Sharon Koifman
September 07, 2020

Company Interview with Sharon Koifman, CEO of DistantJob

With DistantJob, Sharon has created a mistake-friendly environment where managers lead by example. See his tips for building trust and security among his remote teams.

What made you develop a remote work policy for your company?

We are a recruitment agency that specializes in remote recruitment.

It would be a bit harder if we wouldn't practice what we preach.

But even if it wouldn't be the case, we love the advantage of being able to find candidates from all over the world - it helps a lot with getting a good fit for a position - and people really seem to like their job.

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What has been the benefit of allowing remote work?

There is a list of amazing advantages. First, you have the incredible advantage of having access to a much bigger pool of talent, and you can also work with people in countries where the cost of living is much lower.

Lower cost of living means happier employees for less money. People take less sick days, and they are less likely to stop a project in the middle. You save the environment by reducing commute, and employees tend to use those commute hours to catch up on work.

There are so much research and surveys available about how people are happier, more independent, and far more productive. The list just goes on.

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What have been some of the challenges?

The biggest challenge in a remote environment is creating a company culture and paying attention to mental health.

People are not always in your face like in an office environment, and there is no mutual checking in.

There are also fewer opportunities to hang out together, to have a drink or a party. You have to work harder to provide similar opportunities for connection and check in on your people.

A lot of managers are not equipped to "get personal" with their team, and this is a much-needed requirement in this era.

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Do you have a hybrid or full-remote team?

Our team is fully remote. Once in a while, I do hire someone locally, but I still treat him/her as a remote employee.

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What are your company's most popular tools?

We use the standard, Zoom, Slack, and our project management software is Basecamp. I personally use the Jabra Evolve 75 headset but have switched to the open-ear Aftershokz Aeropex during this pandemic so I can listen to what my children are up to.

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What does a typical day look like for your remote teams?

Through Basecamp, the entire team reports on their tasks in the morning. These are goals that they make for themselves during an all hands-on team meeting at the beginning of the week.

If there are any immediate or short term requirements, it is described on Slack and quickly transitions into Zoom discussions. If it is a long term project or brainstorm, it is placed on Basecamp, where we can discuss ideas and answers regarding the actual project, or we book a brainstorming session.

We are very careful not to schedule too many meetings or to message people without a proper description because distraction management is very important for us.

Of course, at the end of the day, we love to see the accomplishments and conclusions of the tasks and projects on Basecamp as well.

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How do you support or train your remote managers?

First of all, by being a human who cares about personal things as much as about the work-related tasks, I encourage my managers to know the name of the pet of their employees and their hobbies.

Second, I focus on creating a mistake friendly environment where my managers are comfortable picking up the pieces.

I train them to be good listeners and to be approachable, and if they don't have enough time for that, to communicate well with their team and not get angry. I do a lot by example, and the rest of our employees get to see in meetings how the manager can challenge me and tell me everything freely and honestly.

There is a continuous reminder that employees can offer as much input as they want. I teach constructive conflict, which is a tough skill to get. How do you argue constructively without taking it personally? My managers need to become experts at it because I need them to be all in during brainstorm sessions without offending each other.

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Do you have a formal remote work policy?

Formality, in my opinion, creates robots. We have simple rules on how to communicate without distracting, as I shared in my previous answers.

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

Well, considering that I have been working in the remote world for 17 years, I can't really respond to how it changed, but what I see when we do HR for the clients is that we really need to put extra effort into the personal side of things.

People in remote environments sometimes feel like they are a resource, not a person, and they don't get the feedback that they need.

HR also needs to make the candidate feel that HR has their back. If someone is not doing well, HR should be a safe zone. The boss should instruct the HR that they are even allowed to keep things private.

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

Love that question, but is somewhat similar to one of the previous ones. Trust is the first thing to build from the management down. I empower people to contribute and penalize people that do not.

When you are somewhat forced to contribute, you are hoping that the person at the top will take it well, and of course, making sure that myself and my managers take people's input well is how I build trust.

If I penalize people for taking the risk of giving their opinion even once, maybe because I am in a bad mood that day, that's probably three months of trust-building efforts to bring trust back to the previous level.

We also focus heavily on culture. We try to create hangout drinks on Zoom, we play board games and card games virtually, and we use an app called Donut that schedules random 1-on-1s. We also share recipes and jokes on Slack, which seems to keep everyone happy.

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Do you facilitate opportunities for face-to-face interactions?

If you mean webcam face to face, yes, absolutely, you honestly can't get to know a person without talking on WebCam. If you mean physical, not really, our employees are all over the world.

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How has remote work impacted your company's productivity?

First of all, it gives me the opportunity to find better and happier people. That by itself reflects on productivity. Then there is less distraction. My employees are, no doubt more productive.

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What did we forget to ask Sharon Koifman?

At RemoteHabits we're always trying to improve our interviews, what question should we have asked Sharon Koifman?


Sharon Koifman

Sharon Koifman believes every company, from the biggest enterprise to the newly-launched garage startup, should have access to the world's top talent.

That's why he used over 15 years of experience in the tech industry recruitment & HR to create DistantJob, a recruitment agency that specializes in remote employees.

His unique recruitment model allows DistantJob's client to get exceptional better fitting talents at an incredible value.

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