Working Remotely Isn’t Just About the Work

Being remote doesn’t mean being disconnected. At Automattic, we find different ways to socialize and connect.

With COVID-19, the business world has come to a fork in the road: Down one route, shuttered offices. Down the other, companies embracing remote work, showing us how businesses can survive — and thrive! — with a fully remote workforce. And that includes fostering strong team bonds and employee relationships; just because there’s no physical break room or water cooler doesn’t mean companies can’t create opportunities for colleagues to connect.

Not all businesses can operate with remote employees, and the world’s frontline workers don’t have the luxury of dialing in from home. But for those companies that can function without a central office, there are myriad benefits to a distributed workforce. Automattic has always been fully distributed, and we’ve learned a lot about how to build a productive and happy remote workforce over the past 15 years. (CEO Matt Mullenweg is sharing many of these lessons and chatting with other folks running distributed companies on Distributed.blog and on the Distributed podcast.) Lots of companies find themselves suddenly switching to a remote work environment, and there’s a learning curve.

One of the things that can be seen as challenging is social interaction on the job, which plays a vital role in productivity and mental health. When employees build friendships and strong interpersonal relationships, they enjoy their work more and do a better job overall. And if you’re reading this, thinking you don’t know anyone whose work improves when they have strong social bonds among colleagues, you do now — it’s me! As an extrovert, I get energized when I’m able to see people and faces, especially in person, but also online. I’m a conversational learner, too, so ideas stick better in my brain when I have the chance to discuss and brainstorm topics in real time with teammates.

These days, it seems teleconferencing software is as commonplace as coffee shops in Seattle. “Zoom” has become part of our vocabulary, helping us to remain close with family and friends (albeit not physically), and it’s become fodder for marketing and advertising campaigns.

It’s also our preferred conference tool at Automattic, and we use it for a wide range of work gatherings, like town halls and team meetings. But that’s not all we use it for. Knowing that social communication is vital to ensuring a strong culture of camaraderie, we use Zoom to hang out together: We host open mic nights, break out our pencil crayons and color collectively, or do some chair yoga with one another. We’ll also grab a beverage of choice — coffee, beer, Soylent, tea, a crisp rosé — and join a happy hour.

In addition to maximizing online communication tools, we strengthen our collegial relationships offline. For example, we take advantage of the fact that we are distributed all over the world and send postcards to one another.

Whatever we do, we do it because we know that social connection is important. That we’re not going to work in the same physical office just means that we have to be more intentional about making the time, and carving out the (virtual) space, to connect with coworkers. To help inspire other businesses with newly distributed workforces, we’ve put together a resource that lists the many ways we communicate socially at Automattic. You can find it on this page.


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37 Comments

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  1. Christophorouss Group

    There are benefits attached to Covid-19, one of them is that it is changing the corporate belief system. Thank you for your post. It’s amazing.

    Liked by 15 people

  2. Jordan Hoggard

    Excellent post! I am finding myself actually more effective working from home. Plus, it nuked the 1+ hour commute each way such that I stole that time back to exercise, meditate, and create more. Plus, in meetings, one has their whole workstation right in front of them. So, the notion of collaboratively working in meetings has been implemented in an enhanced and more robust way.

    Thanks for the post, Mindy. Much appreciated.

    Liked by 10 people

  3. teachezwell

    What fun! Love your hat event! And I also appreciate that you guys have embraced a new form of work (and play). Awesome!

    Liked by 10 people

  4. betteroffwithtrump

    I was just discussing the pros and cons of working remotely with my son who is doing it. Yes there’s less stress of commute traffic and more hours can be put on the job itself BUT, interaction with other employees in person is what makes it fun to go to work especially if you’re are single. I met all my boyfriends at work when I was young. Wouldn’t be able to remotely. I worked from home for six months once and it got boring as I met no new people. Was happy to be called back into an office. Which all of you will appreciate too once your offices open back up.

    Liked by 11 people

    • Mindy Postoff

      I worked from home for six months once and it got boring as I met no new people.

      That’s sad to hear, and is exactly why we’re so committed to creating opportunities for colleagues to connect over more than work. And we know a few children of Automattic couples who can vouch for peoples’ ability to create strong social bonds remotely!

      Liked by 7 people

  5. frostyjj

    Great post. Hopefully this will be the start of many opportunity’s to work remotely. Although I miss the conversation in the office, I certainly do not miss the 3 hour drive to work and back each day.

    Liked by 10 people

  6. Sigaw ng Kalikasan

    I’m introvert and I work from home now, but I miss going to our ofc… i missing the traffic.. the strangers faces when im walking.. I miss my boss.. my coworkers joke time haha.. 😄❤

    Liked by 9 people

  7. Sarah Matheson

    Thanks for the post Mindy!

    It’s my third month WFM and two items that have helped are plants and new light bulbs. Basically green and brightness.

    I’m considering buying a high-end office chair or standing desk too. Never heard of chair yoga, but it looks interesting lol

    Are there any products that helped you transition from office to home?

    Liked by 12 people

    • Mindy Postoff

      Plants are a great addition to my personal home office! I love my adjustable sit/stand desk, and have been considering a desk treadmill to help me get my daily steps.

      The best product in my office, though, is the room’s door. When my day is done, I leave the office and close the door. It’s a good, mental boundary that helps me separate work life from home life.

      Liked by 9 people

  8. Jean

    It’s odd, but there is something that seldom gets mentioned. Companies with remote workforces will need much less office space. Those savings will, in all probability, go straight to the bottom line. Also, it will be tempting to ease workers over to a contract basis, leaving still more for the bottom line.

    What will all that empty space get used for? Those quarter-filled skyscrapers? And what will happen to the construction industry, with all that loss of business?

    I fear there will be a redistribution of wealth…upwards

    Liked by 10 people

  9. tierneycreates

    Thanks I really enjoyed this post! I’ve been telecommuting for about 14 years now but it’s interesting to see how my colleagues have never telecommuted before have been adapting over the past couple of months.

    Liked by 9 people

  10. JavConn

    keep productive, stay healthy whatever the condition….

    Liked by 10 people

  11. iamdkwatson

    I worked for a company for a year and a half and in February I was laid off. Although circumstance arose I had enough of money saved up to pay for bills, subscriptions, etc. I recently scored a job and now am working from home. Of course its different because i’m accustom to (in person job atmosphere ) but i’m glad these tools are available in times like this.

    Liked by 9 people

  12. Clare

    Great post! Working from home can result in zoom fatigue and blur the lines between work and off work hours 😦

    However, l have taken some steps to set my boundaries in order not to feel overwhelmed, which I shared in my prev posts on How Not to Go Crazy Staying At Home & Home Workouts for Couch Potatoes 🥔
    As an educator, I also tried a Stress Free Method for Remote teaching & learning to help students to learn better but not overstretch myself at the same time 🙂
    Hang in there everybody! Working from Home might very likely be the New Normal

    Liked by 9 people

  13. Venkat Acharya

    Very interesting and informative. I enjoyed going through it and becoming aware of the wonderful opportunities provided to connect with people. I think that COVID-19 has made our lives very creative and technically advanced in all fields of life.

    Liked by 11 people

  14. flyingadobo

    Such a good read! Kudos to you all working from home! I wish I could do the same tho!

    Liked by 10 people

  15. Sheryl's Light

    This is so true. I have had previous experience working online. The place I worked was online with at least 10 other women. We interacted online and had to follow a schedule that took discipline between my co-workers living in 10 different States. We even all met up, customers and coworkers, in Las Vegas, Nevada for a fun-filled weekend. I did this for 10 years and loved it.

    Liked by 9 people

  16. unfuckwithable08

    Really loved it how to put forth, how the world is functioning inspite of fear and anxiety being everywhere.
    It the bonds and relationships which help.

    Liked by 8 people

  17. OatWolf

    I had been working remotely for years and I hope that this situation will help to open more remote jobs in the future, as some hesitant companies learn from current events that it’s doable. Of course it’s not for everyone but I think that the biggest issue is that outside of our work life, we have to avoid other people as well and preferably stay at home, so social life is suffering.

    Liked by 9 people

  18. pamjit

    No doubt hardships open new ways we have learned new system to do office work with n covid – 19 but interaction with students or colleagues make us happy n alive.These gadgets make our work easy but couldn’t replace with human beings.

    Liked by 8 people

  19. Paulan Goats Vlog

    Covid-19 has a very big impact to me ,proof is I started my blog when lockdown started . I love working at home it is more comfortable than outside.

    Liked by 11 people

  20. Zee Grace Tee

    I would love to be able to work from home.. good read👍🏽

    Liked by 9 people

  21. apiecepofmrsp

    I also just started my blog due to no work, no pay! I was looking for a job for me to earn while in quarantine and i found a lot of sideline jobs so i decided to create an article about them haha

    Liked by 7 people

  22. unfuckwithable08

    Loved your content.
    Working remotely is totally based on relationships.
    A business cannot stand without trust.
    Keep writing and inspiring us.

    Liked by 9 people

  23. craftyqueenphotography

    Thank you for sharing your experience during this period. It is about building relationships with coworkers and friends. Keep doing what you doing!!!!!

    Liked by 6 people

  24. Krystal

    Working remotely has been a interesting endeavor for myself. My company mostly has worked out the kinks, but I agree. I think this pandemic has shown we can still thrive from a home environment. I have built great rapport with teammates during our work from home period. Thank you for a delightful read.

    Liked by 7 people

  25. Kumar Chatterjee

    It’s been a wonderful read… It triggered a thought… Perhaps Zoom will soon become a verb the way we Google now… I loved the way you dug out pragmatism in this age of engulfing uncertainties… Like it a lot…

    Liked by 7 people

  26. ediyeruth

    Wow that’s a great write up, it’s really fun working from home, and it’s also interactive too, especially now that I’m into longrich business, it’s works very well online while staying at home

    Liked by 8 people

  27. macfanplx

    For me, as Ive been working from home ever since, its nothing new.

    Liked by 5 people

  28. victoriarose002

    Zoom and similar apps are certainly better than nothing, and I expect we will make more us of them after this is over, both at work and socially. However I feel it is never quite the same as seeing people in real life, and people will always prefer that.

    Liked by 6 people

  29. Whistlefree.blog

    I just bought a Chromebook and love it! I do all of my book writings on it. Good read! I work from home 😉

    Liked by 8 people

  30. ibraheemj1223gmailcom

    Oboy I love this kind of work but for me I think is difficult to access.

    Liked by 7 people

  31. bforeUshop

    Nice article and good read!!! I am really enjoying working from home. I totally agree that building relationships with coworkers is very important. Keep writing and Thank you for the nice post 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

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