Where we work should not determine whether we work.

September 26, 2019

I recently blogged about getting over the fear of going virtual. And as I fully admitted in that blog, when my team broached the subject of going virtual, I was not a fan. Nor did I think I ever would be.

But I am now. In fact, I’m a raving fan!

Why?

Because where we work should not determine whether we work.

And let’s face it: we live in a day and age when virtual teams are outperforming office-based teams. So why wouldn’t we?

Culture is Everything

It’s no secret remote working and flexible work environments are all the rage now. So much so, offering a culture that allows for such flexibility is becoming important weaponry in the war for recruiting and retaining top talent.

And as I blogged about earlier, it takes a lot of planning, preparation, buy-in and trial-and-error to make it work.

But in order to be truly successful as a virtual organization, it takes a strong culture – one of accountability, teamwork, and trust. Hint: You can’t fake it. It has to be authentic. Non-negotiable.

Working in a virtual environment is not for everyone. It’s true, we’ve seen it. If you’re not careful, it can get lonely, even isolating. After all, we’re human beings. Having a sense of belonging is critical to our survival. Both on earth, as well as at work.

So how do we facilitate a sense of belonging, a community of cohorts, when we’re not together?

Discipline.

“A culture of discipline is not a principle of business, it is a principle of greatness.” --  Jim Collins (Good to Great)

That’s one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite books. And as we now know, being disciplined as individuals and as a team is critical to the success of a virtual team.

We’re very proud of our culture:

  • Core values of trust, respect, honesty and integrity
  • Performance values of teamwork, transparency, leadership, learning, entrepreneurship and accountability

But bringing a culture to life is everybody’s business. And it’s just as important when you’re in an office together as it is when you’re not. But it doesn’t magically happen, no matter where you are – it takes effort. It takes discipline. Even more so when you’re remote.

Connecting, building trust and fostering teamwork are all doable in a virtual environment. It just takes the discipline and the willingness to make it work.

Here’s how we’ve figured out how to maintain our bonds, our energy and, ultimately, keep our culture in tact… simply through smalls acts of discipline.

  • No more texting – all communications are through our collaboration tools on O365 (email is down to almost nothing!)
  • No more phone calls – all calls are through video, either through Zoom or our Teams app on O365
  • Do the virtual “drive by” – recreate office interactions by randomly reaching out to teammates by video just to say hello, see how someone’s vacation or weekend went
  • Be visible – all of our team meetings and 1:1 meetings are through video
  • Be heard – actively engage on our collaboration platform in discussion threads, posts, polls and chat sessions
  • Be accountable – “see it, own, solve it, do it.” If you’re confused, ask. If you have an idea, speak up. If something is not working, fix it.

None of this magically happens. Everyone is responsible for changing their behaviors and mindset in order to make us successful in our new virtual world.

About recruiting

For roughly 2 years, we searched for a new teammate to fill an opening on our personal lines team. We tried everything, from LinkedIn, to recruiters, to ZipRecruiter.com. All of it. No luck.

Since going virtual, we’ve expanded our universe of candidates to anywhere, U.S.A., and we’ve since found not only one but two new teammates for our personal lines team. One is in Colorado and one is in Utah.

We already had teammates in Texas, South Carolina and Tennessee. So having teammates elsewhere in the country was not new to us. In fact, I’ll argue they had been preparing us for this shift without knowing it. However, what was new to us was how to effectively onboard a new hire who we can’t physically sit with. Oh ya, onboarding.

And like everything else, where there’s a will there’s a way.

We figured it out.

Again, what happens in the office can easily be replicated virtually with video calls, screen sharing and document collaboration. Easy peezy, lemon squeezy.

 

I no longer subscribe to the old-school thinking that you have to be in the same physical space with someone to “connect”, to create energy, to build trust or to have teamwork. And as we now know, forcing people in to an office space comes on account of "building trust" comes at a high cost, both hard dollar cost as well as emotional expense.

We're proud to be a part of the growing movement of organizations who have chosen a culture of freedom and responsibility, where being virtual means being highly productive and highly engaged.

 

Thinking about going virtual? Still a doubter? Check out these articles:

Inc.com - 3 things your workplace does that millennials hate

Yahoo! - Young People Are Going to Save Us All From Office Life

Inc.com - It's Official: Open-Plan Offices Are Now the Dumbest Management Fad of All Time


 Chad Eddy, MBA, is the CEO and fearless leader at Indium. He has more than 20 years of multifaceted, multi-industry experience. In addition to serving independent agents, Chad is passionate about spending time with his family, playing and watching hockey, listening to good music, reading, and raising money for cystic fibrosis research.