From its founding, publishing analytics startup Parse.ly has embraced the idea of a virtual office. Its CTO, Andrew Montalenti, was a big believer in the power of distributed teams, a perspective gained through working on various open source projects.
However, while some of the digital communication practices necessitated by the engineering team—Yammer, chat, meetings with Google Hangouts—were also used by the the rest of the team, the latter followed a more traditional model. Montalenti and his team were spread out all around the country, but Parse.ly’s business team occupied a single office in New York City. At least before Sandy hit.
“When Sandy hit it was disruptive and not,” said CEO Sachin Kamdar. By that he meant that while the business team—and two engineers in town for a conference—were displaced and forced to work from friends’ homes and wherever else they could find power, the systems they had put in place to cope with half of the staff working remotely every single day largely came to the rescue.
“Even though they had to work at all these different locations it was literally just like getting back in the game because we’re so used to working distributively,” he said.
John Levitt, who handles sales and marketing, was without power for nine days, forced to work from a friend’s in New Jersey. That friend turned out to have plenty of other friends without power, so the house that week included eight adults, two infants, and two dogs.
And yet, Levitt told me, ““My productivity was probably at its peak.”
What Parse.ly’s business team started to discover with its team stranded across the tri-state area in the aftermath from Sandy, was that working remotely had its own set of benefits.
More usage of Yammer, for instance, equated to greater transparency and collaboration in decision-making. In at least one instance, a conversation between two members of the business team on the messaging platform induced developers to weigh in, providing useful input into a conversation that would otherwise have been conducted one-on-one, verbally in the office.
With things back to normal now for Parse.ly post-Sandy, that recognition has changed the way the company approaches the question of working from home. Not only does the team now encourage it even for those who normally work out of the office, they plan to advertise that feature to new employees in interviews.
Going forward, Kamdar, explained, the policy would be, ““You have an office to work at but you don’t have to work there every day of the week.”