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How We Built Hyphen’s International Team

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4 min read

When starting Hyphen, one of our key visions was to build a company where remote work wasn’t just possible – it was preferred. Today, our team does just that. Some choose to experience another city or culture for a few months while others are stationed permanently overseas.

In fact, half of our team lives outside of Canada. The other half has the opportunity to work from home any time of the day or from anywhere in the world, within reason.

Some guardrails

As a company that embraces remote work, we understand that some basic ground rules can set employees and the business up for success. Here’s what’s worked for us:

Time Difference:

A maximum seven-hour time difference (earlier or later) to Eastern Standard Time. This isn’t an arbitrary must-have. Through trial and error, we’ve found that collaborative work can be tricky to facilitate beyond this threshold. Plus, it would mean pushing into dinner time or very early mornings for some team members, which doesn’t make for a favourable work environment.

Flexibility:

Understanding that we’re all individuals with differing productive hours, we allow for the work to be done when people are able to do it. This means that an eight-hour workday can start early, start late, or start and stop. For instance, you may be one of those morning people who likes to log on early but then needs to get out and stretch your legs for a couple hours at lunchtime to recharge – and we’re good with that. It’s a give and take that works both ways to empower people to do their best independent and collaborative work.

Boundaries:

With flexibility comes the need for boundaries. This is critical for successful (remote) work, and we encourage everyone to discover what they need and to communicate it. For example, one of our team members prefers ‘marathon’ work, which entails an intense 5–7 hour execution period with no interruptions. This isn’t sustainable long term, so we’ve set boundaries to offset these marathons with an ‘easy’ day and weekly check-in to see how they’re doing.

Communication:

Going remote means that you embrace meaningful and consistent communication, which is key for feeling connected and being aligned. We strive to maintain the casual banter that happens organically when you’re in the room with someone. We do this through non-work-related check-ins – easy 15-minute chats to share personal stuff like where you’re planning to vacation or for requesting recommendations. It’s the type of light conversation that’s good for the soul.

Partnership:

It takes two to tango. It’s not just on the employer to make it work. If you accept an offer to work remotely, be prepared to be upfront about your strengths and weaknesses. Keep the conversation going as you find your groove, from whatever corner of the world you choose to work from. (For remote work tips from the employee’s point of view, read our 9 Remote Work Tips from Hyphen’s Team Members.)

Can team culture transcend borders?

Our ‘team room’ in Hyphen’s studio office is where we host most of our monthly company update meetings with all key team members joining.

We think know so, but remote work isn’t for everyone. For some industries and individuals, it isn’t a fit for a multitude of reasons. So while it may sound cool to say that you’re a fully remote company, it also matters if you’re successful at it.

For us, it’s been a success, and it’s been our way from the start. Of course, we’d love to spend more time together in person, but it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice to share QT through screen time. And frankly, those you choose to bring into your business are the ones who set the tone for the corporate culture. When you hire in line with your company values, you’re bound to attract people who get you, get your business, and are great to work with.

Your people can thrive in a remote environment – your business too

Hyphen is proof that company culture isn’t synonymous with cubicles and water coolers. With balance, respect, and compassion at the core of how you run your business and work with your teams, a successful international culture curates itself. You don’t have to take our word for it… 

Here’s what the Harvard Business Review is saying about having a long-term strategy for remote work, how global diversity can be both a benefit and a challenge, and Keith Ferrazzi’s video on 5 Essential Lessons for Virtual Teaming.

If you’re thinking about moving to a remote working model, read 9 Remote Work Tips from Hyphen’s Team Members. I also encourage you to reach out to your friends and colleagues operating in these environments to see what’s worked and what’s been a challenge, and then to temperature check it with your teams. You may be surprised at the positive impacts it has on your people and in turn, your business. 

Nat

Nat Korol

Partner | Marketing Strategy

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