My morning commute is about one minute. I don’t stress about what to wear every day. I never spend money going out for coffee or lunch during the week. Telecommuting has its benefits, but it also has its challenges.
Your company’s culture can and will heavily influence whether a client decides to work with you and whether potential employees accept your job offers. Alternatively, your company’s culture also determines which clients and candidates are a good fit for you. Culture is a quiet but major factor that touches on nearly all aspects of a business.
So how does a business with no head office and all of its employees dispersed across a large geographic area establish, maintain and communicate its identity and culture? Behold: the three main ingredients in Patch’s secret sauce for creating a strong corporate culture in spite of – or perhaps, thanks to – telecommuting.
The culture is in the people.
Our five core team members have their own unique backgrounds, experiences and interests (nobody seems to love Drake as much as me), but we are united by many similarities that shape Patch as a whole, when taken together. Kim, Deb, Elyse, Crystal and myself genuinely love what we do. We see challenges as opportunities to discover. We’re obsessed with making good things great. We feel true excitement when we score wins for clients. Three out of five of us are mothers, so balancing work and home is a top priority.
This list is by no means exhaustive and sure, some of these things may sound cliché, but these are the realities of each Patch member’s mindset. These attributes coalesce to form the foundation of our value system and transcend telecommuting.
We use Skype all day, every day. We email each other links after hours when we find something cool to share on Twitter. Sometimes we text. While Deb and Kim were working on a client project in South Africa last year, we overcame the six-hour time difference by using Viber at strategic times. Kim is currently playing in an Ultimate Frisbee tournament in Mexico, and thanks to WiFi, we can connect with her if a high-level emergency goes down. We use communication tools that help us feel connected and work efficiently; however, it isn’t the means through which we communicate that point to our culture, it’s the way we communicate.
We are a team of young, creative women excited about what we do. Naturally, our internal communication reflects this. I am lucky to have never felt uncomfortable discussing my challenges and triumphs with my employers at Patch. We keep it professional but we also keep it real.
Communicating outside a conservative or traditional framework of strictly employer-to-employee enables incredible breakthroughs during brainstorming sessions. It boosts confidence. It pushes us to explore and share ideas beyond current tasks and projects. It expedites improvement. Most critically, it addresses the individual holistically – an essential feature of any true community.
On the flip side, authentic communication with clients deepens the relationship and creates real trust. Clients frequently reach out to us to assist with personal projects. Once, we were asked to Photoshop tattoos out of proposal photographs so they could be shown to parents who were unaware their child has tattoos!
Making time for fun.
Because our day-to-day team is small, the ability to prioritize and work efficiently is critical. Each week is different and each week is stacked. Like all jobs, some days can feel especially intense. Strong morale is essential for maintaining productivity and job satisfaction, whether all employees work under one roof or not.
Since we don’t get to see each other every day we make a point to schedule hang times. Every time we go out for lunch or dinner, it’s like a mini reunion, full of energy. I always feel charged up after seeing the team. Everyone gets something special mailed to them for their birthday (last year I got the best chocolate covered strawberries and some beautiful flowers). Before Deb gave birth to the latest adorable addition to her family this past October, Ottis, we planned a surprise visit to her house while she was 9 months pregnant that brought her to tears.
When we’re not face-to-face, we make time for fun by occasionally Skype-ing each other funny articles, videos or pictures. Sometimes we even make memes of each other, if we have a spare moment – like this amazing one Kim made of me after a particularly successful Twitter Chat. We may have texted each other photos of what we plan to wear to a networking events once or twice, too.
Fun also takes form in the way we use our skills and interests to actively support one another in our personal pursuits. Crystal moonlights as a photographer, so Patch is building her new website. Elyse creates designs for spoonflower and we help promote it.
Every company’s culture is distinct and unique. My Patch experience has shown me that simply assembling a group of likeminded people (even virtually!) who share a strong work ethic, communicate authentically and treat each other as more than simply their titles, but as individuals, can be powerful building blocks of a solid company culture.
Tell me about the culture where you work! You can reach out to me in the comments below or at firstname.lastname@example.org