How a proptech startup REalyse switched from a London office to remote work

By now, you’ve probably heard the news that large companies like Twitter, Shopify and Slack are "going remote".

And recently, we’re hearing more and more stories about smaller companies, startups, and digital agencies doing the same.

We started to interview these companies to learn more. This time we chatted with Nikolai Ueker, COO of REalyse.

About REalyse

REalyse is a proptech startup from the UK that provides data and analytics for investors, lenders, and developers. They have 25 employees and prior to going remote their office was located in central London, near Liverpool Street.

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Why did you decide to go remote? Was it purely because of COVID-19 or were there some other reasons?

So I think for us we've always been pretty much able to work remotely. It's been something that most of our dev team has done quite frequently in the past, say one or two days a week, just because it was time where they were able to get a lot done.

Obviously coronavirus for us was probably what kind of spurred the whole thing on to the point of vacating our office entirely.

I work from home and we came to the conclusion that we were able to actually do quite a lot of the things that we were doing in an office from home, and we saw that productivity in our dev team had gone up by roughly 60 percent. I think even for myself I've basically managed to get about 2 hours of time back every day, which I can utilize then for whatever I need like going to the gym, studying, reading or spending time with friends and family.

All those things have greatly contributed to us making the decision to stay remote as a business and potentially have a small office in the future for the sales team because they need space for meetings. But at this point until the end of the year, we probably won't be having an office space at all.

Were/are your team members on the same page about going remote? What were their main concerns?

So what we did was send out a survey and basically just got everyone to pitch in and give us their feedback and generally, the feedback was that you know, everyone wanted to stay remote.

Obviously there are people that are missing that interaction and being able to spend time with each other in a more social capacity and we do find it a bit more difficult for the sales team because they tend to have more synchronous communication, they interact very differently and almost in real time when you know, they're discussing transactions or need help with potential sale or whatever it is.

And so for them, it's not as convenient as it is for some of the dev team or operations team to work remotely, but I think overall there's been very little pushback.

I think it's been welcomed generally, but this is why we're thinking about potentially having a smaller office in the future, a space that is just there for meetings.

Do you have some strategy to boost morale while working remotely?

So at the moment, we're working on building our remote work policy. We've made pretty good headway so far, just looking at what we need to do from all different aspects from legal to culture and everything else.

Obviously, the culture piece is always on one's mind and to wonder what could go wrong and so for us that's a big part of focusing on how we maintain productivity but also culture and everything else.

At the moment we're looking at potentially having some sort of a monthly meetup, maybe a larger gathering on a quarterly basis, and doing other things where we can try and get as much face-to-face time as possible.

The exact strategy and format is kind of yet to be determined, but I think that will happen quite soon.

What do you see as the biggest challenges of remote work you have to face?

I think maintaining culture and also onboarding just because onboarding when you have an office is a lot easier, you know, everyone shows up and everyone's there, when you don't have that then that obviously becomes a bit more difficult.

Potentially with a smaller office in the future, we can either have them come stay in London with us for a week or whatever the format will be to help find a way of navigating that initial introductory process.

I think the culture piece is going to be interesting because people are not going to be able to communicate as freely as before and are going to start to communicate only when really necessary. And so for us, that's one thing we're going to need to try to figure out, how we can best maintain communication and put best practices into place.

Do you provide some support for your teammates in this remote work transition?

Absolutely. I mean obviously budget permitting. I think it's something we are looking at at the moment.

We just need to establish how, where and what that's going to look like, but we are looking at it and it's something that is on the forefront of mind.

If we are going to go fully remote, and this seems to be the case, then we need to have something there to support our team.

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