Working at Coinbase: Intense and demanding, balanced by deliberate recharge time

By L.J. Brock, Chief People Officer

We’re often asked a version of this question: “What’s it really like to work at Coinbase?”

Our culture doc provides a great overall perspective on working here, but I think it’s important to address this question head-on, too.

The bottom line: We work incredibly hard at Coinbase — for most of us, Coinbase is the most intense place we’ve ever worked. That intensity is only magnified by the current moment in crypto, and it often results in long days and long weeks.

However, because of that intensity, we’re also deliberate about finding time to recover between sprints. How deliberate? This year, we’re experimenting with four recharge weeks (roughly one per quarter), when nearly the entire company will shut down so we can all enjoy downtime without work piling up.

Four weeks of coordinated recharge time might sound like a lot of time off for a company in hypergrowth, but given the intensity of our work throughout the year, we think this is the best way to ensure our pace is sustainable for the long term.

We know this approach wouldn’t work for every company, and we also know Coinbase isn’t for everyone. But if you want to work at the cutting edge of crypto and tech — and if you’re excited about pushing your skills to the limit while knowing you’ll have regular opportunities to recharge — there’s no better place to be.

An all-in environment

Why is Coinbase so intense? Because the massive opportunity in front of us demands the best from each of us, every day.

We’re upfront about this in our culture doc, but it’s worth emphasizing: “We are a winning team, not a family, and have high expectations for performance and delivering results…. We have an intense work culture, and are regularly pushed out of our comfort zones.”

What’s this mean in practice?

It means we don’t promise 9 a.m. — 5 p.m. hours or 40-hour work weeks — many days and weeks are long, because that’s what it takes to get the job done.

It means we can’t simply do more in some areas by doing less in others — the risk of missing out on a huge opportunity is too great.

It means we aren’t wedded to long-term plans — yes, we thoughtfully map out quarterly and annual plans, but we’re prepared to pivot at a moment’s notice if we see a better opportunity to serve our customers.

We’re laser-focused on achieving our mission of increasing economic freedom in the world, and we encourage our teams to set “uncomfortably ambitious” goals. That’s the only way we can stay ahead.

An ‘act like an owner’ mentality

One of our cultural tenets is “act like an owner.” We expect our employees to take 100% responsibility for achieving our mission, but we also empower them to work in the way that’s best for them, and to rest and recharge between their sprints.

We do this in part through our remote-first stance, which enables almost all employees to choose whether to work from an office, from home, or through a hybrid approach — whatever works best for them and their families. This policy has been hugely successful, enabling us to hire top talent from around the world and earning positive reviews from our employees.

We also empower employees to take charge of their well-being through our flexible time off (FTO) policy (in eligible countries), which means most employees don’t need to accrue time off before using it or worry about hitting an annual limit.

Despite our FTO policy for most employees, we realized in 2020 that many employees weren’t taking enough time off to recharge, either because they didn’t want to force their teammates to cover for them or because they didn’t want to fall behind on their work.

We knew this was unsustainable, so we scheduled a recharge week at the end of 2020 and two recharge weeks in 2021, when nearly the entire company would shut down. (Teams with critical 24/7 responsibilities, such as customer service and security, scheduled alternate recharge weeks.)

Subsequent employee surveys made it clear: recharge weeks work. In fact, 52% of employees said recharge days and weeks were the primary tool that helped them rest and recover in 2021.

That feedback — and our expectation that this year will be just as intense as last year — prompted us to schedule four recharge weeks for 2022, roughly one per quarter. We have no expectation we’ll continue with four recharge weeks beyond 2022 — we’ll evaluate as we go — but we’re confident this is the right approach for us this year.

Even though we’ve scheduled four recharge weeks for 2022, we didn’t make any changes to our FTO policy — we’ve encouraged employees to schedule vacations during our recharge weeks when they can, but we know that’s not always possible, and that’s OK.

We also know that, despite our best intentions, there are times when some employees need to work through a recharge week. When this happens, we do our best to make it up to them so they have dedicated time to recharge, too. We’re OK with this tradeoff — we prefer to implement a solution that regularly works for 90% of employees than to endlessly search for an elusive “perfect” solution.

Acting like an owner truly is key to success at Coinbase — our top performers take recharge seriously, but they also don’t hesitate to jump in and deliver for the company whenever and however is needed.

A once-in-a-career opportunity — and we’re hiring

There’s no denying that Coinbase is one of the most exciting places to work right now.

In just the last 12 months, we’ve tripled our headcount, expanded into new markets, brought new crypto innovations to our customers and become a publicly traded company — and we still feel we’re just getting started.

As we say in our culture doc, “We are optimistic about the future and determined to get there.”

If you share that optimism, and if my description of working at Coinbase resonates with you, take a look at our Careers page — we’re hiring for hundreds of roles in dozens of fields, and we want exceptional people in every seat, working together towards our mission.

Working at Coinbase: Intense and demanding, balanced by deliberate recharge time was originally published in The Coinbase Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

10 January 2022 16:03

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