The search for remote work has increased by 490% since the start of the pandemic. This means more companies, including big tech companies, have had to move their operations online.
Remote work has its own advantages, including reduced overhead with this report from Stanford indicating that companies can save between $2,000 and $11,000 per employee when switching to remote work.
It also expands a company’s reach and allows it to employ global talent, as well as expand into other regions and markets. In 2021, there have been a number of product/market expansions on the continent that have been fueled by increases and facilitated by remote working options. This includes Zuri Health’s expansion into Senegal, MarketForce’s entry into Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana and Ethiopia, and even Mono’s expansion into Ghana.
Remote work, however, comes with its own drawbacks, including decreased work/life balance, decreased employee visibility, lack of team synergy, all of which can lead to a harmful work culture. or stoic.
So how can founders, managers, and team leaders build remote teams with healthy and sustainable cultures? How can companies manage distributed teams during their growth phase?
Ire Aderinokun, COO and VP, Engineering, at Helicarrier has some answers. In episode eight of TechCabal’s Building From Ground Up, Aderinokun talks to TechCabal Editor-in-Chief Koromone Koroye about how she helps Helicarrier manage her team remotely.
Founded in 2017 by Timi Ajiboye, Tomiwa Lasebikan, and Ire Aderinokun, Helicarrier was originally Bitkoin Africa, a peer-to-peer (P2P) Bitcoin trading website. Entering Y Combinator in 2018, Bitkoin Africa transformed into BuyCoins with a number of product offerings including crypto trading. Last year, the trio established Helicarrier as a parent company to house all of their products, including BuyCoins, Sendcash, Sendcash Pay, and more.
While the team started with just 5 members, it quickly grew to 10 in the first year. Today, 5 years after its launch, Helicarrier has over 50 employees in 4 countries, all fully remote. So how does Aderinokun, whose office manages operations and staff, manage her distributed team?
Use tools to build trust
For Aderinokun, who studied psychology but became a software engineer, one of the most important ways Helicarrier has managed his team remotely is by using no-code tools that anyone can easily learn.
“We are very dependent on the tools we use. Basecamp is our main project management tool, and it allows us to keep track of what everyone is doing. But it also allows us to build trust,” Aderinokun said.
Helicarrier operates an asynchronous worker structure. A synchronous working mode means that everyone is working simultaneously and that tasks or comments are processed in real time and without delay. This is the method used by most companies around the world. An asynchronous work structure, on the other hand, does not require all hands to work at the same time. This structure allows employees to maximize their productivity by working when it suits them best, within reason of course.
“Having an asynchronous work structure only really works when you trust the team, and equipping our team with tools has helped us do just that.”
For a distributed remote team like Helicarrier’s, asynchronous work also makes it possible to manage the difference in time zones. While the bulk of Aderinokun’s team is based in Lagos, Nigeria, a few are based in Ghana, Kenya and even the UK.
“We have a working day, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and any team meetings we have are usually during that time. But we don’t pay particular attention to when people are getting things done. If someone wants to do 4 hours of work in the middle of the night, that’s fine with us. As long as you reach the set goals, you can work on your free time.
According to Aderinokun, Helicarrier also tries to be sensitive to the needs of its employees. The company pays its employees dollar stablecoins and also pays for daily lunches and internet subscriptions.
“For our Nigeria-based staff, it helps them stay above water with the rising rate of inflation. It also helps the team understand our vision and value. We are a crypto company, paying our employees in crypto.
Small teams mean closer bonds
Paying salaries in crypto isn’t the only unconventional thing Helicarrier does.
When hiring new team members, the company offers a one-month paid trial period that helps both employer and employee see if there is a cultural fit. “With this method, they can see how we work and stay if they are comfortable. We will also be able to measure their skills,” Aderinokun said.
Regarding building and maintaining corporate culture, Aderinokun says most team members have direct relationships with 2 of the 3 co-founders.
“Even as we grow, one of the ways to install the company culture is to establish direct relationships. Thus, all team members work directly under one of the 3 co- But we created a system where all team members can have a relationship with another co-founder that they don’t work with.
Because Helicarrier is still a small team of 50 people, his solution is doable. However, as more team members are hired, Aderinokun believes the team will have to find a sustainable method.