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May 24, 2024

The Recipe for Building a Successful Remote Culture

Everyone on the Thera team works remote. One by one, we’re sharing our stories with unique perspectives on remote work. Below, you’ll read a story from Dreya––our Head of Marketing––about her story and her recipe for creating a successful remote culture.

The Recipe for Building a Successful Remote Culture

Akhil Reddy
March 24, 2022

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I live in a small town so cold that in the winter, you can drive a ten-thousand-pound Ford out onto the lake and spend your day catching walleye on the ice. The summers are wonderful and the people are amazing. It's a Wisconsin town, and it’s where my remote work story takes place.

This may not come as a surprise, but I’m the only person on the Thera team who lives in a small Wisconsin town. Others live in Portugal or Spain or Macedonia or elsewhere. Some of the team travels almost full-time. And others, like me, prefer to live in one place.

The point? All of us live in different places. We use the agency that remote work provides us in different ways. This is a completely non-traditional setup for businesses––and it means we need to rethink how we build culture.

What you’ll learn in this article

In this short piece, you’ll learn:

  • Why the office didn’t work for me.
  • My personal recipe for creating a great remote work culture.

Who am I? I’m Dreya, the Head of Marketing at Thera: A fully remote company that embraces location independence. This makes it possible for me to have my career, an incredibly talented, global team, and all of the benefits of living in the place that makes me happiest.

The office didn’t let me have a personal life––so I ditched it

I could go through the entirety of my career. The cities I’ve lived in, my time in the busy offices of major metros. I could outline how difficult it was to find time for a personal life outside of nine hours in the office and two hours in a commute, but it’s boring and sad and most people in business could tell you a nearly identical story.

The short version: The office wasn’t for me, and I sought out remote-friendly work environments.

Below, my recipe for a great remote work culture when you have a team that lives everywhere.

The Prep Work: Output > Physical Presence

Thera isn’t my first remote job. In fact, I’ve been fortunate enough to work remotely for a few technology companies, but it always came with a catch. Sometimes it was in the form of limited growth.

Sometimes, remote work came on the condition that I’d be in the office at least a few days each month. Other times, it was the expectation was that I was glued to my computer all day, every day, without the ability to shut work off or go for a midday walk.

None of these were truly embracing remote work. They were simply tolerating it to keep an employee that they valued. I was the odd woman out. Missing social events, missing lunch chats, and most importantly, missing opportunities. 

The key insight I learned: Telling your team to spend hours in a car to and from work doesn’t help the business. Sitting at your desk with your headphones on all day doesn’t create some magical culture. What matters is output, and from that perspective, remote work delivers.

Fast-forward to today. Many companies are starting to recognize that in-office does not equal higher output. My hope is that Thera's content will help champion the philosophy that employees shouldn’t be judged by the “ass-in-seat” metric, but instead by the output and the quality of their work.

The Spice: Diversity

Global, remote employment has an obvious benefit on diversity initiatives. Thera currently has employees in roughly a dozen countries around the world, and we’re growing every day. But this isn’t always intentional. We just hire the best people for the job.

As a result, diversity comes easy on a remote and global team. It’s inevitable.

In a traditional office environment, I would struggle to find global experiences, but now I live them every day. I learn about celebrations around the world, different cultures, and their perspectives on world events, and if you want interesting “weather talk”, it doesn’t get better than having people from five different climates on a team standup. All of this is a beautiful byproduct of hiring globally and it's one of my favorite things about this company. It not only benefits me as a professional and a marketer, but I think it makes me a better person.

The Magic Ingredient: Inclusion and Autonomy

I’m an executive at a global company––that feels weird to say. Not because I didn’t put in the work, but because I’m also a mother in a rural town in the Midwest. That combination would have been a virtual impossibility a decade ago, unless by some miracle there was a successful startup down the street from me. 

We’ve come a long way in accepting that people should be able to work from wherever they want, but that doesn’t solve the issues of being a professional and a parent. Sacrifice is the name of the game when it comes to being a working mom. Do I leave a little early and avoid being the last mom at daycare pickup or do I stay and save face with my boss? Do I miss my kid’s concert or go to an after-work company event and build trust with the team? The conflict of being a parent or professional is constant and fierce.

That has never been more true than in the last few years. According to the US Department of Labor, about 1.6 million fewer mothers of children under 18 were working in January 2021 than in January 2020, representing a 6.5% decline. I’ll be the first to tell you that it’s not because they didn’t want to work, but they had a choice to make. Mom’s aren’t alone. These sacrifices are felt by all working parents… But they don’t have to be.

Embracing a fully remote work environment also means embracing asynchronous work.

Rewind two years back to when schools closed, daycares closed, offices closed, but the expectations of 8-hour workdays full of zoom meetings persisted. Mix in a house full of kids with full days of zoom school, and homework now administered by parents. I’ll sprinkle on the added chaos that my kids (4 and 6-years-old at the time) couldn’t read or use a computer. It was a powder keg, and the casualties were women’s careers.

Now, imagine that situation with employers who embraced a fully remote, asynchronous work environment. Not only can you do your work from where you work best, but also when it works best for you. I think we can all agree that no one got smarter or did more work because we read to each other on Zoom all day. How many of those 1.6 million moms would still be riding their wave to an executive chair if they would have had the freedom to do their work around the needs of their families?

The Recipe for Building a Successful Remote Culture

It’s a privilege for me to write this. To have found an employer who values the principles outlined above, and if I can give back to other women in the workforce by advocating for these things, it’s my absolute pleasure. This recipe can be used two ways 1) as a checklist for employees seeking a wonderful culture and 2) for employers looking to retain their best talent.

  • Work from wherever makes you happiest
  • Cultivate global team members and real culture
  • Focus on employee output instead of physical time spent at a computer
  • Transition to asynchronous work whenever possible

Instructions:

  1. Build a culture of trust and authenticity. Your employees are humans. They’re smart and they care about your mission. Trust them to do the work wherever they are.
  1. Next, create natural diversity by hiring people from all backgrounds, cultures, and locations. There is no better way to accomplish this than hiring globally.
  1. Next, fold in some asynchronous work best practices, we know a little bit about that.
  1. Finally, and most importantly, focus on output. That’s the ultimate equalizer. Let rest, and serve with a nice glass of red wine (or a Wisconsin Old Fashioned).
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Elizabeth Wellington

Liz writes about business, creativity and making meaningful work. Say hello on Twitter or through her website.

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