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Making remote working work for your startup

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by Startacus Admin


Lydia Kothmeier, VP of Operations at Storyblok shares insights on the processes and policies that every startup should have in place in order to make remote working work.

The fully remote working model doesn’t care about where employees are located, a luxury that can open startups up to a whole new talent pool. It also doesn’t require the hefty outlay attached to a traditional office, coming at a huge cost advantage. But for those startups who have made the pandemic-induced shift to remote working a permanent fixture, it is important that they ensure they are set up to thrive.

2Having been fully remote since starting out in 2017, enterprise CMS Storyblok, now occupying a team of 175 people in 38 countries, is a unique position to comment. Here, Lydia Kothmeier, the business’ VP of Operations explores the processes and policies every startup should have in place to make remote working work:

Remote startup work culture

One of the biggest challenges when transitioning to a remote work setup is maintaining company culture. How, after all, is it possible to account for those all-important ‘watercooler’ conversations, work socials or impromptu catch ups, all of which are not only key for relationship building but can be a breeding ground for new ideas ?

Here it's important not to try to bend or impose your existing culture — create a new one. Fully remote or hybrid working requires a level playing field where everyone feels like they are equally involved and engaged. This means your main drivers of culture must be able to be delivered at a distance and equally distributed. You cannot favour people in the office over everyone else. Instead, culture should revolve around self-empowerment and autonomy. 

At Storyblok our diversity helps define our culture. Team projects include creating a cookbook or restaurant guide that covers food and locations all over the world, where our team is based. Similarly, everyone is encouraged to share their cultural traditions and holidays so we can celebrate them all together. We also try to help people interact on a more personal and individual level. We organise randomised “coffee chats” where people speak for 30 minutes to their colleagues in different teams. This enables people to break the ice with people they may not get the chance to regularly interact with. 


Another challenge is balancing monitoring with micromanagement. Using software to monitor staff is an absolute no go. There is no faster way to undermine trust. Instead, build a structure of regular meetings, stand ups and clear goals that covers every team member. At Storyblok, people have weekly stand ups with line managers, a weekly team meeting and a monthly all hands meeting. 

linkedin-sales-solutions-Be5aVKFv9ho-unsplashGood managers will know who is performing as they focus on the result. We believe there are different ways to achieve a goal. A good manager communicates the goals and allows different paths to achieve them.. Communicating this clearly and transparently across the business ensures everyone knows the company vision, mission, values and the rules of the game. Making more data-driven assessments of performance can help to take human bias out of the equation. For example, some managers may subconsciously favour in-house team members they talk to face-to-face and reward them accordingly. Relying more on the hard facts can remove this danger and also help with diversity and inclusion. 

Alongside this it’s important to create a systematic approach to checking in on your team’s health and wellbeing. You do not want anyone falling through the cracks and it is very easy for a remote worker to suffer in silence. Vigilance is key. We provide regular check-ins for employees, very quick one to two question surveys to see how people are feeling, discourage overtime and encourage taking all paid time off.

Tech stack

Technology has a huge role to play in enabling your hybrid or remote startup to work efficiently and productively. From day one, we invested in Notion, Slack, top end IT equipment such as webcams, microphones, headphones, G-Suite, Salesforce and simple time savers such as DocuSign. 

compare-fibre-fRGoTJFQAHM-unsplashWe developed policies and training to ensure they were used how we intended. It’s easy enough to buy a shiny new platform but actually getting people to adopt and embrace it requires discipline and diligence. The leadership team needs to set the example by being consistent, and onboarding processes for new arrivals need to provide plenty of training so people understand not just how to use collaboration tools but why they are used. 

We use Zavvy to support onboarding and learning journeys. One week before joining staff receive all their equipment, an intro to the team and a tutorial on the tools we use. Then, for one month, they go through a general onboarding process to meet everyone, learn processes and get to grips with their job. We also assign a “buddy” and an onboarding manager to help support new hires and quickly answer any questions they have. 

We also utilise bambooHR for performance reviews. Although we are still defining this process, we will look at what the team member and manager says based on a set of well-defined questions about work and competence. We can also include other team members to get a full assessment. This enables a well-rounded approach which is fair and unbiased. 

Increased diversity. Internationalisation. Better access to talent. It’s no surprise to see more startups are making the permanent move to the remote model. Although this may initially require extra work and resources, in an emerging digital world where the traditional office’s lifespan looks limited, it's an important step change which will help companies stay future-fit.


Lydia Kothmeier is VP of Operations at Storyblok, a headless enterprise CMS, which, since being founded in 2017, has operated on a totally remote basis. 


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Published on: 3rd August 2022

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