This post is the first of the 4-part of the “Beyond The Boardroom” series, which examines how how innovations in mobile are revolutionizing the virtual workforce. “Beyond The Boardroom” is sponsored by Blackberry. See more posts in the series ».
Automattic is a company best known for giving the world the free and open source blogging platform WordPress and for running the popular WordPress.com website.
But the company is also making another significant contribution to the business world: it’s showing that hiring remote workers is a great idea, not a bad one.
The company has about 190 employees and nearly all of them work from home. Employees are scattered across 141 cities and 28 countries, WordPress creator and Automattic cofounder Matt Mullenweg told Business Insider.
Or, to be more precise, about 10 of them choose to work regularly in the company’s gorgeous San Francisco headquarters, Mullenweg says, while a handful choose to work in other office settings. The rest work from home.
It’s not that the head honchos at Automattic discourage office life. It’s just that they don’t worry about it.
“Rather than being anti-office, we’re more location agnostic,” Mullenweg says.
If a worker really wants an office they are free to seek one out. “Any person can get a desk at a co-location space and we’ll reimburse it,” he says.
The decentralized culture comes from Automattic’s open source roots, Mullenweg says. Open source is a method of writing software where anyone who wants to can contribute. People worldwide contribute to projects like Linux and WordPress.
“When we were getting started, being open source guys, it just seemed like the only way to build a company,” he says.
It also helps the company win the talent wars because it’s not just recruiting in tech hubs like the Valley or New York. “We have engineers all over the world. Not just other countries, but places in America that you wouldn’t normally expect” like Minneapolis, Wisconsin, Texas, he says.
Another upside: no office politics. No one gets offended at what people wear, who doesn’t get invited to lunch, and annoying work habits.
But the company also has to go to extremes to help people gel as a team. So they created an awesome culture filled with company paid-for travel to exotic locations and other perks.
Here’s how they make it work.
1. The “center of gravity” for office communication is online, Mullenweg says. All the important conversations happen in chat rooms, or over Google Hangout video meetings. “No matter where you are in the world, you can be an equal participant,” he says.
2. “We make sure people have the best equipment possible,” because there’s no office IT person to fix things if they break. All employees get “the latest greatest Apple devices,” like a high-end Mac or MacBook and a big monitor.
3. All employees get $US2,000 when newly hired to improve their home offices. They can get a desk, chair, whatever they want.
4. The money saved on office space is dedicated to a huge travel budget. Any team can meet whenever they want for a “hack week” in any location in the world. Teams have met in Tokyo, Australia, and Athens. The five most popular destinations are: Lisbon, Portugal; Kauai; San Francisco; Amsterdam; Tybee Island, Georgia.
5. Once a year, Automattic management pays for a “Grand Meetup” in a fabulous place like Quebec; La Paz, Mexico; San Francisco or Santa Cruz, Calif. “We literally bring every single person in the company together,” Mullenweg says.
If this sound inefficient, think again. These employees create new features and fix problems at lightening-fast rate. “There’s new code pushed out WordPress.com over 100 time a day,” Mullenweg says.