Shield hasn’t always been a remote company. We started out with brick and mortar offices in Sydney and London. Then we started hiring remote workers and now we’re largely a remote company with an office in Sydney and another in London.
Having a distributed team has had a huge influence in shaping our company culture and values in a very organic way.
Sometimes, working in an office might force us to establish distinct boundaries between our personal and professional lives. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but detaching ourselves in that manner can make it a little harder to relate to other people — not just our colleagues but also our clients.
Having remote workers has taught us to be more human, and as a result we now have a more empathetic and caring company.
While there are many articles out there that suggest remote workers tend to be more isolated, we’ve learnt that we’re actually offered a more intimate look into their lives.
Sometimes, there are surprise guests in our virtual meetings — curious children popping their heads in; an inquisitive spouse in the background and even the occasional puppy. We get to see them as not just our colleagues but as parents when they’re interacting with their children and get a glimpse into their homes and families. This is a side we don’t get to see as much of when working in the same office.
It’s made us become more open as a company and we probably share a lot more about each other than we used to, before we had remote workers.
On our company channel, we have employees sharing photos of their kids’ first days at school, birthdays, weddings, festivals, graduations, family trips and travels. We even have a dedicated channel just to share #foodie pictures of what we’re eating — although I don’t know if that’s something I should be sharing publicly about.
Clarity and Communication
We’re in a business of helping companies employ their international workers. This involves a lot of interaction with people in different time zones and of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. It’s something we’re very comfortable with given that we’re a diverse company with employees all around the world.
Being a truly effective and all-rounded communicator is an important skill that’s often taken for granted in an office situation where you can take the time to clarify issues face to face.
We’ve all become ninjas at communicating in every way possible.
Communicating with our remote workers has prepared us to handle clients with whom we cannot possibly have a face to face conversation with, given geographical barriers. We know that sometimes there are issues that might linger in the minds of our remote workers and it’s always best to resolve them asap via a phone or video call.
We’ve also learnt that emails can almost never provide the assurance and confidence that a human voice can. For less urgent matters though, we do send emails but we often try to detail and outline the context of every situation thoroughly.
We’ve learnt to make it a priority to ensure any message that is relayed to another individual is carefully crafted to minimize the effort required to make sense of it.
Appreciation and Recognition
Since our remote workers have joined us, we’ve become more vocal in expressing our appreciation for each other. Remote workers are often neglected and underappreciated. This inspired us to create a channel to provide an even platform to recognise and thank every employee that’s done a great job.
It’s a wonderful opportunity to highlight every one’s efforts to the wider company so it didn’t remain within the internal teams. The shoutouts are usually posted on Fridays so everyone ends the week on a happy note.
Having a distributed workforce may not always work for every company and there are some inevitable challenges that come with having remote employees. But I think it’s been pivotal in building and strengthening our company culture.