The increase of shared, cloud-based tools and processes has made it increasingly easy for companies to embrace a remote work culture. We know a thing or two about this. After all, we built Alley as a remote-first company. Our fully remote team is distributed across four different continents and spans many time zones, which means we have to think deliberately about how we work, how we communicate, and how we organize ourselves.
At Alley, we’re always looking to optimize, so we apply a strong sense of intentionality to everything we do. And while there are many benefits to fully remote work, thinking like a remote team can also have major benefits for co-located and hybrid organizations.
Many companies are experimenting with remote work — allowing team members to work from home a few days a week or having a mix of fully remote and co-located team members on staff. In our experience, a hybrid approach offered few benefits, presenting difficulty in providing a consistent culture, but we learned a lot along the way about ensuring equity between in-person and remote team members.
Though we wouldn’t recommend a hybrid approach, we understand some organizations might not be able to go fully remote for various reasons. With that in mind, here are some lessons from before we nixed our office that can benefit teams in any hybrid structure to ensure everyone feels they’re part of the same team.
- Balancing benefits: Benefits such as equipment assistance and coworking-space memberships are important considerations for your team. But don’t forget to sweat the small stuff! For instance, in our early hybrid days, we provided lunch at our New York office, but this gave in-office employees a benefit that others didn’t have. Instead of stopping office lunches, we provided an equivalent lunch stipend for each remote worker.
- Considering communications: Even in the office, almost all our communication took place via Zoom and Slack. We ensured our conference rooms were set up effectively for video calls so our remote workers wouldn’t get left out of the conversation. In fact, we found our New York office to be remarkably quiet because everyone was primarily communicating online.
- Inclusive connections: We intentionally created interest-based Slack channels for “water cooler” conversation, allowing all employees to contribute and benefit equally. We also introduced remote happy hours to bring fun to the whole team and support our goals of inclusivity and equal opportunity for all.
- Continuous improvement: As a Scrum team, we embrace the idea of Kaizen (continuous improvement). Set aside time every month, quarter, and year to think about how you work and make iterative improvements across your processes, tools, mindset — even the context in which you work.
- Routine retreats: We make time and space to meet in person with an annual retreat where we prioritize team building and camraderie. These retreats have helped our team strengthen interpersonal relationships that ultimately foster better engagement, performance, and satisfaction across our organization. We also encourage colleagues to co-work or meet up when they’re in the same area.
The work of building company culture is always evolving. As you continue to experiment and iterate, be sure to maintain intentionality. It’s crucial to consider how each practice can benefit your workplace, then take steps to balance and equalize the work experience for all team members.
Looking for more helpful tips around building a remote-first environment? Download our e-book, Welcome to the World of Tomorrow.