Remote-first culture: how Vinta manages to get the most out of it
Diogo de Miranda • 3 April 2023
Vinta was not born a remote-first company. We had a structure designed to maximize the interaction between all the people, in an environment designed for comfort, concentration, and very rich exchanges: a mix of professionalism and collegiality.
The common area was the busiest part of the office. It was both the company's entrance and its meeting point. Everyone went there to relax, share ideas, and have a coffee or even a beer.
But the pandemic changed everything. The health crisis was unimaginable. The lockdown and the social isolation caused major disruptions in the way we used to work. Much of how we worked relied on frequent, synchronous communication. What would happen to our teams when they were away? How many conferences would we have a day to solve our problems? How would we keep the team feeling like a team?
Our ways of interaction had to change. Vinta was not born a remote-first company but became 100% remote after the pandemic. And today I want to show you how we adapted and why today we believe this is the future of work.
Adapting to a remote-first environment: what did we change?
Afraid of the impacts that working remotely would have on Vinta's people and work experience, we turned to our values: amazing people make amazing products.
During the last 10 years, all of the improvements we have implemented were made by people. Because of this, we knew what our next steps should be: keep acting to enable our workforce.
We have always been very critical about the ways we use people's time in the company and how we can help them be more productive and efficient. The power of a clear, concise activity, with definitions of success and a well-defined delivery format, has always been clear to us.
Now we needed to refresh the ways of ensuring this in a remote environment as well, and this meant refining the way we used to see things.
From this, we have come up with three different definitions of how our remote-first model should look like:
1. It's not enough to be remote, it has to be asynchronous
First of all, we understood that it is not enough to be 100% remote — we need a model that favors asynchronous communication so that all people can find the organization of tasks and flow that makes sense for them.
We believe in a minimally bureaucratic workflow that enhances productivity, not blocks it. Pair programming/designing, 1:1s, and exploratory meetings are very productive and bring people together. But we believe that meetings need to be as focused as possible, and as assertive as necessary.
When meetings pile up the hours of talking, context switching, and exposure fatigue do not allow deep focus nor do they bring the feeling of a productive day. Moreover, a day full of meetings can be a strong sign that there is something wrong with your workflow as a professional.
2. We document, a lot
To improve our ways of contributing, we brought most of our discussions and exploratory cooperation into documents. In these documents, people's learnings are transparently recorded, making it easier for everyone to learn from each other. This makes knowledge much more democratic and less siloed, as it should be.
This means that the prevailing currency between people in the company is not based on ceremonies, or cyclical meetings, but on visibility. Everything that needs to be done must be visible, both in its reason and in its execution stage, its consequences, and its impact.
This is another benefit of our focus on asynchrony: we greatly reduce the need for 1:1s for people's work to be unlocked. By documenting the state of the art of our goals and knowledge, anyone at any time can take action to build that vision.
Also, with documents, anyone will be able at any time they need to understand how to apply for a benefit, how to communicate a specific problem to the customer, how to decide if it is time to do a post-mortem, or what are the best agile practices for their context.
3. Goodbye micromanagement
We see the role of leadership as being accommodative of work and innovation, not an agent of micromanagement and blockage — these are some reasons why we got rid of dailies and have no-meeting days on all projects.
There is no reason for leadership to check everything that is done on a daily basis, nor for people to report daily on what is accomplished: people will communicate when they need to, and unblock themselves when they need to.
This makes us more efficient because we can focus on what matters: having products of value, that make people proud of their efforts.
4. Rest hours are sacred
A remote-first environment is only enabled in a sustainable and lasting way through a balance between working hours and resting hours that are healthy for people. Moving to a 100% remote model provides the opportunity for a life that recognizes and respects the place of work in the routine, but is not strictly guided by fixed work hours.
So we gave more freedom to the people at Vinta about how they could build a work routine that made sense to them. This includes flexible working hours, choice of work location, and monthly support to maintain their remote working infrastructure.
Not relying on timing enriches the quality of everything we do. In our experience, most people who work at Vinta are at home, and share a roof with others. We work exactly to be able to facilitate the life we have with them. The 100% remote model favors a better balance of hours for people, giving them more time to enjoy higher life quality.
5. Flexibility is a must
Sure, there are team and project ceremonies where everyone's presence is required. But what is the reason for bureaucratizing entries and exits? Working days with fixed hours do not guarantee productivity or satisfaction.
There is no value in a remote regime that takes inspiration in ceremonies, work logic, and management from the face-to-face work model. We encourage everyone to find a work routine that works for them, and make it public in their calendar — this is enough for your team to know the best time to come to you.
We have further strengthened our policies of respecting the rest hours of our team. We removed all synchronous work tools from people's cell phones and send them a dedicated work computer to make it easier for them to leave their work hours at work, and be able to focus on their personal life with quality and peace of mind.
Besides: if it makes sense for people, why not work at the beach house? Any place quiet, comfortable, and with stable internet will suffice for work.
And it is possible to do this with everything with integration between people. The freedom to work synchronously with your colleagues in a virtual environment encourages collaboration and brings people together. A strong team is a team that collaborates, learns, and grows together.
6. Remote work and remote office
With 100% remote, the Vinta office is now accessible from anywhere through an immersive and integrative interaction tool. We love the wealth of possibilities that the tool brings, with great visibility of the interactions and ease of socialization for all people.
In several locations in Brazil, they connect to our virtual office and the possibilities of interaction are many: seeing people at your team's table programming, walking through the halls of the company and meeting colleagues socializing, calling colleagues from another team to go for coffee and chat.
It is as simple as just walking around with your character. The tool is super cool, take a look here at the post we did detailing how to use it.
To sum up
What allowed the transition to the remote model to happen more quickly and efficiently at Vinta is that we always knew that products are made by people and they are the main success factor of an organization.
Organizational culture is the product of several factors, and in order to build it, it is indispensable that the company's leaders be accountable for it. This requires transparency, clear, empathetic communication, and commitment to people empowerment.
The remote-first model that we practice democratizes knowledge, provides opportunities for group collaboration, favors deep focus, and empowers our team. The strong sense of co-responsibility and clear distribution of activities helps to keep people focused and to deliver a high-quality service to our clients.
To learn more about our culture, read also "Autonomy: keeping engagement during a crisis".