Company Culture · Hiring

How will the move to a more distributed workforce affect company culture?

Gary Swart General Partner

September 23rd, 2015

Continuing this discussion, how will the move to a more distributed workforce affect company culture?

JC Duarte Co-founder & COO @

September 23rd, 2015

Great topic Gary! If done right, it's an opportunity for a company culture to become stronger & more agile.

In my own company, which ironically is named "", we do have a distributed team working across the US. Indeed, as @John Philpin, it is easier when you start out this way, but it can still create a significant culture problem from a cohesiveness & effective communication perspective if you don't align the right tools, processes & rhythm.

In my experience, there's not a one size fits all solution as every company has it's unique DNA. But I have found that if you use the right rhythm of Daily, Weekly, Monthly & Quarterly meetings / pulse checks, based on executing a One Page Strategic Plan, which everyone revises each quarter in the same physical space, then you create enough touchpoints to literally stay on the same page.

The same physical space thing when your team gets past 10, looks like a Leadership team of 4-6 coming together in one physical location, followed by each leader then cascading to his next in commands, or an execution committee coming together, closer to home to cascade the execution strategy.

Ideally, as 
the team gets bigger, you're rotating 50% of the execution committee each quarter so that (1) everyone gets a chance to participate over the course of a year, while (2) maintaining some effective level of continuity.

That's how it's worked for me when I've worked internationally across multiple timezones & (ethnic) cultures, and I can see it working here at as we start to ramp-up our resources.

Hope that's what you were looking for.


Vikram Bakhru Chief Operating Officer at First Opinion, Inc.

September 23rd, 2015

I think that popularization of the distributed work force model will increase demand for tools that facilitate company culture. In the absence of incorporating such tools (slack, etc.) into the realization of incidental communication, I think that distributed workforces will ultimately result in higher turnover and greater mistrust within teams (and therefore the obvious downstream effects on company culture). So much of the team experience is predicated on the ability to receive validation and feedback - as certain workforces move to remote models, it will be important to incorporate new communication and management approaches that allow people to remain a sense of connection to team, company and purpose.

I also think that company culture can be augmented in unique ways through leveraging the benefits of distributed models. For example, occasional meetups or company conferences might result in greater engagement among team members who prefer the ability to execute their daily work remotely but still connect periodically with peers. As well, teams may be more productive overall owing to fewer distractions and this may lead to a greater sense of accomplishment if the management team can demonstrate this effectively and regularly to the team so as to build a culture of collective productivity and encourage engagement in one another's work product.

John Philpin People | Passion | Platforms

September 23rd, 2015

BIG topic - and massive impact - unless you are starting from day one with that approach, not everyone likes the disconnected - work form home approach - enjoy socializing with teams etc etc - but if you are starting from scratch with that - then people joining know what they are getting into.

I think I can feel a blog post coming on !

Dmitry Fedotov CEO @ RG Group

September 29th, 2015

Nice topic indeed.
In addition to input above my short input:

1. Consider travel
Establishing a branch to cut costs? Consider travel expenses. They will be unavoidable. 

2. Time zones 
Choosing a location (in case it is possible) consider time zones. There are 2 sides to this:
a. Having a location close to HQ time zone is critical for collaboration. Otherwise be prepared for all processes to have at least 16-24 hr. loop. 
b. On the flip side, you will be able to reach out/provide resources to users/clients/audience located outside of your current geo reach. 

3. Team communication
In one of my startups I've noticed a communication problem rather late: our HQ was located in a multi storey office complex, and office space was distributed across 3 floors. At some point I noticed, that team members from one floor don't recognize the ones from the other floor: they simply did not have a need for a direct communication (engineers and accounts or HR and design). 

Needless to say that international offices where known only from office pictures on "contact" section of the company website. 

1. Enforce visual communication (in my case it was cisco video phones for security, but skype video is quite enough normally);
2. Weekly breakfast (every monday regional team had a joint breakfast in a nearby coffee joint);
3. Global calls at least 1/week. In our case it was a team call every Friday on result achieved during past week. 

4. Management visibility
Generally, it is critical for ANY company to understand where the management is. Especially in Startups.
To an extreme in my case: all my employees had a visibility of my current location on "Find Friends" app. Which might have been an overkill. 
Absence from office(s) is not a good sign (I know this first hand as the one being absent during complicated periods and knowing the negativity of this). 

5. Mission clarity
It is extremely critical that teams spread across locations are on the same page in terms of company status, current focus and priorities. 
Don't be shy to allocate as much time for this as it's reasonably necessary. Overshare will not be your problem unless you try to isolate divisions. 

JC Duarte Co-founder & COO @

September 24th, 2015

@ John Philpin - totally agree, but then there's also the advantage of the productivity increase by reduced interruptions, especially when you add integrated asynchronous communication tools like Slack.

David Sr Cloud-First AI Deep Learning Video Security Executive

September 25th, 2015

I am currently building a ground up effort... and plan on having thousand of employees...  all scattered throughout the globe.  As I build my plan I'm trying to add in extra travel and time expenses to deal with just this topic.

Communication has come so far that remote meetings will be possible but we definitely want that face to face human to human relationship with ourselves as a team.

We will create an extremely motivated effort and I think the 'virtual' world as we understand it is currently getting more and more the 'real' world.

Brick and mortar companies like ... oh... brick makers or masons or constructors or electricians will always really need to be on site companies.  I believe all other business types will need to have a hybrid of some small force at HQ to set corporate standards, then the rest of their teams in the cloud working remotely.

Having said all of this...  If you take a look at the very most successful sales organizations that are increasing their numbers by Billions (not just millions) ...  they are going the opposite route and pooling all of their talent into less quantity of call centers with more team members in each center.

Dunno..  I guess my current effort will be an excellent project to see what's possible today.  :)

John Tobin CTO Limelight Mobile Inc. Owner

September 29th, 2015

Distributed workforce will definitely be detrimental to company culture.

Tools to facilitate distributed employees, are great for transporting facts, lists, but other facets of human interaction, not so much. They also allow for more chances of misinterpretation of the true intention of the other party.

There is more to work and life, than text messages, emails and the in person, face to face meeting carries so much more meaning.

Humans are social creatures, to pretend that these tools get anywhere close to addressing social needs within a workplace, is counter productive. Culture will definitely take a hit.

The need for people working together vs distributed employees has always been a hot topic, but at the end of the day, people still get on planes to meet other people to get work done.


Alfredo Perez Founder & CEO at Local Heroes, President & Chief Digital Officer at KABEL

September 23rd, 2015

Face to face is still the broadest communication channel we have in our professional lives as delivers motivation, trust and inspiration along with information, and those are key aspect when you are managing a team.

In my experience to compensate the lack of these face to face interactions as @ JC Duarte mentioned, communication efficiency is key and requires an extra commitment from the managers to be extremely systematic in planning and following up with the team.
Especially when you have 9 hours difference with part of the team, as it's my case, becomes mandatory. 
Sometimes being in different times zones is beneficial, you will be forced to use the common working hours to communicate in a very efficient way and the rest of the time you won't be distracted. 

I hope it helps

Mike Whitfield Sr. Software Engineer, EPAM, Google

September 29th, 2015

As someone who adopted remote work at an early age to learn, what I can do to contribute to this shift?  What do you see this cultural shift enabling?

Deborah Chang

September 29th, 2015

I am incredibly excited about the power of distributed networks to scale culture. I define culture as core values though which all decisions (including hiring and firing) are filtered, that are co-created and co-maintained by organization members, and are reinforced by common consistent actions.

So far, what I've found effective in building distributed culture includes:
  • Making culture explicit through writing it down, communicating it constantly, and most importantly, empowering members to use peer accountability to contribute to that culture. Examples include:
    • Zappos Family Core Values (
    • #NYCEDU Culture Book (
  • Building infrastructure for open communication and transparency. For example, at #NYCEDU we use Slack for all internal communication, put everything on Google Docs that can be commented on by anyone, and have crystal clear organization ( so that people can join whichever projects interest them the most. I also have a hunch that flat organization structures are necessary for this to happen, but that's still a question mark for me.
  • Communities are made of tight-knit sub-communities. Our slack channels dedicated to projects such as ( ) and our Community map ( ) consist of only 6 or fewer project organizers, but because project organizers are connected to one another cross projects, these small teams that come together around problems to generate solutions add up to a whole community with shared culture and stickiness.
  • Establishing avenues for in-person community / culture building as well. We have #climbingcrew (climb once a month), #brunchcrew (get brunch once a month), We Are Convenings (bringing together people in same functional roles), etc. We make friends, not connections (to quote the founder of
Questions on my mind are:
  1. How might we continue building up people's capacities to co-own and co-create distributed organization cultures?
  2. How might our values and norms evolve as needed while remaining true to who we are?
  3. How might we identify, protect from, and expel bad actors?
Am following this topic with great interest to see what people contribute!