Working remotely affords a lot of flexibility in the non-work part of our lives: we travel, move, and have more time for our personal life without worrying about our job security. That doesn’t come at the cost of purpose, productivity, or cohesion though. If anything, the fact that we’re all somewhere else, as we put it, means we have to double down on the upkeep of our company’s mission and organization. Strangely enough, that’s disappointing for some job candidates.
Some people look for remote work as a way to, what seems to me, work but not be a part of a company. They seek the security of a full time job with the flexibility of being a freelancer. They want work into the cracks in their life, with none of the risk. That may work for some companies, but we’ve learned to avoid hiring people who view remote work as their most important job criteria.
So how does a remote workplace like ours feel like day to day? How do we ensure there’s cohesion in a void of colocation? And what, in turn, are the core tenets of a team member who will be both fulfilled and successful with our company?
What we strive for as a remote team
As a remote workplace, we need to be accessible for each team member wherever they are. For us, that manifests itself in the following ways operationally:
- Our workplace operations need to be digital in every form: communication, documentation, paperwork, and productivity.
- The technology platform which drives #1 above needs to have near perfect uptime, but downtime does happen (as demonstrated by Slack recently) and there needs to be a fallback plan for how the team works and communicates when our virtual office disappears for a bit.
- Building on #2 above, job and project expectations need to be explicit. We have fewer meetings, but that means there are fewer chances to catch signals about someone or something being amiss. Being ultra-clear with role and project-level objectives is mission critical. When we fail to do that, we lose good people.
- Remote work is not to be confused with flex work: we require our team to be present for a majority of our six core business hours each day, regardless of time-zone. This helps avoid too much asynchronous decision making and the feeling that the company is nothing more than a loose network of freelancers.
- A rock-solid mission, vision, and business objectives written down, shared, understood, and bought into. It’s too hard to lean on oratory-style visionary leadership.
What to strive for as a remote team member
Working remotely requires every team member to work harder to contribute to the team’s culture than they might otherwise need to in a physical workplace. Because of our lack of physical center, each individual’s contribution truly is an important piece of our company’s personality.
- Be present, don’t be an island. Your communication, be it written, audio or video, is your lifeline to our community. If you aren’t proactive with communication, you’re on an island. If you’re on an island we can’t see you, hear you, or know what shape you’re in.
- Be disciplined about work and family separation. This is a hard one for a lot of people. The allure of working for a remote company is big for parents who want to be present with their new family. That’s great. In fact, it’s the biggest perk. But, there is no way to be a full time new parent and a full time team member at our company unless you’re a seriously organized person with your private life. Note the use of “new parent.” Once kids are older and in school, this gets more manageable.
- We want to know you beyond work. There are no team lunches or after-work drinks at a remote workplace and, while we get together as a team once in a while, it’s the daily stories and anecdotes we share about our remote lives that bonds us all together. If you think your non-work life has no business in a remote workplace, think again.
- Working remotely affords us more time – via less commute time, fewer meetings, and more efficient business operations (generally). What will you do with that extra time? It’s important to create a non-arbitrary divider between work and life, lest work follows you around wherever you go.
Working remotely is a two way street
Remote work enables us to live our non-work lives more purposefully, but that only happens when we run our remote workplace with equal purpose. As Lisa recently wrote in a post, work is a constant in our lives regardless of where we do it – when times are tough, work can be there for us. The opposite is true as well, which is perhaps the biggest benefit of working remotely – we become workplace that blends more seamlessly into the canvas of our lives, rather than being the geographic anchor of it.