Coinbase is a crypto company that has gone fully remote-first as a result of the pandemic. Brian Armstrong, their CEO and Co-Founder, recently blogged about it and here are the highlights:
“Remote-first has been working really well. While we still have elements of the employee experience that we’re working to improve (some of them bottlenecked by the pandemic), 94% of employees believe that the benefits of remote-first outweigh the drawbacks, or that the benefits and drawbacks balance each other out. In particular, they appreciate the autonomy, flexibility, the ability to focus, and reclaiming commute hours.
It has helped us attract top talent. One of the best parts about being a decentralized company is that we can hire more of the best people. Previously, less than 1% of the world lived within commuting distance of one of our offices. Now we can cast a much wider net. Over the last nine months, we’ve onboarded hundreds of employees from locations outside of the commute range of any of our existing offices. In Q1 of 2020, only 28% of new employees lived outside of California. In Q1 of 2021 to date, 58% of our new hires are from outside of the state.
The executive team should lead by example. Prior to going remote-first, nearly all of Coinbase leadership, including the executive team, could be found in the San Francisco office every day. Since we’ve made the decision to go remote-first, we’ve decentralized ourselves; even after people can safely return to offices, the executive team has no plans to be “in-office” on a regular basis, and none of them currently live in San Francisco. This is one of the most powerful things we can do to keep Coinbase from inadvertently returning to an in-office culture.
Engagement, learning, and belonging in a remote-first environment requires changes.
Being truly remote-first means redesigning how work gets done — that includes how people learn, bond, and grow. We’ve created new ways for employees to connect remotely, including offering virtual offsites, social gatherings and 1:1 coffee stipends; and deployed a blended onboarding and learning approach of live virtual, on-demand, and (eventually) in-person training. We’re fully committed to ensuring that all employees have equal access to professional growth and opportunity, regardless of how often they physically come into offices, so we’re thinking about the new collaboration practices that will be required when some of us are back in offices and others are at home. Overall we’ve seen high engagement, belonging, learning, and creativity happen in a remote-first environment.
Stepping back, it is incredible to think about the fact that almost no Coinbase employees have been physically together for nearly a year, and that the hundreds of employees who joined after March 2020 have never met a manager in-person, attended a live meeting, or visited a Coinbase office. Despite all of these challenges, we’re seeing this decision begin to pay off, during one of the most exciting periods of our history. This collaboration with our team has made me more optimistic than ever about the future of work at Coinbase.”
Personally, I can see this playing out with other companies and in particular I can see it with rental prices in San Francisco. This kind of mobility is transformational for everyone, but particularly for top talent who now have even more work and residential options. It’s also a wake-up call to municipal and state/provincial governments that sub-par services, security, taxation, and cost of living is something they must aggressively deal with or risk further corporate and citizen flight. Those people who are most mobile were also the ones most likely to be making the most money, so you really can’t afford to lose them from a taxation perspective. I love how competition and innovation are creating more opportunities but it’s also going to be really, really interesting to see how governments adapt to this new normal.
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