Software is conducive to remote work—there are no expensive machines in a factory, no semi-finished pieces to move between different suppliers, and there are a lot of tools for working with, and sharing code online. Prior to COVID-19 hitting, Dutchie had a number of remote engineers, and things were going well, but much of the company, especially outside engineering, was in the office.
When the pandemic arrived and everyone scrambled for even the basics, like toilet paper, Dutchie's transition to a remote-only company went surprisingly well. Several key factors contributed:
Dutchie's leadership was used to dealing with remote tools. One of the key people in the company, our CTO, has worked remotely since starting. This lead to the entire leadership team being acquainted with and fluent in the tools that make remote collaboration work well, rather than seeing it as a newly imposed limitation to work around. When people at the top set the direction and expectations, and are in the same situation everyone else is, it makes it easy for the entire company.
As above, much of the engineering team was already remote prior to the advent of COVID-19, including, critically, the CTO. With remote work, it's vital that a company go beyond a certain "tipping point" with the number of remote workers and their position in the decision-making hierarchy. At one end, if almost everyone is in the office and it's normal to have impromptu meetings in person to hash out new features or solve problems, the few remote people are an afterthought. Maybe they get brought in via video software, however, they're not going to really be or feel like equal participants in the process as the engineers there in person riffing on ideas and drawing on a whiteboard. At the other extreme, which is how many companies are now configured due to health concerns, everyone is working remotely, putting everyone on an equal footing, and requiring us to go through remote working tools like Slack, Zoom and good old email—which is still a great medium for longer, more thought-out conversations! Dutchie was already beyond this "tipping point", where important conversations had to be on line rather than in person in order to include key people, so little change was required. If you want remote to work in your company, you need to ensure that remote is the default path, which means that enough people are remote from the start.
Furthermore, having a number of people with years of remote experience also meant that there was a wealth of knowledge to draw on for the entire company, as we quickly ramped up remote working for everyone, with everyone sharing ideas on how to make the best of what was objectively an abrupt and difficult situation.
Dutchie's ability to successfully integrate remote work has been beneficial not only to the company's bottom line, but also in making everyone who works here feel like we're truly not just "making do" with remote work, but thriving, both personally and professionally, despite what are certainly challenging times.