Since we were founded in 2017, Whimsical has been a remote company. From the get-go, it offered us the ultimate freedom.
Today, our team is distributed across multiple countries and seven time zones. Needless to say, coordinating a meeting time to accommodate teammates in San Francisco, Riga, and Auckland all at once is nearly impossible. For us, working asynchronously (async) is a necessity, but along the way, async work has also helped us foster an environment that prioritizes craftsmanship where more heads-down time allows our team to truly do their best work.
A culture of documentation and calm communication
Contrary to synchronous work, our team isn’t expected to be online simultaneously. We don’t have fixed working hours, and we have fewer meetings. This model requires a lot of trust, transparent communication, and continuous context sharing (async, of course!).
To effectively share context async, documentation is key. We use Whimsical to build Whimsical, and maintaining an up-to-date shared context is crucial for our teams to stay aligned. We rely on the inter-connectivity of Whimsical boards and docs and create rich, living documentation that acts as sources of truth to our team— from resources in our employee handbook, to process overviews, and product development strategy.
When using communication tools outside of Whimsical, we’re conscious of maintaining a sense of calm. We don’t expect immediate replies on Slack and value non-urgent thoughtful communication. We also avoid standard business practices, like mandatory meetings. Setting our communication patterns up this way allows us to foster meaningful contributions and inspires a culture that values deep work more than immediate email and Slack responses.
To ensure these documentation and communication norms are sustained throughout team changes and growth, we ensure communication guidelines are at the forefront of our onboarding for new employees. At a high level, these guidelines encourage:
- As much deep work as possible
- Autonomy over your schedule
- Thoughtful and organized dialogue
- A long-term focus
- Healthy connection across the team
How async helps us prioritize thoughtful collaboration and craftsmanship
”Craftsmanship comes at a cost. It’s not free. It generally takes more time to build something of the utmost quality. It requires you to slow down and to think deeply. This is a trade-off that we accept. We gladly choose quality over quantity.” – Steve Schoeffel, co-founder
By limiting real-time meetings, we design our schedule for fewer interruptions and more control over when and how we communicate. We want to do profound work, so we have to maintain frequent, uninterrupted chunks of time.
Most people at Whimsical don’t spend more than a few hours a week in meetings. But while we’re strongly biased towards async communication, we know the right time and place for sync conversations.
Deep work happens async, but relationships build in real-time
To make async work successful, you also need to acknowledge that there’s a time and a place for real-time interaction. Time-sensitive tasks, critical decision-making, sensitive feedback, and relationship building all require face time — whether that’s over a video call or in person.
We really value the latter, which is why our Summits are a cornerstone of the Whimsical employee experience. Through each Whimsical Summit, we bring our entire team together in person to establish a sense of trust and team bonding. We’ve hosted Summits in Barcelona, Miami, L.A., Riga, and Lisbon! We’re very intentional about how we structure this time for the team and strive to balance fun team bonding activities with deep problem-solving and collaboration. These summits are immeasurably important to our team and simply not possible remotely.
Every working style has its challenges, and async is no different. Having doubled the team size in the past two years, we’re constantly learning how to improve async work. Async might not work for everyone, but it really works for us.
If you think Whimsical and async work are right for you, check out our careers page to learn more.