We’ve all dreamed of becoming a digital nomad, having the freedom to work from anywhere, and doing the work at times that are best for us. Yet many businesses seem to shy away from allowing remote work because either it’s not part of their original organizational cultural and would require a lot of energy and work to make the switch, or the vision and expectation for remote culture isn’t clearly set, so there’s a lack of trust and systems for success.
As a founder of an international team, I know remote culture has significant benefits for both the individual and the business – including being present and productive. (If you’re interested in learning about How We Built Hyphen’s International Team, click here.) But I was also curious about how employees felt about working remotely, so I asked.
Remote culture experience. The flip side.
Karsten, our Content Strategist, is based in the Netherlands and has only met one Hyphen team member in person. As we began to grow, Karsten took on more strategic work. Here’s his point of view on successful remote culture:
- The pandemic effect: Having everyone dial in levelled the playing field. Before, it was harder to participate as a remote team member. Now, it’s normalized and he feels that he has a seat at the table.
- Culture takes work: Building connections takes time and effort by way of work-free check-ins and creative virtual team building.
- Time change testimonial: Being 6 hours ahead of Hyphen HQ works for him since he’s a night owl. The team knows that he breaks for dinner but is back online afterward, which aligns well with an EST work day.
Karsten’s remote work tip:
Flexibility is key, particularly around working hours. Gauge yours and your employer’s accordingly. Also consider your level of understanding of the country/region which you’re producing work for (this is more relevant for something like content creation than coding). Lastly, having the right tools is imperative for not only feelings of connectedness, but also performance. Having tried and tested a few at Hyphen, we’re still experimenting to determine what works best for everyone, everywhere.
Trish, our part-time bookkeeper, is the most acutely aware of the challenges of having an international team. Having gone virtual herself in 2019, her biggest challenge is finding the right tools to do the work efficiently and to everyone’s benefit. Her tips include:
- Aligning tools with your company’s values: Paying people around the world isn’t easy. How and where they receive their funds matters. The better employers are ones who consider the payment experience on the employee’s end.
- Be nimble: Be creative and compassionate when navigating obstacles because behind the work, we are all people. For instance, when the war in the Ukraine began, suddenly we were no longer able to pay some of our team members in Euros. We had to find a new way to securely send them money. How you react as an employer in these situations speaks volumes. Here’s how we’re supporting the people of Ukraine.
- Create a network: Sometimes you need a sounding board or a little support. Trish has found organizations like Moms at Work to be an invaluable resource to connect with people sharing her experience.
Trish’s remote work tip:
Know your working style and set yourself up accordingly. While you may not be in an office, you may need to look for a space outside of your home for days when you really need to focus.
Shaughnessy, our part-time virtual assistant, relocated to work remotely from Mexico for a few months in 2022 together with her husband and their two-year-old daughter. In her experience, there are a few things you need to consider before hopping across borders:
- WiFi: When taking meetings in another country, it can become stressful when you can’t connect or keep getting booted offline. And some countries don’t have high-speed connections at all, making getting work done more challenging.
- Your work space: Working from a villa overlooking an ocean or within a small town can be charming, but if you don’t have a separate space that allows you to focus, you may spin your wheels a bit.
- Childcare: Traveling with small children comes with a lot of additional considerations, like who will watch them while you’re working? Sharing this responsibility can be tough, whether it’s one caregiver working or both.
In Shaughnessy’s experience, working from another country was a change of scenery, but it wasn’t a vacation. Her family opted to return to Toronto, where they had the comforts of home but could still work remotely in a way that worked for their family.
Shaughnessy’s remote work tip:
Talk openly with your employer/clients about expectations around working hours, response time, and how to manage time changes.
Is remote work right for you?
Just as remote work doesn’t always work for some organizations, it’s also not for all employees. It comes down to communicating and collaborating to curate a remote work experience that works.
Our team members are frank when they say that there are days when it’s hard to stay motivated when you’re the only one in the room. On the flip side, it can be liberating to power through to-dos at home when you have a lot on your plate. And the work/life balance that it affords can’t be overstated.
It’s about knowing yourself, understanding where/when/how you do your best work, and identifying what you need to set yourself up for success. Then, you need to make it known.