Automattic has released Happy Schedule, the first in a new line of products called “Happy Tools,” created to solve problems for distributed teams. The products have grown out of internal tools that Automattic uses with its distributed team of more than 850 employees in 68 countries.
Most employee scheduling tools are designed for more traditional work environments where people report to work in person in the same timezone. Happy Schedule allows employees to set their own flexible schedules all the way down to 15-minute increments, seamlessly managing timezones for team members in one calendar. Automattic uses it to manage 24-hour global support with its 300+ Happiness Engineers.
Happy Tools is currently priced at $60/month for 12 users and then $5/user after that.
“In addition to Happy Schedule, we’ll be looking to bring our customer chat tool into Happy Tools,” Happy Tools product lead Matt Wondra said. “We’ll also look at other applications Automattic has already built to help with team communication, people-management, and customer support.”
The product suite complements Matt Mullenweg’s recent TED talk in which he evangelizes distributed work as “the future of work.” Mullenweg predicts that companies will evolve to become distributed first or will soon be replaced by ones that are.
Beyond simply recognizing the benefits of employees being able to design their own work environments, there are some real challenges to becoming a distributed company. This is especially true for those that didn’t start out that way. Smaller companies have less experience navigating all the tax laws and legal processes around hiring people from different countries. These hurdles make it difficult to grow an international team and retain employees as anything more than hourly contractors.
Answering some of these difficult questions gets into the meat of making distributed teams a reality. With its position as one of the few distributed companies that has successfully scaled into the hundreds, Automattic has an opportunity to open source some of its counsel, documents, and HR guides around international hiring. This would be a valuable addition to distributed.blog or the Happy Tools blog that would help more companies move beyond their initial explorations of distributed work and ultimately create a larger market for these kinds of tools.