March 19, 2020

Working from Home during COVID-19? What You Can Learn From Our ‘Remote First’ Culture


2020 will go down as the year that COVID-19 turned travel upside down. It will also be remembered as the year ‘working from home’ went mainstream. As a remote-first workplace, the team at IBU have been prepping for this day since 2014. And while we might be weathering one of our industry’s toughest storms, our well-oiled ‘work from anywhere’ culture is the shield that will see us through. We hope that what we’ve learnt about remote-first can help your team adapt to what will inevitably be the norm, in a post-corona future.

While public health organisations and governments work to reduce the spread and impact of the Coronavirus, companies around the world are attempting to protect their teams from illness, and their businesses from economic downturn. One means of reducing exposure to the virus is to move away from shared office spaces to working from home. And in many cases, teams are left with little option but to work from home.

Business as usual

While many companies are frantically assessing their capability for teams to work from home, it’s business as usual for Insured by Us. Pandemic or not, our team of 32 people work from 5 time zones and up to 32 locations. Everyone has a laptop and an internet connection.

But distributing a team and maintaining effectiveness is not as simple as just letting people work from home. We hope our experience can help you protect your teams through this viral outbreak, while maintaining business productivity.

Announcements & discussions

We use Slack for instant messaging – it is great for reaching someone immediately and channelling conversations by topic but different time zones and providing flexibility to your team mean not everyone is online at the same time. Therefore, we can’t expect everyone to have seen your message as you sent it


First question – does it need to be a meeting? If so, we conduct our meetings via video-streaming app Zoom. Meetings always have an agenda that’s shared ahead of time through Confluence. Meetings are not compulsory and anyone should be able to read the notes following a meeting to contribute to the discussion asynchronously. 99% Of our meetings are recorded and shared, for people to view when their time zone permits.


Hallways conversations can still happen in remote teams. A decision that impacts others work or the business cannot be made in isolation. We record discussions and decisions on a project workspace, usually Confluence or Jira.

Adapted culture

The tools we use, and our understanding of what to use, and when, is the foundation of our success. But without buy-in and compliance, we’d get nowhere. We’ve put a lot of thought into how we work and iterate on our processes regularly.

People management and team structure

We have regular platforms  for feedback on our processes is regularly. Our team share and evolve working styles via online & asynchronous surveys and pulse checks. We use Fifteen-five and Typeform.

Organisation and task management

Sprints help us prioritise and plan work within our teams. Planning, review and daily standups (IM or zoom) help us stay on top of what needs to be done.

Sociability and comradery

It can be lonely working at home alone, particularly when you don’t have pets to talk to. We often work together in open Zoom calls – there’s often no agenda, perhaps we’re pairing on a task, brainstorming or just fancy nattering about life while we work. We also randomly assign pairs to catch up about life and chat like we would if we worked in the same location. These happen once every 3 weeks using the Donut app – a Slack integration.

Apps, SaaS and channels

Remote work requires more focussed communication than shared location. We use different tools for different types of internal communications. You can run all of them from a laptop with an internet connection & browser. These processes and tools allow us to meet, discuss, share, collaborate, decide, & socialise.

The tools that help us thrive

Slack – Channeled instant messaging
Google calendar – We use Google for Email. A shared calendar-view allows for transparent schedules & quick meeting organisation
Zoom – video conferencing, meetings, collaboration, socialising. More user-friendly and stable than Skype.
Confluence – part of the Atlassian universe, a space for detailed project documentation, timelines and discussion. Linked to Jira tickets, so content is richly actionable.
Jira – Software development and support tickets
Github – Software development source control, Atlassian.
Discourse – Asynchronous topic based discussion forum for long form written research
Dropbox – A central hub for documents and media. Access and version control
Trello – A visual, Kanban-style list-making application, linked to Atlassian tools.

The workforce of the future, today

Most companies will see work from home as a temporary solution to reducing the spread of Coronavirus, but we believe it helps us work better together, while hiring and retaining the best team.

Grappling with the shift? Our Head of People and Culture, G, speaks regularly on the topic. Drop her a mail.