On the first day of our most recent team retreat, I heard a teammate say something inspiring.
“It’s great to meet people that I haven’t met in-person before, but to also feel like we’re not meeting for the first time.”
As a product and team leader, to hear my colleague say that was a moment that demonstrated how our group has grown together over the past two years of fully-remote work. Throughout that time, we've tried to thoughtfully curate the remote work experience in order to maintain a talented and flexible team that loves working together.
The barriers of COVID-19 forced us to focus on our collective values of accountability, feedback, and communication. We need these to build an environment of trust and respect and ensure everyone has the benefit of psychological safety, so they can do their best work. We also find that this translates well when we spend time together in-person.
Our team is spread across the US. This summer we’ll be working from LA, SF, Brooklyn, Montana, Berlin, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and beyond. Many of us will find ourselves in more than one location, and sometimes together with teammates for an outdoor adventure—or just grabbing a drink.
Personally, I’ve found that embracing the opportunities/challenges of a fully-remote team demands intention and a desire to understand human nature.
I find that with intentionality, making concise time and space for meetings is an advantage. This includes reasonably-sized Zoom calls (4-8 people), so teammates are comfortable speaking up. It also makes it easy to switch up the pattern of people you meet with regularly, and helps us get work done quickly and efficiently.
I’ve noticed that informal meetings happen less often in a remote work setting. As a result, people are less likely to be accidentally excluded from an opportunity to engage in ideas with their teammates. Everyone can be more easily involved, see one another’s schedules, and include the right people. But there’s also a downside to less informal meetings. Namely, less occurrence of informal ideation, and what I call “the moments in between”—where people come together without a purpose but sometimes find a lot of value in a new idea.
Intentionality makes up the difference. Really thinking through our interactions, and then ensuring that we as a leadership team are being cognizant of the experiences and exposure are teammates are having. As a Sensible employee, you’ll inevitably be more familiar with your immediate cross-functional working team—but we go out of our way to bring different groups together in brainstorming and just-for-fun meetings to create that “in-between time”.
Zoom-meeting fatigue is real. But teams like ours would need to manage a balance of meetings in a physical office space, too. Remote meetings grant us greater flexibility in where we meet, and where we spend time on either side of each meeting. Meetings at Sensible are more focused, more efficient, and less tiring than I’ve experienced at any other company, large or small.
Trust in one another allows us to genuinely encourage people to go outside and step away from their screens during the day. We have a culture that encourages outdoor adventure in any form, and pushes for people to use their appreciation of nature as both a mental health opportunity, and an opportunity to bring more energy and productivity back to the team. Sensible’s #General channel in Slack is primarily a place for people to tell everyone they’re stepping away for a few hours and going outside—because there’s good surf, fresh snow, or it’s just nice outside.
Without the expense of an office, we have the ability to get together in-person regularly (3-4 times a year). During these moments we focus on spending time together rather than brainstorming, working on strategy, or doing a hack-a-thon. Those business rituals can be valuable, but we’re a remote team that works effectively from afar, so we can do all of that during a regular week’s work.
Instead, when we’re in-person together, we focus on being present and enjoying each other’s company.
We believe our strategic dedication to remote work helps dialogue happen in an intentional way, and in a more relaxed setting overall.
Furthermore, the global community for climate data collection has always demanded cooperation, communication, and trust between many locations across the planet. At Sensible, our commitment to remote work is within this tradition of decentralized teamwork, research, and problem-solving.
If you’d like to join us in the effort to study and mitigate the financial effects of climate change, please take a moment to review open positions on our team!
Get in touch with our partnerships team to see how we can work together.
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