Before Great Expectations, I worked in an office 5 days a week. While I was interviewing here and waiting for my start date, I had a lot of questions about what remote work would look like in practice.
Most of all, I wondered how I was going to get to know my teammates if I only ever saw them in meetings. And even more, how I was going to get to know people at the company who I didn’t regularly meet with?
Now that I've been at GX for a little over a year, I can safely say that the culture at GX is better than anywhere else I’ve ever worked. I want to share some of the ways that we build that culture even without regularly seeing each other in person.
Like most things in life, what’s true in one situation isn’t necessarily true everywhere. Please keep in mind my experiences are specific to GX!
GX uses Slack for almost all communication, both work and non-work. What I love about this practice is that it gives me an easy way to get insight into the communication styles of my colleagues.
And I’ve found that it’s actually easier to get to know coworkers when you’re all remote. Actual lunchroom/water cooler talk requires people to be in the same place at the same time. In Slack, you can have a conversation with anyone, whether or not you’re around at the same time.
One thing that’s important is that GX keeps a low-pressure environment about sharing personal information. People can engage as much or as little as they want. To me, working remotely almost seems to make people more likely to share information about what is going on personally and for work. It is great!
My (working) theory on why this happens is that people like communicating/engaging with each other.
If something comes across a channel that is of particular interest to them, they’ll contribute, or if they are curious, ask questions. In my experience, this isn’t available company-wide when working in person.
Of course, there’s a lot to be said for real-time, face-to-face connection too. Every two weeks, you’re encouraged to schedule a 30-minute meeting with someone (anyone) at the company just to chat. These meetings are called donuts, and there’s a space held for them on every single person’s calendar. (And there’s a very persistent bot that makes donut connections, so you don’t have to reach out to people cold.)
Speaking of face-to-face, one of the things that I’ve come to appreciate most about how we work at GX is how often everyone uses a camera during meetings. I imagine that without them it would be easy to start feeling isolated.
My role also has a lot of interpersonal aspects, so it's helpful to both my work product and my relationship with my coworkers when I can see how people react to my ideas or what kind of mood they're in.
I know camera-on policies can be contentious, so I want to be clear here: there are definitely situations where people turn their cameras off and it's completely fine. It's particularly common for people to turn off their cameras while eating, when they're not feeling well, or when they're changing locations.
But for the most part, people keep their cameras on, at least in my experience. (And in addition to helping encourage connection with colleagues, that also means I get to see the occasional dog, cat, or baby—a benefit that I don't think gets mentioned enough.)
Take values seriously
Every company has values. At GX, we’re actively encouraged to find ways to live out those values in the day-to-day.
There’s a specific agenda item at our monthly all-hands meeting set aside to celebrate individuals who have exemplified our values recently. In between those meetings, people regularly acknowledge colleagues who have exhibited our values in one of the public Slack channels.
This ongoing emphasis makes our values more than just a company checkbox item: team members buy in and participate. Seeing someone’s accomplishments celebrated, even if I don’t know them well, really fosters a sense of community.
Embrace our humanity
At GX, there’s a genuine understanding that we are all human. People get sick, go on holidays, and have home emergencies or celebrations without being judged for it. We’re all encouraged to take care of ourselves.
It’s not just lip service either. It’s really common for people at all levels of the company to block off (and then take off) time for personal commitments or family time, even during busy periods.
I don’t want to downplay the hard work that goes on here. There are plenty of jobs to be done and we’re committed to being successful. But being able to take the time you need, guilt-free, is huge! It’s not just a short-term benefit either: I would wager that this will help reduce burnout in the long run.
We also get the opportunity once per week to showcase projects/hobbies—both work and non-work—that we think others may find interesting. The meeting is called show-and-tell, and even though it’s optional it usually draws a strong crowd.
The topics vary widely, from crumple origami to yogurt-making to experimental GX features to presentations on healthcare plan selection and the magic of dual-scenario paycheck calculators.
To me, this meeting highlights that we are an eclectic bunch: it's something we take pride in, and it’s part of what makes us great.
Keep it comfortable
One big aspect of in-person work culture that I’ve seen get brushed over when talking about remote work is the dress code. At GX, the only dress policy is that people wear what makes them comfortable (as long as they meet some bare-minimum requirements). The theory is that comfortable people produce better work.
Usually, I see discussions around dress codes for remote work in the context of people wanting to dress down. But some people feel better in a button-down or a polo shirt than they do in a t-shirt or hoodie. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone wear a full-on suit in a GX meeting, or actual pajamas, but I’ve seen just about everything in between.
Though GX does trend casual, and regardless of normal dress preferences, there is a certain gray hoodie that everyone seems drawn to…
While I was writing this part of the post, I went to the meeting pictured above wearing my gray GX hoodie… which five other people did too, by total coincidence (plus one more person in a vintage blue hoodie with our old logo). They’re incredibly comfortable.
It might seem minor, but having swag that people enjoy wearing to the point where that many show up in it at the same time does help build a real sense of community!
All in all, I hope this has given you some insight into how GX uses remote work to enhance its sense of culture rather than hinder it. (We’re hiring if you’d like to join us!)