It’s hard to believe that only a year ago, we were meandering around our offices, sitting side-by-side in desk pods, and chatting by the water cooler. When office operations first shut down in March 2020, remote work felt like a mini vacation from our day-to-day routines. For Interactions, however, remote work quickly turned into a permanent solution—one that completely redefined what office culture means for the better.
Over the last year, we have taken a methodical approach to building our remote culture, and continue to iterate our practices to ensure we meet the needs and wants of our ever-evolving workforce. We’ve learned a lot along the way about what it means to be a great virtual company: maximizing the benefits of remote work, while introducing new rituals to address any workplace challenges.
Unlike many companies, we won’t be headed back to our physical office as the vaccine becomes more readily available. But we have rallied around the certainty that a company culture is carried by its people, not its office space. As we near the one-year anniversary of our transition to remote work, here are the three key tenets that have fueled our virtual culture:
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.
When we initially went remote, we recognized very quickly that we needed to double down on communication to combat uncertainty. Now, clear communication is a key pillar of our remote culture. Slack – which was merely a productivity tool – serves as the center for both professional and extracurricular interactions. From company-wide updates to fitness challenges, Slack provides employees with visibility into the day-to-day operations of the company, while simultaneously empowering them to have and use their voice to connect.
Our CEO also provides biweekly “ask-me-anything” forums, which ensure that every employee remains in the loop about company news and can share thoughts on how Interactions can improve internal and external business practices. This direct line of communication and transparency helps senior managers process the questions and concerns of employees and address them head on. We’ve heard directly from our employees that they really appreciate the variety of channels through which they can access senior management and get the certainty they need, especially when many other things in life remain uncertain.
Solve problems from the employee’s perspective.
We have found great value in listening to employees with open ears so that we can work together to solve any concerns that arise. Through biweekly company-wide surveys, we’ve instituted regular check-ins with each employee to better understand the work they have on their plates, personal priorities, and how we can do better. A great company comes first and foremost from great people, and we strive every day to ensure each and every member of our Interactions family feels heard and valued.
Part of that effort has been understanding the unique situations of our team—what they need to be successful from home, when they work the most, and when they need breaks. The ongoing loop of feedback tells us a story about needs and preferences that we didn’t necessarily have visibility into before. One of the most exciting changes was “Flexible Fridays,” which let people start their weekends early and decompress after the week. Now, we can optimize their experiences, leaning into employee perspectives to address any challenges we encounter from the top down.
Build trust through empowerment.
Most importantly, going fully remote has leveled the playing field for all employees. For a company that previously had eight separate offices spread out across the country (and one outside of the US), remote work has broken down silos that naturally arise from distributed teams, and fostered more personal connections between offices. There’s an equalization that has happened through remote work that we want to keep in place in the long-term.
I’ve heard from several employees that they now feel uniquely supported by their teammates and managers, because information flows uniformly when everyone is together in one “zoom room.” Additionally, we support our new hires with a virtual playbook to help them navigate our remote workplace. The world of Interactions no longer revolves around our headquarters, or one singular office. What we’ve realized is that physical presence is not how innovation is driven, nor how decisions are made. Instead, it’s trust through empowerment that moves our company forward each and every day.
The last year has been a learning curve for Interactions. We haven’t gotten everything right on the first try, and will certainly continue to evolve our remote workplace practices in the year ahead. But one thing I know for sure is that for a company like Interactions, permanent virtual work has been a surprisingly great solution–one that has fundamentally strengthened our culture and provided a new vehicle for innovation, connection and collaboration.