Remote Working: How to Make It Work

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posted by Courtney Pettoello
on Jul 21, 2014

Conference calls. When friends, family, and (recently) border patrol officers ask what it is that I do at our IT startup, “I take a lot of conference calls” falls out of my mouth before I can even check myself for how that might sound to those unfamiliar with our “office” culture.


In my previous, pre-startup life, I was under the impression (due, admittedly, in large part to the film industry) that conference calls were reserved for nefarious business mergers and meetings with the president. Consequently, to hear someone say that they had a conference call scheduled later or that they were on one all day never failed to leave me impressed and in awe of this important, high-profile speaker regaling me with workday tales.


Flash forward to Monday from a few weeks past when my alarm went off a bit too early for my taste; I had planned it out so that I would have just enough time to perform the tricks necessary to take me from sleep to work mode (i.e. caffeine, cold water face splash, and a quick dance session to “Happy”) before the start of the company’s bi-monthly learning session, or LIFTIT. This initiative asks one team member to present on a tech-themed topic to the rest of the company via – you guessed it – conference call (check out past LIFTITs on the NIFTIT blog).


When co-workers are as spread across the globe as we are at NIFTIT, one comes to really enjoy these little events (despite the early wake-up call to adjust for time differences); not only are you getting an interesting crash course on an unfamiliar topic, but also you have an opportunity to experience your peers as more than just emails and Basecamp posts. Many of us (including myself) work remotely, so the chance to fill our workspaces (read: NOT action movie lairs or presidential boardrooms) with the voices of the people with whom we are in constant virtual contact is a real treat. On the Monday in question, however, that which I appreciate most about LIFTIT became a thing of dread when our usual means of establishing the voice call failed and we had to resort to a video conference.




Now, you may note that my routine for the morning did not include any prepping of my personal appearance, and in the ensuing frenzied minute to get the team migrated to Google+ Hangouts, there was little I could do help my situation. So, there we all were: me very obviously just getting the day rolling, one of us showing painful signs of a fun weekend in the sun, a few done with work and ready to call it a day, still others red-eyed and deep into their fourth cup of coffee. And though I still look back at that morning with a little embarrassment, the experience itself is something I treasure for its comic reminder that rarely do things go as planned. We may have had a conference platform snafu and a few of us might have spent some time wishing our computers’ video would malfunction just this once, but our ability to make the necessary quick adjustments, to accept the disruption and everyone’s various states of disarray with a humor and understanding characteristic of our global team – all of these are true skills and a wonderful testament to our peculiar type of office culture. It is a simple example of a real startup moment in which we shined and proved that – though things might not go the way initially intended – we’ll always enjoy the time spent together making it work.