Zeren Insights: Does Remote Work Kill Culture?
Insights from Passion.io.
The average company culture 10 years ago consisted of a basket full of benefits, team events, free coffee, and occasionally fruit.
Entering the office you would stare at a couple of bored faces waiting for the clock to finally show 5 pm. The Friday afternoon beer, the additional day off for your birthday, and a catered lunch every now and then didn’t keep the attrition rate as low as expected.
But why is that? It’s because perks are not culture and culture is not a building.
As I am writing this, Passion.io (a fully remote company since 2018) is ranked No. 1,563 among America’s fastest-growing private companies. Our latest ENPS score was 68 and Glassdoor shows an average 4.9-star rating from current and former employees.
Building a thriving culture does not have anything to do with being remote or hybrid or in an office – but we would always choose the remote way again.
For many people, the office is the “fallback position” for culture building. When thinking about remote work, the idea of the office being THE (only) place to create meaningful relationships and therefore a thriving culture tends to come up.
One of the main challenges we’re facing as a fully remote company is to think beyond the office environment, embrace the opportunities of remote work – with all its pros and cons – and build a thriving remote culture together with our team. This includes effective remote collaboration, high-performing teams, employee engagement, and creating a strong sense of belonging and shared mission.
For us at Passion.io, culture is how we treat each other on a day-to-day basis and what our underlying values are. It’s not relevant whether we’re in the same room or not.
That’s why we have implemented our values into everything we do. Some examples are Recruiting, Career Growth, Leadership Development, and Communication.
Our values also promote and support our remote way of working by helping us build a foundation of trust, flexibility, results orientation, customer obsession, and honest interaction and communication.
One big challenge of remote work though is undoubtedly the lack of natural opportunities to interact with your colleagues on a personal level. In an office, you would see and meet your colleagues fairly regularly, have lunch together, etc.
In our remote environment at Passion.io, we don’t treat culture and connection as something that “happens”, we intentionally build and foster it through several opportunities for virtual connection.
Here’s a little sneak peek into what we do at Passion.io to stay connected:
Happy Friday Calls: Every Friday we meet virtually to reflect on the week, play a game together and celebrate our successes and learnings. We also celebrate birthdays and anniversaries in these calls.
Tea for Three: Every week groups of three are randomly created to have a chat together – all topics allowed, except for work.
Virtual Activities: From time to time we have some cool virtual activities happening. Something like “Murder Mystery”, “Show and Tell Sessions”, “Virtual Cooking Classes” and many more.
Org-wides: Our org-wides (or “All hands meetings”) are a bi-weekly opportunity to interact with the whole team.
Coaching and Mental Health support: Remote work can be lonely and it can be difficult to disconnect. We also offer coaching and therapy sessions to support our Passioneers with all the small and big challenges of work and life.
Slack Channels: Adding channels around things that are unrelated to work can foster relationships among team members (#cooking is one of our favourites).
With all of that being said, we believe that deepening relationships is best done in person. Again, consciously and not randomly. That’s why our in-person events (“PassionLIVEs”) are designed to encourage interesting conversations and innovation, challenge each other, learn new things together, and build memories that will last a lifetime.
A fully remote organization does not mean you can never see each other in person. For instance, in addition to PassioLIVEs, we have implemented a co-working budget that allows our team members to spend some face-to-face time with their colleagues somewhere in the world to work on a project together or just enjoy each other’s company while working.
Results and Impact
With a three-year revenue growth of 409%, Passion.io is ranked No. 1,563 among America’s fastest-growing private companies. Going hand in hand with our business success, we see that our employee satisfaction survey results, retention rates, diversity scores, application rates, and candidate quality as well as ENPS scores are among the best in the industry.
When looking into the main reasons for that, the most mentioned point is the fact that we enable remote working, along with the trust, flexibility, and autonomy that comes with it for our team members. Another important point that is mentioned frequently and our top “like” in every ENPS survey is the people working at Passion.io which speaks for a deep relationship among our team members.
With that in mind, we believe we can confidently say that remote working created a cultural competitive advantage for us.
Remote work doesn’t only allow for access to global talent, diversity, and inclusivity, it also contributes to our innovation and drives our business growth.
We learned that it’s important to treat remote working as a business model with values and expected behaviours, processes, and policies fully supporting our approach to remote work.
Creating plenty of opportunities for virtual interaction and collaboration, fostering overcommunication, and promoting regular in-person collaboration where it makes sense have been some of the key initiatives for us to make our remote culture thrive.
While the company keeps growing we also intend to bring our “Remoteness” to the next level in the coming years and continuously improve how we work together. We are specifically looking into our meeting culture, how we can improve documentation and asynchronous work even more, and refine our selection processes for candidates.
Building all of that remotely is not an obstacle but rather a necessary ingredient for success for us.
In case you’ve been wondering: Passion.io empowers Creators to launch highly impactful mobile apps. We are an international remote team of 80+ people, supporting 8,000+ Creators and 900k+ end-users from all over the world. We have been a fully remote company since 2018 and enable our team members to live and work anywhere in the world.