5 things I’ve learned from adapting to a remote culture at appear.in
Last fall we decided to embrace a free remote culture at appear.in, meaning it’s up to ourselves both where and when we work. Here are some of the realities, feelings and challenges about that journey and how I became best friends with my laptop.
My name is Meri and I work as a Product Marketing Manager for appear.in. We have a remote culture and our team is working from 2-4 different continents depending on the time of year. We do have an office in Oslo (Norway), so we have a common base, however, this is being used less and less as time passes. I briefly started working remotely in my previous agency job whenever it was convenient or when the office got very quiet over the summer. It only took full speed last year as we decided to go all in on remote culture at my current job in appear.in.
1. Trust is knowing your team is proactive
As with many other remote companies we have a flat structure with a very low presence of hierarchy at appear.in. We do have our daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly missions or overall focus areas to guide us and help us stay focused on the same end goals. At the same time everyone in our team has the freedom to prioritise the tasks they want to work on or even to start new projects if they can be constituted by our common goals. Our team and product development runs on trust.
Another word for, or the action for the feeling of trust and being trusted, is proactivity. I remember it being one of the questions my now managers asked me when I was first hired — if I was proactive or reactive. And I’m happy I could check the proactive box off as we shortly after that shifted to a remote culture. Being comfortable with freedom and finding motivation to take initiative when not being physically surrounded by your team at all times is not only a personality trait, it’s a skill. I’ve developed proactivity as a skill over years and become even better at it while adapting to the new culture at appear.in.
2. Space matters
Not having to leave home and only move 20 steps from your bed to the couch without getting changed from your jammies. THE DREAM! Right? Lets just say that when I first stared working remotely I went and committed all the classic remote worker rookie mistakes. Quickly I realised that the dream was in fact not a dream and that space in fact matters. Deciding on one or a few designated areas for work tricks your brain to shift from not at work-mode to work mode (being a room, a desk, a selection of cafes or coworking spaces). I find this highly necessary as I otherwise tend to fall in and out of focus a lot.
As being a remote worker or digital nomad largely is about working from whatever location, it is of course impossible to have a designated area for work at all times. However, spending the first few days at a new location to find “space” is worth it. A few months ago I spent a few weeks in Spain. I tried out a few coffee shops until landing on La Mas Bonita in Valencia. I’ve also discovered where at my most visited airports and transit stations the quiet corners are. I highly recommend this as it can benefit your productivity a lot!
3. Technology has its limits and is not everything
Wifi and power outlets dictate my life. If I’m not able to get online I know nothing. It’s like having half a brain or instant memory loss. I’m addicted to cloud based tools and could not be more happy about having the freedom to work remotely, however I’ve become much more aware of the luxury of having 4G everywhere (In Norway) and being able to work as soon as I’m connected to the internet. Connectivity is however not universal and I don’t have to even go far to the countryside in Germany to be left incapable of doing online work.
Sidenote: while the lack of connectivity is limiting for productivity when working cloud based, it’s important to keep in mind that being unconnected still is the everyday reality for 50% of the worlds population. Access to technology is a privilege and working remotely is a freedom that should not be taken for granted. Innovating technical solutions for areas with less connectivity is a whole other topic I will get back to in a later post :)
4. Time 🤔
The biggest challenge when this remote shift happened for me was probably getting used to a culture where we have a team working from several different timezones. Finding hours for social or productive coworking where everybody can attend means we had to change our mindset further from “remote working being something convenient when you don’t feel like working from the office”. While the other challenges can be conquered with technology and best practice, time is an abstract term for a moving concrete circumstance I still get super confused by and still can’t imagine a healthy or sustainable solution to.
Having time for a catch up is no longer about the openings in your calendar. Finding a good time (for something and whatever) also has to be in the right timespan for everyone involved. For instance, our customer support manager works out of Texas and starts her day when it’s already 2pm in Oslo. There is not much we can do about this other than to be flexible and adjust our days a bit in both ends (to add to the confusion there’s the timesaving practice that only some countries follow 😂👏🙅 Yikes!).
5. The secret sauce
Building a successful remote culture is all about choosing the right toolkit, finding a policy and some routines that fit your team — and going in with a 100%. 99 is not enough. If one person is remote, your whole team is remote. If I were to give one piece of advice to people or teams who are considering starting a remote or digital nomad culture, it would be to do exactly this. Give it a solid 100% before deciding if it was a good or bad idea. I strongly believe that a remote culture is possible for almost any team and that this will make you and your coworkers love your job (even more). At least this is the truth for me. I’ve changed the way I look at going to work. In fact I don’t go to work, I have a job that I can take with me wherever I go. And I love that job because I don’t have to go to work.
The secret sauce in a successful remote team is a mixture of a clear mission and the right technology. Together this constitutes for the company culture needed in a remote team. At appear.in we’ve tailored this mixture for our particular team and I’ve experienced and learned that remote work can be both productive and social. It took some to get used to it with the timezones and all but now i love it! I feel like a global citizen with the best job in the universe!
If you are interested in how we do things at appear.in, here’s our favourite software and hardware tools to make remote magic happen.
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