Communication Guidelines

Cantilever is a remote culture which values flexibility. We strive to be a uniquely pleasant place to work, and part of that is our communication policies. There are four modes of communication you need as a Cantilever staffer, from rarest to most common:

  • Basecamp: For day-to-day communication, and some client communication
  • Zoom: For scheduled internal or external synchronous communication
  • Email: For day-to-day client communication and occasional private internal discourse that doesn’t fit neatly into Basecamp
  • Text Message/Phone Call: For emergencies and unprompted communication, and client-hosted phone calls

You can find contact information for all team members in the directory. Please respect the guidelines above. In turn, if you are not meeting these responsiveness standards, expect your teammates to continually ratchet up the communication level.

As a default, our communication is asynchronous. This means when you post a ping or message, you are not expecting a response right away. In a culture where everyone is working different schedules across many time zones, synchronous communication is simply unreliable to begin with. Better to treat asynchronous communication as the default, and harness calls and texts when helpful. Internal communication must be answered within 24 hours. This means that if you need an answer on something before 24 hours from now, you might need to text.

Exception for New People

New team members, especially technical and design staff, will always need a little extra help getting up to speed on Cantilever methodologies, and should not feel guilty about asking for more synchronous communication at the outset. When possible this communication should take the form of Zoom calls with invites, but if you’re new and you are stuck until you get an answer, it’s much better to try a text or quick call than to waste time. If you’re working with a new person, expect more synchronous communication than normal.

It’s also natural that new people will need an adjustment period to adapt their planning and communication style to our paradigm. Managers should help new team members understand this exception and when to stop leaning on it.

Not Expectations

Checking your email/basecamp constantly is discouraged. This mentality promotes a "Latest and Loudest" working style, where whatever just came through the door gets more attention than perhaps more important work that hasn’t been as recently front-of-mind.

Receiving an email or ping from a colleague is NOT a request for urgent response. Emails and pings should be dealt with at your own pace. Certain company founders take time off during the day to watch kids, and make it up by emailing late at night. This does not mean you need to reply when you get these emails!

Having extensive notifications is also not required. Our work requires focused blocks of time to oneself, engaging meetings with clients, family time, and time to breathe and reflect. Everyone likes their notifications differently, so we don‘t discourage you if you work best with frequent pings, but it is certainly not required. By default, keep push notifications off.

With all this not paying attention to inboxes, we do need to plan well to make sure we’re hitting deadlines. Have a 7-day view of your calendar at any given time, don’t get surprised. You can always review Forecast if you are unsure what you have on your plate next week.

That said, we do run into emergencies from time to time, and need the phone to handle them. You should expect calls and texts rarely, but they are important and you should answer them as quickly as possible.

Expectations

Here is what we expect of a typical team member at Cantilever:

  • When tagged in Basecamp, or when you receive an internal email, reply within 24 business hours if you possibly can.
  • When a client asks a question of you through basecamp or email, reply or delegate the duty to respond within 24 business hours.
  • Answer any calls or texts right away during your normal working times. This should happen rarely. Otherwise, our planning is not good enough and we are improvising too much.
  • If someone texts you that there is a real emergency (ex. a client site has been hacked and is selling viagra... a logo we designed violates copyright and must be recalled immediately... someone stole our bank information...), please answer if you are free outside of your normal working times. Do not text during a piano recital, do not take a call in the back of a wedding, do not text while driving! This should happen zero to one times per quarter.

Client contacts and Legal/Finance officers have higher communication expectations. If you are leading a team, we do ask that you answer calls or texts when convenient even outside your normal working time, to enable the team to solve problems with your insight. We also ask that you answer client calls whenever possible, and reply quickly to texts when they are urgent (something is gravely broken). Most bugs and “emergencies“ can wait the standard 24 business hours to reply. The definition of “emergency” is subjective. But we do have to fix the Viagra thing.

Being Off-Duty

Everyone has a right to be completely off the grid whenever they’re taking time off. For most team members this is just a matter of setting an auto-responder on email and phone, and letting the team know. For client contacts and legal/finance officers, you must also ensure that any emergencies while you are off can be handled by the rest of the team.

For client contacts that means ensuring your client knows who to contact during your absence in case of emergency, and making sure that person is up to speed on the project(s). For officers, this means continually ensuring that access to all critical business functions is available to more people than you, and that any scheduled activities (payroll, contract review, etc) have been delegated in advance.