Doug and Vivek
Co-founders
April 15, 2020

Company Interview with Doug and Vivek, co-founders of remote tool, Pragli

Doug has interviewed hundreds of remote teams as a co-founder of Pragli. Here's what he sees as common remote management patterns amongst those teams and organizations.

How did you get started with remote work?

I generally see two different reasons teams transition to remote:

  • Talent retention: Someone needs to move away for a personal reason, but the company wants to retain them. This becomes a slippery slope to creating a remote policy for everyone.

  • Talent acquisition: the company feels they are limited by their geography, so they begin building out teams remotely. A good example is Stripe.

I generally see three reasons teams start out remote:

  • Founder lifestyle: The founder lives away from a talent hub or wants to be a digital nomad.

  • Open source: Companies start as open-source projects with contributors all over the world. Examples: lots of crypto companies, Elastic

  • Forward-looking: Some companies believe remote is inevitable, and want to lean into it by building a remote-first company

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What are the benefits teams see by allowing remote work?

The biggest benefits to the company are:

  • Acquire and retain talent that isn't in your geo
  • Costs - no office, plus sometimes cheaper talent

The biggest benefits to the team members are:

  • No commute
  • Increased focus time (less distraction)
  • Live wherever

I've noticed that most people who work remotely love it. They can't imagine doing anything else.

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What have been some of the challenges?

The biggest challenges I see are:

Communication - Many teams use Slack for everything, which results in a ton of distraction and lower-fidelity conversation.

Loneliness - Especially amongst more junior employees, teammates have difficulty bonding.

Talent Management - I see a lot of remote employees who aren't being challenged enough or aren't receiving enough contact from their boss. Of course, this also happens all the time in offices, but it happens at a higher rate amongst remote teammates.

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Do you see a lot of hybrid or full-remote teams?

Probably 2/3rds of the teams we work with are hybrid, 1/3rd is fully remote.

I think the true "market" is even more hybrid. Both segments are growing quickly.

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What are the most popular tools you see?

We make Pragli, a virtual office for remote teams - so most of the people we work with are using it.

Generally, teams are coming from just Slack + Zoom for communication. They get frustrated with this because there's too much back-and-forth over text and too much friction to set up a Zoom call.

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What does a typical day look like for the remote teams you've surveyed?

Most of the teams we work with are startups or software development teams within bigger companies. These teams generally have a daily or weekly standup, but otherwise communicate primarily through Slack.

One of the shocking discoveries that we made in our interviews of remote teams was that the average remote software engineer only has one unscheduled audio/video interaction with teammates per week.

Compare that to being in an office!

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

It's amazing how involved HR is with a lot of these decisions. We spend a lot of time working with HR professionals. They are often brought in as vetting for tools.

Sometimes, this can be frustrating if the HR seems very out of sync with the experience of the other departments.

Good HR people spend a lot of time understanding the work habits of their peers and don't just evaluate from the perspective of what they themselves want.

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How do you see teams build trust and facilitate opportunities for face-to-face interactions?

A lot of teams struggle with this, especially for new team members.

Many teams have an annual or bi-annual in-person meetup. These are extremely valuable; I've heard from many remote workers that they didn't feel fully plugged into their team until their first in-person meetup.

However, we believe that waiting 3-6 months for the next meetup is unacceptable. That's part of the reason that we built Pragli. Pragli helps teams build closeness faster.

We've noticed this is particularly an issue for hybrid teams. Fully distributed teams have an even playing field, whereas it's easy for the remote member of a hybrid team to feel left out.

When having meetings with a hybrid team, consider using brady bunch video conferencing to make everyone feel equal.

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How do you see remote work impact the productivity of companies?

While teams do struggle with certain issues, on balance, I see a very high degree of productivity amongst remote teams.

I think concerns about remote workers' not working hard is a stigma that's just not true.

Remote workers save a ton of time not commuting and give some of this back to the company, which is part of the reason they on average work more hours than in-office workers.

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Biography

Doug and Vivek

Vivek and Doug co-founded Pragli, a virtual office for remote teams, used by hundreds of leading companies globally such as VMware, Mercari, and Fullstory.

Pragli enables remote workers to frictionlessly dive into impromptu conversations with audio channels and direct conversations, similar to a walkie talkie. It also allows workers to feel more present with their team by helping them craft a unique digital identity with live avatars.

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