtual. The benefits this business model offers are many, but running a truly virtual company also has many challenges. From managing time differences, creating cohesive teams, and analyzing productivity results, these companies have their work cut out for them.
The top 10 biggest virtual companies to date are:
- Scopic Software – 230 employees
- Articulate – 169 employees
- 10up.com – 120 employees
- Clevertech – 119 employees
- Basecamp – 114 employees
- Buffer – 112 employees
- X-Team – 104 employees
- Scrapinghub – 99 employees
- Zapier – 89 employees
- Collage.com – 77 employees
- Fire Engine RED – 70 employees
So, how do these virtual leaders make it work? They all seem have a few basic principles in mind to maintain success.
Trust is Key
Trust is everything when dealing with remote workers. Micromanagers need not apply. Once tasks and projects are assigned, workers then have the responsibility of completing them, and managers don’t have the luxury of dropping by their desks. Of course, progress can be tracked, but actual working hours are left up to the employees themselves. If an employee is slacking off, they are still expected to complete the task by the due date. In order for a remote worker to maintain a strong relationship, they need to be productive, as well as honest about their hours. Zapier may have said it best: “hire people you trust, trust the people you hire”.
When you lead an officeless existence, “face-time” and busy-work are almost non-existent. Virtual businesses value both individual and team output more than they value the punching in and out of a time card. To properly track productivity, virtual companies use project management tools as an office substitute. Zapier swears by Trello, and Scopic Software trusts their productivity with Teamwork.
Virtual teams need everyone to be on the same page. Every single one of these top 10 virtual companies takes communication very seriously. With the help of a few tools, remote teams maintain a constant stream of communication both within the company and with their external clients. Scopic, Articulate, 10 Up, Buffer, Scrapinghub and Zappier, for example, use real-time communication tools, like Slack and Skype, to facilitate communication.
Create a Community
Every single one of these virtual companies fully embraces diversity and seeks to promote a community feel. However, this isn’t as easy as having beers on Fridays or game night on Wednesdays. Remote teams have to work a bit harder to create a cohesive group, especially when those groups are compiled of 100’s of employees from different backgrounds scattered around the world. To build a community-type culture, Collage.com’s entire staff gets together once a year; Fire Engine Red performs company-wide challenges to engage the team; and Scopic arranges co-working and networking Meet-Ups for employees living in the same country. Others, like X- team, work on their motivation with virtual team-building exercises and online learning.
Promoting Healthy Living
Working remotely is no easy task, and it isn’t for everyone. Burnout and isolation cause problems for many, especially those located outside of larger cities. Some of these virtual giants like 10 Up, Clevertech and Buffer, use their blogs to open discussions about remote work, and provide best practices for their teams. To promote healthy remote working, these organizations encourage frequent breaks, interactive Skype and Slack conversations, and Meet-Ups when possible. To avoid burnout, Clevertech actively encourages their employees to create a healthy work schedule conducive to their employee’s lifestyle and needs.
The top 10 largest virtual companies seem to share quite a bit when it comes to founding principles and practice. They must be doing something right, because they continue to experience success and growth at a breakneck pace. As technology continues to advance and remote work grows as an option, we are sure there will be more companies to add to this list. Will yours be one of them?