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What a Successful Transition to Permanent Remote Work Looks Like Thriving with a remote team takes effort, but the rewards are so great that we're never going to back to the office.

By Sarah Smith Edited by Amanda Breen

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Across the U.S. and world there's a workplace debate: Should we go back to the office? Should we stay remote? Heading into the pandemic, all work at The Dyrt happened with a 8,000 square-foot office. Now we're 100% remote and spread across the United States, working in three separate time zones and planning to stay that way.

Looking back on the last year and a half (remember when we thought it would be 2 weeks?), it's amazing to see how our company has thrived with a remote team. It has taken a lot of effort, as well as quite a bit of luck. Here's how we've made it work.

Time to go (work from) home

When the pandemic hit, there was no choice for most companies — they had to go remote right then. We were incredibly fortunate that the timing worked out well for us and that we already had the framework in place for digital communication and remote collaboration.

I've only been a founder once, but it seemed like working together in person was really important early in the evolution of the company. Everything was changing and moving so quickly that I think remote work would have held us back in those days.

In 2019, we defined our mission and business strategy in a new and powerful way. It was all hands on deck to launch our premium offering, The Dyrt PRO. Had the pandemic hit a year earlier, we could have been in trouble. But as it happened, it wasn't too hard to work from home because everyone already had a clear idea of what we needed to execute on.

Related: Why Remote Work Makes Teams (And Leaders) Better

Culture and connection through a screen

While the timing was relatively good for us to have our team work from home, we knew we still had to make an effort. We started weekly staff meetings we call "campfire." We kick things off with a game and, at the end, a different team member shares a 5x5: five slides in five minutes to give us a glimpse of who they are.

These meetings gave staff a place to socialize and to learn about each other and what other teams were working on. Much of which had occurred organically in the office.

If doing this online sounds a little corny, it can be, but it's also really great. The truth is, we essentially took culture for granted when we worked in the office together. People sometimes hung out and got to know each other in a spontaneous way, which was great, but in a remote setting, you need to be more proactive.

The effectiveness of team building virtually really hit me during our 2020 holiday party, which was online, of course. We did a white elephant game where virtual gifts were traded on screen and then the actual gifts were shipped to the recipients after the party, which was really fun.

The highlight was a video some of our top users put together rounding up comments from members of The Dyrt community across the country to thank our staff and wish them happy holidays. Some of our employees were moved to tears. Later, they told me it was the best holiday party they had ever been to — and we weren't even physically together!

Related: 17 Things You Need to Know About Remote Work

Build your dream team

One of our star employees began as a super user of our product and had been asking us to hire her for years. We didn't even really consider it because our entire team was in Portland, and she was far away in another state. We were really missing out.

Thankfully, she followed up with us early in the pandemic, and we gave it a shot. She was the first of many excellent remote hires we've made over the past 18 months. Now we have 30 job openings, all of which are fully remote. We are getting applications from every state.

Our mission is to be the camping-for-all platform. Why did we think we could do that from an office in Oregon? Now we draw on talent anywhere in the country and bring a wider variety of perspectives and local expertise to our team.

Our lease came and went. We let it go. My co-founder husband and I are running this company from a converted camper van. Many of our employees are harnessing their newfound location flexibility to travel more, work from campgrounds and permanently relocate. I do miss the coffee shop downstairs, but now I do remote coffee meetings with a different employee every week, and they are amazing.

You know what? Even with a great coffee shop downstairs, I rarely actually made time to do that before.

Related: How to Transition Your Team to Remote Work

Sarah Smith

Founder of The Dyrt

Sarah Smith is the founder of The Dyrt, a camping app in the iOS and Android app stores with more than 4 million campground reviews and tips. She has loved camping since childhood and in 2013, she left a career in education to become an entrepreneur dedicated to making camping easier for everyone.

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