The time that once seemed so far away has arrived. The world is opening back up. That means people that had office-bound jobs and suddenly went remote are now heading back to their cubicles; that’s if their company didn’t move to a hybrid or remote-first environment already. There are two different schools of thought that resulted from the pandemic-related remote work model: remote workers are more productive because they have less interruptions and commute time or working from home means remote workers are not engaged.
I don’t fully understand the latter thought process. WebDevStudios has been remote-first since its inception 13 years ago and our remote workers are incredibly engaged. All I have to do is glance at our Slack chats to see that. In fact, I personally am more engaged working here with people I’ve never met in real life than at any other job I’ve had where I went into an office every single day for eight hours a day.
It’s all about how interaction takes place.
Being on a remote team, you need to be more thoughtful about your communication. Here are two questions I ask every time I interview a potential new hire:
- What is your communication style?
- How do you overcome communication challenges being on a remote team?
When you don’t have the luxury of walking over to someone’s desk, you need to be clear and concise with your questions or responses. Granted, you can always jump on a Zoom to work it out, if text isn’t doing the trick, but you still learn to include as much detail in the first go-around of communications to provide all the information upfront. Working remotely strengthens communication skills.
It’s also easier to go into do-not-disturb mode. There were so many times at my office job when I needed heads-down time for things, but sitting there in plain sight left it wide open for people to walk up and interrupt me. Nowadays, I can change my Slack status and post a message in our main General channel that communicates I am working with delayed response or DND mode, so I can complete a task (like writing this blog post!).
When bosses from other companies say, “Remote workers are not engaged because they just watch TV and do their laundry all day,” but then they see functioning remote teams at their competitors’ companies, they eat their words. Yes, there are times when I switch loads of laundry when I walk downstairs to grab more coffee, but that is not distracting from my work. People spend more time chatting with someone in the break room than it takes for me to do that.
And I am just as accountable, if not more so, for my work while remote. In a remote work environment, there is nobody looking over your shoulder and micromanage you. You learn to not be afraid to ask for help because nobody will physically see you struggling. Remote workers have to be able and comfortable to work independently, as well as on a team. This goes back to having great communication and being organized. Having the skills to organize your day, tasks, and deadlines is important and strengthens people’s abilities to problem solve and work within a team.
What about company culture?
Culture is a big deal at most companies and even more so for remote-first companies. We work extra hard to engage employees through group chats (the only rule is you can’t talk about anything work-related), social Slack channels, holiday events, even volunteering to give back to WordPress through Five for the Future.
We have a monthly employee newsletter to celebrate client and team wins, spotlight someone who has been going above and beyond, share recipes and health tips, and more. I will say it again: I feel more connected to the people I work remotely with than the people I saw everyday in an office.
Remote work allows for more time to live life.
Balancing work and life can be strenuous, especially if you have kids. Companies that understand the demands that everyday life has on people offer benefits to help them, like flex time or adjusted hours. Remote work also has more potential to offer a supportive environment where teammates can openly talk about mental health or request a mental health day, which helps to reduce stress. Work doesn’t need to be in a 9-to-5 box because life isn’t. Things come up, and being a remote worker allows you to deal with those things easier, such as scheduling an electrician or a delivery.
In the end, each company has to make the decision that is right for them. But working remotely does not mean employees are less productive or invested. Remote workers are engaged. It is up to the employer to put in the effort to keep it that way. One way to do that is to make sure there are spaces for employees to interact with each other and not feel isolated.
Remote work isn’t for everyone, either. Some people need the structure of going into a different location. But if you are one of those people that loves the flexibility remote work offers, check out our Careers page because we are hiring!