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The Ultimate Work-Life Balance: How Automattic Defines Remote Work

We used to talk about flexible work arrangements as a thing of the future but as the current pandemic push-starts the demand for a digital transformation, various organisations are driven to heavily rethink their work setting.

Leading the way comes Automattic, a distributed global organisation defining the parameters of remote work, along with other companies such as Basecamp and Buffer.

While some are new to working from home, we’ve spoken with various “Automatticians” who don’t know any different.

What if someone told you that you could be part of an organisation that enabled you to do the work you love from wherever you’d like to be? Well, in a creative dream come true – there is such a place, and it’s called Automattic.

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Work-Life the Automattic Way

Spanning over 75 countries from across the world, with more than 1,000 employees of diverse-speaking backgrounds, Automattic is an ever-growing, distributed and primarily, virtual company dedicated to “making the web a better place.”

You wouldn’t know it at a glance, but the Automattic collective, which comprises engineers, designers, business developers, marketers and more, are the very talent, otherwise called “Automatticians,” behind Tumblr, WordPress.com, Gravatar, and WooCommerce, to name a few.

Automattic, the parent company of WordPress.com, one of the most commonly used open-source blogging platforms, was founded by American entrepreneur and web developer, Matt Mullenweg, who is listed as one of the 50 people to have the most influence over the internet (PC World). 

Stay Where You Are, Let the Work Come to You 

So, what makes Automattic so special? Well, among a long list of perks and benefits (which we’ll get to a little later), Automattic is completely remote.

When you’re an Automattician, you won’t ever be obliged to go into an office, which means you can also say goodbye to being ridiculed for showing up late to work with a coffee in your hand (whoops)!

It all starts with the way we think about work. In my experience, people in lots of companies are just going through the motions. If someone shows up in the morning dressed appropriately and isn’t drunk or asleep at his desk, we assume he’s working. If he’s making spreadsheets and to-do lists, we assume he’s working really hard.

Unfortunately, none of this gets at what an employee actually creates during the day. It’s possible (and, sadly, not uncommon) for someone to sit at a desk for eight hours, moving papers and sending e-mail, without producing any results.

At Automattic we focus on what you create, not whether you live up to some ideal of the “good employee.” We measure work according to outputs.

I don’t care what hours you work. I don’t care if you sleep late or if you pick up a child at school in the afternoon. I don’t care if you spend the afternoon on the golf course and then work from 2 to 5 AM. What do you actually produce? Many people create great things without sitting at a desk in an office all day, including all the people at Automattic

Matt Mullenweg, Founder & CEO of Automattic

For most of you, who are fortunate to be working from home during COVID-19, it’s safe to say that you’re already starting to notice the benefits of working remotely.

The time spent travelling to and from work, is instead more time you can dedicate toward self-care, whether that’s a morning workout and making a coffee at your desk in time for your morning ritual team meeting on Zoom, or perhaps using that extra hour in the evening to work on a personal project or self-development. 

At Automattic, you’d be accustomed to this flexibility, not as an indefinite short-term alternative, but as a lifestyle change. Operations are run 24/7 in order to facilitate the various locations around the world where Automatticians are currently working, and to ensure the utmost support is available where required.

In Your Ultimate Guide to Achieving a Healthy Work-Life Balance, we asked the important question, “does the perfect work-life balance exist”?

Here, we discuss what the word “balance” means, and how to better achieve work-life balance within your life. If you’re working in an office full-time, your day can sometimes feel like it’s over before it even begins; a long commute, endless meetings and a draining schedule leaves you without enough time to prioritise the most important person – you. Now, to go back to that very question, let’s take a look at a day in the life of an Automattician, which brings us to –

Recruiting at Automattic

We know just how cool Automattic sounds, though it’s important to remind you, that just like any other job – there is an interview process involved (they just do things a little differently).

Automattic is heavily dedicated to recruiting the right Automatticians, those individuals who aim to live and breathe the Automattic Creed, who are “curious, driven, compassionate, tenacious, autonomous, friendly, independent, collaborative, communicative, supportive, self-motivated, and amazing with GIFs.” If this sounds like you, browse Automattic’s open positions here.

If you’re successful in your application to the ideal role at Automattic (note, as a University dropout himself, Mullenweg doesn’t stress the education details), you will be invited to an initial interview, which is typically conducted via an online chat.

If successful in your interview, you’ll then be assigned a project on a contractual basis of between 2-6 weeks, enabling Automattic to see how you perform within your role, and how you work remotely together with the rest of the team.

When you’re officially a full-time employee, you’ll be assigned customer support work  within the first two weeks of your employment and one week thereafter for each year “regardless of your position,” as Automattic explains, is done in order to ensure Automatticians are able to understand the products through the people that use them.

In case you’re wondering what the succession rate looks like, it might give you a rough idea to share that between 2013-14, Automattic hired 24.5% of the 155 candidates that they interviewed, following a screening process of 314 applications. Okay, now that you’ve got the technicalities down pat, when you’re made an Automattician – your workday might look a little like this:

On a typical workday, I wake up as early as 7:15 am and as late as 8:30am. I usually start my day by immediately looking at any pings on my phone from Slack or the WordPress.com app. This gives me an idea for how quickly I need to start work. There are usually no disasters, which means that I take my time getting breakfast, catching up on company news, and finally I go “online” between 9am and 10am. In regards to meetings, I average ~3 hours a week doing video meetings.

Eric Binnion | Q&A: What is Working At Automattic Like?

The best part? Your day can look however you’d like it to! Automattic tracks each Automattician’s work progress primarily through P2, a WordPress platform for group collaboration, along with private chat rooms and Slack.

Once a year, all Automatticians come together from across the world for seven days for what the company calls a “Grand Meetup,” which consists of team planning for the future. Outside of this travel, Automatticians generally travel only 3-4 weeks a year – the rest is completely on your own time, from wherever you’d like to work.

Automattic Grand Meetup 2019 in Florida, USA

The Perks of Quality Over Quantity

Ever had a boss who complained more about you being late to work than the actual work you’ve been producing? Well, I think we all have, and nothing stunts your creativity and drive more than an ineffective leader. At Automattic, you become the master of your output. Automattic doesn’t sweat the small stuff, they prioritise the big picture: What you create.

Automattic favours the work that’s produced over how many hours are spent working on it, providing you the unrivalled freedom to schedule your days however you’d like to. This could mean finally being able to take your kids to school in the morning, sneaking in that yoga session you’ve been swearing off for too long, starting your day with a nice walk around the neighbourhood or just getting that much needed sleep!

While this sounds favourable, it’s an unachievable pursuit without you. Keeping in mind, remote work is a cultural change and it requires much more self-discipline than ever before. Without that annoying manager to peep over your shoulder to see what you’re doing, or without needing to provide daily reports, you need to be able to manage yourself – you need to hold yourself accountable, and that can take time getting used to.

We recently interviewed Mark Uraine, the Design Director at Automattic, on what a day in his life as an Automattician looks like, and he notably expressed the importance of maintaining effective communication. At the same time as being an absolute privilege, remote work demands greater communication than working in an office.

Communicating effectively goes a long way in an open source community. This involves direction and feedback that can encourage volunteers to continue supporting the project, and ethical communication that is both timely and empathetic.

MARK URAINE, DESIGN DIRECTOR AT AUTOMATTIC

When you work remotely, you’re not face-to-face with your colleagues throughout the day, which is why it’s ever important to learn how to effectively communicate, even to the point of feeling like you’re over-communicating – that in my opinion, is much better than feeling like you haven’t expressed yourself.

What’s In It For You?

If at this point, you’re thinking “what an awesome organisation to work for,” you should definitely read The Automattic Creed to first decide whether or not you’re the right fit.

Of course, there’ll be an interview process (like any job), but if you’re determined to achieve a healthy work-life balance – it pays to first be honest with yourself. You will find far greater fulfillment working within an organisation that you actually believe in; an organisation that you mutually share the same values with.

I will never stop learning. I won’t just work on things that are assigned to me. I know there’s no such thing as a status quo. I will build our business sustainably through passionate and loyal customers. I will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague, and I’ll remember the days before I knew everything.

Read the full Automattic Creed here.

Now that you have a basic understanding of how it all works, together with the foundations that Automattic is built from, now it’s time for the fun part – the benefits and perks!

When hired at Automattic, you are entitled to the following: An open vacation policy with an unlimited amount of set days, a home office setup and coworking allowance, company-sponsored life insurance, open parental leave for all parental types, all work travel costs covered (including up to three international work trips each year), and surprisingly, the list goes on.

Putting Your Best Digital Foot Forward

It goes without saying, Automattic is paving the way for the future of remote work. Regardless of feeling ready to embrace the digital shift toward an unconventional work model, Automattic promotes the greater work-life balance and peace of mind for those ambitious individuals impassioned to strive and thrive on their own clock.

To sum up this article, I particularly admire this quote by Spencer Jentzsch, the CEO of Hacker Paradise, who says:

So many people think the remote work community is made up of only spoiled, privileged millennials and Instagram influencers, and that’s not who we are. We’re people of all ages, from all countries and all socio-economic classes, and what brings us together is our shared mindset that we want to do something different and have adventures sooner, rather than later in life.

On that note, all of those adventures you dream of while chained to your office desk watching the hours pass you by, could be a reality – all it takes is an application.

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Balance The Grind gives me a platform to talk to these people about how they're achieving their ideal lifestyle. I'm inspired by the passion, the work ethic, the hustle; and these conversations motivate me to live life the way I want to live it.