The REWORK podcast

A podcast about a better way to work and run your business. We bring you stories and unconventional wisdom from Basecamp’s co-founders and other business owners.

BONUS EPISODE

Out in the Open

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In a bonus conversation with Sarah Park of MeetEdgar, she talks about making the company handbook public and why they have a policy of opening up meetings and conversations to everyone.


The Full Transcript:

Wailin: [00:00:00] Welcome to a special bonus episode of Rework, a podcast by Basecamp about the better way to work and run your business. I’m Wailin Wong. Last week you heard part of a conversation I had with Sarah Park, she works at MeetEdgar, which is a remote company that makes software for managing and publishing social media posts. And we wanted to bring you more of the conversation I had with her about the company culture that they’ve cultivated at MeetEdgar, especially around transparency and openness. So, we started off by talking about MeetEdgar’s company handbook, which is actually publicly available.

Sarah: [00:00:37] The handbook came about pretty early. For people who are working remotely, the thing that’s difficult sometimes is to know whether or not you’re meeting expectations and if the things that you’re working on are in alignment with what the people around you are expecting you to do.

[00:00:57] So we really wanted to put the handbook together just to give people a good head start as to how we as a company want to be viewing the problems that we’re working on. How we as a company want to be approaching the things that we’re doing day to day. And what our priorities are. Just to kind of get everybody on the same page from day one.

[00:01:15] One thing that’s like, I think not a lot of people really talk about is, when you’re working in a remote company, it’s really great when you get hired and then you start thinking about the first day at work and you’re wondering where you’re supposed to go or how you’re supposed to show up. And it’s… we really recognized that all leading up to the offer and accepting the offer, everything’s really laid out really clearly. And then your first day comes and there’s this scramble of like, who do I email? And how does somebody know that I’m showing up and what time do I show up? And we wanted to make a day one document, like basically your quick start guide to showing up at work on your first day. So…

Wailin: [00:01:56] I did really like that section you had on what to expect on your first day and here’s a general timeframe that we would expect you to log in, because you’re right. That stuff doesn’t get said sometimes ‘cause everyone’s just used to a certain way of doing things. And then if you’re that new person, you’re feeling so awkward. Like, do I… how do I even say good morning, let everyone know I’m at my desk?

Sarah: [00:02:19] Yeah, it’s really interesting, because I think, too, when you are used to the day to day of working remotely, you are not really anticipating some of the questions that people have. So I do know, you know, the first time somebody asked me, “Oh, um, should I just log into my email then? Or you know, what do I do?”

[00:02:39] I recognize like, Oh wow, okay. If you’ve never worked remotely in your life, you don’t really realize that yeah, people are going to see when you log in on Slack, that light’s going to turn green and people will know that you’re there. And, I realized that there had been a lot of people who had started and just sort of turned the tools on and then sat there and weren’t really sure if it was okay to, you know, bother somebody. Or if they were going to be annoying if they private message somebody…

[00:03:06] So we really just wanted to make all of the steps really clear and to make sure that people didn’t have to guess if what they were doing was the right thing.

Wailin: [00:03:15] And was it the plan to make the handbook public from day one or did that come later?

Sarah: [00:03:19] It wasn’t on our plan in the very beginning to make the handbook public. But once we had the resource put together and you know, we’re sharing it with our team and we were sharing with people who are joining the company, what we started realizing was that it was a really interesting resource for people to be reading as they were interviewing with the company as well. So we started by sharing it with people who were interested in working with the company. And then we realized that we were getting a lot of questions from other businesses who are in a similar position, who weren’t sure how they could get their teams all on the same page about values are about how they want to operate are or what they believe in.

[00:04:00] it just kind of came naturally to us that we thought it’d be a great resource to share publicly and give people a little bit more insight into who we were as a company.

[00:04:10] Transparency plays a big role in how we operate. And again, this just stems primarily from the fact that we work remotely. There’s so much time that people at our company are on their own where there’s not necessarily somebody there who’s going to catch them if they’re veering the wrong way for too long. So, when you’re working by yourself in your own home office or a co-working space, I think it can be pretty easy to forget that you’re a part of a bigger team or to remember that there are resources available to you that you can reach out to when you’re sort of spinning your wheels on something. So, we really wanted to give people at our company the tools to make bigger decisions about what they were doing in their work throughout the day and to catch themselves before they veered too far in a direction where they were unsure.

[00:05:08] So, that’s a big reason why we make an active decision within our company every day, not to withhold information. We just really want everybody on our team to feel like they have everything that they need in order to do their jobs well and to make sure that the decisions they’re making are being made from a place where they’re feeling fully informed about the stakes.

[00:05:31] I think, you know, the transparency thing, just generally, it just is a better business decision for us to not withhold information for our team. It’s faster, it’s more efficient. And the people who are closer to the day to day work that needs to get done, they’re the ones who are really going to be able to make the smarter decisions. So, if we just give them all of the information that they need to function well and efficiently and operate smoothly, then it just works better for us.

Wailin: [00:06:00] Yeah, I saw in your handbook that you really encourage any work conversations to be held in public, right? That you kind of actively discourage a private conversations unless it’s something of a really personal nature like HR, right?

Sarah: [00:06:14] Yes, that’s definitely true. So, there’s the big difference—I think, though, that I want to point out between having those discussions publicly versus everybody in the company feeling like they need to make sure that they are aware of all of those decisions. So, we do encourage everybody at our company to have conversations publicly in Slack, but we do keep our Slack channels organized in a way where if something is not that pertinent to your day-to-day work, it’s pretty easy to just mute and to know that the right people are involved in those conversations and you’re not tasked with the responsibility of weighing in on everything.

[00:06:55] I kind of think that a lot of people here are sort of guideline around keeping everything public in Slack and think that that can be really distracting. But we tend to keep things organized and it’s just, it’s more for public record.

Wailin: [00:07:10] And then another interesting thing I think I read is that meetings are open, right? So, if you’re curious about what another team is working on or you think you might want to get involved, it’s always like a standing invitation to just join a meeting.

Sarah: [00:07:23] Yeah. We keep a Google calendar that has all of our company meetings on it. And, if you see a meeting going on that you think you might be… you might want to contribute to, or maybe you just want to be a fly on the wall and just hear what’s going on, about, you know, the topic that is being talked about. Everybody’s welcome to jump in and listen. Again, this is another thing that I think people sort of hear about and think can be kind of distracting. But the real message there is just for everybody to understand that you, no one’s being purposefully left out of a conversation. In general, you can keep focused on your own day-to-day work, but, if there’s some overlap there that you think is going to help you in the future, that you’re a hundred percent welcome to listen in on a conversation or have a say in what happens next.