One Way Cube-Dwellers Crush Remote Employees
November 30, 2015

One Way Cube-Dwellers Crush Remote Employees

by Brian de Haaff

I was humbled by the response to 6 Ways Remote Employees Crush Office Cube-Dwellers. Nearly 5,000 of you read the post, and more than 30 people shared their thoughts through comments. It is clear that for some cube-dwellers (and those who work remotely, too), I touched a nerve.

Reading the feedback, it is obvious that many of you agreed with me. Remote work is a sustainable option for many web and technology companies today. Comments like this one reinforced the idea that people can be trusted to work wherever is most convenient for them:

It all comes back to having a collaborative culture. Whether you are remote or in a typical office setting. If people can collaborate, they can do it anywhere.

It is true. No matter what type of team you have, you have to be able to work well together. Other comments spoke to the benefits of working remotely:

The added freedom of working remotely provides the flexibility for me to work later evenings or really early morning hours. Add to this the fact that seeing my kids when they get home from school…simply makes things more worthwhile.

The reader above highlights one of the most rewarding benefits of remote work — spending quality time with your family. When you work remotely, you have the flexibility to pick up your kids at school, attend their sports events, have family dinners, and be there at bedtime.

But there is one way that cube-dwellers crush remote employees. Do you know what it is?

I cannot take credit for it; one reader pointed it out:

I work from home for many reasons, but I wonder if we are losing out on meaningful relationships with our co-workers along the way?

As I read the comment above, it hit me. Remote work brings great freedom. But if you are not careful, you will become disconnected from your colleagues. Remote teams do not have water coolers, happy hours, or break rooms. These things might seem trivial. But their high-level purpose — to help teams connect socially — is important to build lasting relationships.

It is easy to forget that remote employees are people first, and remote employees second. So, if you are considering joining a remote company, or already have a remote team, this advice might help. It is how we keep our team connected at Aha! — even as we work across the country from California to Florida.

Goal-first Ensure your team has common goals and a shared sense of mission. And more importantly, make sure everyone on the team knows what the goals are and why they are important. This will help bring a deeper level of connection and fulfillment vs. simply going about the daily grind. It also inspires a feeling of unity that helps ease the disconnected nature of being isolated in your home office or wherever you work each day.

At Aha! we are transparent about our corporate and department-level goals. It is the glue that holds us together. We also host a company-wide video conference each week that everyone across the company joins. These regular, cross-functional meetings reinforce the shared goals of each team and how they contribute to the big picture.

Stay responsive This is contrary to conventional wisdom, but we think that you and your company should be driven by interruptions. Most people are taught to try to tune out distractions because there are so many urgent but unimportant requests. Tuning them out is a mistake. Listen carefully to the noise so you can learn to pick out the valuable data.

Nothing is more frustrating than waiting to hear back from someone. And when you work remotely, these delays in communication are even more harmful to your organization. You cannot get up and go hover over the person who owes you an answer. That is why our team at Aha! puts a high priority on responding to requests with urgency. When someone on our team has a question, they know they will get an answer as soon as possible. This fosters a deep sense of trust and reinforces that we care about each other’s needs as much as our own.

Meet in person We want our employees to have the freedom to work from anywhere. But we also know that video conferences and instant messaging channels will never completely replace the need for in-person interaction. So, twice per year, we fly the whole team out for a company-wide, location retreat. These 3-4 day meetings are filled with hikes, dinners, discussions, and laughs. And on each trip, we welcome new team members whom we have never met in person before.

Our time together is intentional. The goal is to help everyone connect on a deeper level, come together as an organization to look back at our accomplishments, and look forward to the future. And when I look around the table at dinner each night — and see the team laughing and sharing stories — I know we are doing something right.

Humans are inherently social. We are not meant to live and work in complete isolation — we need deep connections in order to thrive.

You must see remote work as a gift that brings its own unique challenges. Ultimately, if you are given the opportunity, it is the best way to thrive at work and life in tandem.

How does your team stay connected?

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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