Working for Buffer, a fully remote company – the inside scoop
Ever wondered what it's like to work in a fully remote team? We spoke with Hailley Griffis, PR Specialist at Buffer, about her remote work life.Interview by Lucy Elkin, myworkhive
US company Buffer creates tools to manage social media and engage with audiences, with more than 3m customers worldwide. It is also a fully remote company, letting its team of nearly 80 choose where they want to work. As Buffer’s careers page puts it: “You will work in the place that makes you happy, that inspires you daily.”
But what’s it really like to have colleagues spread all over the world, in many different time zones? Hailley Griffis, Buffer PR Specialist, talks us through it.
Hi Hailley. Can you tell us a bit about your role?
My role is PR Specialist at Buffer. Buffer is fully distributed – they don’t have an office, and everyone works remotely, with staff located all over the globe. My role is full-time, but flexible (so I can fit in the hours I need to do throughout the week.)
Was this your first remote job, and was the fact you could work remotely a key factor in you applying?
I’d worked remotely before as a freelancer with clients all over the world, but this role is a bit different as I’m now in a fully distributed team.
Being able to work remotely was definitely a factor. Being able to mix work and travel, and to feel I was still working productively, was something I’d wanted to do for years – ever since I realised this was even an option!
What was the Interview process like? Was it a remote interview?
The interview was virtual – I had three interviews on Zoom.us. I’d had a previous interview this way for another job, so I felt fine with it.
Can you tell us what it was like to start work in a remote team? What was your first day at work like?
Buffer has a great onboarding process, with a six-week ‘bootcamp’ for new hires. As well as lots of great documentation about the work culture, you also get assigned three bootcamp buddies – one is from the leadership team, one is somebody works in a similar role to you, and one is a ‘culture buddy’ who helps you get used to the way Buffer does things.
On my first day at work, I went into my kitchen, made tea and opened Slack – and just introduced myself there. Buffer has ‘gif parties’ so I got sent lots of ‘welcome to the team’ messages and gifs.
What’s your work setup like? Do you work at home, or do you prefer to work in other locations?
I love to work from home, mainly in the kitchen as I like being near the tea! I generally feel more productive in my own space. I do also have a couple of favourite coffee shops that I work from sometimes, but that doesn’t work so well for things like phone calls. When I’m in Canada, I’m based in a really rural, remote area. I’m a social person so I do miss social interaction – so I plan on doing three days per week on the farm, and two days per week located in a coworking space in a nearby town.
What does your typical day look like?
My day varies a lot depending on where I’m working from, but generally I start on Slack, just to say good morning to those in the same time zone as me. It does depend on the time zone I’m in; sometimes I might be the only one awake, then I use that time to get lots of focused work done. You can snooze Slack notifications if you want to focus – I’m a lot more productive when I can block out my time like this. Other people in Buffer do the same, for example if they need to collect their children from school, they just block out that time in their diaries so that the rest of the team know not to schedule meetings with them at that time.
I work full time, but I have a lot of control over when I work those hours. If I’m away on a trip, I can mix sightseeing with getting my work done. We have other team members with kids, and they might need to go and pick them up, make lunch or whatever. The aim at Buffer is to let people work when and where makes sense for them.
PR Specialist, Buffer
With colleagues all over the world, how do you handle working in different time zones?
I’ve had times when I was based in a time zone hours ahead of most of the media people I work with, which actually worked well as I could answer queries before they even woke up. When I’m in Canada, I can be three hours behind New York. So sometimes I’ve have had to work late or start early, but I’m happy to be flexible to make it work.
Having team members spread across different time zones is often talked about as a negative thing, a problem to be solved. But actually, for a very customer-focused company like Buffer, it’s been a great benefit, as someone from the Buffer customer service team is always awake!
You don’t work in the same place as your colleagues day-to-day – do you still feel part of a team? If so, how is that achieved?
I definitely feel part of a team. We manage that a few different ways – we’re all pretty talkative on Slack. On Friday, someone from the Buffer ‘people team’ shares the weeks news – for example, some weeks they’ll share family photos or pictures of pets, so we can see what’s going on with colleagues. I’m also connected to lots of my colleagues on Snapchat, so I can see what’s going on with their lives in a more personal way than perhaps work chat on Slack, which helps to get to know people.
Obviously, beers after work on a Friday are out! How do you have a work social life, when your colleagues are all in different locations?
I do feel I have work friendships online – there are definitely team members you click with, even though you might never have met in person. And now that Buffer employs over 80 people, in some cities there are a quite a few Buffer colleagues who can get together in real time if they want to. But generally, you just have to be a bit more conscious in reaching out to others in the company to chat, share news and get to know each other. Buffer also has fairly regular team meet ups, held all over the world, to give people the chance to work and socialise together in person.
What do you loathe – and love – about working remotely?
I’m a very social person, so I find that I do have to reach out for social interaction, as I’m not getting it automatically from being around colleagues every day. It works, I just need to be more intentional about it. I go to coworking spaces, make an effort to socialise with colleagues online, and meet up with other team members when the chance arises.
To balance that, I love the fact that I can mix work and travel. I’ve been based in four different cities over the past few weeks, and several countries in the past few months. Working for Buffer remotely lets me be focused on my job, whilst also travelling at the same time. Working this way has empowered me to meet my work goals while also feeding my dream of travelling around the world. It also also lets me stay connected to family. I can go to see my grandparents or other family members and work where they are for a while. They live across Canada, so I can spend valuable time with them, whilst also being able to do a job that I love.