Remote working is not a myth. Through fast paced development in the business world, it has become the most common and normal thing. As Richard Branson, one of the biggest business owners of our time puts it: “I like to give people the freedom to work where they want, safe in the knowledge that they have the drive and expertise to perform excellently, whether they are at their desk or in their kitchen. Yours truly has never worked out of an office, and never will.”
Being part of a remote working team is exciting and rewarding and don’t just take our word for it. We interviewed Troy Petrunoff, Director of Marketing at AngelHack, one of the leaders in the innovation management, hackathon and developer marketing space, on the subject. Read about his insights as a leader, team player and most of all a remote worker below:
LOOP: Tell us a bit about yourself, your work and AngelHack.
Troy: “I work with developers, designers and entrepreneurs around the globe driving innovation initiatives like hackathons, accelerators and other similar programs. We’re a remote team of about 25 employees based all over the globe. I’m based in Los Angeles, and my colleagues are all over the globe.”
LOOP: How do you think did your work culture impact to the success of your organization?
Troy: “The fact that we’re a remote team is crucial. We’ve run events in over 100 cities around the world, and as you can imagine for a team of 25, that requires extreme mobility. Nonetheless, it’s the most flexible and rewarding job I’ve ever had, namely because you’re almost your own boss. There’s no one looking over your shoulder, so you either learn how to best set up your ideal work environment quickly, or you might not find it to be the right situation for you.”
LOOP: We believe good relationships are the basis for effective teamwork; in your opinion where do good relationships start and end in a company?
Troy: “Any animosity or mistrust (even if contained) will always bubble up eventually. At AngelHack, introducing a new team member and starting to build a relationship has to be done virtually, which has its drawbacks as it’s obviously not very personal. That’s why we do team retreats once or twice a year where the team comes together in person. And of course matching up people to travel and work events together is an essential way to start a work relationship with your coworkers. We also do weekly team meetings for the entire team.”
LOOP: We feel that remote work is still a conversation topic that most companies want to avoid. Leaders sometimes don’t want to take the risk of changing workflows, afraid of losing control. What’s your advice to them?
Troy: “I definitely agree that older companies likely have a fear around the remote option, but I do think that we’re moving in that direction. It’s hard to give general advice because all companies are different, but as someone who has worked in both corporate (cubicles, conference rooms and everything) and remote-startup environments, I really appreciate that it really feels like there is a lot less time-wasting in remote environments. You’re able to put yourself in your ideal work environment, so you’re not sneaking off to chat with your coworkers to pass time or things along those lines. So, I guess my advice would be that happy employees provide higher quality results and allowing your employees to work in their most optimal environment will yield optimal results.”
LOOP: The necessary steps for building a team of remote workers; what are your top 3?
Troy: “What’s really worked best for us is, that when we’re looking to hire we always go to our personal networks before posting to a job board. Almost all of our best and longest lasting hires were “oh I know the perfect person for this job!” type relationships. Second, on-boarding is crucial. I joined the team when were still very much in startup mode, with loose processes and little structure and it took longer than it should have to figure out what was going on. Nowadays our process when we welcome and onboard a new employee is much more built out and makes everyone’s lives easier. The third is simple, but making sure more than one person interviews the candidate and making sure there is a culture fit.”
LOOP: Leading a remote team; what are the 3 of the main lessons learned along the way?
Troy: “Communication is the key and making sure you don’t go dark on communication platforms for a day ensures that people are aware you’re still around and active. Do things to bring the team together. We do a weekly team call that most can attend regardless of the timezone, and as mentioned earlier, team retreats. Perhaps most importantly, especially for us since we do lots of events which can be high-stress, is providing support systems. Building a team is huge, but keeping the team together when spread out across the world can come down to something as simple as a quick one-on-one where two teammates come together to vent and come up with an action plan to solve an issue.”
LOOP: How is email as a communication platform working out for your team?
Troy: “We primarily use it for dealing with clients and customers. We actually have a loose rule that interactions with coworkers should be kept within Slack, which just speeds up the dialogue and decision-making process.”
LOOP: Given your experience with chatting apps – what would you recommend to people that still use email as their primary source of communication?
Troy: “Email works for many people, but if you’re dealing with a remote work situation and need to speed things up I would recommend switching to chat with your coworkers. It’s more natural and allows you to come to quick decisions (or even just share a funny GIF) while working separately.”
Teams working remotely can achieve just as much as traditional teams working in an office. Nowadays we have platforms, such as Loop, that have enabled us to replace the physical presence of coworkers and it is a truly positive thing. With the right thought leadership and technical capabilities, teamwork becomes dreamwork and no distance or other obstacle can bring that down.