To hire remote tech talent or not to hire remote tech talent? That’s certainly a trending question right now, not least since the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the working world into full-on virtual mode. 

While some tech businesses have been swarming back to the offices recently, others are fully pivoting towards a remote-only setup. And for many, it’s going terribly wrong. Going fully remote is not as easy as just flipping a switch. 

Maybe you’ve already tried teaming up with remote tech partners—and it turned into a flop. Or maybe you’re still toying with the idea but are not yet ready to leap forward. Whatever your dilemma, we get it. A lot goes into running a business, let alone running it virtually. The good news is we’ve been doing the whole remote thing since our company’s inception in 2011 and have some insights to share.

Like all journeys, ours is filled with pains and challenges, wins, and rewards. Amidst it all, our remote operations model has persevered, and our remote team is still with us today (phew). 

How have we managed where others might have failed? That’s a loaded question, one we’ll unpack the only way we know how—by sharing our own story of making remote work. 

Stick around as we unveil some key tactics that have stood the test of time for our business and relationships with tech partners. By the end of this article, you’ll understand why choosing a remote tech agency as a partner is one of the best things that could happen to your business.

Newsflash: Not Every Business Is Ready For A Remote World

So you’re ready to build that app you’ve always fantasized about. You’ve found the guys to do it, and then they drop a bombshell: “We operate 100% remotely”.

How on earth can an app on which your entire product rests on succeed if it’s all done virtually? It’s totally possible, but in reality, not every single business has the capacity or willpower to work with a remote tech agency. 

If you aren’t ready to:

  • Brainstorm a new workflow
  • Live on Google Meet, Zoom, or the likes
  • Trust your new partners 100% to do the job they were hired to do
  • Be willing to work with innovative solutions
  • Have some fun while you’re at it

Then chances are, teaming up with a remote tech partner isn’t for you. And that’s ok. But suppose you’re ready to save up on costs, embrace new technologies, learn a thing or two about workflow efficiency, and help the environment. In that case, you most definitely are ready for a remote business model. 

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about how we made our digital-first business model a smashing success.

Our Story Of Going Remote

We’re not going to sugarcoat it. Operating 100% remote is tricky, even more so when you’re doing it before it’s even a thing. Back in 2011, at the very beginning of our brand journey, we were battling several challenges at once. In pre-COVID times, remote work wasn’t the norm. This made it challenging when scouting for new collaborations. Some wonderful clients full of potential rejected us, because simply put, they were doubtful that we could give them what they wanted remotely, preferring a face-to-face collaboration instead.

To top it off, we had to reinvent our internal workflow processes and spent a ton of time testing and tweaking ways to maximize efficiency. As a matter of fact, we poured over 30,000 hours into our remote work model. Finally, we had to brainstorm a new way to preserve our brand’s people and culture— remotely, that is. 

How did we manage?

It’s pretty straightforward. We invested the time and energy into making it work, using a mix of agility, adaptation, and creativity in the process. We knew that remote working requires shifting into a decentralized and harmonious framework that feeds into every aspect of our business—from brand personality and mindset to our internal communications, workflow, and digital tools. 

We focused on the following areas when building our remote-first mentality:

  1. Communication and Management
  2. Digital Tools
  3. Flexible Workforce
  4. International Outreach
  5. Work-life Balance
  6. Efficiency and Creativity 
  7. People & Culture 

Let’s do a deep dive into each area below.

Seven Areas We Tackled When Building Our Remote Business Model

1. Communication and Management

Communication and effective management go hand-in-hand. This is how we made it work:

  • Jotted down everything we do- We created a Company Handbook outlining our vision and goals as a remote-first business.
  • Identified what communication tools to use- Our goal was to minimize team distractions and make our employees’ lives easier, so we chose Slack as our main day-to-day communication tool when everyone else was still using email to talk to each other.
  • Introduced virtual team meetings- To establish rapport, create empathy and maintain healthy team relations, we ran regular team catchups on Google Meet, providing team mates’ the opportunity to discuss and share progress on key projects.
  • Kept an eye on team coordination- We introduced an asynchronous methodology that enabled us to plan, coordinate, and track our team’s efficiency using Asana, a project management tool.
  • Streamlined connectivity- Recognizing that remote doesn’t mean alone, we cultivated a sense of community by introducing a Water Cooler bot on Slack that randomly picks two team members each week to get together virtually and connect. We also created concepts like MJ Talks, where each week, we take turns talking about topics of personal interest to the rest of the team.

2. Digital Tools

It’s a given that digital tools can make or break a company’s workflow. But if you can’t use these tools wisely, cracks can start to surface. 

Here are a few ways digital tools are fueling our productivity levels and creative juices:

  • We use InVision to create high-fidelity prototypes and share feedback during the design phase.
  • Freehand lets us play with our own version of a digital whiteboard, enabling us to bounce off ideas and brainstorm concepts in real time.
  • Google Apps allows us to collaborate in real time with clients and use the comments and suggestions functionality to share feedback.
  • Google Meets is our go-to tool to discuss projects and even do things like pair programming and writing when needed.

3. Flexible workforce

According to Buffer’s 2021 study, 99% of people would choose to work remotely for the remainder of their life, even if it was just part-time. That’s a staggering statistic, showcasing just how much freedom and flexibility are valued in the workplace.

For us, remote working has always meant giving employees more flexibility around how and where they work, helping to support their work-life balance.

Our team is proudly located in all corners of the globe, and together, we’ve built apps with over 100 million users across a spectrum of industries, including automotive, medical, and aerospace. We even built the first app to reach one million downloads on Android, all from the comfort of our living rooms. Ultimately, it’s our flexible work model that contributes to our high employee retention rate.

4. International Outreach

Working remotely has meant that we’ve been able to cast our net far and wide, working with an array of international clients the world over. 

Some of our biggest projects have included:

  • Disrupting aerospace research together with the Australian Air Force.
  • Creating rapid COVID-19 point-of-care testing systems together with Clip Health, a California-based biotech startup.
  • Helping German retail store owners run their first ever digital marketing campaigns through the socialPALS platform.

Overall, we’ve had the privilege of working on some truly fantastic projects for international clients. Going borderless has also expanded our talent pool, enabling us to access the very best talent across the globe and, in turn, build our in-house expertise. Suffice it to say that our most valued team members also happen to be with us ten years on.

5. Work-Life Balance

So, one of our co-founders works out of a camper van. That’s right, Stefan spends his time traveling the world and chasing waves, all while leading a company at the forefront of digital innovation. Other members of the team lead equally colorful lives.

Stefan’s unique office

Recognizing the fact that statistically, a healthy work-life balance is the main reason why people choose to work remotely, we took a step further and built a work model called O4H—Optimizing for Happiness. It’s a reimagined way of pairing happiness with company success, and we happen to live and breathe this ethos.

Our model encompasses the following four principles:

  • Give people the freedom to live the life they want
  • Don’t think of colleagues – think of teammates
  • Focus on learning and personal growth
  • Remember: Profit isn’t everything

6. Efficiency and Creativity

According to CoSo Cloud, 77% of remote workers admit they’re more productive when working from home. That’s a huge percentage, one we are well acquainted with.

Our remote-first way of working enables our fellow team members to enjoy the following benefits:

  • Spend less time on commuting and more time on doing joyful things.
  • Have more freedom to pursue personal goals (like raising a family, traveling, sports).
  • Bolster efficiency, creativity, and productivity with the time there is.
  • Belong to a culture that supports working when feeling the most productive with a flexible schedule in place.
  • Opportunity to connect with teammates regardless of timezones.

7. People & Culture

One of the biggest challenges of remote working is how to preserve company culture. To maintain a remote workplace culture, our company established a virtual environment where team members could still feel connected and safe.

Taking into account that the happiness and well-being of our team are just as important as our clients’ happiness, we’ve kept our people and culture alive in the following ways:

  • Company retreats (some of our past destinations have included Thailand, South Africa, and the Balearic Islands).
  • Getting together to co-work in exotic locations.
  • A global team with a global perspective (our team members have visited many countries like Brazil, Azerbaijan, Serbia, Croatia, and Iceland, to name a few).
  • Frequent virtual coffee breaks.
  • Weekly team meetings.
  • Random allocation of one-on-one virtual chats, thanks to our Water Cooler bot.
  • Fun activities to keep the team morale alive (check out our very own twist to Christmas here).
  • Exposing our team to stimulating challenges like building apps in four weeks’ time.

Other cool benefits about a remote-first tech agency

We may have covered a lot of ground already, but really, there are endless benefits to building a strong, unwavering remote-first workplace. 

Here are a few more reasons why remote is the ultimate way to go:

  • Hiring remote workers can result in substantial business savings (say goodbye to having to pay rent and utility bills for a physical office space).
  • Remote means a drastic reduction in CO2 emissions, considering daily commuting is no longer necessary.
  • A digital-first approach essentially removes waste generation, organizational costs, and travel expenses.
  • Remote enables each employee to contribute to the economy on an international scale, helping them distribute their earnings across many countries and regions.

Final Say

There’s so much more to going remote than meets the eye. A remote-first model requires a complete overhaul of how businesses work, not to mention a big shake-up of your relationship with work and how you interact with people daily. While we’ve been in the remote business since 2011, it’s fair to say that there have been quite a few hurdles to overcome.

At best, the very five key takeaways from our whole experience are to look for partnerships that treasure flexibility, use the right technology, cultivate a positive mindset, seek innovative solutions, and safeguard a strong people and culture above all else. These five little things make all the difference when partnering with a remote tech agency.

So, are you ready to go remote?

Who exactly is Mobile Jazz?

We’re an Innovation Agency made up of highly skilled software engineers and designers, who build forward-thinking software solutions for companies in need—all while having fun doing it.

How does it work? It’s pretty simple. Clients approach us because they have a vision or an idea of what their product could look like. We help turn their bold concepts into a successful reality.

From mobile technology and enterprise software to IT security and UI/UX design, we’ve racked up experience in various fields, working with big-name brands like Airbus, Skyscanner, and Intel to transform their ideas into strategies. The result? Our apps have proudly been downloaded over a hundred million times and have solved some of the world’s most pressing healthcare, mobility, and aviation challenges (to name a few).

As a fully remote company, we also provide end-to-end solutions for clients looking to reinvent their approach to project management, advising on using modern digital tools to transform workplace efficiency.

Whether your project demands cutting-edge or ultra-simple software, we’re here to help.

Talk to us today.

Mobile Jazz

We're a 25 people strong engineering + design team based out of Tallinn. We build innovative software and enjoy life while traveling the world.