8 Ways Working Remotely Brings Us Together
My Grandma Thinks I’m A Hacker
People can develop amusing views of what “working from home” means. For example, when my grandmother came for a visit, she asked about what I do at work. So I showed her by remotely connecting to a server and viewing some of its settings. Her takeaway from that experience was revealed the next time she visited—she asked if I “still break into people’s computers at work”.
I suppose there are worse things than having your grandma think you’re a badass hacker. Thanks, Gram. Not a hacker.
GreenArrow Email software and our staff have evolved a great deal during my time here. We’ve grown our team, updated our product offerings, streamlined our processes, and my role has changed too. But the working from home dynamic has not. Today, I wanted to introduce you to the team, the tools that keep us connected, and a few perks of working remotely. Like most work environments, it all begins with a good cup of coffee. Grab yours, and let’s go!
Ditch the Commute
Did you know the average American commute is 26 minutes long? And according to the Washington Post, it’s the worst it’s ever been, and it’s growing 24 seconds every year.
I double-checked the math, that’s over three hours more a year! Three extra hours of sitting on stressful, over-crowded highways far away from your family, your home, your favorite hobbies, mealtimes, and more.
On the other hand, I have the always-predictable-weather commute. After I walk the dogs and get my Aeropress coffee fix, it’s a few short steps to enter my office, log in to Pivotal and get my workday started. I’ll take that over driving, or riding a train, or paying for parking any day. Without question, this is my favorite part of working from home.
Managing Projects From Afar
Developers and sysadmins are … different. Sure, we speak mostly the same language and understand each other’s jobs. Still, the differences between the work done in each department are significant enough that we haven’t found a project and task management system well-suited to both roles. As a result, we ended up using two systems – Zendesk and Pivotal Tracker.
Our sysadmin team uses a ticketing system called Zendesk. This works well for our sysadmins because it enables both customers and DRH employees to open, update, and close support tickets.
Try using Zendesk for development work, and it’s a no-go. Our development team needs other handy features, like estimating how long a task will take, or tracking the interdependencies of projects, or simply prioritizing their work. This is where Pivotal comes in. We use it to manage the development team’s workflow.
But we’re a reasonably techy (and highly communicative) bunch. So we’ve wired Pivotal into Zendesk’s API. When a Zendesk ticket gets opened for a team member who uses Pivotal, a new Pivotal story automatically gets created to track and prioritize it.
Videos & the Virtual Water Cooler
We use Slack for a lot of our internal communications. It’s handy to be able to send a quick message or fire up a video call or screen share from a single interface. (Video calls have dramatically improved our communication. So we make video the standard, not the exception.)
We typically switch to Fuze or Zoom when a meeting involves more than two people, like in our weekly team call. Once upon a time, we used Skype. But we replaced it with Slack when it proved to be more consistent in terms of connection quality and less prone to issues, like not being able to detect a headset. Plus, Slack has a nicer user interface, but that’s just my opinion.
Slack has also become DRH’s digital version of the office water cooler. We literally have a #watercooler channel:
The #coffeetalk channel serves as our digital coffee shop:
There was also a recent discussion on personal investing. But I don’t want to divulge anyone’s secrets and cause a move in the markets. 🙂
Working on the Road
This one might seem counter-intuitive, I know. But stay with me. We have a lot of great customers, and for the most part, we interact with them online with tools like GoToMeeting, Zendesk, and yep, phone calls. But now and then, customers request on-site training, and we can accommodate them precisely because we can stay in touch with one another even while on the road.
On-site, we can offer a deeper dive of GreenArrow software that wouldn’t be possible in a single meeting. Those meetings are always fun, productive, and when I’m really lucky, the local cuisine is delicious! Like the time I went to Peru to visit the beautiful Historic Center of Lima and eat ceviche! Mmmm, ceviche! Anytime that team needs me again; I would be delicious…I mean, delighted…to come over and help.
Cloud – Distribution = Less Disruption
When everybody works in a central office, the entire company is susceptible to disruption by local issues like power outages, natural disasters, and equipment failures. Sure, any one of us might have those sorts of issues that occur at their home, but in most cases, that employee can head over to the local library or coffee shop and resume working. Meanwhile, the rest of the company isn’t disrupted at all.
Of course, being able to take my laptop to a coffee shop to get some work done is one thing, but what about customer servers, our websites, email, etc.? Those are all hosted at data centers that are much better hardened against calamity than a normal office building. Redundant power systems, network connectivity, and climate controls are all in the equation. Incidentally, I recently traveled to the data center where the GreenArrow Cloud is located to do some equipment upgrades and maintenance and can confirm that yes, the Cloud is real! Sadly, there weren’t any people there to chat (or eat) with, so I had to settle for talking to our servers instead.
Life is More Than Work
At GreenArrow, we believe life is more than work. We also recognize that sometimes non-work stuff comes up between 8 am and 5 pm, sometimes really important stuff, like children being born, family emergencies, or power loss at the hands of a bomb cyclone. Fortunately, we have flex-time that allows for, well…flexibility in our work schedules.
Personally, I love getting outside to enjoy nature. Having a career where I work remotely has shaped one of the biggest life choices—where we live. In 2008, we moved to an enclave of private property within Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. Living here is what makes break time the best part of working from home. Break time with this view is my favorite way to recharge.
Healthy Employees = Happy Customers
What’s the key to providing excellent customer service? We find it’s having happy, healthy employees, and empowering them to get good work done. (It also helps to avoid the oh-so stressful TPS reports).
Working from home should make work/life balance better, but we recognize it also makes working during your downtime really easy. With no on-site supervisor, it’s up to the employee to find and maintain a balance that works for them and their families. Someone who tends to be a workaholic (or a slacker!) could get themselves burned out (or in hot water) if they don’t keep it on their radar.
Have your Ceviche And Eat It, Too
Do you telecommute or work remotely? Is your experience anything like ours? What makes your team culture unique? Let us know what tricks and tips work for you. And of course, keep an eye on our Careers page if you think you might be a good addition to our team. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s Aeropress time!
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