Work, Life, Wherever: Our Evolution as a Virtual-First Company

Illustration of icons that represent remote work

Illustration by Violet Reed, Designer

Two years ago, our lives forever changed. We were navigating a global pandemic — and all the ways it impacted how we create, connect, and support one another — and doing it in an all-virtual world.

Like most new things, going virtual was hard at first. We missed our beautiful offices in Portland, Oregon and Brooklyn, New York. We missed our chance encounters in the elevator, our whiteboards, and our coffee chats. But we soon found that we could adapt. Deskside talks became Slack Huddles. Figma boards replaced our whiteboards. And as we embraced new ways to collaborate, we reassessed what we want out of life — from being closer to family to spending more time in nature to evolving how we approach work. We found that what we gained by supporting our employees to work how and where they wanted far outweighed anything we lost.

We made the choice early in the pandemic to let our employees work from anywhere in the U.S. We told them it was a decision we would stand by indefinitely, because we believe work should fit within our lives — not the other way around. This also enabled us to hire the best new talent from around the country, with the promise that they could stay exactly where they were. We now have people working with us virtually from all over — from major cities like LA and Chicago and Philadelphia to our employees’ hometowns in Oklahoma, Maine, and Michigan — which means we benefit from perspectives from all around the country.

Remote work has allowed us to build a team that is more truly reflective of the world we are designing for.

Darshan PhillipsCreative Director

Two years later, we are reflecting on what we’ve changed to make our virtual workplace as inclusive as possible for everyone — and what we’ve learned along the way.

Early on, we adopted four pillars to guide us in all of our decision making around our virtual workplace:

Safety: Are all of our policies putting the safety of our employees first and foremost?

Equity and Inclusivity: Are we creating an environment that is equitable and inclusive for all?

Flexibility: Is this going to work for all of our teams and all of our employees?

Iteration: How will we continuously monitor what is and isn’t working, what our employees need, and how to adapt our policies in response?

Witnessing many of our employees relocate to a place where they felt safer, closer to loved ones, or more able to be themselves has proven again and again that this was the right decision for us.

Tessa BastonVP of People Operations

From there, we listened to our employees. They shared with us what they needed through anonymous surveys, listening sessions, and one-on-one conversations. With that feedback, we implemented the following policies:

Core Collaboration Hours

Given that we’re spread out across U.S. time zones, we’ve adopted Core Collaboration Hours internally. These hours — five hours in the middle of the day when we can all be online together for meetings and live work sessions — ensure everyone can log on and off during their set work hours, without guilt or worry that they are leaving anyone in the lurch. Outside of these hours, we do our best to schedule-send messages and leave others relatively uninterrupted until they return the next day.

Heads Down / Head Out Fridays

As much as we love virtual work, Zoom fatigue is real. To bring more balance to our new work style, we’ve introduced “Heads Down / Head Out Fridays.” Every Friday, our employees have the option to end their work day early if they’re done for the week, or they may have uninterrupted “heads down” time for the last half of the day, during which there are no meetings or communications.

Healthcare Travel Costs

While our employees are based across different states with different policies, our policy is to ensure that they and their partners have access to the healthcare we consider a human right, regardless of where they live. We will continue to operate in accordance with our values, to protect the health and safety of our employees, and to support their autonomy to make decisions central to their wellbeing. We will do this by maintaining holistic healthcare benefits and support for travel, time off, and additional expenses for employees who cannot access comprehensive healthcare in their state.

Increased Pay for Increased Costs of Living

Prior to March 2020, we had two regional pay bands for our locations in Portland, Oregon and Brooklyn, New York. Now that we have employees all across the U.S., we have evolved this structure over the last two years. We currently have three regional pay bands and have set Portland, Oregon as the base. This ensures that no employee makes less than our “base” region. And, aligned with our ongoing commitment to support employees relocating to where they want to live, we apply the additional pay for a higher cost of living region once they move, without the necessity of prior approval. Read more about our compensation philosophy here.

Transparent and Easily Accessible Tools

As a fully remote company, we knew we needed more accessible and robust documentation pertaining to the aspects of our work, such as tooling, policies, best practices, information on career management, directories, and more. We built out an internal, digital hub for these resources so that employees everywhere can quickly and easily find the information they need to do their strongest work and build their best careers. We also added quarterly Ask Us Anything sessions, to give our employees the opportunity to ask live or anonymous questions about anything related to their work experience.

Remote work illustration, gears, a notebook, leaf and a sandwich with legs.

Illustration by Violet Reed, Designer

So what about our Portland and Brooklyn offices? In early May, we reopened our office in Portland as a fully optional work space, in response to our employees’ needs — both those that are local residents, and those just passing through town. While our Portland employees may now return to the office on an at-will basis, we will continue to be a virtual-first company and to prioritize our pillars of Safety, Equity, Flexibility, and Iteration.

In the office or remote, we look forward to our ongoing evolution as a company that puts the needs of our people first. We have become experts in collaborating, creating, and communing as a virtual team across the country, and we’re committed to this being our way of working now and forever.

If you’re looking to join our team from anywhere in the U.S., you can view our open roles here.

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