I love working remotely. It saves me the hassle of having to commute to work and also saves me time on eating out every day for lunch. Every time that I prepare for a company meet-up or a trip to the office, I start to feel equal parts excitement and nervousness. I worry about how much of a toll being alone at home all day every day will have had on my ability to interact with people, but I also get excited about the idea of not being alone all day. I start to get nervous about feeling overwhelmed, or my coworkers not liking me without the filter of the keyboard between us, but excited about the idea of making new friends.
Every time I go, though, I realize the importance of doing it. While companies that do remote culture well (like my company, Trello, does) are making leaps and bounds with cutting out the difficulty of remote communication out of the equation, there are still things that are immeasurably important about face-to-face time. Here are the top three that I am reflecting on as of this past week at HQ with the rest of my team:
No matter how well you are able to express yourself in the written word, there are some things that are going to be missed. Sarcasm, little quirks and ticks of behavior, and other endearing things are usually missed unless you video chat every single day. Even with the end-of-week beer bashes that all of our remote employees do, not everyone is able to make it, so I don't get to know everyone. Being in person lets me get to know the people who *aren't* on all the video chats, or maybe don't have as much of a DM rapport with me. It is an outstanding way to build bonds and to start achieving that DM rapport that we are lacking.
Faces to names
So many people that I know are working at companies in stages of rapid growth. That is such an intense and confusing (and also very exciting and fun!) time. It can feel like there are 10 new people hired every week. It's easy, in a climate like that, to feel the FOMO or like you don't know who everyone is. Going to the office helps you at least get to know and see new in-office employees that might not come around the remote hangouts so often. That way, when someone says 'Al', for example, you can remember that you listened to him talk to his daughter over lunch that one day, and not feel out of the loop and lost like you would have before.
When you are with a group of people, whether you want to or not, you start thinking along with them and riding the tide of the group think. While in most cases group think is a Very Bad thing, I mean it in this instance as a net positive. As a remote employee, you are your own self-contained office of your company. You are responsible to keep your good-time-happy-feelings afloat, and if you are having a tough time or feeling a little-less-than-stellar, you are also the only one responsible for it. Going back to the office, or on a group retreat, is a great way to get back to that feeling that you had when you first started and to align with where the company is going. It's all well and good to have monthly meetings that *talk* about where the company is going, but when you are actually there with a group of people, you can feel it.