- InVision is a software startup that has 700 employees but no office space.
- The company was founded on remote work.
- InVision’s chief people officer, Mark Frein, explained how the company makes it work.
When InVision was founded in 2011, its CEO and founder, Clark Valberg, knew he’d have to get creative to maintain a competitive edge. Google had recently increased its presence in Manhattan, making it all the more difficult to snag coveted East Coast tech talent.
To open an office in New York’s punishing real-estate market wasn’t an appealing prospect. It seemed wasteful to shell out money for office space when InVision’s core product – a software focused on augmenting the work of user-experience designers – could be built entirely from a laptop.
So why not do away with an office altogether?
Valberg decided to do exactly that.
Now, seven years and 700 employees later, the company has yet to open an official headquarters.
“People always ask, ‘Where does Clark go to work?'” said InVision’s chief people officer, Mark Frein. “Well, he goes to his desk to work. Sometimes at a coffee shop. Sometimes at his home. It’s a very important piece of the puzzle for us, to make sure we all operate the same way. The culture is very strong about leaning into the remote model.”
‘It’s about results, not where your IP address is’
InVision’s employees work from all corners of the world, including England, Israel, Australia, Argentina, and Nigeria. Despite the differences in time zones, the company still maintains official office hours between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET.
But even with official hours, InVision provides for plenty of autonomy, Frein said, adding that it’s more about proving yourself through the quality of your work than showing up at a certain time every day.
“It’s about results, not where your IP address is,” Frein said. “We care about what you’re able to do or achieve. If you’re able to achieve something great while working wonky hours, then that’s great.”
It also provides for greater flexibility. When Frein and I spoke, he was working while travelling to New York on vacation with his family.
“This is what my family gets to do,” he said. “It’s lovely for us. If you have kids, you’re not held down during the school break. The freedom and the flexibility are the most satisfying reasons for being at InVision.”
Frein said that when he tells people about InVision’s remote-work policy, they’re typically incredulous. They often ask how he gets anything done, and how he makes sure people are doing what they’re supposed to be doing.
But having employees show up to an office every day doesn’t necessarily guarantee they will be working any more than if they were remote, Frein said.
“After all, when you walk down the aisles of a standard company these days, people are on YouTube, social media,” he said. “The modern knowledge worker, the technical worker, is going to focus on what engages them.”
All or nothing
Still, running an entire company remotely is not without its challenges.
For instance, establishing a rapport among coworkers who never see each other can be difficult, Frein said, and he recognises that InVision is at a disadvantage in that way.
To help solve that problem, the company works to help enable those relationships by having employees practice empathy and encouraging them to ask their colleagues lots of questions.
InVision also hosted a weeklong companywide retreat last February where employees could connect face-to-face.
“Some people had never met each other and had been working together for years,” Frein said. “People were laughing and crying. It was an incredible experience.”
Frein said there was one key takeaway he had learned from overseeing a company that encourages remote work: It’s all or nothing.
“One of the most important factors for our success is that we do it with everyone,” he said. “If you have an office and yet a bunch of people work remote, it can be problematic, because the work experience of the people who work remote is often impoverished compared to the people working from the office.”
He also said it had given InVision an edge over the competition. After all, with no geographical restrictions on hiring, the company can bring in talent from all over the world. Additionally, InVision says it saves many millions in overhead every year by not renting a physical space.
But most importantly, Frein said, it helps InVision build a better product.
“We’re a software company that builds tools for designers,” he said. “It definitely helps us think about our product, since we’re all designing remotely anyway.”
Ultimately, though, InVision’s remote-work policy succeeds because for its employees there isn’t another option.
“I think the key part of our model is that we made ourselves figure out how to do it, because there is no place to go,” Frein said. “We have to make it work, because we don’t have the choice of walking into an office every morning.”