It’s Official: Connected is a Remote-First Company.

December 9, 2021

Connected is excited to announce that, as of 2022, and for the long term, we will be shifting to a remote-first working model. 

Why have we made this decision? Simple. By going remote-first, we believe we can create a more dynamic workplace for our team, be better Product Thinkers, and, ultimately, build better products for our clients. 

In short, we believe that a remote-first approach is the future of product development, and we are excited to lead the way! So join us as we take you through our thinking behind the what, why, and how of the brave new world of remote-first product development.

Why The Shift?

By going remote-first, we aspire to create a better working environment for Connectors and yield greater outcomes for our clients. 

Specifically, we see these improvements happening across four broad dimensions:

1. Flexibility, Freedom, and Autonomy

The verdict is in: Connectors like working remotely (and we have the survey results to prove it). With no commute times, metro passes, or parking issues to worry about, working from home has allowed Connectors to be happier, more engaged, and more motivated as they work to perfect their craft. 

Working from home has also given Connectors the freedom to work according to their own idiosyncratic style. Whether they’re an early bird or night owl, or they prefer working at a standing desk or laid out on the couch, our new setup allows team members to find their own style and unlock better work overall. 

Finally, remote-first is a strong draw for acquiring new talent. With increasing competition for best-in-class product development talent (software developers, designers, product strategists, product managers, and researchers), the promise of flexibility is proving to be a clear advantage — especially when paired with the promise of meaningful, impactful work.

2. Performance-Based Measurement

Another benefit of going remote-first is that it forces us to measure the right things. 

In the traditional office setting, managers tend to rely on indirect metrics like office optics to evaluate performance. But in a work-from-home model, no such proxies are available. 

By going remote-first, managers are tasked with measuring impact directly. That means setting expectations clearly and holding teams accountable to outcomes all while assuring quality. 

While this may sound stressful for employees, the opposite is in fact the case: measuring performance instead of visibility means that team members perform through the work they do, rather than perform through presence.  This has an acceleration effect on an individual’s skillset. 

In short, going remote-first shifts managerial focus away from the crutch of measuring visibility to ensuring the right things actually get done. 

3. Added Dynamism & Agility

There’s no doubt about it: hybrid working models are more challenging than purely on-site or purely remote ones. But challenges like this are how we get better.

Our remote-first journey has only just begun, but the agility it requires is already forcing us to think more dynamically, plan with greater precision and, generally, refine our craft, which in turn is yielding better outcomes.

As a case in point, we have been forced to take a hard look at the product development techniques in the Product Thinking Playbook, evolving them from an ‘in-person’ to ‘remote-friendly’ setup. This overhaul has proven an invaluable update for us and our clients.

In short, the dizzying number of new working styles required to implement an effective remote-first approach is forcing us to be more thoughtful, more empathetic, and more strategic. As a product development firm, this kind of “process expertise” falls squarely in our wheelhouse and will only make us better.

4. Going Technology-First

The shift to remote-first isn’t just a shift in location. It’s a shift in mindset. As a leading product development services firm, it is incumbent upon us to live and breathe technology-driven experiences down to the smallest workflow. That means embracing remote, collaborative processes with open arms—even when the going gets tough.

Because when you are forced to coordinate different locations, teams, and time zones across complex client engagements using software, you are exercising a muscle that feeds directly into the work. Software isn’t just the way we do our work, after all: it’s also the work itself.

In other words, the more we rely on software as part of our everyday teamwork, the deeper our knowledge base becomes as it relates to discovering and delivering great products for our clients. 

Or, as we like to say: technology in, technology out.

To learn more about the benefits of hybrid and remote work for product companies, read “What Can Product Companies Learn from the Shift to Remote and Hybrid Work?” 

5. Unlocking remote-first for Our Partners 

We see Connected’s remote-first future as an opportunity for our clients to unlock the benefits of remote-first for themselves by learning first hand from our working model. With our approach of working intimately with our client partners, our clients will, through osmosis, gain a deeper understanding of the best-in-class practices necessary for making a remote-first culture work. 

In turn, we believe this will enable our clients to increase their own teams’ job satisfaction, hire best-in-class product builders, and, ultimately, build better products. 

What’s Changing?

Going remote-first doesn’t mean we’re going remote only. In fact, we estimate that most Connectors, depending on their role, should expect to attend in-person meetups with clients and teammates approximately 1-8 days per quarter, including a new and exciting company-wide annual event. 

The majority of team meetings, however, will be conducted remotely. That includes everything from weekly stand-ups and demos to clinics, engagement meetings, onboarding sessions, and beyond.

As for meeting with clients, remote-first will similarly become the default, although we will continue to meet clients in person where appropriate, using the Product Thinking Playbook to map out when we recommend one format as opposed to the other. 

The office, meanwhile, will remain open as a collaborative workspace, event space, and a resource for those who simply prefer not to work from home. To preserve and nurture Connected’s culture (for which we are well known), we will continue to experiment with layering in-person activities onto remote-only ones to leverage the best of each. 

How We’re Doing It

To make remote-first successful at Connected, we have evolved a number of practices and policies and are continuing to build on this. Here are just a few:

  • The Product Thinking Playbook techniques have been optimized for a remote-first approach
  • We are giving Connectors the freedom and choice to work where they will have the most personal and professional impact 
  • We have improved benefits and well-being programming, introducing well-being afternoons, a leading RRSP matching program, and company-wide raises
  • We have safely readied our office for hot desk usage and for safe in person collaboration 
  • We have diversified our talent base and expanded our geographic footprint, with Connectors currently based in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec, Nova Scotia, California, Michigan, and soon to Mexico City 

Needless to say, many of these new policies cost money. As we reduce our real estate footprint and scale back our global travel budget, we are excited to reinvest those funds into something that benefits our talent methods, and clients more directly. Simply put: We are investing in building better products.

Conclusion

Perfecting a remote-first culture won’t be easy. To do this right, we need to be exceptionally thoughtful about facilitating the best teamwork, establishing the best practices and cadences, and cultivating the best all-around “builder mindset.” 

Fortunately, as best-in-class Product Thinkers and Builders, that is exactly what we do best. 

Indeed, as we continue our transition toward a remote-first model, we are already beginning to see the fruits of our decision: we are building faster, smarter, and better every day. And if we continue to calibrate our practice just right—maximizing the benefits while minimizing the risks—then both we, and our clients, will experience even greater leaps in the quality of our craft, our output, and, most importantly, our client’s success in their efforts to release impactful products to their customers.

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