Remote work at Railsware icon

Remote Work Success: Railsware Insights

What is your first association with the phrase: “working remotely”? A sunbed, a cocktail, and a palm tree? A nice cozy cafe with a mountain view? Or maybe your favorite green sofa and your fluffy cat sleeping on your knees? Each Railswarian has at least one of these pictures.

Remote work be like (at Railsware)

Railsware is a team of 65 specialists , and at least 25% of us work fully remotely. Why at least? Because we do have two offices, in Krakow (Poland) and Kyiv (Ukraine), where every Railswarian is welcome to work whenever they want. On a high level, our office is an equipped space where you can come at any time to concentrate on your working tasks and meet your team. It is more an opportunity that you can use rather than a place where you have to spend a defined period of time. At the same time, everyone is free to choose where to work from today (well, OK, our office managers are still required to be present on site).

We have been functioning as a distributed team from the very launch of our company in 2006. Since then, such a working model has been turning into a trend and is now considered one of the most attractive employee benefits. So, we decided to share interesting facts and insights from Railsware’s life.

What does work at Railsware look like?

In our team, there are software engineers, product managers, designers, data analysts, marketers, operations managers, and more. Every one of us is working on building great products. Projects for our clients, our own public or internal products, our team, office, payroll – everything is treated as a product. And we are focused on what and how we are doing rather than where and when. This allows us to work in a mixed office mode, where some team members mostly stay in the office and some work remotely from anywhere in the world. The main thing is that you can switch any time, and it’s even recommended to change your working environment from time to time.

I’ve been thinking about changes and maybe relocating to Kyiv or Krakow, but it’s hard to stay away from friends and family. I live in Uzhgorod, which is super close to European countries, the Carpathians and Tatra mountains… So, I decided to stay here (at least for now) and in the end, I feel comfortable with working from home. In addition, I adopted two stray cats, and now we are fixing bugs together.:)

Ruslan portrait

Ruslan Kuzma
Full-stack engineer


Diana Lepilkina portrait

Diana Lepilkina
Content marketer

There is flexibility in where to go and when. I can head to Sri Lanka for a month or spend several weeks in a village in the Carpathian mountains. Also, I like working from home – I feel much more productive, don’t spend time in traffic, buy fewer clothes, and can even take a nap after lunch.:D Sometimes I travel to one of our offices, and it feels more like a celebration than a daily routine.

How did we make remote work WORK?

The most common concerns about remote work come down to proper communication with the team and the ability to stay productive. It’s probably true that remote work culture won’t suit everyone but in general, its success depends on the right process management. Our management approach is based on trust and freedom, self-organized teams, feedback, and transparency, along with established processes with no bullshit and no silos.

Flexible schedule

To equally distribute our workload and analyze it further, we track working time (currently, we use Toggl). We have a recommended number of monthly hours but your daily schedule is flexible. You just need to adjust it to team syncs and/or client communication. Your compensation depends on the number of working hours, however, your performance is measured by your actual results.

Communication

Communication shapes teamwork and smooth collaboration. We thoroughly plan and discuss our activities. We hold the following:

  • daily standups in teams (5 -15 minutes), to stay up to date with current progress, instantly ask questions, and resolve blockers
  • iteration planning meetings (IPMs), usually weekly, to review the roadmap, prioritize current tasks for the next period, and discuss the outcomes
  • retrospective meetings (monthly or after a project ends) to sum up what went well and what should be improved
  • pair programming and/or collaboration sessions, to actually work together on particular tasks and projects
  • In addition, we hold one-on-one feedback sessions to talk about current progress, perspectives, and just share how things are going.

    Also, we create meeting notes for the majority of our discussions and post updates in the company Slack channels to keep everyone on track and to give us the chance to return to some ideas or details later asynchronously. At Railsware, we manage our activities with the following tools:

  • for task tracking – Trello, JIRA, Pivotal Tracker, Dynalist
  • for data management and sharing – G Suite (mostly Google Drive, GSheets, and Google Docs)
  • for inceptions and shaping strategies – Mural.co
  • for quick drawing and reviewing – Figma, InVision
  • for group calls and instant messaging – Slack, Hangouts
  • for internal updates – Vimeo, Slack
  • Ingrid portrait

    Ingrid Abuladze
    Front-end engineer

    We have constant daily meetings and everything is documented. Task management rocks – I understand who does what and I see the progress in my work.
    Checklists are especially helpful here!

    Life is about moving …. It doesn’t really matter where and why one moves… just pick up your laptop and some brains, and go and do the job. :)
    Everyone in the company tolerates this approach, that’s why people can join the same sync from 3 or 4 different countries. Plus, those who work in the office don’t discriminate against those who work remotely.

    Olga portrait

    Olga Rusnak
    Marketing specialist

    Effective online sync and async communication help us in managing daily commitments while personal meetings also play a great role in the remote work culture. A few times per year, we gather in one of our offices for internal product inceptions when starting new projects, or for big planning sessions.

    Benefits

    Another crucial thing is providing the same benefits along with setting the same rules for everyone.

    Hardware policy

    All Railswarians have access to the great devices by getting a hardware budget. This way, notwithstanding your location, you can set up your workstation according to your needs and get support from the operations team. By default, Railsware provides you with a workstation consisting of a MacBook and a top-quality monitor, but can easily be changed according to your preferences.

    Vacations and national holidays

    Our team is distributed among several countries when someone is on a long journey. In such terms, it’s impossible to set a fixed working schedule and national holidays calendar. We simply have ten days added to a regular vacation. In general, you get 34 vacation days per year, which you can take whenever you want. It means that you are free to choose whether you are off celebrating Christmas or you have a regular working day.

    Healthcare

    Wellbeing support is crucial. Usual corporate medical insurance, membership cards, and discount programs in specific sport clubs don’t work equally for the distributed team. For this reason, we also provide an annual budget for each team member to cover private sports and healthcare expenses.

    How does remote work shape the company culture? Or vice versa

    Flat company structure

    Railsware doesn’t have a strict hierarchy and is not divided into departments. We work in project-based teams where everyone has their role and responsibilities as a team member, person responsible, consultant, or approver. For example, you can act as a person responsible for a list of activities on Mailtrap (our public product for email testing) and be a consultant for the office space. Your engagement is defined by both your skills and your interests.

    Socializing with the team

    We regularly have smaller local team events like board games in the office, team quests, dinners, master classes, etc., where everyone is welcome to join. The whole team gathers every year during our big company retreats. Usually, all Railswarians and their families move for a week to some nice location by the seaside to socialize, have fun, and also talk about the company strategy and vision during several short sessions. During the previous several years, we have explored Greece, Italy, and Croatia together.

    Culture of freedom

    Micromanagement is toxic, as all those artificial limitations destroy proactivity and innovation. Making the right things and staying happy with what you are doing – this is what actually motivates people. This is why we have chosen flexibility in the working schedule, location, and even company roles. Any Railswarian can contribute to the project of their interest, as well as share their feedback on any company process.

    Ruslan portrait

    Ruslan Kuzma
    Full-stack engineer

    My main motivation is feeling accomplished at the end of the day. And I can get it by meeting my commitments and completing planned tasks. Also, I use the time when I’m the most productive. There are some days when you just can’t concentrate or don’t feel well so it’s better to go for a walk or switch to something else and then get back when you are ready to stay focused.

    Railsware stories

    Our mixed approach to a workspace gives freedom to both the company and Railswarians. Railsware is not limited geographically when cooperating with the best talent. Railswarians keep their work-life balance and don’t depend on external circumstances. Alex Chaplinsky, our full-stack engineer is mostly based in Krakow and works from the office. At the same time, he travels a lot (and we mean it!) running his personal travel vlog on YouTube.

    Recently, three of our marketers almost simultaneously relocated to other cities, or even countries, with their families. It was an unexpected coincidence! Just imagine, if remote work was not possible, we would have lost a huge part of our marketing team right away.

    I am a social person so I enjoyed the office life. But remote work suits me perfectly in this case because there was no need to look for a new job, I still do what I like to do – marketing of both services and products. In addition, flexible hours are a lifesaver when there are a ton of things to do due to relocation.
    I have realized that remote work does not mean “loneliness”. Go out, communicate with people, make new friends, attend events, etc.! You just have another space for work.

    Anna portrait

    Anna Poradovska
    Growth marketer

    All of us have our own stories, preferences, and habits. While someone may feel better working from home, someone else needs to meet colleagues in person. We believe that it should be you who manages your environment and chooses how you spend your “today”.

    Anton portrait

    Anton Sivakov
    Full-stack engineer

    Remote work gives me the opportunity to shape my days as I wish. This was challenging at the beginning but now it feels really efficient. I can mix my personal and work tasks during the day, choosing the time when I am most productive for each particular activity. I surround myself with inspiring things and can take a break to recover from burnout with the gym or my hobbies. On the other hand, I can go to the office and join company events to hangout with my teammates. This helps fire up my team spirit!

    You can travel for a long period of time and start living like a local in various places. This way, you can choose where you want to live. You can make friends with anyone in the world and date someone who has different citizenship without a need to radically change your life. Remote work increases the quality of your life.

    Ingrid portrait

    Ingrid Abuladze
    Front-end engineer