By Brian Armstrong
, May 20, 2020
, 6 min read time
I sent the note below to employees earlier today. I’m sharing it publicly here in case others find it helpful.
People are trading and using cryptocurrency more and more during this economic crisis we’re in, getting interested in sound money and what the cryptoeconomy can offer. Coinbase is continuing to hire and grow during this time period. If you’re interested in helping create this new culture with us, please check out our open roles (soon to be updated with more remote positions).
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After the restrictions of quarantine are over, Coinbase will embrace being “remote-first,” meaning we will offer the option to work in an office or remotely for the vast majority of roles.
Whether in an office or remote, being “remote-first” means we will all need to shift how we work.
We know you have lots of questions. We don’t have all the answers yet, but we’re working on it.
I believe that the future of work will look very different after the universal, forced work from home experiment of COVID-19. Over the last two months, I have come to believe that not only is remote work here to stay, but that it represents a huge opportunity and strategic advantage for us. Today, I’m excited to share that the future of Coinbase is remote-first.
This means that in the future, anyone who wants to, can continue to work from an office. That won’t change. What is changing is that (almost) any employee who prefers to work outside of an office, can. For many employees, it will probably be a mix of both. But for all of us, being remote-first requires a mindset and behavioral shift. It means that the employee experience should be the same, whether you’re in an office one day a week, five days a week, or never.
This change was initiated by social distancing requirements, but we’ve found silver linings: some employees are finding work from home to be a welcome change, and overall it’s been less complicated to transition than we would have expected.
I want to acknowledge that none of us signed up to work at a remote-first company. But whether this prospect is exciting or scary, please take your time in reading this note. I hope you can come to see this moment, like I do, as an opportunity to have a hand in inventing the future of work.
This is a big decision. How did we get here?
There were two major considerations making this decision: one practical, and one strategic.
On a practical level, as countries around the world have emerged from quarantines, we’ve seen broad direction to adopt measures like six feet of separation between people in offices. This is likely to be our reality soon. To be concrete: with six feet between all employees in an office, even if we moved into every floor of our SF HQ, we wouldn’t have enough space to bring all current SF employees back, let alone hire more.
So at least in the short- to medium-term, we must remain at least partially remote. If this is something we must do, I want Coinbase to lean toward, not away from, this new way of working. I want us to choose innovation, and make our company an extension of the values of crypto.
This is where the strategic consideration comes in: If you’ve been at Coinbase for some time, you know we’ve gone back and forth on remote work in the last few years. The difference now is that this has been an experiment in being remote-first. While the transition hasn’t been seamless, there has been less operational complexity than we expected, and we believe there will be substantial strategic advantages in a mix of remote and in-office work going forward, specifically:
Part of the vision for Coinbase is to create a world with more economic freedom, and not being tied to one location is a key part of this. A mix of in-office and remote work allows us to “de-risk” centralizing too much in a single location.
After a period of WFH, we think remote work (or part in-office and part remote) are options that many people, including the top talent we’re focused on hiring, will come to expect from employers. It also means we can capture top talent from all over the world.
What exactly do we mean, when we say “remote-first”?
I wrote about this in my blog post, but this will be about how you work, not where you work.
Again, this shift is about optionality. We intend to offer remote work to all of our employees who want it, while maintaining the ability to work from an office for those who don’t. At a remote-first Coinbase:
There are no explicit or implicit disadvantages to working from any location: all employees have the same experience regardless of where they are.
Some people can’t or won’t want to work remotely, so we plan to continue having physical offices in major hub cities.
Over time, the vision is to have one floor of office space in ten cities, rather than ten floors of office space in one city.
We’ll open up most new roles to remote candidates, and maintain a high bar for important skills like communication.
In practice, being remote-first means new ways of working, like less assigned seating, in-office folks dial into meetings separately vs. meeting in person, documenting everything (so people don’t rely on synchronously asking questions), etc.
We’re estimating that between 20–60% of the company will work remotely to start (once the restrictions of COVID-19 are lifted). If this is a success, we expect our remote population to grow organically.
This will require a huge shift in how we do things. How will we get there?
There are risks to making this transition, and there are still many questions to answer: What does collaboration look like? How can we make sure remote folks can get proper home set-ups? How will remote-first Learning and Development work? To address all of these, we will form a cross-functional team to oversee this transition. This group will identify the changes we must make to become a remote-first company (e.g., around people management, recruiting/talent, culture and connection, and documentation and async work…), host open design sessions with all of you to surface ideas, considerations, dependencies, and concerns, and partner with internal experts to redesign how all of this works for a remote-first Coinbase.
What comes next?
I want to remind you that the version of remote work you’re experiencing now is NOT normal, or what we’re proposing here (someday we’ll have the option of working from an office when we feel like it, can have team retreats and holiday parties again, our kids will be back in school, and we can see our friends). This is the beginning of a journey, this is how we’re finding advantage in adversity.
I believe that the work we do through this process will essentially generate a playbook for other companies in their transition to become remote-first, and that what we do in this moment could influence many companies’ paths forward.
There are a lot of unknowns, and I’m sure you have a lot of questions. In the spirit of defaulting to open, we wanted to share this decision early, even if we don’t have the answers to those questions yet. Our very first step is to surface all of your questions, concerns, and reactions, so we can address them over the following months. We’ve created a new channel to collect these, #ask-remote-first, and take the next steps in this new chapter for Coinbase.
More to come very soon,
About Brian Armstrong
Brian Armstrong is the Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder of Coinbase. As CEO, Brian is responsible for Coinbase’s consumer and institutional arms, which offer an entire suite of products that make accessing cryptocurrencies easy and secure, in addition to new products that operate at the frontiers of crypto and blockchain. Before co-founding Coinbase, Brian worked as a Software Engineer at Airbnb. He holds three degrees from Rice University: Bachelor’s of Computer Science, Bachelor’s of Economics, and a Master’s of Computer Science.
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