Hello. We’re Envato - we have 90 remoters and thousands of authors all over the world! AUA!

Hi guys, I’m Collis, cofounder and CEO of Envato. We have a team of 250, ninety of whom work remote in all parts of the globe.

Our sites are also home to thousands of creative freelancers making a living selling on our marketplaces. That community has earned over $250,000,000!

When we started Envato, my wife Cyan and I wanted to travel the world with a business - so we started this one. We did manage it for a year working from HK, Canada, Florida, Paris and Singapore before returning home.

I’m joined by Jarel who has worked with Envato since 2009 from around the US, our headquarters in Australia, as well as stints in Eastern Europe and Thailand.

Ask Us Anything!

Howdy nomads! Jarel Remick here, Market Quality Manager for Envato, based in Melbourne but originally from Marsing, a little town in Idaho, USA. I manage the Market Quality team of 50 (and growing!), all but two of whom are remote from all over the world. Until this year, I considered myself semi-nomadic, spending every other month working remotely abroad — Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Singapore, USA and Italy during 2014. In prior years I’d also spent time jumping between Spain, Hungary, Australia and the US.

Despite my 7+ years of working with globally remote teams, I’d consider 2014 my introduction to the nomad world. I learned many things along the way, and met tons of amazing people! AUA or catch me lurking on #nomads.

Edit: Thought I might add a few things you guys might find interesting… I sleep in a hammock 100%, I’m a huge fan of polyphasic sleeping, and my partner (Carlotta) is permanently travels (travel blogger & photographer) which has been an interesting challenge joined with nomadism.

Hi @collis and @jremick, I also work remotely and was wondering how you manage long travel times where you’re forced to be offline if the timing is inopportune work-wise?

Hi @collis and @jremick. Love hearing from people who champion remote working. @jremick, I was curious to know how you make living abroad every other month work? Do you rent out your house while you’re gone?
(As an aside, I’m an editor/writer who did some work for Envato’s press room last year.)
Jaclyn

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Hi @Bear!

For me it would depend on the length of time and mode of travel. Long flights lend well to thinking time I find really valuable, so I tend to scribble ideas, notes, writing or just practice a little meditation, which usually results in creative problem solving I can put into action once I’m on the ground.

It’s a little different when you’re in the back of a van or bus for 5+ hours raging down the road in Thailand and you get an urgent email from your team. :wink: As tech advances though, it’s easier to stay connected and find creative ways to tackle whatever needs to be done. I’ve tackled lots of email on long journeys between cities in SEA where I’ve largely been offline and only needed a brief connection.

Aside from this, planning has been key for me. I keep the team up to date on where I’m going and when I’ll be available, organize my work ahead of time and research my likely connectivity, etc.

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Hey @bear, just to add to what Jarel wrote - it’s tough to manage! I’ve had a few calls with airport noises in the background - never a great professional look!

At some airports - I see them in Asia a lot - you can find lounges that are unaffiliated with an airline and you can pay to enter and use their wifi. They help, especially on long stopovers in between places. But most of them are pretty quiet, so still doesn’t fit voice calls.

I think the best thing you can do is prep to make sure you’ve got some coverage while you’re travelling. I also try to line up lots of quiet work to do on the plane so that at least on either side I can do the more collaborative stuff.

Working on planes is pretty horrible though, especially when you’re tall with arms that extend right out of your seat. My pro tips are look up what kind of plane you’re going on, see if you can get one with USB or other charging ports to extend battery life on your devices, and give up on feeling comfortable :slight_smile:

When I land, I usually try to get some internet going asap. Either coming in with prepaid phone roaming (which is exorbitant but always works) or with a local SIM if I have a bit more time on the ground.

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Hi @Jaclyn!

Before I started living abroad every other month, I moved out of my place (lived alone) and over to share a flat with two friends who were looking to fill their third room. That reduced my expenses a lot in Australia. I’ve looked into Airbnb options but it was still more expensive at the time.

I also suspend some of my services (cell, etc) when I leave to save a little extra, do quite a bit of research for places to stay abroad to keep expenses down (another reason I love nomadlist.io!) and save a lot by investing in fewer things with more utility and durability.

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Thanks @jremick. Congrats on making it work!

@collis A lot of people who adopt the digital nomad life seem to be very entrepreneurial. Startup founders and the like. You often mention that Envato is bootstrapped, but I was wondering about the other side of the coin. Has Envato ever acted as VC / investor in other startups?

Hello everyone!

I’m Damir, User Experience Designer at Envato. I’m based in Melbourne, Australia as well. I’m currently working full-time in the office but hoping to spend a few months working from Europe this year thanks to an awesome new policy that was introduced here at Envato.

A few years ago I’ve travelled through 27 countries on a round-the-world trip lasting 7 months but when it comes to actually working I’m a total digital nomad noob :smile:

Happy to answer any questions about working with remotes here at the Melbourne office. Would greatly appreciate advice from people in a similar situation where you started working remotely for company where you initially worked full-time in the office.

It’s amazing to have you, thanks a lot guys.

  1. Did you notice any difference between managing 10 remoters and 90 remoters?
  2. What is the next step for nomadism? and remote worker?
  3. @collis How was the beginning when you have started the project with your wife?
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@bear - I’ve noticed that too. I guess the mindset of going nomad is similarly non-conformist to an entrepreneurial mindset!

That’s right, we’re still bootstrapped, though we’ve never acted as VC/Investor. I hope one day that we will be a bit more of one, but at the moment it’s all been internal focus around here!

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@atu - great questions. Jarel and Damir will have some views on this stuff too! But here’s my take:

(1) Heaps of differences!
Having remote teams is inherently complex and hard. With 10 people you can fudge through some problems because you can have closer, more personal relationships with everyone. So for example when we had remote meetups I would have coffee catchups with every person there. That worked even when there was 25 remoters.

With 90 people you need better team structures, tools, and communication systems. We have a long way to go on all of these - and we’re always working to improve. But if we had a remote meetup now (which would be tough to do!) having an hour long coffee with everyone would take two weeks!

In some ways it mirrors scaling non-remote people too, you need to figure out how to disseminate information quickly, how to make everyone feel they have access to what’s happening, help teams communicate with each other and internally, and so on.

A few things that work well for us which spring to mind:

  • We use Slack and other similar systems for chatting online
  • We film lots of company meetings so that videos of our All Hands and things are available
  • We rigged up all our meeting rooms with TVs and Chromeboxes so we can run Google Hangouts really easily
  • We try to make sure there’s some human touch stuff like hand written Christmas cards

(2) Interesting question. I think the big open issue in my mind for nomadism is around visas and things like that
The world isn’t really rigged up for some of the things that nomads and remote workers do, and so there’s a lot of places I think where people fudge things, and by and large it’s pretty harmless.

I don’t know how it happens, but I’d love to see someone crack offering services to help companies make work anywhere a bigger, easier, thing to run with less risk and compliance worries.

(3) So different than these days!
Back then there was just a handful of people, we were all very green about how business works, and completely concentrated on making products. That had pluses and minuses. I think there were things we didn’t do very well in terms of making Envato a great place to work (aside from anything else, we had like no money!) but on the flip side the general spirit and culture was already really strong.

There was a lot of long hours then, but that’s still true - just very different content. Back then I used to design and build and write and make. These days I’m in spreadsheets and meetings and prioritisation. It’s still interesting, but a completely different kind of interesting.

Going remote now is much harder. That said, Cyan and I are thinking to go stay in Taipei with our two little boys, at the end of the year for a few weeks and try being a #remoteceo :slight_smile:

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@collis Thinking about the new Envato Meetups initiative, have you considered opening Envato co-working spots around the world? Places that nomads, and Envato authors and employees alike, can work but also hubs for Envato Meetups to happen around?

Ohh, good questions @atu :smile:

1) Did you notice any difference between managing 10 remoters and 90 remoters?

I’ll add some of my experiences to what @collis said on this one. +1 “Heaps of differences!”

It goes without saying that communicating well through all available means in remote teams is really key to success, but even more so as the team grows. You inherently lose body language communication when remote, which actually accounts for a large amount of the communication people do with each other and how you understand people. People’s varying ability and willingness to adapt to and understand an environment like this becomes much more visible as the team grows partially because, as Collis said, it’s much easier to have closer relationships with 10 people than 90.

There are also some general “rules” of human nature where team structure will form organically as the group size increases if it isn’t purposefully shaped along the way. Although this mostly mirrors non-remote, the challenges it presents are often compounded depending on the the foundation of systems the team is built on (communication, agreed values, etc).

What surprised me early on in managing the Market Quality team as it has grown over the years (50 and growing) was how group / team size related to individual performance and happiness. Though not limited to remoters, it seems to have been more challenging to get it right.

I also found that (maybe depending on the type of work?), the time required for communication wasn’t a linear increase with team size and doesn’t follow the same trends as non-remote teams. As a remote team grows, they tend to require more time for communication than an equal sized non-remote team (where time needs increase faster for remoters). However, when a team reaches a certain size, the required time for communication seems to slow down a lot (requiring less than non-remote).

Having said that, I think it’s very dependent on team structure, type of work, mixtures of personalities and other variables.

Speaking personally as a manager having experienced between a few and 40+ direct remote reports, I learned a lot about the demands various remote team sizes has on me. This is when I initially adopted polyphasic sleeping to better suit a range of time-zones. :wink:

2) What is the next step for nomadism? and remote worker?

+1 regarding visas. The world simply isn’t there yet. I’ve called many immigration departments to make sure I’m following the rules, but largely they’re unable to understand how what I’m doing fits into their existing system.

I’m excited about the growing trend for sharing (housing, cars, bikes, etc). This will be a great enabler for nomadism. The applications we use today that facilitate this sharing are largely based on establishing trust level with total strangers. I love this!

I’m also quite excited about recent growth in remote working facilities like cafes, shared offices, libraries, etc. People are quickly opening to the idea that anyone off the street can pop into their shop for a couple hours to be both productive in their work and a consumer enjoying what the shop has to offer.

Beyond these areas, I think the next step is what’s happening with the nomad / remote working community where it’s organizing and strengthening through an increasing number of people with a strong vision for the community’s future, enabling more people to get started. :smile:

Edit: One more! There’s more and more information and opportunities online that enable these lifestyles, which I hope to see become much more common place. Like Envato! :wink:

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@bear - that would be cool! I really want to open up the Envato HQ in Melbourne to have a coworking spot for Envato authors … except we’re growing and we keep running out of space in every office we inhabit :-/ (Good problems to have I guess!)

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@collis and @jremick: In a completely distributed company, communication is handled one way. In a completely co-located company, communication is handled another way.

As a company that’s split between both models, how do you ensure communications that happen with co-located staff make it out to the remote stuff? (Not necessarily larger things like “all hands”, but just within mixed co-located and remote teams.)

It can be difficult to take those transient but important conversations to people who weren’t present.

(Sorry for so many questions! Don’t mean to take all your time, but this isn’t a common opportunity :slight_smile: )

Great question @Bear!

Having first come from the remote side, then moved to co-located and then experienced each every other month; what seems to have made the biggest impact in this area is being mindful of the broader team (as a whole, regardless of location). The tools and processes facilitate the mindset, but if the mindset is there, people will find a way to communicate to all the right people regardless of location. :smile:

With that said, the tools really help and are getting better every day! Slack has done a great job bridging gaps in these areas as well as Hangouts via Chromeboxes we have in nearly all our office meeting rooms (big TV with HD webcam and conference speaker / mic). Scheduling meetings is quite easy since we’re all on Google Apps Calendar (where we can book meeting rooms, etc).

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Oh, that’s awesome! I guess it’s easier for you in a way, @jremick, having worked remote and working remote regularly.

How does a staff member who has no experience working remotely learn to have that mindset?

@Bear Definitely! I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work in both environments, and especially the frequent back and fourth where I learned things I hadn’t noticed before (about people, teams and productivity).

How does a staff member who has no experience working remotely learn to have that mindset?

We’ve put a lot of effort into improving our ability as a company to introduce new team members to the mindset, tools and our values. So, while there is information and on-boarding processes in place for this, a good portion comes from being immersed in an environment where everyone around you is actively practicing the mindset and aiming to continually do it better.

People can also spend a portion of their week “WFH” (working from home) and they’ve just announced a new option for working remotely for several months (which is more so formalizing previous ad-hoc instances as the company has grown). This gives people lots of opportunity to experience remote working challenges so they can better understand, relate to and participate in the remote working aspect of the company. :smile:

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