Remote working tips and tricks from our team of Tyklings

From the very outset, Tyk has been a remote-first organisation. It is an approach that was originally born of necessity, as our founders Martin and James lived on opposite sides of the globe. They knew they had to make the business work remotely.

It was an approach which opened up the world to Tyk and has helped it to become the innovative, dynamic organisation that it is today. With founders based in New Zealand and London, why wouldn’t our first hire be in Paraguay?

The early Tyk team quickly realised that a remote-first approach could be a net benefit, rather than a limitation. They ran with the concept and built a structure that is global, flexible and provides the company with a competitive edge. Today, Tyk’s team is spread across 25 countries, in six continents.

The focus is on output, not how many hours a week are spent at your desk. People work around their family and other commitments, with diaries that are up to date and visible to all, so everyone knows where they stand. Diary commitments are not questioned. The focus is on trust and supporting colleagues, without letting anyone down.

How to get the best out of remote working

Of course, remote working isn’t a concept that works only as a result of planning and structures. It relies on team members buying in to the extensive amount of trust placed in them and finding their own ways of working efficiently. As such, we asked our Tyklings to provide their own, personal remote working tips and hacks. Here’s what they had to say.

Bear in mind that remote working is a different experience for everyone, so different approaches will suit different people!

Give yourself structure

Adam Cavanagh, Tyk’s VP of Sales for EMEA, points out that successful remote working is all about structure.

“Some people find it easy to work remotely and manage their own time, but others don’t. Have daily, weekly and monthly guidelines that outline what you need to achieve can really help with that.”

 

DevOps Engineer Alok Singh echoes that, stressing that without a routine, things just don’t work:

“Working remotely is very different to sitting in an office that you don’t like – at least you still go there and have colleagues around and know that things get done. If you work remotely somewhere that’s not conducive to work, nothing will get done!”

Find the workspace that works for you

This is an issue that tends to divide remote workers. For some remote workers, sitting in bed with a laptop is ideal, but others find a home office, a café or a co-working space is essential to productive working.

Alok recommends finding a place that is conducive to work, as does our Product Evangelist Budha Bhattacharya. He points out that working from your bedroom isn’t always ideal due to the bed’s inherent seductive power!

Our CEO Martin Buhr agrees:

“Have a dedicated space for work. I can’t stress this enough. You need a ‘safe space’ where you aren’t disturbed. It’s great to work from the kitchen table, but if you have kids then that becomes impossible to maintain a flow.”

 

Taking a different stance is COO James Hirst, who believes that a focus on turning a part of your home into the corporate office isn’t the right approach:

“Too many businesses focus on the tactical requirements of making it possible for someone to effectively ‘connect to the office’ when working from home. We prefer to remove the concept of the office entirely and instead focus on how someone connects with their colleagues, the company objectives, etc.”

Immerse yourself in the culture

Those connections between colleagues and with the company itself have created an incredibly positive culture at Tyk. For those working remotely for a company for the first time, Bid & Account Manager Tamara Evans recommends getting involved in the company culture as much as possible.

At Tyk, for example, we run twice-weekly cafés where staff call in for a chat. Work matters are usually off the table – these are sessions for making connections and getting to know each other better. Tamara comments:

“It’s a good way to put faces to names. All sorts of things come up, like people being away for the coming week… all those things you would chat about at the water cooler!”

Tamara also advises reaching out to your new colleagues from the outset:

“Introducing yourself in person via Slack is important too. Familiarise yourself not just with your own team but with experts from across the company.”

Use the right tech

Remote working has to be driven by the right technology if it’s going to be effective. Tyk’s HR Manager, Alison Lambert, swears by Zoom for meetings and Slack for daily comms – both professional and personal:

“We even have a thread for pets, people’s travels, kudos, shout outs, birthdays and anniversaries. It’s the equivalent of office chit chat.”

On a more serious note, she highlights the use of Slack as a tool to combat the loneliness that can sometimes be a result of remote working:

“We have a slack channel for mental health or people who are struggling/need some contact. Everyone jumps in.”

For sharing information, the Tyk team operates a totally paperless environment.

Recruitment Manager Michal Peleg explains:

“Being remote first, one of the key things is to have everything documented and accessible. We use Github, Google docs, and we even have an internal wiki page that answers every question from expenses and company policies, to our employee handbook.”

Michal also highlights the value of Zoom when you recruit staff from around the world:

“All of our face to face meetings and interviews happen via Zoom. It is also integrated with our calendars and Slack. We also use Trello for managing new Tyklings’ first few weeks.”

Take responsibility

When you work remotely, the buck stops with you. It is your responsibility to be efficient and to achieve what you need to – and to support your colleagues to do the same. There are two ways to achieve this.

Firstly, think about practical ways to make yourself more efficient. Our CEO Martin has four quick tips for this:

  • Clear your inbox of anything not directly relevant in one go, don’t live in your inbox. Use it as a To Do list.
  • Do simple, quick things first: those quick early wins give you motivation to tackle bigger tasks.
  • Prioritise, all the time. Know what you want to achieve with your day, make it achievable and you’ll stay sane.
  • Wherever you can, make everything you do asynchronous. Consider how you can tackle a task so that it doesn’t need constant input from others.

There’s also the psychological side of working efficiently when you’re out of the office. According to Tyk’s Culture Manager, Vicki, this is something that companies can support their staff to achieve:

“You can empower your remote workers to be efficient by giving them radical responsibility.

Tyk has a fully flexible schedule, no set hours and unlimited leave – which delivers great results. Everyone in the business is individually accountable. It’s not about how many hours you work, it’s about getting stuff done.”

 

Recruitment Manager Michal chips in:

“We always get asked how we track that our fully flexible schedule isn’t abused. Firstly, we hire people who love what they do and take pride in it; they genuinely care about the quality of their work and feel responsible for being part of Tyk’s growth. Our teams get the utmost autonomy and freedom to create a workspace they are comfortable in. That makes them most productive and gives them the headspace to think outside the box. We hire people who can challenge us. People who just want unlimited holidays or to slack off at home wouldn’t pass an interview with us!”

 

Fit your remote work around your life, not the other way around

Working remotely opens up opportunities that being tied to an office simply can’t. Tyklings can work from anywhere. They can work while travelling and many change country and city regularly to follow a particular passion, pursue a new line of study alongside work or just explore the world.

Knowing what you want to get out of remote working and how you want it to fit around your life is key to making that happen. As Culture Manager Vicki points out, it’s important to feel in control of how you plan your day and manage your work. The same applies to where you live and what you get out of life.

Switch off

Switching off is immensely important when you work remotely and even more so when you’re part of a global organisation that always has someone online. Global Commercial Director Andrew Murray advises:

“Know when to turn off. We can’t stay online 24 hours a day that wouldn’t be healthy. Also take regular breaks away from the screen.”

A healthy balance of work time and down time is essential to a happy remote working arrangement. Paul Cooper, our Marketing Executive, echoes Andrew’s advice:

“It’s important to remember to switch off. This can be hard when your laptop’s with you all the time – you hear a message come in and it’s tempting to check. It’s a matter of self-discipline. You have to have the right mindset and make sure things wait until the next day.”

 

Working with me, myself and I

Working remotely can be a lonely business, particularly when you’re based at home, so it’s important to be prepared for the kind of isolation that it brings. CEO Martin Buhr points out that working from home is not for everyone!

“You need to be comfortable in your own skin and need to be comfortable with your own thoughts. Some folks really need a lot of input and stimulus to feel effective. If you’re working from home, that input isn’t there except through Slack, Zoom and email, and those tools can become a serious distraction from being effective because they pull you out of your flow state. You want to avoid them becoming a surrogate for the kind of random interaction you would get in an office.”

COO James agrees, pointing out that honest self-examination is important here and that your character plays a big part in it.

Ultimately, remote working is a journey that’s unique for everyone. We hope that these tips and insights will help you on the way!

To find out more about how we work, take a look at our worklife at Tyk.