The following is part of a series written by Emma Giles, COO and Co-Founder of Sophya, the makers of SoWork. Sophya is a fully remote team, charting a course for what amazing work looks like in the digital world. They bake their learnings into their product, SoWork, so that any digital or hybrid team can thrive, no matter where they happen to be located.
Work has permanently changed.
The office is no longer a physical building in a single zip code. It’s digital. It’s distributed all over the world. Its lack of a single geographic location unlocks teammates to work how they need to, when they need to, and where they need to. It allows businesses to remove ‘million dollar concrete jungle’ from their balance sheet and see the entire globe as their potential talent pool — ultimately democratizing work.
Okay, that’s…a lot. So let’s dig in.
At Sophya, we’re building an Organization where team members not only can work remotely, but actually thrive because they work remotely. We’re rethinking the fundamentals of what it means to run a high-functioning, high-performing Organization in a fully digital HQ world.
Work well together, even when you’re not together.
One of the big questions Leadership at Sophya has been focused on is: how do we build an Organization where teams can work well together, no matter where, when, or how they’re working together? Because coordinating schedules in the digital, distributed HQ is…complicated.
Sometimes teams are working together in real-time, in a video meeting or over chat. Other times they’re working together off-sync, watching someone explain a concept over a recorded video or reading the latest strategic thinking in a document. Our job as the creators of an Organization is to set them up to navigate any mode of collaborative work with ease. Our job is to make sure that no matter how teammates are working together, they’re able to do what they came in to do: accomplish great work with their Team.
At Sophya, we’re building an Organization where team members not only can work remotely, but actually thrive because they work remotely.
Employee agency used to be traded for corporate scheduling ease.
In the old office, anchoring everyone to a single location meant that teammates were also on a single schedule. Makers of Organizations didn’t have to think about setting teams up to work well together, because The Old Office and the antiquated ‘9–5 til you’re 65' mentality handled that. If it was 11am, we assumed employees were around. When we needed someone, we walked over to them. If we needed to crank out some deep work, we hid out in a conference room. If we were going to be away from the office, we’d sync up with whoever we needed the day before, and bring everything else home with us.
So yeah, it was easier. But let’s zoom out for a second. We were paying a huge personal price for something as solvable as scheduling. The old way of work was a constraining, one-size-fits-all solution to how we spend 40+ hours of our time and energy every week. Work used to happen in one place, on one schedule. And your life had to fit around it, if there was time. Even though that’s not how your life does — or should — work.
In The Old Office, anchoring everyone to a single location meant that teammates were also on a single, shared schedule… Work used to happen in one place, on one schedule. And your life had to fit around it, if there was time.
Workplaces that work for your people.
The digital HQ — today’s HQ — couldn’t be more different. At Sophya for example, we have teammates doing yoga during the sunrise in Boston, USA, while others are cooking dinner with their families in Sydney, Australia. We span 9 timezones, with everyone working on schedules that balance work and life in a way that makes sense for them.
And, at the same time, we’re a super collaborative, cross-functional Organization that loves to crush our goals, together. Every day, Sophya teammates need to be able to sync up with other Sophyans all over the world, working on totally different schedules. We need to collaborate in real-time over video meetings, run up to each other to clarify things or gab about ideas, play the equivalent of digital foosball together, and bond over random stories in live chats.
Just like every other team, we need to do amazing work together, even when our schedules no longer automatically overlap care of The Old Office. We still need to be able to work from shared documents, to find the latest tasks that need completing, or to listen to recorded audio messages from colleagues while on a run. Oh, and we need to do all of this while working fully digitally, from anywhere in the world, while maintaining those balanced schedules we talked about. It’s hard to do this with the softwares available to us en masse today.
But now there’s a better way. Sophya’s creating it every day.
I know what you’re thinking. Is it truly possible to have it all? Can you have a fully distributed, digital team where team members have life balance and flexibility, can build deep and meaningful relationships with each other, and can work collaboratively and productively to achieve impactful business results?
Yeah - you totally can. Over the last year, we’ve built out a fully digital team spread across 9 timezones. Most of our teammates have only met IDL (in digital life), yet we feel incredibly connected to each other and our work. And together, while spread across the world, working from campsites or around protected dinner time with loved ones at home, we’ve done work we’re so proud of. If all leaders know is Zoom and Slack, we don’t blame them for thinking it’s impossible, and for wanting to go back to the office. But there is a better way. Teammates get to work where, how, and when they need. Teams will be tighter, healthier, and higher-functioning because of it. And businesses will ultimately achieve more. And at Sophya, we’re actually proving it.
We’re building our digital HQ on this very foundation. Over our next few pieces, we’ll be sharing how we’re designing the Sophya digital HQ to be a place where teams do great work with their teammates, no matter where, how, or when they work.
Emma spends her days designing an Organization that unlocks teams to work from anywhere, empowers them to do impactful work, and ensures they feel connected to each other and the Organization, no matter where, when, or how they do their best work.