COULD THE COINBASE APPROACH TO REMOTE WORKING BE THE FUTURE?
Coinbase Global Inc., the world's largest cryptocurrency exchange platform has become a publicly traded company. The listing has happened through the Direct Listing route and not through IPO. Listed on the Nasdaq and trading under the ticker symbol “COIN”, Coinbase is the first pure-play crypto trading company to list on a U.S. exchange.
"Almost no Coinbase employees have been physically together for nearly a year, and the hundreds who joined after March 2020 have never met a manager in-person." - Brian Armstrong, CEO Coinbase
This is not surprising news about a company that has 43 million verified users, 7,000 institutions, and 115,000 ecosystem partners in over 100 countries. What is surprising is the decision announced by its CEO, Brian Armstrong that it will operate without a central office as it continues it has adapted well to the remote working limitations imposed by COVID-19.
As we’ve moved to a remote first environment, we realized that we no longer have a headquarters located in any one city.
Brian Armstrong, CEO and Co-Founder explains. Where is Coinbase headquartered? If you had asked us a year ago, the answer would have been San Francisco. But almost nine months into becoming a remote-first company, and now with 52% of our employees having joined us in a post-office world, that answer no longer feels right. After we can safely return to in-person work, about 95% of our employees will still have the option to work at home, in an office, or a mix — whatever works best for them. We now have employees, many who originally worked in San Francisco, all over the country and world. Since January 2020, nearly 250 employees have relocated worldwide, and more than 150 have left San Francisco, representing about 21% of our global and 29% of our San Francisco workforce during that time.
While we will continue to provide offices for employees who prefer to work in them, designating one location as our headquarters feels counter to our culture. Forgoing a formal headquarters is also more in line with the spirit of crypto, built on the inherent benefits of decentralization. We don’t want to downplay any of the legal, compliance, or regulatory obligations that come with being based in the United States, or the benefits that come from operating in a country with America’s values, but elevating one specific office over any other office does not make sense for a remote-first Coinbase.
Here are a few observations we’ve had now that we have no official headquarters in one city:
Remote-first has been working really well. While we still have elements of the employee experience that we’re working to improve (some of them bottlenecked by the pandemic), 94% of employees believe that the benefits of remote-first outweigh the drawbacks, or that the benefits and drawbacks balance each other out. In particular, they appreciate the autonomy, flexibility, the ability to focus, and reclaiming commute hours.
It has helped us attract top talent. One of the best parts about being a decentralized company is that we can hire more of the best people. Previously, less than 1% of the world lived within commuting distance of one of our offices. Now we can cast a much wider net. Over the last nine months, we’ve onboarded hundreds of employees from locations outside of the commute range of any of our existing offices. In Q1 of 2020, only 28% of new employees lived outside of California. In Q1 of 2021, 58% of our new hires are from outside of the state.
The executive team should lead by example.
Prior to going remote-first, nearly all of Coinbase leadership, including the executive team, could be found in the San Francisco office every day. Since we’ve made the decision to go remote-first, we’ve decentralized ourselves; even after people can safely return to offices, the executive team has no plans to be “in-office” on a regular basis, and none of them currently live in San Francisco. This is one of the most powerful things we can do to keep Coinbase from inadvertently returning to an in-office culture.
Engagement, learning, and belonging in a remote-first environment requires changes.
Being truly remote-first means redesigning how work gets done — that includes how people learn, bond, and grow. We’ve created new ways for employees to easily connect remotely, including offering virtual offsites, social gatherings and 1:1 coffee stipends; and deployed a blended onboarding and learning approach of live virtual, on-demand, and (eventually) in-person training. We’re fully committed to ensuring that all employees have equal access to professional growth and opportunity, regardless of how often they physically come into offices, so we’re thinking about the new collaboration practices that will be required when some of us are back in offices and others are at home. Overall we’ve seen high engagement, belonging, learning, and creativity happen in a remote-first environment.
Stepping back, it is incredible to think about the fact that almost no Coinbase employees have been physically together for nearly a year, and that the hundreds of employees who joined after March 2020 have never met a manager in-person, attended a live meeting, or visited a Coinbase office. Despite all of these challenges, we’re seeing this decision begin to pay off, during one of the most exciting periods of our history. This collaboration with our team has made me more optimistic than ever about the future of work at Coinbase.
For more information, please visit: www.coinbase.com