Every Friday we answer all your questions about launching careers, education, hiring, entrepreneurship, Pathly, startups and more.
This week’s question comes from Corné, who asks if we think remote work is a good for your company:
This is a great question and there are a few parts to my answer. I’ll start by listing the positives I experienced working remotely at a startup for almost four years.
Why Remote Work is Awesome
First, working remotely for Praxis was an incredible experience and it was one of the things that made what we were doing so appealing.
We had a lot of flexibility and I took advantage of that to travel, speak, and pursue new opportunities. I’m so happy I got to have that experience.
Second, working remotely allowed us to attract some awesome talent.
Some of our team, like my friend Chuck Grimmett, are married and have a spouse with a career in their current city and relocating somewhere in-person just wouldn’t really be an option. Chuck is one of the most talented people I know and being remote allowed us to bring him on without disrupting his life. That matters.
Third, working remotely saved us money on office space and gave us a great deal of nimbleness in our ability to get to in-person events, meet business partners, and customers. We had people in all the timezones of the US and that was a powerful asset.
For those to reasons alone, I’ve decided that Pathly will be remote for the time-being: talent, lifestyle, and money & time savings. But it probably won’t always be that way…
Why Remote Work Sucks (with Caveats)
Before I list some of the downsides of remote work and why Praxis is opening an office, as well as why Pathly will one day likely be in-person as well, I should say that as I understand it, Praxis is not, strictly speaking, moving away from the remote model.
It’s true they’re opening an office in Charleston and that most employees will be there, but that culture is not going to change and there will always be opportunities to work remotely as they are needed.
They’re just not going to sacrifice productivity and employee happiness to meet some strict standard for in-office work, just as they aren’t going to sacrifice productivity to do the remote work thing just because it’s a popular talking point now.
One of the things we realized while I was at Praxis is that entirely distributed teams do face certain downsides.
- You miss out on a lot of bonding time you can’t really have unless you’re in-person. This matters, especially as you grow beyond a small team (Isaac, Cameron, TK and me) to a much larger one they have today.
- As your company grows, it can become increasingly easy to become compartmentalized as you don’t see other people doing their work every day. I’ve certainly felt this at times.
- It can be very difficult to unplug at all and have a life. Slack and other communication tools are always on and work is always being done by someone, somewhere, which is great, but it took me two years to start realizing the negative effects of always being online fidgeting something for the company.
- A lot of the best ideas emerge when you’re all together for an extended period of time, watching each other work, working on side projects, and bouncing ideas around. That’s very difficult to do remotely and I remember thinking during the rare chances I got to work in-person that I wished we could do it a whole lot more.
These were some of the things that led me to start pushing for an office space while I was there and I’m excited to see Praxis opening one soon.
So, Remote or In-Person?
I don’t think the question of having a remote or in-person team has a black and white answer. Remote work is here and it isn’t going away. Companies that want to be competitive in hiring are going to have to offer opportunities and optionality to work remotely for their employees.
But I do think we’re going to see more of a hybrid emerge as companies drop fluffy tech speak in the face of the growing recognition that remote work isn’t everything. That’s what I plan for Pathly.
Unconventional Tools and Strategies for Remote Work
I won’t recommend every tool I’ve ever used because there are a ton of roundup lists out there that I don’t want to copy, but I will share one:
I don’t think it’s enough to connect only over Slack and email. You need to hear one another’s voices if you want to really develop relationships and generate good ideas.
When I joined Praxis, Isaac had be sign up for Voxer, which is essentially a walkie-talkie app you can create individual channels for, and I’m still using it years later. I recommend having some kind of “water cooler” channels you can use to just talk about non-work stuff too.
In fact, I might still be part of a Voxer thread with some of my Praxis friends that contains the secrets to everything that ever was but I won’t confirm or deny that…
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