The COVID-19 pandemic changed the working environment forever. Three years later, the debate about whether remote work benefits or detracts from the business model still lingers.
At Paradise, we have embraced that new paradigm with both arms. Over the past year, we have grown our team to meet the demands of our expanding client base with virtually all those new hires working from home office locations from wherever they are in the country. We have found that we no longer must have everyone in the same building, city, state, or even the same time zone for the company and our clients to thrive.
Studies have shown that working from home improves performance, productivity, and retention by giving team members greater flexibility when and where they do their work. It can also save them and the company money by eliminating commuting and reducing overhead costs such as rent, parking, and furniture.
At Paradise, we’ve found that our work-from-home office approach has enabled us to assemble a team that’s both diverse and dynamic, making us both more creative as a marketing company and more responsive to our clients. A dispersed staff puts us closer to our clients, making it easier to arrange in-person visits when needed. By largely eliminating a daily commute, working from home reduces our corporate carbon footprint, making us more sustainable. And we can truly hire industry professionals located anywhere in the country.
We still have our headquarters in vibrant downtown St. Petersburg, Florida. Members of our core staff–among them many long-tenured Paradise veterans–can work there if they choose. But over the past few years, we’ve learned to harness the power that working from home has brought to Paradise. Here are our recommendations for making a work-from-home scenario work for your company.
Invest in technology
When your team is scattered across four time zones, a stable internet connection and up-to-date technology plays a key role in Paradise’s success. As part of their onboarding, each Paradise team member receives a new laptop setup with fast internal processing, cloud-based project management system access, and remote server access as the core of their technological foundation. As a small company, we have outsourced our IT services to a trusted partner that has proven themselves reliable and quick to respond to issues in a way that ensures our operations have limited to no down time. We rely heavily on Google systems–GMail, Chat, Calendar, Meet, Suite – to keep our team members connected in real time and all times.
Be more deliberate and time sensitive
The lack of an office setting means we have fewer opportunities for the kind of chance encounters favored by the designers of open-office floor plans. The positive spin is it means our team members have fewer distractions and less of their time taken up by the office time vampires. Being at home forces us to be more respectful of each other’s time and more deliberate in our purpose when we get together virtually. Remember those meetings that should be emails? They’re often reduced to quick online chats. Remember those meetings that didn’t start on time because we were waiting on someone to fill their cup of coffee down the hall? Well, our advance agenda and 27-minute meeting format allow for coffee breaks in your own kitchen.
Working from home doesn’t mean working from home necessarily, but that’s how most members of our team do it. Working from home means team members may have to be called upon to deal with family issues, such as house repair people or school pick-up and drop-off during work hours. They may also end up sharing their video call with an attention-seeking cat or dog. We can’t control everything in a remote environment, so it’s crucial that we give our team members the room they need to balance work and life, especially when they’re happening in the same place. We have found that happy employees become generous with their time and work longer, if needed.
Build a culture
When everyone can cross paths in the lunchroom or around the board table, it’s easy to build your corporate culture. It takes a little more effort to do that when your team stretches from New England to Nevada and many points in between. At Paradise, we’ve risen to the challenge by encouraging our internal Culture Club crew to oversee projects such as the Question of the Week – a simple way to bring team members together to discuss a topic and share something about themselves – and add fun elements to our monthly meetings and celebrate staff birthdays and anniversaries. Paradise Weekly, our weekly internal e-newsletter, keeps everyone up to date on company-wide successes and important HR-type details they need to know. Monthly all-team meetings include break-out sessions where team members get to meet and chat on a variety of subjects.
While working from home makes Paradise efficient and effective, sometimes you need to trade your FaceTime app for actual face time in real life. For Paradise, that means an annual company retreat that brings our far-flung team together for several days of fun and team building. We held our second-ever all-staff retreat in 2022 at a beach resort near St. Petersburg. It was so successful that we’re considering using it to engage our clients by holding it in a different location each year.
In the digital economy, the pre-pandemic strategy of putting a team of knowledge workers under the same roof seems as quaint and outdated to us as poodle skirts and sock hops. At Paradise, embracing work-from-home has let us bring onboard talented, visionary team members that provide superior service to our clients across the country. In short, this “new normal” has made our team more powerful, inclusive, flexible, efficient, forgiving, and happier along the way.