The Case for Working from Home, for Good

Nic Thomassen    |    March 20, 2020

Welcome to the new work-from-home reality. We’ve been here for some time now and think you may enjoy it, despite the unprecedented circumstances. There are of course hurdles to overcome, but what awaits you is a shift that could strengthen your culture and deepen your connections, despite the fear of WFH doing just the opposite. Here are the main reasons we’ve gone remote and the tactics we’ve used to get there.

Culture Transcends Space

I love a well-designed office space, with relaxing (non-fluorescently lit) lounges, installation art, and humongous walls of white boards. I toiled over our office to create an inspiring place for our people to do great work. Yet, that’s not the core of a company’s culture. It goes much deeper.

When we started moving to remote work over a decade ago, we quickly realized those office niceties can’t be counted on anymore. When the chic decor, free snacks, ping pong and yoga are stripped away, you’re left with something even better – your values.

The key to keeping your culture at home is to focus on what you stand for as a company. That’s what attracted people to work with you in the first place, and that’s the mission that will keep inspiring them no matter where they are. Find ways to keep your values top of mind and motivating – reinforce them in meetings, in processes, in team mantras, with physical merch, and any other creative way to cast the vision.

New Ways to Connect

Another perk of the office is real life interactions – those conversations that happen by chance in the lounge or at lunch time. How do you replace those? You can’t (until VR is ready for prime time). However, I would argue the video call can be even more effective and efficient if used well. At a moment’s notice I can talk to any team members, or any other team for that matter… in any state we work in. I can add people to the convo with a click. Think of the logistics of doing that in person. I now talk to more people face to face (via video) than I ever did at our actual office space.

Video First
We use a “Video First” strategy to break down the initial barriers or resistance to video chats and make it the standard form of communication. Not just a message or a voice call, go to video first. After a bit, it becomes second nature.

However, this doesn’t solve the serendipitous chats that bubble up around the break room. So we started experimenting with virtual “water coolers” where a mix of co-workers will chat specifically about non-work stuff. People take turns leading with a set of questions for the round table discussion. Others have done virtual happy hours for the same reason. Whatever your method, have fun with it.

Post Weekend Posts
Another way to engage the team is a simple group chat question: “How was your weekend?” After a fun story or two, that’s the topic our Design Manager Trish poses most Monday mornings. The stories, photos, and interactions that come from it are a joy to see. Team bonding on three!

“Working remote from Kotis has been a literal dream come true for me! … you know your teammates are always just a call or message away whenever you need them. The warm and friendly environment means you laugh as hard as you work, especially during Water Cooler meetings when you get to meet with your team by webcam just to chat and get to know each other.”

-Ajya (Customer Service)

New Benefits

The more you work at home, the more you realize things can be different here. There are new ways to give people flexibility and autonomy (one of the 3 deepest desires at work). Some are simple – take a break and hit that workout class, the dog park, or pick up your kids at school. Let the work flex around their lives instead of the other way around.

Others benefits go deeper. We’ve had people move for a month or two so they can soak up the SoCal sun or ski in the Utah Mountains. Right now, our previously mentioned design manager moved to Palm Springs to skip the rainy Seattle spring. In our last video chat she was under a grapefruit tree.

Our HR Director Natalie took this even further with living out one of her lifelong dreams – to have her Basenji show dog finish 1st in show nationally. Read her story. This couldn’t have happened without remote work and a culture of flexibility.

I haven’t been on that type of an expedition yet, but the possibilities are bubbling up. Maybe we’ll take the kids on a National Park roadtrip for a month. Or to Norway for a whole summer. In the meantime, it’s the small moments that add up. My kids come home from school and stomp upstairs for an exuberant hug. Having lunches with my wife. Being able to stop work and walk downstairs for immediate family time vs a 45m commute.

I’m simply with my family more. Talk about a real benefit. After having worked from home more consistently, my youngest daughter asked if I was working at home the next day. After acknowledging I was, she said “yessss” with a celebratory fist pump.

Give Remote a Chance

Maybe your work from home situation is only temporary. However, we hope by experiencing it yourself, you get a glimpse into the possibilities and what the future may hold. Remote work has been a major boon for how we work and our culture itself. Give it a shot. Just maybe, you’ll become a WFH believer too.

We also put together a product guide for great WFH swag. We’ve used many of these ourselves. Your team will thank us.

This post is about the why of remote work. Need some tips on how to best WFH? Our fav site Wirecutter has a great guide.