My first few weeks at Polymorph – The benefits of remote-first

Sitting in an office from 9 to 5 is an antiquated practice that stifles creativity and productivity. The obvious obstacle is overcoming the ingrained belief that office equals work and productivity. Polymorph recognised this limitation right from the start and has successfully implemented a remote-first approach, proving that productivity is not confined to office walls.

Being a senior software engineer comes with a multitude of challenges. We routinely juggle various responsibilities at the same time. These responsibilities typically include taking meetings, analyzing and understanding software requirements, planning software architecture, writing software,  documenting software and debugging software. As you can probably guess, this requires focus – a commodity that’s becoming rarer every day. 

Since joining Polymorph, I have consistently enjoyed higher levels of focus, allowing me to do my best work. By the end of this article, I hope to demonstrate how Polymorph has afforded me this benefit by virtue of being a remote-first company.

So what is remote-first and what makes it work? 

Polymorph has been operating remotely since its start more than a decade ago. As a result, Polymorph has refined the various aspects of its operating procedures to work seamlessly without the need for employees to be centrally located or confined to one office building. 

This includes everything from onboarding employees to client engagement and team communication, to mention only a few aspects. In a nutshell, being remote-first means operating from the decision to work remotely, as opposed to reacting to being forced to work remotely. This subtle difference makes a massive difference in practice.

During my short time at Polymorph, I’ve experienced several processes, principles and tools that I believe make remote-first work:

The Processes
  • Hiring: Polymorph’s hiring process was incredibly enjoyable and entirely online. Because of superb communication, I knew what to expect every step of the process. I was challenged in fun ways during technical and non-technical interviews. I was allowed to demonstrate not only my software engineering capabilities but also how I would lead and mentor others. I was even able to sign my contract from the comfort of my laptop.
  • Onboarding: The onboarding process was seamless. I received the gear needed to do my work, as well as everything I needed from a technical point of view, on day one. I was quickly introduced to my team and was able to start delivering value to my team almost immediately. Over the course of the next few weeks, I was introduced to a wide variety of my coworkers via online “coffee chats”. I also got access to every bit of information I would need, preemptively, via the company’s handy Employee Manual. 
  • Employee Engagement: Working remotely can be lonely and isolating, but not at Polymorph. The company makes every effort to gauge employee wellness and to provide employees with the support they need. In addition, Polymorph has regular in-office events, as well as quarterly team days, where everyone comes together.
The Principles
  • Asynchronous Communication: By default, most communication at Polymorph is asynchronous. This means everyone is allowed to do their best work without interruption. You know that feeling of being pulled out of flow state by someone tapping your shoulder? I haven’t experienced this at Polymorph once.
  • Synchronous Communication: This type of communication still has its rightful place in the form of standup meetings, planning, retrospectives, etc. This also forms the basis that allows other communication to be asynchronous. Better planning and pre-emptive communication means less reactivity and interruption.
  • Team Structure: Polymorph’s teams are structured so as to include every set of expertise needed to deliver great software. Most of the teams consist of one or two software engineers, a quality assurance analyst, a user experience expert, a product manager and a product owner. Every team is lean, laser-focused on their problem domain, and works very closely together – ultimately delivering immense value.
The Tools
  • Communication: For asynchronous communication needs, Polymorph employees make use of Slack and Google Workspace, while Google Meet is ideal for synchronous communication.
  • Collaboration: When teams need a collaborative workspace, Miro is the tool of choice. It allows for real-time collaboration using a variety of diagrams and visual aids. For user experience workflows, Figma is used. Finally, Google Workspace is used for file sharing, collaborative documentation, and more.
  • Employee Engagement: To ensure employees are heard and to assist with employee performance and growth, Polymorph uses the talent suite from Roslin Labs. For mental health support, all employees have access to Ollie Health.
  • Onboarding and HR: Bamboo HR is used to assist with various onboarding workflows. In addition, it’s a one-stop-shop for everything from leave to performance management, to important employee documentation.

The benefits of remote-first

  • Focus: Since working at Polymorph, flow state has been the norm – not the exception. For any seasoned software engineer, that is music to the ears. Flow state allows us to do our best work and affords us incredible enjoyment. I am able to enjoy these levels of focus so often because of a quiet working environment (remote), principles like asynchronous communication, and great planning at a team level. Not to mention the lower amounts of stress because of Polymorph’s focus on employee wellness.
  • Autonomy: Working remotely inherently affords one more autonomy, and Polymorph trusts its employees to make the right decisions. Being able to approach work in your own way makes a world of difference. Not only is this more congruent with how you think on an individual level, it is also more productive.
  • Flexibility: Principles like asynchronous communication and benefits like focus and autonomy inevitably translate to more flexibility. Need to start and finish an hour earlier (or later) because of a personal commitment? No problem! As long as the team isn’t impacted and the outcome of your work is maintained, working times can be adjusted.

As you can probably tell from the above, the benefits of working for a remote-first company are plenty, and the learning curve is impactful. These benefits stem from the processes and principles behind remote-first – and Polymorph has been refining these for years. Ultimately, these benefits result in a higher quality working experience and greater work-life balance.

If this article made you yearn for more days filled with flow state, take a look at our Careers page.

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