Enabling Dreams via the Flexibility of Remote Work
July 26, 2019    |    By Natalie Scherwin, HR Manager at Kotis Design

I’m getting ready for a dog show in two weeks. My dog, Presley, is currently the #1 Basenji in the country and finishing the year at #1 is a goal I’ve yearned to achieve my entire life. Showing dogs competitively at this level is 40+ weekends a year of travel, regular training during weeknight evenings, and ensuring Presley and I stay mentally and physically fit so we don’t run out of competitive steam mid-year. It’s demanding to say the least. I’m the Human Resources Manager at Kotis Design where I work remote out of my home in Seattle. I have the option to work from the trendily decorated, lake union view, dog friendly Seattle Headquarters office when I want to – I usually don’t. My role is challenging, demanding, often stressful. I really care about what I do and that I’m available as a resource to employees when they experience challenging situations. I manage a small HR team working out of Utah (remember, I’m in Seattle) who are ambitious and engaged. The dog shows, my family, and work keep me extremely busy and challenged. Here’s the thing – Kotis cares that I have a job that works for my life. Why? They get their best work out of me that way. I’m living my dream of showing dogs at an elite level, and I have a job that supports me with REAL benefits that allow me to live my life the way I want.

Kotis Design has really embraced remote work in the last several years. We adapted a video first approach – including massively enforcing with staff choosing to work at headquarters – video ALWAYS over voice calls or email to put remote and office employees on a level playing field. Employees need to see each other to best interpret tone and feel like a part of the team, no exceptions. We will not allow remote employees to feel like outsiders, they are equal, valuable members of the team. Required Watercooler Meetings take place across remote teams where employees bond and ask each other thought provoking, non-work-related questions like in your opinion, what fictional villain is the most likable, and why? Fully remote employees are always paired with remote managers so the manager understands the unique environment and communication needs.

Not everyone at Kotis has an unusual hobby like me, a lot of Kotisians have new and growing families. Many work remote full or part-time and gain valuable hours with their kids skipping the brutal Seattle commute. Let me tell you, the ability to work remote is a HUGE benefit. There are 10+ things I can rattle off right now that I love about it… I eat better and exercise more at home, I get 1-2 more hours of sleep nightly, I’m far more productive with reduced distractions…I can keep listing. I hear from friends working elsewhere that many companies say they are ok with occasional work from home days but then aggressively micromanage when the employee actually works at home. That’s not a benefit. What’s a benefit is when your employer sets extremely clear expectations, and trusts you’ll get the work done whether you are at home or in the office. I still talk to my manager constantly – I haven’t gone rogue – but it’s on video vs physical proximity. Kotis uses the highest quality webcams so it feels like you are actually in the room with someone when meeting virtually, rather than grainy webcams of yore.

Kotis wants you to be able to work in other states as they see the value it provides to employees who like to travel. Kotisians can’t work anywhere in the world yet, but Kotis Design allows employees to work anywhere within several states (including Hawaii!). Working some days while in CA allows me to save PTO days for a trip later this year with my family where I’ll want to be completely unplugged. Trust me – I will not take advantage of the CA workdays by slacking off. I’ll be available and plugged in 8 solid hours. Also, I’m busy, I want to continue making progress while I’m there. I have several video meetings on my calendar already, and I won’t have to play catch up working long days when I return. A co-worker earlier this year got an Airbnb in Venice Beach, CA and worked there for two months as well as visiting Big Sur. She worked full, productive weekdays while evenings and weekends were spent on the beach escaping the Seattle winter gloom. There is zero stigma at Kotis Design that remote employees are less productive – it’s just simply not true.

I’m off to CA in a few days, and I video call my manager reminding him my schedule while I’m gone. He responds with a couple work questions then “Go win, no points for second place remember?” “Yeah yeah” I laugh. He asks “Do you need me to do anything while you are gone?” I think about it… I’ve been thrilled for months I can take this extended CA trip and have an employer who doesn’t resent me for doing it. I’ve prepped projects for my team in advance, cleared my inbox of all outstanding requests, and overall prepared. Kotis trusts I’ll handle it, and I will. I won’t take advantage of that as the flexibility means the world to me. “No” I respond – “I’m great”. And I am.