Posts tagged Office

Why Stack Exchange Doesn’t Corral Workers Into An Office

This post is presented by Business Is Great Britain.

Home sweet office.

In an era where more and more corporations are pulling workers into the office, Stack Exchange stands out: The New York-based operator of a network of question-and-answer sites has more than a fifth of its employees working outside its offices.

Former advocates of telework like Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard have pulled back on the practice, citing an “all hands on deck” need to have employees at headquarters to more effectively collaborate on their corporate turnarounds. Perhaps companies in dire straits aren’t suited for remote workers.

But for companies that have embraced a distributed workforce, the benefits are apparent: employees who are happier with their work-life balance, managers who can hire from a broader talent pool, and reduced operational costs.

Stack Exchange was born a remote company. Cofounders Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky created the company, originally known as Stack Overflow, at a time when they lived on opposite coasts. Nearly seven years later, Stack Exchange’s network now holds more than 130 question-and-answer sites, covering a wide breadth of topics and attracting 68 million visitors a month, many of them developers. Most of its sites are technical in nature, but there are sites covering video production, biology, and even coffee.

The company has 213 employees. 22 percent working out of the office. Remote workers span 17 U.S. states and 9 other countries in Europe and Asia.

Employees get perks such as gym reimbursement, free health insurance, and stock options after a year—no matter where they are. And Stack Exchange makes sure that even if you’re not in the next cubicle over from a coworker, it feels like you are.

“Google Hangouts are the lifeblood of our organization,” said David Fullerton, Stack Exchange’s vice president of engineering. “If you haven’t tried them for video chat, you’re living in the Stone Age. We have persistent Hangouts for every team available. We spin up one-off Hangouts for quick video chats. We use them for everything.

“When you get to the point where people in the office prefer Hangouts to talking in-person because it’s easier, you know you’re on to something.”

On A “Mission From God” To Make Remote Work Easy

Five years ago, Atwood wrote up his belief that structuring the company around a remote workforce promoted global opportunities in terms of scope and quality of the work. Working alone would be unthinkable, while working in a central office limited a talent pool. The optimal choice, Atwood noted would be a distributed workforce—one where a programmer in Brazil could help a like-minded individual in New Jersey.

Even the obstacle of time zones could be overcome with the right technology and the right meeting structure. Atwood wrote that he and Spolsky wanted Stack Overflow to be populated by people like themselves who “bleed ones and zeroes.”

Two years later, Fullerton added his own 12-point argument for why the company—already much larger—still believed in remote work. In it, he expanded on Atwood’s article by noting that telework is not for every company or every employee:

There’s a tendency to think that working from home is all sunshine and rainbows and working in your PJs. You miss out on being around people (which wears even on introverts), doing fun stuff like playing Ping-Pong or having lunch together and (sometimes hardest of all) you lose a clear distinction between work and the rest of your life. Some people thrive when working from home, while others wither or just … drift. We’ve had people move both ways: remote people deciding to come in to the office, and people in the office deciding to go remote. The key, for us, is offering both and helping people decide which is best for them.

As the company’s lead engineer, Fullerton acknowledges that to make the remote working environment work, there needs to be consistent factors in place such as high-speed Internet access, agreed-upon communication tools, and a willingness to break up tasks into manageable chunks. It also helps that Stack Exchange treats headquarters workers and remote workers similarly, giving them private offices rather than seating them in open bullpens, as many startups do.

“We don’t require people to be at their desks all day long,” Fullerton said. “All of our developers get a private office, essentially as if they’re working from home. They can manage their own workloads as long as they meet their requirements.”

Centers Of Gravity

Stack Exchange has three main offices in New York, Denver and London. The Denver and London offices are primarily staffed with sales and marketing employees. Most employees outside of North America—including France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Philippines, Russia, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom—report to managers based in the U.S., but regional offices embrace local quirks.

“It’s great to have an office [in London] because it’s a multicultural center,” Fullerton said.

For Stack Exchange, the typical model of a remote salesforce and an in-house engineering department has been flipped on its head. Sales, marketing, and other management functions are centrally located in one of the three hub offices, while developers and engineers are free to live where they’re most comfortable.

Remote workers are most often developers, designers, and community managers. (There are some regional sales reps who work remotely as well.)

Sweet Equipment

Home offices are set up with similar hardware and software configurations to maintain consistency. The workstations include some “pretty sweet equipment,” Fullerton said, as well as high-speed Internet subscriptions, webcams, and comfy chairs. Stack Exchange reimburses employees for Internet access.

“We had one developer who decided to move from one apartment to another because the Internet connection in his first place was too slow,” Fullerton said.

It helps that Stack Exchange began life as a distributed workforce, establishing cultural habits early. The key is enforcing online communication, making it irrelevant whether two employees are in the same office.

“There’s no halfsies in a distributed team,” Fullerton said. “If even one person on the team is remote, every single person has to start communicating online. The focus of control and decision making must be outside of the office: no more dropping in to someone’s office to chat, no more rounding people up to make a decision. All of that has to be done online even if the remote person isn’t around. Otherwise you’ll slowly choke off the remote person from any real input on decisions.”

That’s why it may be a challenge for big companies that have wavered on remote work to embrace it the way Stack Exchange has. It isn’t just a matter of setting up employees with webcams and high-speed Internet connections; it’s a cultural commitment to doing business a certain way. It’s a good test of whether you really bleed ones and zeroes.

Photos courtesy of Stack Exchange

View full post on ReadWrite

How Zendesk Captured Its Silicon Valley Spirit In A London Office

This post is presented by Business Is Great Britain.

When Zendesk picked up its roots and moved from Denmark to the United States, its founders didn’t expect to be back in Europe so soon. CEO Mikkel Svane vowed not to get on a plane again—a promise that only lasted two years, as Zendesk grew so quickly that going global was the only solution.

One of its first outposts on its return to Europe was London, where it opened an office in 2011.

Nick Peart works there as a marketing director for Zendesk, which offers Web-based tools for customer support. He’s spent the last three years working from its office in the Paddington area of central London spreading good vibes about Zendesk to an audience that spans Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

“I think the real advantage is that Britain has one of the biggest economies and business market spaces in the whole region,” Peart said. “It just makes sense that you base your people close to your customers. That’s the primary reason that we are where we are.”

See also: How Zendesk Reluctantly Staked Out A Customer-Support Empire

Business in Britain is so promising that Zendesk execs have begun looking around for a larger space, one that can accommodate 70 to 100 people, up from 50. Besides just housing employees, Peart hopes the new office will be a place “to meet and mingle and share ideas” with community and industry groups, including ones promoting women in engineering.

In an interview with ReadWrite, Peart gave us insight into Zendesk’s diverse approach to staffing and its decision to make itself at home in Great Britain.

Nick Peart, Zendesk’s European marketing director, splits time between its London regional headquarters and the home office in San Francisco.

A Central Hub

Prior to Zendesk, Peart specialized in helping American brands in the larger region, often dubbed EMEA. (He worked for Adobe for nearly five years in a senior communications role.) The challenges when you take in not just the core of Europe but the Middle East, Africa, and Eastern Europe and Russia include balancing the needs of 120 different countries with more than 23 major languages, and 16 time zones if you count Russia east of the Urals.

“EMEA is a complicated place, but it’s also an easy place to work,” Peart said. “That’s where the power of London comes in when you’re looking for a base for a pan-European company. It’s such a vibrant, multicultural city, that attracting key talent to work for you in London is a relatively easy task,”

While based out of Paddington, Peart does spend a bit of time at headquarters. He’s often asked to compare and contrast the cultural, technical and logistical differences between San Francisco and London.

“I think the biggest difference is perhaps an awareness of how diverse and huge the office in Britain is,” Peart said. “Maybe that comes from the old colonial past. But there seems to be more awareness of how to go about doing business across [multiple] cultures. “

Community Approach To Tech

The location’s convenient enough, especially if you’re getting on the Heathrow Express to catch a flight. It’s not particularly close to Silicon Roundabout, the supposed “tech center” of London, or Canary Wharf, another hub—but that doesn’t stop Zendesk from inviting folks over.

“There’s a really big just general tech community here,” Peart said. “We’re lucky to be just around the corner from a couple of the key London universities. From a technical perspective, we never struggle to hire the right talent in London. And so whether we’re looking for a highly skilled Ruby engineer to join our customer success team, or a very talented customer services person, we can always find them in London. Plus, you can always find someone that can speak almost any language in London.”

You won’t find that great depth of talent across job categories in other cities, Peart said. Dublin does rank high as a technology hub, he added, but Zendesk chose London for its regional headquarters for its global reach.

Another benefit of establishing roots in central London is that the engineering work can be sensitive to regional privacy and security laws.

“Our customers’ data or the data that resides within Zendesk stays in the EU,” says Peart. “That’s been a differentiator and also a reason why we’d want to be doing business in that region.”

London Calling

“I think you definitely need to come to London, just to experience the pace, and the ability to be super-agile,” Peart said. “London is a very cosmopolitan, dynamic place to be. I think one of the cool things I really love about working at Zendesk is that we have the ability to test in our market, and then see the results of the tests that we can do really quickly in different countries, and see them taken on and embraced and used globally.”

Culturally, the London office is extremely diverse with more than 10 nationalities speaking more than 20 different languages.

There’s a tradition that “sounds awful, but it’s very much loved in the London office,” says Peart: “If it’s your birthday, then everybody gathers around and sings ‘Happy Birthday’ in his or her own language to you.”

As London is still considered the gateway to Europe, Peart said he sees the most opportunities coming from startup service businesses.

“Our whole economy is increasingly becoming a service-based economy,” Peart said. “So it’s a cracking place to come to start, to test. And if you get it right, the country will take you to its heart and will embrace and enable you to be successful.”

Photos courtesy of Zendesk

View full post on ReadWrite

Facebook And LinkedIn Are Headed For The Office

Once upon a time, when life was simpler, LinkedIn was the social network where you looked for jobs, while Facebook was the one where you wasted time while you were at your job. And it was a good idea not to let your boss know you were hanging out on either one. 

Times have changed, as evidenced by new workplace communication tools recently announced by both social networks: Facebook At Work and  InMail private communication for coworkers, the first of several tools expected from LinkedIn. Neither come as a surprise, as rumors about both services have been circulating for a while.

See also: Facebook’s Got Us On Lockdown, Study Confirms

The two new products aren’t in direct competition with each other, as they do fairly different things. But both Facebook and LinkedIn are firmly staking a claim in workplace collaboration, where companies such as Slack and Yammer reside.

Facebook Goes To Work

Facebook At Work hit iOS and Android app stores on Wednesday, though it’s only available in preview to a limited number of companies. Like the updated Facebook Messenger, the app stands alone and distinct from the main Facebook app. But you’ll be able to access a desktop version through the Facebook website, TechCrunch reports

When stacked against its standalone competitors, Facebook For Work offers almost no learning curve for many employees. It operates much like the social site that 185 million U.S. users are already familiar with, some for nearly 10 years. 

There is currently, one big difference between the work site and regular Facebook. While Facebook At Work is in limited preview, neither apps or advertisements will operate on the network. Facebook also hasn’t announced pricing, although Facebook engineering director Lars Rasmussen told TechCrunch that advertising hasn’t been ruled out. It’s likely Facebook At Work could feature several pricing options for businesses, including one that’s ad-free.

LinkedIn Mails It In

In its continuing effort to expand usability beyond the job hunt, LinkedIn is set to launch private InMail for co-workers, Recode reported on Tuesday. It will function similarly to the InMail currently available to premium LinkedIn members, but will allow users to communicate with co-workers to whom they aren’t connected via the social network. 

It’s just one tool among others planned to encourage worker bees to use LinkedIn as part of their current job, instead of just signing in to look for the next one. In December, LinkedIn launched a content-friendly design update that separated information connected to the job hunt, such as how many people looked at your profile, from updates in your network and news stories you may find relevant. 

Future updates will allow companies to communicate to all staffers or just specific departments, Recode reported. Like Facebook, LinkedIn is working on a separate app designed to facilitate networking within companies. 

Next up: Convincing corporate managers to embrace tools associated with some of the biggest employee time-wasters around,

Photo by JulyYu

 

View full post on ReadWrite

Bing Adds Search to Microsoft Office

Users will soon be able to search with Bing within Microsoft Office Word Online, following an upgrade to Bing’s main SERP that keeps important information at the top.

View full post on Home – SearchEngineWatch

Bing Insights Integrated Into Microsoft Office Word Online

Office Word Online adds Bing Insights to your document creation process.

The post Bing Insights Integrated Into Microsoft Office Word Online appeared first on Search Engine Land.



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Microsoft To Replace Clip Art With Bing Images In Office Software by @mattsouthern

Clip art, those delightful images reminiscent of the 90s, are set to become a thing of the past as Microsoft announced today they’re doing away with them in favor of Bing Images. If you’re thinking to yourself, “wait, Clip Art was still a thing?”, yes it was though it had been largely phased out with the release of Office 2013. However, anyone still wanting to use those image was able to do so through using an Office.com Clip Art option. That Clip Art option is now being replaced by Bing Images, as Microsoft’s Doug Thomas explains that “usage of Office’s […]

The post Microsoft To Replace Clip Art With Bing Images In Office Software by @mattsouthern appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

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Microsoft Office Comes To iOS For Free

Microsoft Office fans who can’t put down their iPhones can take note: Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are available on iOS as of Thursday. Better yet, they’re all free.

Previously, there were two different versions of the Microsoft Office apps for iOS mobile devices. There was the poorly received Office Mobile for iPhone, and the well received Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for iPad. Thursday’s release takes the preferred iPad apps, updates them, and unifies the Microsoft Office experience for all devices running iOS 7 or higher, whether you have an Office 365 subscription or not.

See also: 5 Things To Know About Microsoft Office For iPad

Whether you’re using the app on your iPhone or your iPad, expect generally the same user experience with the same set of features in a slightly different interface for each. However, Corporate Vice President John Case said there’s still good reason to pay for a $7 per month Office 365 subscription and gain access to even more perks.

“Of course Office 365 subscribers will continue to benefit from the full Office experience across devices with advanced editing and collaboration capabilities, unlimited OneDrive storage, Dropbox integration and a number of other benefits,” said Case.

So far, the good news only expands to iOS users for now, while the best Android users can expect Thursday is a Microsoft Office preview app, which you need to sign up for first.

Photo via Microsoft

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Search In Pics: World Series Game, Penguin Office & Halloween At Google

In this week’s Search In Pictures, here are the latest images culled from the web, showing what people eat at the search engine companies, how they play, who they meet, where they speak, what toys they have, and more. The Google Penguin Office: Source: Google+ Google’s Timothy Jordan…



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Microsoft Targets Mid 2015 For Office 16 Launch

We’ll see Microsoft Office 16 in the second half of 2015, a Microsoft official said.

During a during a session at Tech Ed Barcelona Tuesday, General Manager of Office and Office 365 Marketing Julia White said that Office 16 and the next generation of Microsoft server apps, like Exchange Server and SharePoint Server, will be released together.

This is still at least a quarter later than ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley has been hearing from trusted sources. Coupled with the vague “second half” language, it’s unclear whether Microsoft really has a good idea when Office 16 will be ready.

See also: Four Things You Need To Know About Windows 10

Office 16 and its accompanying server apps are at least complete enough for Microsoft to use, and the company has been privately testing the software internally, ZDNet reports.

Photo by Robert Scoble

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Google Webmaster Trends Team Wants To Visit Your Office

Gary Illyes from Google announced on Google+ that the Google Webmaster Trends Analyst team is looking to observe you and your company, while you work. Gary said Google is looking to sit with companies, agencies, and website owners at their office and watch them as they work on “managing their…



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