Current Location: Phuket International Airport traveling to Ubud, Bali
It’s been 11 months since I was home in Pittsburgh working with my team. Through these months I have lived across 3 continents (South America, Europe, and Asia) worked from a variety of timezones, with different working conditions, and wifi speeds (snail mail Patagonia to fast pace London), all while managing projects and a team in the US.
In this time, I would have said my biggest challenges were not that different then expected as part of a bootstrap team building a company. We even achieved some lofty goals during this year!
All of the little nuances of working remotely had started to settle in and the move to Europe went smoothly! I loved having free mornings and early afternoons to explore, travel to new locations without any impact to my work schedule…. I even did some pre-work skydiving outside of Prague! However, as I made the jump to living 12 hours ahead of my team, there was a slight shift. Not a downright earthquake, but that slight tremor you sometimes feel right before.
I thought I was crushing it! I had all my meetings set for reasonable times, I prepped the team to assure they sent me updates when they were wrapping up their day so I could flow into mine without any gaps. Personally, I loved my new work schedule, I could break up my hours and work during my most productive times, take a break and be back online to support the team as they got up in the morning.
This all sounds great right…. Well… Not so much.
Something to keep in mind, even if your little green dot is there in Slack, it doesn’t mean the team feels you are truly there. There was an unconscious change in how we communicated as a team, a slight misalignment. It wasn’t just the assumptions that I wouldn’t be available for a call because it felt off to ask me to join at 3AM, it was missing the social camaraderie of all working together, or spur of the moment discussions about ideas and vision that I should and wanted to be part of.
Unlike if I was in the office where you can easily feel changes in the work atmosphere, with remote teams its a slow creep that if left untreated could have serious implications. Working a day ahead, was impacting my team.
Then more I thought about this, the more I realized that it wasn’t completely unknown territory. I looked back to my time in previous companies where I worked with a teams in India and the UK while the US office was based in AZ. I think of opportunities where clients may be traveling or working from China and Africa, and I think of how our SewnR app is used around the word.
This wasn’t a one time issue that was going to end once I came home in April, this was setting the groundwork for future success and scalability. Understanding not just how to work in and with different cultures but also with tomorrow. Often overlooked but as I learned first hand has a slow but significant effect on how you work.
SOLUTIONS THAT ARE WORKING FOR US:
- Committed 3 days per week where I stay online until 2pm EST: increases face time and provides clear expectations for availability.
- Key partners begin earlier to clear the path together for the day before team standup
- Back to Banter: participating in Slack banter to keep the team camaraderie going
- Checking in: Making sure we have checks and balances in place to keep us on track
While time travel is not real, much to my dismay, working from tomorrow is. Take the time to understand what effect this can have, plan for what you can and be flexible with your approach.