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Commute Optional: Building Flexibility into Your Company's Culture

Commute Optional: Building Flexibility into Your Company's Culture

On a typical Tuesday morning at Ellevate, the whole team is present. Whether they’re in the office, though, is a different story. A glance at the monitor during our weekly All Hands spells it out. There’s usually someone in not-yet-sunny California, on screen before the rest of the West Coast wakes up. Someone else might be tuning in from a hotel room, chiming in before a day of meetings far from home. There’s my living room in Virginia. Some weeks, there are almost as many faces on-screen as there are in the office.

We like it this way.

Our roots with flexible work go way back. We’ve always believed in respecting our team, and the fact that they have lives outside of work. What that translates to today is a group that’s not afraid of bridging physical gaps to deliver the inclusive, intentional events and authentic, action oriented online networking our community relies on.

Most of us work from our office in Manhattan full time, and tap into a flexible remote work policy whenever we need it: after a late event, before an appointment, or when we just need some quiet to wrap up a project. Two of us have set work-from-home days each week. Four of us work remotely full time. All of us benefit from that flexibility: it lets us bring our full selves to work, whether we’re in the office or not.

But how do you get to that point with your team? If you’re considering establishing remote work policies for your office, or you’d like to ask for some flexibility, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Set expectations. 

If you plan to establish flexible work policies, it’s important that everyone involved understand what they can expect from someone who isn’t physically present. It’s also important to establish how you’ll measure outcomes and productivity, to help remote employees and their colleagues stay on track. At Ellevate, working remotely means being fully present, productive, and engaged in the workday, throughout the workday.

Establish lines of communication. 

While phone calls and email suffice for external communication, they’re not enough to keep everyone up to speed. We rely on real-time messaging, shared calendars, and video calls to keep information flowing. It also takes personal responsibility from the whole team: progress reports are the norm. When impromptu desk-side conversations happen, participants take a moment to fill in stakeholders who aren’t in the room.

Be ready to ask questions. 

This goes both ways. Not everything translates well to text, so clarifying questions and identifying potential issues early can save hours of effort.

Include everyone. 

It’s easy to forget the folks who aren’t in the room, but a team without rapport is hardly a team. Whatever your team activities, meetings, and traditions, think about ways to bring everyone together. We’re still finding our way to the right balance here. But, right now, that means a weekly happy hour where everyone can tune in, time dedicated to building community and discussing current affairs, and trips to HQ by our remote staff.

There’s more to it than this. But when you’re working with a group of people who are accountable to themselves and to their work, a flexible environment means a happier, more productive environment for everyone involved.

Learn more about career opportunities at Ellevate here!

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