How a Business With No Office Has One of the Best Company Cultures in America
When and where people do their work isn't usually important -- how, why and what they do is.
This article is included in Entrepreneur Voices on Company Culture, a new book containing insights from more than 20 contributors, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders.
In February, Entrepreneur and Culture IQ released their second annual list of the Top Company Cultures in America, featuring 153 companies with “high-performance cultures.” For the second year in a row, a company with a completely remote workforce is included on the list -- FlexJobs.
As the founder and CEO of FlexJobs, I can tell you that, while this an honor in and of itself, this distinction is particularly appreciated because many people think that a remote company can’t even have a company culture, let alone a great one.
Building a strong, healthy company culture isn’t easy in any company. It takes a conscientious effort and continuous dedication to build an organization that actively supports workers to do their best work and be their best selves, both inside and outside the office. All of the companies on this list believe these efforts are worthwhile and that a thriving company culture can fuel the fire for a growing business and better bottom line.
For us, being a remote company is a core part of who we are. The inclusion of FlexJobs on the Top Company Cultures list highlights that it’s possible to have a remote company with a fantastic company culture. Furthermore, it shows that remote work can enhance and benefit company cultures.
Entrepreneur and Culture IQ focused on “10 core qualities of culture” to find the top company cultures in America:
Mission and value alignment
Remote work is well-suited to support each of these qualities in unique ways. With each of them in mind, here’s how we’ve built one of the best company cultures in America, remotely.
Agility, performance focus and mission and value alignment.
We are very much a mission-driven organization. In our case, FlexJobs’ mission is to help professionals find jobs that fit their lives -- jobs that offer flexible work options like flexible scheduling and remote work. So the fact that our workers are all remote means that our very way of working aligns with our mission and values.
But, we reinforce our mission and values in other ways. Remote work strips away facetime and office politics, so we can focus on results as a main performance measure. When and where people do their work isn’t usually important -- how, why and what they do is.
And of course, we use remote work to find the best talent. Hiring someone based mainly on their skills and their fit with our company culture, rather than location, ensures that performance is a vital factor in recruitment and retention.
Work environment, support and wellness.
Flexible work environments allow companies to better support their workers, especially when it comes to wellness. A flexible work environment acknowledges that our workers are whole people, with big, and sometimes complicated, lives outside of the “office.” And it doesn’t do the company or the individual any good to make them feel they need to shut that part of themselves off when they start work each day.
Take our “buddy system,” for example. People going on parental leave or dealing with a serious illness can be matched with a coworker who has experienced something similar. These connections help people cope with the full range of life experiences, inside and outside of work, and allow people who’ve gone through something challenging to share their knowledge and experience to help coworkers.
A big goal in our culture-related initiatives is to cultivate connectedness, which is a key feeling in a remote environment when we often work independently throughout the day.
Collaboration, communication and innovation.
One of the most pervasive myths about remote work is that it stifles collaboration and communication -- and, therefore, innovation -- and that workers simply can’t collaborate well unless they are physically together in an office.
However, our team members say they feel more connected in this virtual space than they did in jobs where they were co-located. The only difference in how in-office professionals communicate versus remote professionals is the lack of in-person meetings. And most remote workers find they’re able to communicate well without those, substituting office facetime with video conferencing, video calls and occasional in-person meet-ups.
“Proactive communication” is how we approach working together: encouraging everyone to speak up, ask questions and clarify ideas when they aren’t sure about something. Also, each team sets 30-60-90 day goals, big ideas are encouraged, and processes are always being refined to foster innovation and remove roadblocks.
I saved this key cornerstone of our company culture for last because it’s so important. A remote work environment is built on trust. Specifically, trusting everyone to act as responsible professionals who are capable of doing their work well in an independent work environment.
I’ve worked with some of the folks at FlexJobs for years without having met them in person. And people accept jobs with our company without setting foot in a traditional office or meeting face-to-face. Therefore, as a company, every level of our operation starts with a baseline of trust.
And that’s the key aspect of a remote company’s culture. We don’t have bricks and mortar. We don’t have offices or cubicles or water coolers or conference rooms. Instead, our company culture is the brick and mortar; it’s our infrastructure. As a remote company, our culture is the space in which we exist.
Sara Sutton is the CEO and founder of FlexJobs, an award-winning, innovative career website for telecommuting, flexible, freelance and part-time job listings, and founder of Remote.co, a one-stop resource for remote teams and companies, and the 1 Million for Work Flexibility initiative. She was named as a Young Global Leader (class of 2014) by the World Economic Forum for her work in technology and the employment fields. Sutton is a graduate of UC Berkeley and currently lives in Boulder, Colo. Sutton is also the creator of The TRaD Works Conference, dedicated to helping companies leverage the benefits of telecommuting, remote and distributed teams.