Remotely Yours

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Creating a remote work culture.

Since most of North America has been mandated to temporarily work remotely, it’s been an eye opener for some traditional office personnel to realize that they can actually be productive without working within the typical office confines. And the decision makers may have realized this as well, and we can only assume that more than some of them are reconsidering their expensive office spaces.

So in the dawning of this new age, there have been many tips and tricks offered when it comes to creating a work routine and work space at the makeshift home office. StormFree has been a remote environment right from its inception, and – not to brag - our team is awesome. Spread throughout Canada, most of us have never met in person, but we work, talk, and see each other every day.

From a resource point of view, having a remote environment gives us a much larger reach in terms of prospective talent. For example, instead of finding the best Android developers in the city, we can find the best Android developers in the country. Without geographical restrictions, we can extend into markets anywhere we choose.

Having the right technology in place is crucial, so too is finding and retaining the right people. But, in our opinion, creating a strong company culture is vital to remote work success. 

Right from the beginning, StormFree instilled the importance on having an energized, motivated, and principled company culture. Team members are encouraged to interact with each other online in ways that promote camaraderie that extends into good working relationships and beyond, and having the right communication and collaboration tools creates opportunities for more spontaneous interaction.

The most obvious necessity when working remotely is to employ secure and reliable technologies that enables your teams to connect and collaborate safely. This includes chat and email tools, videoconferencing software, collaboration platforms, along with project management and time tracking tools.

We have published a few posts surrounding some of the tools we use and why, along with the considerable research we undertook when choosing them. For example, we use Xwiki as our collaborative documentation tool, and Zimbra as our email and calendaring tool. Our project management tool, which we use extensively for planning and organizing projects, planning our SDLC, and tracking time, helps our project managers keep projects moving forward and allows the entire team to communicate any progress, requirements, or blockers for each task. Our main form of communication is our chat tool, for which we have made extensive customizations that best suit and promote our company culture. We use it in conjunction with a secure web-conferencing tool for all of our meetings to help support connectivity and community.

It’s through these tools that we have been able to develop a really cool work culture that promotes active collaboration with our team members. Some examples of how we do this is through creating designated streams in our chat tool for non-work discussions. We also have a dedicated stream for on-camera discussions and collaboration sessions. Not only do we use it for meetings, but we use it as a place to work together side by side, ask quick questions, or work through an issue. It’s always available and there’s almost always a few people hanging out. We arrange regular optional company-wide get togethers where we set aside 30 minutes and invite everyone to join if their schedule permits. Just like people sitting around a break room chatting, the conversation just leads us wherever it goes: baking, gardening, video games. And, depending on the time of year, we add in a theme or play a game.

A recent example of one of these of on-purpose-for-no-reason meet ups was organized at the end of the first week of Covid-19 shut downs. The meeting was swiftly scheduled by our leadership team knowing that it had been a challenging and bizarre week. The meet up lasted for an hour and with almost everyone attending. Logging in to see a screen full of familiar faces laughing and sharing stories and experiences about irrational toilet paper hoarding brought about a sense of normalcy and calm in a week where fear and uncertainty were at their peak.

StormFree encourages team members living in the same location to arrange actual get togethers and those have so far taken the form of bbqs, pool and beers, hikes, and brunches. Other members get together virtually for online gaming on the regular.

Another important factor which we feel has helped our success, is to provide our team with resources. StormFree creates resources for the tools we use and the way in which we use them, which also adds to the culture of our team. We have created operational documents and best practices specifically for our team to help them function in a remote work environment, such as improving productivity, making the most of meetings, setting up workflows, and suggestions for staying connected. Our goal is to provide resources and information that enables a quick ramp up, the ability to focus on projects, and opportunties to excel as individuals and members of a team. 

The fundamentals to succeeding in any workplace - remote or traditional - are ensuring your team has the right technology and access to useful information. Providing your team with opportunities to connect serves as the foundation for a strong team culture even when the team is physically separated.

If you think you might like to be a part our company culture, have a look at our current openings.

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