When we made the decision to work remotely for “at least two weeks” on March 13, 2020, I never imagined it would be my last day in the office. We had poured a lot of love into the space itself in recent years, including doubling the square footage, painting the walls in vibrant colors, and even becoming Gold Certified by the City of Portland for Sustainability at Work.
But here’s the thing: after our Portland team became fully vaccinated, no one was chomping at the bit to return to the office. We missed opportunities for in-person connection, to be sure, but the prospect of once again commuting downtown every day was not particularly appealing.
During COVID, we had also hired two new staff members—one in Atlanta, Georgia and one in Medellín, Colombia. Before COVID, we already had team members in Estelí, Nicaragua and Quito, Ecuador. Plus, most of our Portland staff worked remotely at least one day a week, and we were accustomed to meeting clients via Zoom from all over the country.
That’s all to say, the transition to an all-remote workplace was certainly a little more seamless for us than for other companies. But making a final decision to forego an office altogether is a new reality that will require some acclimation.
Here’s what I’m excited about:
From a diversity, equity, and inclusion perspective, remote work can pave the way to new opportunities, if approached with consideration and intention. Being able to hire from beyond our geographic area has helped us expand our pipeline of job applicants and benefit from from a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives.
Flexibility is a widely touted benefit of remote work, one that I have certainly appreciated as a father of a one-year-old. But other benefits are just rising to the surface, including the potential for a more inclusive work environment. Some studies and surveys are finding more enthusiasm amongst women and people of color to continue working remotely because of an increased sense of belonging and a decreased need to code-switch.
Here’s what I’m apprehensive about:
Zoom fatigue, for one. We’ve all felt it, and now we know we’ll spend far more time looking at each other’s faces on screen than in person. Before COVID, most of us had the benefit of all having already worked together in-person, and now we’re getting to know new team members in an entirely virtual setting.
Despite the challenges, I’m confident that we can still enjoy in-person time during team retreats, and that our Joy Team will be up to the challenge of continuing to explore new ways to foster connection and support in a virtual setting. To be sure, a robust remote work culture, like an in-person work culture, doesn’t happen by default. It will take continual care and attention, and we’ll keep learning from our missteps and successes.