How to Encourage Accountability in Your Remote Team, with Chase Warrington

Gabriela Molina
Chase Warrington is the Head of Remote at Doist, the creators of Todoist & Twist, supporting 25M+ customers, and a leading remote-first organization with 100+ employees spread throughout 30+ countries, spanning all time zones. He is a globally minded professional with nearly 15 years of remote work experience leading distributed teams from locations across the US, Europe, Asia, and South America.
Chase Warrington

Read the transcript

Luis:

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to another episode of the DistantJob podcast, your podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. I am your host, as usual, Luis. And today, I have with me Chase Warrington. Chase is the head of Remote at Doist. So Chase, welcome to the show.

Chase Warrington:

Yeah, thanks, Luis. Nice to meet you. Excited to chat about some remote work stuff. That’s what I love to nerd out on.

Luis:

You’re the right person to talk about it because, I mean, Doist is according to their website, building the future of work, right? So, that’s definitely something that’s worth chatting about. And you, as head of remote, are… Love having you on the show. So, I think that the place to begin, if you don’t mind… Let’s start in two phases. First, I’d like to know how you came to remote work and how has remote work shaped your career. And then I want to go more specifically on the position head of remote, and now one goes about becoming a head of remote and what are responsibilities of a head of remote, because that’s a position that really came into being right in the last three years or so, right?

Chase Warrington:

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, it’s still fresh. We’re still figuring it out ourselves, so it’s a iterative work in progress. But yeah, I mean, to answer your first question, remote work’s been at the center of my focus since I started my career, and maybe even before then. When I was coming out of university back in 2008, I just couldn’t fathom going to sit in a cube and commute to an office and I needed to get out and move my legs, and I really was excited about the idea of starting my career. I was pretty hungry to get going, but I also knew that there were some aspects of the traditional workspace, which just didn’t sit well with me at the time though, there wasn’t really a remote work world. There wasn’t a lot of opportunities, and it wasn’t really assumed that you could find remote work. It was very alternative.

I managed to get a remote job, and so I’ve always worked remotely, but at that time, I was working for a hybrid organization. I was one of the few remote people. And I was still geographically bound to the US. So, the first chapter of my career was of in that environment. And eventually, I needed to stretch my legs even further. I really wanted location independence, flexibility. I didn’t know what the nonlinear work day meant at that time. I didn’t classify it that way, but I wanted more flexibility over when and where I worked. And so eventually found Doist, which fully embraces remote work and work from wherever you want. And we completely asynchronous or almost completely asynchronous. So, we really embraced the non-linear workday, and that was what really attracted me. And so I moved in that direction and came to work for Doist and eventually became the head of remote here.

Luis:

Got it, got it. So, why was that first… And just in case I missed it, what was that first job that you had that was remote job? Was the job doing what? I mean, I know that your degree is in risk management, so maybe it was just doing what you actually… Unlike me, who I did a degree and then I found a completely different job, right? Maybe that was just what you did, but I’m curious. Because like you said, in 2008, there’s not a lot of career paths that would allow for remote.

Chase Warrington:

Right. Yeah, yeah, exactly. So, what I did was… I was very focused on that, and a lot of the job offers that… I studied risk management, which is a sector of finance and insurance and the science of how those things work behind the scenes. Very boring for a lot of people, I’m sure. But alongside that, I also studied international business. And so that was my real passion. I actually had a really strong interest in working abroad, studying abroad, languages. I wanted to be surrounded by people from other countries and cultures and things like that. So, that was my real interest. And there was a opportunity to work with an organization you may know Lloyd’s of London, which is based out of London, and worked with a brokerage in the US that basically played the middleman between Lloyd’s in London and US customers.

So, they gave me that international capability and I was able to travel a lot with that job. And so anyway, I was able to basically just work from home. There was no need for me to come to an office because I was traveling all the time. So, yeah, that was kind of the short story.

Luis:

How did you manage back then when there was nothing, no tools, no tools for remote work?

Chase Warrington:

And also working in a very synchronous… That’s not an industry that’s known for laxing off. I mean, it’s a pretty competitive industry. Kind of think of the Wall Street of the insurance world. And so pretty competitive, pretty high velocity, and pretty synchronous, a lot of face to face meetings, a lot of be expecting to answer the phone or return emails very quickly, working late, working early. I worked for a company that was very forward thinking in terms of work life balance and things like that. And at the same time, that just was the environment that the industry was in. So, yeah, I mean, it was funny to try to mix these two things. There were no best practices out. There weren’t a lot of people talking about even things like work life balance, much less how to manage an asynchronous work day or anything like that. So, I was winging it completely. And I tell people often, I spent the first seven or eight years working remotely, really not knowing what I was doing. Probably very not productive in retrospect. So, I’ve learned a lot along the way.

Luis:

Well, you were living in the future, literally, right?

Chase Warrington:

Yeah.

Luis:

I have a bit of that sense because I started in remote work around the time you did, actually, on one of the few places that allowed for remote work, which is the video game media industry, just by the fact that most places couldn’t afford to have a proper reduction, so all the contributors worked online, right? So, it wasn’t for a glamorous reason. It wasn’t because people cared about work life balance or were forward thinking. It was just, oh, we can’t afford the reduction, so if you’re writing or managing content writers, you do it from home. Welcome to the internet.

Chase Warrington:

Also working in the future.

Luis:

Yeah, exactly. So yeah, it was definitely, it was very interesting to see things evolve. But back then, I don’t know about you, but I certainly did not have a term for I was doing, I was just working on projects over the internet. I didn’t know what remote work was, that the definition meant remote work. I think the first time I met the definition was 2016, so eight years later.

Chase Warrington:

Yeah, I’m trying to even remember. I recall having conversations with recruiters and saying, is there an opportunity? One of the big things for me was I didn’t want to move to one of the major cities. I wasn’t attracted to going to New York, for example. And so I was like, is there any way to do this at a distance? Do I have to move to the cities? Is there a way that I can just work from home sometimes? Or I don’t want to sit in a cubicle all day. I’d like to get out and travel. So, I wasn’t defining it as I want to work remotely or I do you have a remote work policy. I was asking for those things. And I think one of the things that really, not think, I know one of the things that really motivates me today is, as I was having those conversations, it became clear that for the most part, if I really wanted to pursue that type of lifestyle, I would have to make some serious sacrifices in terms of pay, location, what I wanted in terms of prestige in my role.

And I always felt like this seems so ridiculous to me that we have to make those sacrifices when I can literally do the same job from anywhere and have the best of both worlds. You’ll get a better version of me if you don’t force me to do that. And so it always seemed ridiculous to me, and I did make those sacrifices. I did take pay cuts and took less prestigious jobs and that sort of thing. And I think that that motivates me a lot today to try to do what I can to make remote work more accessible for all.

Luis:

Yeah. So, I wanted to talk a bit, then I wanted to transition to talking about the position you occupy. So, you went… With all that history, you became the head of remote at Todoist. And correct me if I’m wrong, but Todoist… Actually, Doist. Sorry, the company is Doist. Todoist is one of the products.

Chase Warrington:

Happens all the time. Don’t worry.

Luis:

Doist was always a remote company, right? I seem to remember that from my talk with Gonzalo. Am I wrong?

Chase Warrington:

No, you’re correct. Yeah, we’ve been remote first since day one for 15 years.

Luis:

All right. So, first off, why did company that has always been remote decided that it was now the time to have the role head of remote? Because usually when I’m seeing people being head of remote, that’s a role that’s created specifically to help with the transition, right? So, I guess, what is your job description, I guess? What is your mission inside your company?

Chase Warrington:

Sure. So, our mission as a company is, as you said earlier, is to build the future of work. So, we want to be at the forefront of that revolution and changing the way we work. And remote is hardcore baked into our DNA. It’s who we are as a company, it’s how we’ve operated since our existence and what we’ve talked about is we’ve built in public for going on 15 years now. So, it’s very much still a part of our identity. And we have this motto that we live by internally, which is we want to do X, whatever it is, at a world class level. So, that’s product, that’s design, that’s marketing, it’s service. Everything we do, we want to do at a world class level. And so for us as our mission is to build the future of work.

As we live by this, let’s do everything we do at a world class level, and the fact that remote is so core to our being, the company decided that as this massive transition of distributed work is happening before our eyes, new products emerging, new services, tons of best practices being shared, if we want to stay at the forefront of that revolution and continue to build the future of work, then we need to have somebody spearheading that. We’re big on accountability and having somebody in place that owns a certain aspect of our company. We think that’s kind of core to making remote work at scale. So, that’s why we wanted to have somebody doing that because this landscape’s changing very quickly. And what has been one of our chief advantages that we’ve had as an organization was becoming of a commodity.

Remote work was super cool and interesting and attractive to attract and retain talent before, and now it’s sort becoming a commodity. So, if we want to continue to do that at a world class level, then we felt we needed somebody to up level the game for us as we continue to approach remote work.

Luis:

So, what are some initiatives that you’ve done in that direction that you feel were innovative and improved you parallel in that mission?

Chase Warrington:

Yeah, so interestingly, my job is kind of split. When you talk to different heads of remote or remote lead, whatever the title might be at other organizations, I’ve talked to almost all of them, I feel like, just to pick their brains and we learn from each other and try to help each other, because it’s a relatively new role and it’s different at every organization. And that’s what I’ve learned is-

Luis:

You’re LinkedIn connected to most of my previous guests.

Chase Warrington:

Yeah. Yeah.

Luis:

I’ve never had so many more chart connections with someone as with you.

Chase Warrington:

Yeah, I mean, there’s this kind of tight knit community of people say we’re all trying to figure out what exactly we can do to help this time is… Times are changing very quickly. It’s a new role for all of us. There’s not a blueprint of how to do this. So, that’s one thing that’s kind of interesting. And in my case, what we decided, we’re still kind of figuring it out. We’re constantly changing and looking at the job description and saying, does it make sense? We just went through a revision of it recently. But my job description is split 50/50. So, I spend 50% of my time on employer branding, marketing, kind of pushing out external advocacy for the future of works, so doing things like we’re doing right now, which is such a fun thing because I could talk about this stuff all day and I get to meet cool people like you that share a passion.

The other part is operations, internal operations, really looking at what does our remote infrastructure look like and how can we take it to the next level. So, starting with that aspect, when I first took over in the position, I was talking with my COO, and he’s who I report directly to, and we said, “What is our top priority right now? When we look at the way we’re operating, what needs to be fixed? What’s the lowest hanging fruit, and also the one that’s the most impactful?” And this is coming out of the pandemic. This is after almost three years of not seeing each other as a team. 25 to 30% of our team had never met each other in person. And so we said the top priority right now really isn’t work. We’re hitting all our KPIs. We’re right on target to get to our North Star metrics.

Productivity isn’t a problem. Our tool set’s good. We build tools for remote teams, so those issues aren’t really… If we try to up level that and those areas, we’re not going to make a huge impact. What we realize we could do was focus on connectivity, focus on our team, how people connect with each other, bringing people back together in person again. So, we set out to design an IRL or in real life strategy, bringing people back together for what we call mini retreats and team retreats, making that a cohesive strategic alliance between them and making sure that each team was set up to succeed with those. Really making that time together impactful sounds probably a whole lot easier than it was given the climate of COVID and everything where we were at that time.

And then supplementing that with a whole new wave of connectivity activities that we implemented via social calendar and adding things that we could do every week and every month to give people an opportunity to connect on a deeper, more human level. So, this was really the priority during the last year. We put a ton of emphasis on this, and I think the data and the qualitative feedback we’re getting in return has been phenomenal.

Luis:

Nice. So, let’s dive a bit deeper on that because I am interested in knowing, A, in such a large company, I assume a big diversity of people, right? How do you decide on what are the activities that are going to resonate? And I understand obviously that the activities are probably all optional, but still, you don’t want to have an optional activity where only two or three people attend, right? So you probably want to cater to something that you think is going to be a success. So ,how do you decide that? And then how do you go about collecting feedback, which is also an important part of doing it, right?

Chase Warrington:

Yeah, exactly. So, I’m glad to say we set a target of 90% participation in our in-person retreats, and we were able to hit for both in our mini retreats and our company retreats. So, we had great buy in, great feedback, 90 to 95% success ratio in terms of people’s response afterwards and various metrics that we tracked. So, overall, we’re really happy with where we’re heading there. And I think that that speaks to the strategy that we put in place. And it starts with that optionality that you mentioned. So yeah, everything is optional by default. We don’t want people being forced to attend activities, whether it’s in person or virtually, that they don’t want to. It also means that we do a lot of due diligence on making everything inclusive. So, providing people with… Making sure we’re picking locations or picking times for things they give people around the world an opportunity to participate if they choose to.

And then I think the third thing is that I diversified this. So, I didn’t just try to own everything on my own. I wanted to get other people’s opinions. So, we have this system of what we call crews, which are kind of committees that form to tackle a certain issue. So, I created a social crew that consists of three of my teammates from different areas of the company, and we worked on creating a social calendar and having people that, not just people to delegate to, but people to bring their own personal opinions into and share what they think others would be interested in, and to have more conversations with people around the company, really helped bring in a whole new fresh set of ideas. So, then we created a social calendar that works out a couple months in advance, which has a variety of synchronous and asynchronous activities that we’re doing to help people connect virtually. So, that supplements our IL strategy, which is only two weeks per year, so to fill in those gaps between each of those six month periods.

Luis:

So, I want to circle back to something that you talked about before, which is how you have a culture of accountability, right? A lot of people mistake accountability for micromanagement and they kind of shy a bit away from the term, but I actually would argue that it’s impossible to do remote work without accountability, right? Those are the two things that enable remote work to happen is accountability and communication, right? But a lot of people kind of… I don’t know if it’s PTSD from terrible bosses or something like that, but a lot of people shrink when they hear accountability. They feel like the hammer is coming down on them. So, I want you to talk a bit about, because you have the reputation for being an extremely welcoming company with one of the lowest retention churns, with one of the highest retention rates in the industry is, so how do you manage that focus on accountability? I guess that’s what I wanted to ask.

Chase Warrington:

That the really funny thing is we’re one of those dog fooding companies. We eat our own dog food. And Todoist makes this really easy. I mean, it’s what it’s designed to do. So, we run almost everything through a system of tools or processes that all connect back to Todoist and make it really simple. There’s a date assigned to your task, and if you don’t hit it, then it’s pretty easy to see that you didn’t hit it, and we’re just asking why. We’re very good about welcoming pushback on, “Hey, this due date isn’t going to work for us, or we’re going to have to push this back for X, Y, or Z reason.” But the onus is on the assignee, on the person who’s been given that task to push back. And so everything kind of ends with, this is the expectation. If you can’t meet that expectation, we expect you to speak up. And we welcome that. We don’t work in a very fearful environment where you would be attacked for pushing back on something like that. So, I think those two things help us quite a bit.

We’ve also worked out a pretty thorough process. We call the DO system stands for Doist Objectives, and it’s built on a series of features like squads, which are cross-functional teams and cycles and sprints, things like that.

Luis:

You’re very high on the branding, right?

Chase Warrington:

Yeah, yeah. Everything, I mean, it’s got to be cohesive. So, I mean, having these elements that we’ve worked hard at, again, we’ve been doing this for 15 years, so we’ve worked out a lot of kinks, and accountability is right at the core of it. You nailed it. And the people that we hire aren’t going to shy away from that. They’ve been pushed and tested on accountability from day one during the hiring process. So, that’s baked into everything that we do.

Luis:

So, let’s talk a bit about that hiring process. How do you bake these things in, right? What does the hiring process look like?

Chase Warrington:

So, we kind of reconfigured our hiring process, which is, it differs a lot from your typical hiring process for perhaps an in-person team or kind of even what we used to do, even when we were a remote team, but still kind of replicating what most other companies were doing. We thought if we were doing this from first principles, from the vantage point of how we work, we would work almost entirely asynchronously. There’s a huge emphasis on how you write and how you work, much less on how you present yourself, talk, and communicate verbally. So, we flipped it upside down and all the first two steps of the process are very heavily written based. We’re asking you to answer questions, which we’re interested in the content, but we’re almost more interested in how you communicate. Can you communicate succinctly and thoroughly? Of course we want to see that you have the skills and experience that we’re looking for. There’s some minimum requirements.

But beyond that, we’re really looking to see how you communicate and then we want to see you do a test project. We’re curious to see, can you hit the deadline? Can you do this in a reasonable amount of time? And can you deliver at least an MVP in that amount of time, a minimum viable product? So, we’re testing for those things which are really important to us. And then you’ll get to more of an interview phase where we will get to know you on a more personal level, but we want to see that you have those things in place first.

Luis:

Got it. How long does the whole process usually take?

Chase Warrington:

It really is kind of hard to say because it varies a lot by position. We get a ton of applicants for certain roles, and then some are very select, and only a few make it through that test project phase. So, it varies a lot, but I mean, we are usually talking a couple weeks to a month or two, something like that.

Luis:

Got it. Got it. So, I want to circle back to those retreats that you mentioned, right? I do have an agenda behind this, which is I’m planning the distant job retreat for 2023. So, I do want some advice, right? How do you decide the place, right? I mean, we are in a similar situation as Doist. We’re riding the wave of remote work, but we are a relatively mid-sized company with completely bootstrapped with no investment. So, obviously we are cost conscious, just as I’m sure you guys are. And we have the team spread all around the world from Canada to India. So, we do want to make our best to get as much people in the same place possible. So, how did you figure out this puzzle? How did you decide on the best place to go, and then how do you organize in terms of getting the company there?

Chase Warrington:

Yeah, so the first element that you have to look at is distribution of the team and look at your outliers in terms of who’s going to have trouble visa wise and what kind of lead time they need to get visas. So, that’s always a first consideration. The second one, or close… It’s one A and one B. This past year, [inaudible 00:22:30] was COVID. There were various COVID restrictions coming to and from countries that you had to consider. Fortunately, a lot of that’s gone away now, so it’s less of an issue. But I think the point there is to start with inclusivity. You want to make sure that you’re picking a location where a very high percentage of your team, if they choose to come, can come. And that can be a bit challenging. So, taking a look at that is really helpful. There’s a great website for this called Sherpa that I can recommend that will help you figure out what your visa restrictions are for certain people coming from certain places to other places.

Obviously the other thing you have to look at, which we’re paying attention to more and more with in terms of what the travel… The industry is in a little bit of a crazy state right now. There’s tons of cancellations, understaffing, baggage issues, transportation issues, canceled flights. It’s really kind of wild. It’s been a rough year for the travel industry in that way. So, we’re really trying to minimize travel time and number of connections. So, I’ll look at the whole distribution of the team and pick out a few locations that might be interesting for us based on the Visa and COVID regulations. And then we look at how many total stops is this going to be? What’s the average flight time for people? And then once we land in a certain place, what does the transportation look like from that airport to the venue? And so minimizing all those things and factoring in that you want to go to a place that people are going to be really excited about and it’s going to be kind of interesting and good weather, all these factors come to mind for me first.

Luis:

Got it. Okay. And once you’re actually there, how do you usually organize? Is it all team mat activities? Do you give people free reign to do whatever they want, a mix of both? How does that usually happens?

Chase Warrington:

Yeah, I’ve got a formula that I kind of created called the 20 30 50 rule. I wrote an article for Forbes about it recently that we can share if we want, and it’s basically 20-

Luis:

I’ll make a note to add it to the show notes.

Chase Warrington:

Okay, yeah, perfect. I can send it to you as well. It’s short and sweet, but I mean, basically the idea is 20% work, 30% activities, and 50% free time and relaxation. So, this is really built on the idea that we have this natural tendency to want to fill the agenda with tons of activities and over-engineer to a fault. And generally, what we’re trying to optimize for is connectivity, giving people time to have serendipitous conversations, connect around things that they’re really actually interested in. So, we’re really flipping the… We’re inverting the whole idea and giving more time for the flexibility and connection and preventing burnout and FOMO and all this stuff. So, we do about 20% of the time really highly focused work sessions that are well planned out in advance that also optimize for things that you can’t do so well virtually, which it seems obvious. But when you really think about it, we actually have trouble finding these.

We’re pretty fine tuned to work remotely and asynchronously, and so we’ll often try some activity and find out, actually, that would’ve been just better to do the way we normally work. We didn’t really get a whole lot more out of this by doing it in person. So, what we do do-

Luis:

What were those? What were the ones that met your expectations that was actually nice to be together, and the ones that didn’t?

Chase Warrington:

Yeah, so for example, one that worked really well this year, we did a hackathon where every… We called it Doist Build. Again, coming back to the branding, we called it Doist Build, and it was a three hour hackathon. Each team had to come up with something to introduce to the team within three hours. Didn’t have to be a polished product, but it had to be something that they could physically present to the team. And that had to tie to our mission statement. One of the things we want to do with our retreats is reinforce our mission statement and core values. So, they were building something. Each team was to tie to our mission statement to build the future of work. And this was great. We couldn’t have done this very well virtually, and it was one of the highest rated aspects of the whole retreat.

So, rather than spending a ton of time brainstorming as a hundred people in one room, we broke the team up into all these little groups of five, eight, and 10, and had a really good time doing that and built something productive along the way. Something that hasn’t worked well is, for instance, doing lots of presentations. Here’s an update on what we’re doing in this department. Here’s something that we’re planning to work on in the future. Those get really low scores. They’re not actually that productive. They would’ve been better digested asynchronously. So, yeah.

Luis:

Right. Makes sense. All right. So, how do you deal with families? I know that some companies encourage the employees to bring the families to the retreats. I know that others don’t, or can’t. What’s the situation with yours?

Chase Warrington:

Fantastic question. I think this is something we want to put even more emphasis on. As our team grows, so do the number of babies that are associated with the team, and this is really important to us. It’s really, really, really important for companies doing these retreats to recognize that a lot of people that signed up for remote work didn’t sign up so that they would have to go on lots of company retreats, that it’s stressful for families, it puts a lot of pressure on you at home, and it’s not always a great experience for them. So, giving some thought to this just as a baseline is really important, and sometimes it’s overlooked for us. We used to have a policy where we would allow people with children under two years old to bring those children with them and they’re significant other, or a nanny or a mother or something, somebody to come along with them.

But we actually got a lot of feedback from the people participating in that actually they hated that because they felt like they were just failing at everything the whole time. They said, “I can’t be at the retreat and be a good coworker and a good parent and a good spouse. I end up failing at all of them and it puts a lot of pressure on me. I would rather be able to disconnect from my family, come for a week, and I would love some support back at home to do that.” So, we started funding… We gave each parent a fund to support their significant other while they’re away to cover delivery of food or extra childcare or whatever it would be. It’s not perfect, but it helps.

Luis:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That’s definitely an interesting way of doing things. Okay.

Chase Warrington:

And of course, we also… I should say we also still allow… If you choose… One of the feedbacks that we got was, I said, “Well, what if we just make it optional?” And they said, “Well, if you make it optional, I have to tell my significant other that they can come, and they’re going to choose that and then I’m going to end up back in the same situation.” What we would really prefer is that we say, this is our policy now. We give you this fund to spend. And in extraordinary circumstances, if you really need to, you could could revert back to the old policy. And that would be like for instance, a mother with a newborn that is still breastfeeding, for example. So, we still do allow that, but just on a extraordinary basis.

Luis:

Yeah, that’s definitely a tough situation. So, I do want to be respectful of your time, but I wanted to ask how you are organized around the remote work personally right now, because you have a lot of experience. I mean, since 2008, that’s a long time, things have changed considerably. There’s a lot of products out there that help you. So, I guess just as a head of remote at Doist, what does your usual day look like in terms of the apps you use, the activities you partake on, et cetera? Or if there’s not a typical day, then what does a typical week look like?

Chase Warrington:

Sure, yeah. This is a thing that’s evolved so much over time and I feel like I’ve got a good situation for myself now after giving it lots of thought and failing probably for many years. But I also think this is the element that I’ve come to love even more than the location independence. I really love the control over my day and being able to craft the perfect work day for me. So, I’m an early riser. I usually wake up at 5 to 6, 6:30, somewhere in that range. And I like getting a lot of deep work done early and taking a long middle of the day, break for lunch and exercise and a little bit of time with my family, and then working again a bit later for some standards. I’ve been living in Spain for almost five years, so it’s not that late by Spain standards, but my afternoon session might be something like 3:30 to 7, or 7:30 or something like that. So, I kind of break my day up into two halves with a long halftime break in between.

And then my whole life lives in Todoist. I mean, Todoist is where I do all my accountability for myself and my teams. And Twist is where all my communication takes place, which is our team communication app. So, shameless plug for ourselves there, But in truth, that’s where I spend all my time.

Luis:

Twist is awesome. I’m a fan. We were very close actually, to using Twist on DistantJob. It was just… We do this thing where we try something new for a month with the whole team, and then people get to vote, and the vote was very close. Well, we almost changed to Twist. Som I voted yes, I was in favor, but-

Chase Warrington:

Well, thanks for your support. It’s come a long way and it’s coming a long way in the future. We’ve had recent iterations of it that have been released and on its way up.

Luis:

It’s a great tool. I love it. Then I often recommend it. So, you have a fan here.

Chase Warrington:

Yay. Thank you.

Luis:

Yeah. Okay. But continue, please.

Chase Warrington:

I mean, I think that sums it up nicely. I can go into more detail, but that’s where most of my time is spent. I have very few meetings aside from interviews or things like this. We don’t do a ton of internal meetings, so everything is really compacted into a lot of elements of deep work. I do a good bit of writing and spend some time in our handbook, which lives in GitHub. But yeah, that’s a good summary.

Luis:

Do you manage a lot of people?

Chase Warrington:

No, not anymore. I mean, I’m a team of one now as the head of remote [inaudible 00:32:39]. So, I previously managed our business development team, and then before that was our international marketing team, which was fairly large. But yeah, now, I’m just a team of one, and kind of enjoying it, to be honest.

Luis:

Yeah, that’s what I was thinking. Seems pretty cool. I mean, I found that as I get more people to manage as the head of marketing at DistantJob, as I get more people to manage, I find less time for what I call maker work, for writing and podcasting and stuff like that. Podcasting is the one thing that I still do regularly because it’s is the date is set, the hour is set on the calendar, and the person is going to be waiting for me, so there really is no hiding. You need to do it right. It takes [inaudible 00:33:24]

Chase Warrington:

Absolutely. I host a podcast as well, and I totally agree. I have one interview per week, and it’s like, it’s on the calendar, it’s booked out months in advance, and that is what it is. That’s got to be on there.

Luis:

Yeah, exactly. So, let me close with a couple of rapid fire questions, but you don’t need to rapid fire answer. You can take the as long as you need. So, obviously, apart from Todoist and Twist, what does your virtual office look like? What are the apps, tabs, et cetera, that boot up as soon as you open your computer in the morning?

Chase Warrington:

So, I have a… I use Shift. Are you familiar with Shift by any chance?

Luis:

No. So, the name rings a bell, but I don’t recall why it

Chase Warrington:

I don’t even know what the right word is to describe what it is, but it’s sort of like an aggregator of all your email accounts, apps, things like that. So, it pulls it all into one place. So, Shift is kind of my… What would be the right word? It’s where everything lives. It’s my home base. And so I have all my email accounts in there. I have Twist, Doist, Zoom Typeform, Calendly, G-cal. I have all the G… We run on the G-suite. So, pretty much every tool that I use is just all right there in Shift. And so that’s what launches upon starting my day. And then I spend pretty much all of my time toggling back between Twist and Todoist, and then a small variety of other tools. And also, I’ve gotten to be pretty ergonomic. I’ve got a back support, I’ve got a laptop riser, two screens. I carry this mic around with for podcasts, and my podcast, your podcast, and some noise canceling headphones, which are unfortunately not working today, which is why I’m not wearing them for this one.

Luis:

Yeah. Yeah, I just love the directional microphone. That works wonders. But, yeah.

Chase Warrington:

Yeah.

Luis:

Okay, so if you are going to give one thing, you had a budget of about 100 euros and if you’re going to give one thing to everyone in your team, everyone in the company, what would it be? And the rules are you can’t give money or a money equivalent like a gift card. You need to buy something in bulk for everyone.

Chase Warrington:

Ooh, fantastic question. It’s an unfortunate answer, to be honest, because we don’t do a ton of meetings at Doist, but I’ve found that the way we show up to meetings, the audio is so important, and it’s almost like the way you present yourself in the office. But in the virtual office, it really does make a big difference, and more of our teammates are investing in this, and it does change the dynamic of a meeting. I was also thinking about the noise canceling headphones though, because that is really… When it comes to focus, that has been a big game changer for me. And I’m a big fan of… I don’t sit at home and work. I go to a co-working every day, occasionally go to a cafe or something. And so having the mix of being in a an environment that stimulates me, but blocking out all the noise has been a big game changer.

Luis:

And also if you have family. I mean, I have a wife in three cats, and now I have a kid, right? And it helps a lot with focus. I actually don’t know if it’s intentional or not, if it’s something that is intentional or that is a limitation of technology, but actually, I found that noise counseling headsets aren’t great at children crying, which it actually makes sense because if you have a young child, you kind of want to know if it’s crying. So, it feels like it makes sense for me for that not to be included, but everything else, like cats, televisions, et cetera, kitchen appliances, vacuum cleaners, that is wonderful to just to block out.

Chase Warrington:

Absolutely. Yeah, good point on the children. They should not add that feature.

Luis:

Exactly. That is probably a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Chase Warrington:

Yeah.

Luis:

So, yeah. What about yourself? What is the thing that you have purchased in the past six months that has made the most difference for your work life?

Chase Warrington:

The back support on the chair is huge. And to be honest, so I’m at a coworking now. I’m spending about six months in a new area, and they have standing desks, which is the thing I would love for everybody to have. But setting that aside, when I don’t get a standing desk or when I’m not at a place with a standing desk, the back support for the lumbar is huge at this age.

Luis:

I agree, I agree. I’m a fan myself. I actually could never get used to the standing desk. The president of just a job is actually a fan of the walking desk. He walks and works at the same time. I cannot do that. I don’t have the [inaudible 00:38:16] coordination to be able to do that. I need to sit for work. But yeah, the lumbar helps a lot.

Chase Warrington:

I tried the walking desk in Switzerland last summer. And they got a great picture of me doing it. I think they used it in some marketing, but in truth, I couldn’t do it very often because I couldn’t really focus on anything except for my walking. So, awesome concept, not for everyone.

Luis:

No, not for everyone. For sure. For sure. Okay. So, especially when you were studying up for this role, understanding what was expected to you as head of remote and how to do your role in the company to make a difference in the company, what were your favorite inspirations, your favorite resources, what books, courses, et cetera you looked to?

Chase Warrington:

The truth is I was already pretty deep into this space for several years before moving into the role officially, so referencing some of the things that came up throughout that time, I mean, one of my go-to books that I recommend people working on distributed teams read is The Culture Map. Especially when you’re working with people that are coming from different parts of the world, just understanding where people are coming from, how they approach things differently is really important. I’ve read a ton of the GitLab handbook, several of the books by the base camp guys. In fact, we do a list of recommended readings for new hires at Doist and several of those books are on there, Rework and others, Out of Office is another fantastic book that just recently emerged. The guys from Running Remote just released one, called Running Remote.

So, there’s quite a few. I was also just kind of living in this world reading articles that thought leaders put out there, following other remote companies and seeing what they’re doing. So, there’s long lists, but I think just in… The truth is there’s no shortage of information. I mean, you jump on LinkedIn, type in future of work, remote work, whatever, and you you’ll never miss out on anything.

Luis:

No, I would argue that there is too much information. That’s why it’s important to be able to know how to curate. Yeah, I want to do a shout out to The Cultural Map. I find that the big problem these days with remote work is that people are very worried that they will cause offense if they admit that people from different places on Earth have different ways of approaching work, which I think is… Things won’t work if you don’t admit that upfront. The fact that you acknowledge differences doesn’t mean that you disrespect them. You do need to know how to work with people from every culture instead of assuming that everyone is just working in the same way. So, The Cultural Map is a fantastic resource to understand that.

Chase Warrington:

Yeah, you nailed it. I think those differences are the superpower of remote teams that we often don’t talk about. And so yeah, you got to embrace that.

Luis:

Yeah, exactly. So, final question, if you were to leave a message to everyone looking to do remote work, maybe not necessarily already doing remote work, or trying and failing, what would the message be?

Chase Warrington:

I would say that there’s a word that we throw a lot around a lot when we’re talking about making distributed work work, and it applies to individuals and to teams, and its intentionality. And so as an individual, get very intentional about your remote work setup. How do you approach remote on an individual basis? What’s your schedule look like? Where do you go to work? What equipment do you have? Take it seriously. Don’t just swing it. And on an organizational level, it’s the same. Don’t just take what you’ve been doing in the office and try to replicate it in the virtual world. This probably won’t work, and it doesn’t make sense that you would think that it would work if you think about it objectively. So, put some intentionality behind it. Get deliberate about how you’re going to approach remote work specifically, and then start from that point rather than the alternative of just winging it and trying to figure it out and take your lumps later.

Luis:

Yeah, that advice, I thank you for that. All right, so thank you so much for your time. It’s been a great conversation. I enjoyed it a lot. I would like you to please tell the listeners how can they continue the conversation with you, How can they find you, and how can they find more about Doist and its products?

Chase Warrington:

Yeah, thank you Luis. It was really fun for me as well. Some thought provoking questions there made me turn the wheels a little bit, so really appreciate the opportunity. We’ve got some fantastic resources at Doist if you’re interested in learning about remote work from an individual’s perspective or an organization’s perspective. We’ve got a Twist newsletter, which you can find. I believe the URL is twist… I need to look it up. But Google Twist Async newsletter, talks a lot about asynchronous communication. It’s curated by my teammate.

Luis:

We’ll Google it for you and put it on the show notes. [inaudible 00:43:18].

Chase Warrington:

Thank you. Yeah. Once you’re subscribed, it’s a newsletter that just comes to you, and that’s packed full of some fantastic content. Our blog is blog.doist.com. We’ve got a whole remote work and section, a productivity section, teamwork section, tons of content curated there over the last 15 years. And then you can connect with me on LinkedIn. I talk a lot about remote work there. If you’re into global mobility, I have host a podcast on global mobility called About Abroad, and you can find me on Twitter as well @dcwarrington.

Luis:

Awesome. Well, I’ll include all of those in the show notes so people don’t need to write. And yeah, Chase, it was a pleasure having you. Thank you so much.

Chase Warrington:

Thank you, Luis. I really enjoyed it.

Luis:

Yeah, me too. And thank you to you who are listening to the DistantJob podcast, your podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. I was your host, Luis, and see you next week.

And so we close another episode of the DistantJob Podcast. And if you enjoy the episode, please, you can help us out by sharing it on social media. That would be great. It’s how we reach more listeners. And the more listeners we have, the more awesome guests I can get in touch and convinced to participate in these conversations that are a joy to have for me, and I hope they’re a joy for you to listen to as well. You can also help a lot leaving reviews on iTunes or your podcast syndication service of choice. Reviews are surprisingly helpful in helping the podcast get to more listeners. Now, another thing that you might want to do is go to distantjob.com/blog/podcast, click on your favorite episode, any episode really, and subscribe. By subscribing, you will get a notification whenever a new episode is up and whenever we get the transcripts of the episode up so you can actually peruse the conversations in text form.

And of course, if you need to find a great employee for your team, a great remote employee, you should take the whole world into consideration and not just look to hire locally, not just look to hire in your country. Look around the whole world because that’s the talent pool that contains the best talent. And to help you with that, again, distantjob.com is the perfect place to start. You will tell us who we need, and we will make sure that you get the best possible candidate 40% faster than the industry standard. And with that, I bid you adieu. You see you next week on the next episode. DistantJob Podcast.

Managing remote teams is filled with challenges but also with many opportunities. You can establish a better work-life balance, increase productivity, and reach goals more efficiently by allowing everyone to choose how they work best.

During this episode, Chase Warrington emphasizes why accountability is key to successful and happy remote teams. He also shares why building connections and culture matters and the lessons he has learned since he started working remotely.

Highlights:

  • Insights on his remote work journey and key lessons
  • What does it mean to be Head of Remote
  • The importance of encouraging connection in remote teams
  • Having a culture of accountability
  • Todoist hiring process
  • Insights on company retreats and tips to plan them effectively

Recommendation:

 

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