The Remote Company
I have been contemplating this of late - what does it mean to be a remote-first company? What does it mean to be a remote-first team? Over the past few months as we have moved out of offices, to the office being a place where we log in into online, what does it really mean for us as a team?. What is the real longer term impact of it? From a productivity aspect it seems like a no-brainer, less time spent in commute, high speed bandwidth, fresher-cooked meals - this should just be better for us - right.
But what are we as humans, if not social. Is the workplace strictly a place where we work only. Isn't our modern workplace also a thriving social hub - where we forge genuine friendships and connections with the people we work with? And as we move online how do these social connections morph for an online-only world?
From a company to an online work community. What does it mean for team culture? What does it mean for workplace talk? Growing up with online communities we have seen that behaviour in communities tends to be more acerbic. Will we see a trend in workplace communication where we also start seeing this trend, as we move to primarily online discussions at work?
The best run online communities tend to have moderators who rarely jump in into the conversation. This allows impartiality in decision making during moderation. In the past decade we have seen a golden age of online communities and their actual impact on our everyday lives have been noticeable though marginal. What happens when this shifts? What happens when the majority of our opinions and thoughts come through asynchronous communication which can borderline on extreme reactions and language?
Will companies now start adopting internal community and conversation guidelines as noticed in online communities like Reddit or StackOverflow? Will there be work-discussion-moderators needed for workplace talk? The internet has been a space where identity is fluid, where we could use avatars, aliases and project a personality. How does that work when identity is enforced? Do the nature of our conversations change?
The virtue of forgetting
Physical conversations are in the moment, they can get heated at times, but then you reflect and edit them with a new conversation. Human memory is transient as the conversation mutates to an experience that you had at the time of the conversation. And the sum-total of such experiences, the recent ones overwriting the older ones is what creates our memory and understanding with our colleagues or people. But what happens when memory is forever and in high fidelity? We start reliving each experience and the way we understand things change - How will our behaviour adopt to this in the workplace? We can look back in time in high fidelity (unlike with our memory) and relive the experience? Does it mean that our present behaviour will get more affected by the past than they would otherwise "have been"?
How does management work? Managing people has been this shared space between counselling on the human (personal) & skills (professional) front. But how do you now counsel online? What do online managers now look like? You no longer have that shared physical experience of work. You lack the context in which the other person is operating in.
Are there more overheads to listening to people and helping overcome them? How can you relate to what the person is going through in his own physical environment? The environmental factors and environmental understanding is critical to productivity. The environment is beyond just the physical workplace, it is also the curated people, the moderated conversations and the protocol of interaction that defined our environment. Whose responsibility is the environment now? Will companies invest time to manage co-shared environments with people's home places? Will this accelerate the personal-work cohesion we have been seeing, or will it further alienate it? How will the teams and companies morph to this challenge?
A Remote Tenet
How does the company operational playbook rewrite itself? What does it mean to be a company? These all are a bunch of questions that pop up as I sit down and reflect on what it means to be remote. Being remote is definitely an advantage on the work front, you get rid of the nasty commute, less context switch, more deep work. But there's the human aspect of what a company really is, because a company is not just a goal for its founders or the management, it's also a tenet for it's people.