Remote work was always in our long term plan, way before COVID-19 forced everyone into work-from-home. We’re building a tool for remote teams, so we started researching remote work back in October 2019. We conducted a few hundred interviews with remote managers at fully-remote companies. It became clear that remote work was not only possible but preferable!
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Remote work has opened up a lot of opportunities for our team. None of us can technically drive, and we’ve moved all over during quarantine, so it’s been insanely helpful for reducing commutes and making work accessible.
Remote work also reduces the distraction of a coworking space. We’re a lot more intentional about our time, especially since we have our teammates holding us accountable on Tandem.
I’ve personally had a lot of trouble striking a work-life balance.
It’s very tempting to drag work until 10 pm, especially with the neverending to-dos of a startup.
It’s worse when days are packed with meetings; sometimes, I end the day feeling like I’ve gotten nothing done because I have tasks sitting in our Trello. I’ve struggled to call a cut-off time, especially since my desk is two feet from my bed.
I wouldn’t say that’s the hardest part about remote work, though. Based on the 500+ interviews we’ve conducted with remote managers, the hardest part of remote work is creating trust and tight relationships when you never meet face-to-face. My team is lucky, we all went to UCLA together, but many remote teams have never met up in person.
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We’re 100% fully-remote. We’re technically all in Los Angeles for Techstars LA, which makes timezones easy.
We’re a small team of three, so our days are pretty synchronous. We have our daily standup just before 9 am; usually, we take that time to break down:
Some days are more meeting heavy than others; usually, my meetings are calls with clients and partners.
Other days are lighter on meetings, so I spend a few hours doing heads-down content work.
We haven’t had the chance to hire any managers yet, but thankfully the work we’ve put on our EQ platform for remote managers has made manager training a really straight path. We’ll definitely invest in EQ, mindfulness, and leadership training.
Not yet, though we plan to draft one up before our first key hires.
Based on the conversations we have with experts every week, it’s clear that remote work cannot be an afterthought.
It affects every aspect of company culture, from hiring to benefits to company socials.
I can’t speak for our team, but I will say that our dozens of conversations with Heads of People have given us a clear idea. Instead of simply facilitating processes, remote People Ops teams have to be really creative and nimble with their culture strategy.
Especially in a changing post-COVID world, it’s up to People Ops right now to take a proper pulse on company health and drive programs to support struggling parents, caretakers, and teammates.
I’ve heard a lot of People Ops teammates mention that they’ve become a proxy therapist; it’s clear they serve as the glue on the team.
This question is what all our interviews and our startup are trying to answer! It’s different while remote; you can’t just ask someone to get drinks or spark up a conversation in the cafeteria. You have to be intentional about building psychological safety and close relationships.
A lot of startups address this with a top-down approach, putting the responsibility on People Ops to drive programs that spark bonding and company culture.
These happy hours are fantastic, but one team can only do so much at scale.
That’s why we believe trust and culture-building falls to remote managers.
Managers have closer relationships with teammates and more opportunities to create trust in a smaller team environment. Building the same levels of in-person trust requires vulnerability and an open attitude towards mistakes.
The manager has to lead by example, showing that it’s okay to take days off and ask for help. We know managers have a lot on their plates, so we built Kona to help facilitate relationship building.
Since joining Techstars, we’ve actually had several opportunities to do social distanced hangouts with the other teams in the class. Some of our founding members have to be more strict with quarantine than others, so it really depends on the situation.
I would say that we’re more productive, though we certainly had the advantage of studying remote work for months before actually putting it into play. We all work hard, and we work well together, so communicating across Slack and Tandem has only accelerated our progress.
We’re well aware that hiring remotely is in our future.
There’s so much more access to quality talent worldwide, and global teammates can cover our timezone blindspots so-to-speak.
Remote teams don’t require an office, and there are ways to get the whole team close without having to meet up in person.
Relationship building is going to be more acute once we start hiring remotely. We’re a small startup where folks have to wear a lot of hats, so we need to communicate and have a solid foundation of trust.
Building that trust across time zones will be difficult, but not impossible. Thankfully, we have the shared knowledge of hundreds of remote work experts to guide us.
Meeting on Zoom has made the world so much more accessible! We’re able to regularly talk to our beta customers in the UK and Australia; sometimes, we have client calls from Southern America and South Africa.
With everyone working at home, folks are a lot more generous with their time. I’d say it’s become a lot easier to ask for 15-minutes to chat, and we’ve really benefited from the knowledge-sharing because of it. Remote work has really opened the world for us.
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At RemoteHabits we're always trying to improve our interviews, what question should we have asked Corine Tan?
Corine Tan is the co-founder of Sike Insights, where she leads marketing and outreach. She is a recent grad from UCLA and experienced burnout from ineffective remote management first-hand. Corine is a thought leader in the remote and EQ space, regularly advising Fortune 10 companies on their remote strategy, speaking at distributed work conferences, and writing articles on the subject.
About Sike Insights:
Sike Insights is an early-stage, Techstars-backed startup building an emotional intelligence platform for remote teams. Their first product, Kona, helps remote managers foster psychological safety on their teams by delivering actionable insights and emotional visibility. Now with a Slack integration, Kona analyzes public communication patterns to create indexable work stye profiles and health dashboards. With Kona, remote leaders can act on team data to drive high performance and retention.
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