Empowering distributed teams: Insights from Remote’s CTO

Remote work has revolutionised today’s workplace, fundamentally transforming the way companies operate and employees perform their jobs.

Amidst the accelerated adoption of remote work catalysed by COVID-19, there has been a steady rise in remote work arrangements even before the pandemic. This shift in work dynamics has prompted organisations to explore effective remote work solutions.

Frontier Enterprise interviewed Marcelo Lebre, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Remote — a company that provides employment solutions for distributed teams  — to look deeper into how they enable a more consistent remote experience.

In the interview, Lebre provides insights on the technologies that bolster his organisation, including the construction of Remote’s employment platform, their efforts to safeguard the privacy for clients and workers, and Remote’s technology roadmap, among other topics.

Can you walk us through the technology infrastructure that supports Remote’s virtual workforce management platform? What are the key components, and how do they work together to ensure a seamless experience for clients and remote workers?

Remote work has undergone significant development in recent years, with more companies embracing permanently distributed teams operating from various locations. In the Asia-Pacific region, a recent survey commissioned by Remote found that nearly half of companies intend to hire 20-30% of their remote workforce — including employees and contractors — from other countries within the next 12-18 months. Remote’s platform aims to address two major challenges faced by companies in this context: hiring across borders in a secure and compliant manner, and streamlining the complex array of tools, logins, and data silos commonly associated with remote work.

Companies can use the Remote platform to:

  • Manage, employ, and pay their globally distributed workforce, whether they are employees or contractors.
  • Onboard employees or contractors quickly.
  • Offer them location-specific benefits.

We offer this through a SaaS platform that’s available through mobile devices or laptops, with a single login providing access to all features. Behind the scenes, we have integrated automation along with other HR tools to save time and minimise errors. For instance, generating contracts for remote workers around the world and facilitating payments in multiple currencies can be accomplished with just a few clicks.

We also leverage data to offer additional functionalities, such as a total cost of employment calculator, so clients can understand how much hiring new talent may cost based on their role and country of residence, incorporating factors like taxes and mandatory deductions.

Security and data privacy are major concerns for any company that operates online. How does Remote ensure the safety and privacy of its clients and their remote workers? Have there been any challenges or incidents in the past, and how were they addressed?

The adoption of remote work has introduced new risks that can jeopardise the security of employees and their data. At Remote, we prioritise safeguarding the private, privileged, and confidential information we handle every day. We enforce strict rules for our suppliers and other third parties with access to information, fostering open and transparent communication about information security across all business teams.

Marcelo Lebre, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Remote. Image courtesy of Remote.

Remote prioritises the safety and privacy of our clients and their remote workers. We have implemented rigorous security measures, including earning the System and Organization Control (SOC) 2 Type 2 designation, adhering to AICPA Trust Service Principles standards, and obtaining ISO 27000 certification. Additionally, we are GDPR-compliant. Our dedicated security team oversees the global security program.

We have implemented several key pillars to ensure the safety and security of our customers’ data. These encompass cyber insurance and information security risk management, access control, network and infrastructure security, data location and physical protection of information databases, change and vendor management practices, incident management procedures, as well as human, endpoint, and product security measures. Each of these pillars is supported by specialised protocols and best practices developed by our in-house security experts, which are extensively shared with all members of our remote team

Developing internal technologies can be a complex and challenging process. What were some of the biggest challenges that Remote faced during the creation of its workforce management platform, and how were they overcome? Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?

We built our own platform from the ground up, and only release new product updates once they meet our stringent internal standards. Building Remote is a complex undertaking that involves not only the platform itself but also establishing the necessary legal, compliance, banking, and tax infrastructure to support operations in every country around the world. Some countries present particularly challenging setup processes, such as intricate payroll laws or demanding requirements for local bank accounts. 

Internally, we have spent a bit of time finding technology solutions to overcome these problems, using automation, data, machine learning, and other types of technologies. However, it is important to note that many of these are behind the scenes and may go unnoticed by our customers; this is by design. Ultimately, our primary focus is to provide our customers a platform that offers a simple and intuitive experience.

APIs are a critical component of modern software systems, and Remote’s API is no exception. Can you tell us how Remote uses its API internally? What benefits does the Remote API provide to clients and remote workers?

Remote has made it a priority to offer an API and we are the only company in our space to do so. The Remote API serves two primary purposes: enabling our clients to integrate Remote with their existing HR, payroll, and hiring tools; and allowing other companies to incorporate global hiring capabilities into their own platforms. In both cases, the API makes it easy to create custom connections with data on Remote, eliminating duplicate data entry and saving everyone time. 

These changes have proven beneficial for Remote as a whole. The API represents a highly reusable architecture, making documentation easier to find and browse. Specs can be tested, and mock data from the specs for the front end can be automatically provided, ensuring a single source of truth for API documentation.

Technology is constantly evolving, and Remote’s workforce management platform is always adapting to meet the needs of its clients and virtual workers. Can you share any updates or improvements that are in the works, and how they will benefit Remote’s users?

We anticipate that more companies will expand their hiring efforts globally and continue to build new products to save them time, money, and effort. At Remote, we continuously enhance our platform and regularly introduce new features to ensure it remains an essential tool for employers and their workers. Our platform provides comprehensive access to employee information, enables quick changes, and ensures flexible payment options.

Recent highlights include the ability for customers to manage workers employed through their own entities within Remote, an integration of Remote with Zapier for automating processes across various other apps, and an enhancement in global payroll management.

Can you share any insights into Remote’s technology roadmap, and how it aligns with the company’s overall goals and vision? Specifically, how does Remote prioritise new features or updates to its platform, and what considerations are taken into account when deciding which areas to focus on?

We put the needs of our customers above all else. In practice, this means that we always have clear customer outcomes for all goals and continually test if we are adding value by talking to our customers. We stay customer outcome-driven and put ourselves in our customers’ shoes.

We see that many customers still struggle with having too many tools, bad user experiences, and limitations. We believe that one of the best ways we can make a significant impact is by helping customers efficiently manage their entire workforce, reducing administrative burdens, and devoting more time to the unique aspects that make their product and company exceptional.

In line with our value of transparency, we have started highlighting new features in monthly product updates, and our enhancements in June continue this trend. Now, our customers can enable their employees to submit requests to work remotely via our platform, maintain more accurate records with automatic reminders for contract end dates, and benefit from improved billing features.

Looking ahead to the second half of the year, our technology roadmap will primarily focus on contractor management. We will introduce simplified processes for companies to create international contracts, onboard contractors, and ensure compliance. Additionally, we plan to introduce a time-tracking feature, allowing contractors to monitor, save, and export their work hours for invoicing purposes. Furthermore, invoices can be automatically generated based on the time log. On top of this, we are offering companies a trial for contractor management.

These platform enhancements directly address the growing demand from businesses in Asia and worldwide that aim to hire more contractors from different countries for their remote and distributed workforce.