All 700 employees at this startup work remotely. Here’s why one of its top execs says it’s given them a major edge on the competition
- InVision is a software startup that has 700 employees, but no office space.
- The company was founded on remote work.
- InVision’s chief people officer Mark Frein explains how the company makes it work.
When InVision was founded in 2011, its CEO and founder, Clark Valberg, knew that he’d have to get creative to maintain a competitive edge. Google had recently increased its presence in Manhattan, making it all the more difficult to snag coveted East Coast tech talent.
To open an office in New York’s punishing real estate market wasn’t an appealing prospect. It seemed wasteful to shell out money for office space when InVision’s core product — a software focused on augmenting the work of user experience designers — could be built entirely from a laptop.
So, why not do away with an office altogether?
Valberg decided to do exactly that.
Now, seven years and 700 employees later, the company has yet to open an official headquarters.
“People always ask, ‘Where does Clark go to work?'” said InVision chief of people Mark Frein. “Well, he goes to his desk to work. Sometimes at a coffee shop. Sometimes at his home. It’s a very important piece of the puzzle for us, to make sure we all operate the same way. The culture is very strong about leaning into the remote model.”
‘It’s about results, not where your IP address is’
InVision’s employees work from all corners of the world, including England, Israel, Australia, Argentina, and Nigeria. Despite the difference in time zones, the company still maintains official office hours between 10 AM and 6 PM EST.
But even with official hours, Frein says that InVision provides for plenty of autonomy, and that it’s more about proving yourself through the quality of your work than showing up at a certain time everyday.
“It’s about results, not where your IP address is,” said Frein. “We care about what you’re able to do or achieve. If you’re able to achieve something great while working wonky hours, then that’s great.”
It also provides for greater flexibility. At the time Frein and I spoke, he was working while traveling to New York on vacation with his family.
“This is what my family gets to do,” he said. “It’s lovely for us. If you have kids, you’re not held down during the school break. The freedom and the flexibility are the most satisfying reasons for being at InVision.”
When Frein tells people about InVision’s remote work policy, he says that they’re typically incredulous. They often ask how he gets anything done, and how he makes sure that people are doing what they’re supposed to be doing.
But having employees show up to an office every day doesn’t necessarily guarantee they’ll be working anymore than if they were remote, said Frein.
“After all, when you walk down the aisles of a standard company these days, people are on YouTube, social media,” he said. “The modern knowledge worker, the technical worker, is going to focus on what engages them in an organizational culture that engages them.”
All or nothing
Still, running an entire company remotely is not without its challenges.
For instance, establishing a rapport among coworkers who never see each other can be difficult, said Frein, and he recognizes that InVision is at a disadvantage in that way. To help solve this problem, the company works to help enable those relationships by having employees practice empathy, and encouraging them to ask their colleagues lots of questions.
InVision also hosted a week-long, company-wide retreat last February where employees could connect face-to-face.
“Some people had never met each other and had been working together for years,” said Frein. “People were laughing and crying. It was an incredible experience.”
Frein said that there’s one key takeaway he’s learned from overseeing a company that encourages remote work: it’s all or nothing.
“One of the most important factors for our success is that we do it with everyone,” he said. “If you have an office and yet a bunch of people work remote, it can be problematic, because the work experience of the people who work remote is often impoverished compared to the people working from the office.”
He also said that it’s given InVision an edge over the competition. After all, with no geographical restrictions on hiring, the company can bring in talent from all over the world. Additionally, InVision says it saves many millions in overhead every year by not renting out a physical space.
But most importantly, Frein said, it helps them build a better product.
“We’re a software company that builds tools for designers,” he said. “It definitely helps us think about our product, since we’re all designing remotely anyways.”
Ultimately, though, Invision’s remote work policy succeeds because, for its employees, there isn’t any other option.
“I think the key part of our model is that we made ourselves figure out how to do it, because there is no place to go,” said Frein. “We have to make it work because we don’t have the choice of walking into an office every morning.”