Devin Bramhall
November 02, 2020

Company Interview with Devin, CEO of Animalz

How do you keep remote teams motivated? Devin, CEO of Animalz, shares her tips for how leaders can avoid demotivation and her hopes for the future of remote work.

How did you get started with remote work?

Being a remote company is about more than just location. It’s a lifestyle and culture choice.

You need to implement supportive policies that help your team thrive in the environment you choose.

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What has been the benefit of allowing remote work?

The most obvious and well-known benefits are flexibility, freedom, and time.

  • Flexibility. Particularly for folks with families. It allows them to create a work schedule that more closely aligns with their children’s and partner’s needs.
  • Freedom to work from anywhere they want (particularly appealing for those who like to travel).
  • Time: we have a lot of folks who have hobbies like mountain biking, cooking, needlepoint, you name it. Eliminating a commute to an office saves at a minimum an hour every day that folks can invest in other things they’re passionate about.

All of this helps the business because employees are happier and more motivated because they have plenty of time in the week to invest in themselves.

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What have been some of the challenges?

Keeping the team connected and engaged. Remote companies do have to work harder at things like communication and creating interactions between folks on the team. Employees also have to make more of an effort to reach out to their colleagues, which for some folks is harder to do through a screen. It takes a lot of effort from both parties, and it’s not easy (but totally worth it).

Serendipity. In remote work, pretty much all brainstorms are scheduled. But when you’re working at an office, you’re having impromptu conversations at lunch, happy hour, at the “watercooler.” It’s hard to replicate those unplanned interactions at remote companies.

I believe the best remote companies continue to experiment with new ways to connect different parts of the team in different ways.

You can achieve connection, engagement, serendipity, but it requires leaders to think creatively and be willing to experiment.

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Do you have a hybrid or full-remote team?

We are fully remote.

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What are your company's most popular tools?

Airtable, Slack (obviously), Quip, Front, Zoom. For team connection we use Donut, Pizzatime.

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How do you support or train your remote managers?

We have the same documentation and meetings with folks on the team as you would if we were co-located. Those meetings are just held via Zoom.

  • Every new hire has an onboarding buddy. Someone who will answer their questions and will support them through onboarding.
  • Meet with key members of the leadership team to understand company mission, vision, values, goals, structure, etc.
  • Meet with other managers to get acquainted with their peers.
  • Go through strategist training (several weeks)

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How has the role of HR changed when it comes to supporting remote workforces?

HR at remote companies has the additional role of connecting the team in meaningful ways to prevent folks from feeling isolated, demotivated. I think this is true for leadership too.

We need to constantly be sharing our vision, purpose, to remind folks that the work they are doing matters.

I think it’s easier to feel that organically when you’re co-located in an office. On remote teams, things like regular team memos, monthly All Hands, and written updates from leads go a long way towards making the team feel more connected and therefore, motivated.

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How do you build trust and camaraderie among your remote workers?

It’s all about process and goal-setting. If you are clear about expectations and deadlines, then everyone knows what they need to do to succeed. If you have a process that includes sharing what you’re working on, reporting on your work, etc. then you know how your team is performing and what they are up to. The rest of that trust is up to you as a leader to have faith in your team.

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How do you hope to see remote work evolve in the future?

I would love to make retreats more affordable. We’ve wanted to do one for years, but they can be so costly to do them well. Also, coworking spaces: I’d love to see more impromptu coworking at unique spaces. There are many restaurants and bars in LA that open up their space in the daytime to remote workers, which I think is really cool.

Would love to see a whole network of them in every city where you can go for the day to work and possibly meet other people by way of meetups coordinated at those spaces in the evening.

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Devin Bramhall

Storyteller, writer, marketer. Devin Bramhall is currently the CEO of Animalz, a remote content marketing agency producing the best content on the web for B2B Saas companies. Bramhall is also the founder of the Master Slam, a poetry slam-style debate about startups and tech.

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