Wordpress: A Company Collaborating on It's Own Terms

We believe that organizations have the power to design the type of work structure they want, unbounded by spacial or technological constraints. Our mission is to help teams work better and improve collaboration no matter how they work. In this post, we want to put a spotlight on Automattic Inc., a company that's thriving while employing an unconventional management style.

In most industries there exists a somewhat standard structure, whether it's employees sitting at rows of computer terminals, mobile workers directed by in-office dispatchers, or remote freelancers. For many businesses, their industry's standard structure works quite well. Often, it's a tried and true model and something that helps employees feel comfortable. Other times, the standard structure remains unchallenged simply because it's taken for granted or because altering it seems organizationally daunting. In these instances, we have deep respect for organizations that craft work styles which fit their own unique goals perfectly.

Automattic Inc., the company that runs Wordpress.com, is an example of an organization that has crafted an unusual style of workforce management, but continues to grow and truly believes they've found the perfect solution for their company. Wordpress.com is the 15th most trafficked website in the world. Nonetheless, Automattic doesn't have a single office. Every employee works from home, or wherever they please (There's also no limit on employee vacation days). They even display a map of their employees' locations around the globe. The company is growing, profiting, and believes their distributed nature is central to what they do.

In Daily Tekk's interview with Sara Rosso, the Wordpress.com VIP Global Services Manager gives a good sense of how they understand the significance of their work style. Sara explains, "I would describe Automattic's culture as Distributed. Not only does this refer to our physical organization and lack of offices, it’s also part of the fabric of the company."

In another recent HBR piece, former "Automoattician," Scott Berkun breaks down the philosophies that underpin the company's novel approach to the distributed workforce. He points to five things that companies' thinking about including remote work in their process should know:

1. Creativity thrives online
"…Chat rooms, social media, and blogs provide many chance encounters and serendipitous ideas. Dozens of times a day, WordPress.com releases new features and updates, and they collaborate intensely around them on internal blogs and in chat rooms. Remote work certainly changes the nature of interaction, but to assume this inhibits creativity is ridiculous."

2. Not all remote work is the same
"To evaluate remote work as a singular idea is a paper tiger. There are many policies to choose from and those choices matter…Any progressive idea can be made to fail if the people in charge don't support it."

3. Culture is critical
"If employees are self-motivated and empowered, remote work can accelerate productivity. However in autocratic or bureaucratic organizations the freedom of remote work runs against the culture. Of course remote workers will be less productive if they're in environments that depend on centralized, rule-oriented, or committee heavy processes. But even then it can work if managers care more about results than pretense."

4. It should be up to the employee
"If a worker proves they can perform as well, or better, from home there's little reason to complain. Even at a bureaucratic company, a motivated worker may be able to find ways to do their job productively in a remote environment. Why not let them try? If they're right everyone wins."

5. Tools make a difference
"Automattic employees rarely use email…A special kind of blog, called a P2, solves many of the annoyances of email, and simultaneously facilitates remote work…At Automattic, even when employees meet in person they use the same tools as when working apart. This helps ensure no one feels left out or misses conversations, regardless of their time zone."

As new technologies for collaboration and communication emerge, organizations are inspired to rethink the way they work. At Lua, We don't favor any style of work over others and believe that the right type of organizational structure is determined completely on a case by case basis. However, we have a deep respect for organizations that craft unique work styles with intentionality. Through this mindfulness, we organizations are creating efficiencies, making employees happy, and doing good business all around.