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10 Things You Don’t Hear in a Remote Team

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We’d been planning the Melewi team trip to Japan for months now. There was a countdown going and a huge to-do list that we were excited to get done together. With the prospect of a full week ahead of us – all together – in real life! We knew we had to take advantage of it; we were going to be so productive.

Ha. Nope.

While it was awesome fun to see the team face-to-face, hang out and bond (tobogganing down Japanese streets anyone?), our productivity tanked so hard that after the trip, we unanimously agreed that working online just worked better for us.

At Melewi, we’re free to choose where we work. And while there’s a daily 4-hour overlap when everyone’s online, the rest of your productive time is up to you to choose.

Travel and flexibility – those are some easy pros that come to mind when you think about remote working. But there are much more – and this trip helped us figure out a couple of things we don’t miss hearing or saying in a more traditional office:

01. “Ugh, I was stuck in traffic for ages.”

No commute to work or meetings

No commute to work or meetings

‘Nuff said. No one likes being stuck in traffic. Work commute is drudgery at best, downright infuriating at worst. Being squashed up against someone smelly on the bus for 30 mins will never be a good start to your workday.

But not only that. Working online means I can take on four meetings in 3 hours since it takes only a click to enter and exit a call (and an eternity to find parking).

02. “Hey, do you have a minute?” (2 hours later) “Wow, that went by quick!”

Minimize interruptions

Minimise interruptions

Time escapes from you when you’re having a good conversation. I’ve fallen victim to this exact situation too many times to count – and sometimes just because I feel glancing at my watch is rude.

While these runaway convos might feel great, it doesn’t leave much time left to execute the plan. And it’s the execution that ultimately matters.

Working online keeps you time-conscious simply because a clock is always blinking at you from the top-right corner of your screen, and it’d be tough to be whisked away for an impromptu coffee by your coworker if they are 15,000 km away.

03. “Sorry, what did you say? I’m still waking up…”

Manage your energy, not your time

Manage your energy, not your time

Morning bird or night owl? You probably relate to one of the two labels. Some people like to get started at 4 am, and some are barely functional till 11 am.

Why has someone decided for most of the very diverse population that we should all be working from 9 to 5? Why is your productivity left to the mercy of someone else’s schedule – especially since all we need is our laptop and decent wifi?

Maybe you’re the most inspired at 7 am or the most productive at midnight. Traditional work setups still insist on managing your time instead of letting you control your energy. Isn’t that a little silly?

04. “Sorry dear, mommy can’t pick you up from school now.”

Work-life integration

Work-life integration

Work is tough, and sometimes being a parent is tougher. If you’re a mom or dad, you’d know that having children means nothing ever fits into neat timeboxes anymore. Doesn’t it sound more pleasant to start work early before the kids are up, take a break to get them ready, spend some quality time with them, drop them off at school, and then get back to work?

People always bring this up when you say “remote working.” Doing this is the holy grail – especially for parents.

But even if you don’t have kids, isn’t grocery shopping, working out, or even just grabbing a coffee without a crazy post-work crowd bliss?

And since we’re responsible for our own work and deadlines, why not give everyone the trust and power to plan out their day according to what makes sense for them? Have a 4-hour plane ride up ahead? Perfect time to write an article (like this one)!

05. “Who erased the whiteboard?!”

Everything lives online, in real-time, backed up, accessible anywhere

Everything lives online, in real-time, backed up, accessible anywhere

In Japan, we tried to be cool. We brainstormed, wrote things on post-its, stuck them up on windows and walls (like actual UX designers do, right?). Scribbles happened in notebooks or sheets of paper. And then we all went home without remembering to take them with us.

We’re a little too far into the digital age to be still losing our notes and ideas. When you’re online, your mode of working is backed up, accessible anywhere anytime, and in real-time. The merits of this are tough to argue.

Plus, the chances of you tossing your whiteboard-erasing-coworker out the window is now significantly reduced.

06. “I’m sorry, rent is how much again?”

Money goes to the right things!

Money goes to the right things!

Let’s be honest. It’s not really a business if it’s not profitable, and rent sure ain’t cheap.

While it wasn’t a reason we even thought about going remote, it was a very pleasant side-effect. Not only is finding a space a headache, but the commitment of renting an office is also daunting, full of paperwork, deposits, and overzealous real-estate agents. And not to mention, counterintuitive to scaling up your team.

Instead, we use some of the money saved for the team to meet up once a year in various cool parts of the world – spending some quality time together to create an exciting working culture that we love.

And hey, it also saves us a ton of money that ends up coming back around to our clients. You should be paying us for our expertise, not our fancy Herman-Miller chairs and ping-pong tables.

07. “Does she have to laugh so frickin’ loudly?”

Reduce friction

Reduce friction

Let’s face it. Even your best friend starts to grate on your nerves when you’re stuck with them 24/7. Sometimes space is necessary. Who decided the best environment to think and work was one space crammed full of people?

The beauty of remote work is the ability to determine how much or little space you need for that day. If you’re hankering for company, ping your teammates and hop on a call. If you need some time to focus, that’s easily done too.

08. “Are you sure he can handle this project? He’s kinda quiet.”

Levels the playing field: only your work and attitude matters.

Levels the playing field: only your work and attitude matters.

One of the happiest consequence from remote-working was realizing how much it levels the playing field. Meritocracy wins.

How often has the promotion gone to the most charming person instead of the most worthy? How many times has the opinion of the loudest person won?

Stereotypes are so much easier to overcome when it’s all about the work you do and outcomes you achieve, rather than the clothes you wear, the colour of your hair or the gender you were born with.

And once that’s out of the way, not only are differences not a bad thing, they can actually be awesome. Our diverse backgrounds and multicultural perspectives bring so much more to the table than a monoculture ever could.

09. “I don’t think we’ll win this project; they’re all the way over in Australia.”

Opens you up to new culture, people, and opportunities - this is the future

Opens you up to new culture, people, and opportunities – this is the future

When you remove the barriers of geography, you don’t just set yourself free; you open yourself up to limitless opportunities. The world is growing more connected by the second, and companies need to catch up.

Some of the most exciting businesses span across multiple cities or even continents. And we’ve had the absolute pleasure of working with incredible people and companies all around the globe just because we’ve set ourselves up to work without borders.

Think about it: how much face-time do you need to clock with your clients to work? A meeting or presentation once a few months, with a few calls in between? Progress can happen regardless of where everyone is as long as the internet works!

While a large portion of the world is still adapting to remote-working, it has worked brilliantly for many businesses (WordPress, Buffer, 37Signals, us!). And it seems to be the future for the working world – or at least for those in tech.

10. “There are just no good designers left here.”

Hire the best with few geographic limitations

Hire the best with few geographic limitations

Singapore – where Melewi was started – is a small country. Tinier than a yellow polka dot bikini. One would be hard-pressed to find a perfect match for every position from this little island.

We received hundreds of job applicants simply because we had no limit on where someone had to live to send in an application. We’re searching for the best people on a global level.

In our team, we have nine people in seven countries across three continents. And the team’s shared skills, knowledge, and experiences are undoubtedly richer from the diversity – improving not just the work we do, but also the way we do it.

Now that the trip is over, I’ll be the first to admit the biggest trade-off to remote work is that I miss hanging out with my team. But I’ll also admit I’m glad to be back at the top of my efficiency game.

Remote-work might not be for everyone and every job, but it works best for us and our business. And while it might occasionally be difficult, the challenges are worth rising to because you know what? It works brilliantly, and it’s frickin’ fun too.

On the bright side, we’re all headed to Greece in a few weeks so there’ll be nothing left for me to want for!

How do you feel about remote working? What do you think it could bring to how you work? Tweet us your thoughts at @melewi!

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