Recently I was telling someone about my job for the first time. We were talking about how we communicate and how there is almost always someone else online working no matter when you are. They said something along the lines of that it must be like talking to some random stranger.
While that’s true some of the time thankfully because Automattic hires great people there is never a worry involved if I have to message someone I’ve never spoken to before. I’ve yet to have someone be unapproachable or find it hard to talk with them. This isn’t something unique to a distributed work environment either. We have close to 1000 employees, even if we were all in the same office building I wouldn’t know everyone.
There are also many people at the company who I know well and have built good relationships with. These are typically the people I work directly with, and especially my team, or those who have been on my team at some point. With them especially it doesn’t feel much different than people I’ve worked with side by side.
Partially this is because we do get to spend time together in person each year, but also because we talk regularly in our day to day work. Each year we have a team specific meet up where we all travel to one location and work together for almost a week. Then each year there is also the company wide meetup where we have time to spend together as a team as well. The next one is coming up very soon and I can’t wait to see my team again.
While we don’t get to do things the same as people who work in a office together, it isn’t that different, we just have to find different ways to do it. We don’t eat cake together in the break room for everyones birthday, but we do regularly celebrate each others milestone moments in life.
Recently a team member became a Grand Parent for the first time and we got to be there with them and see pictures almost instantly. I’m about to become a Grand Parent for the first time myself and we’ll get to go down this path together and support each other. It took me a while to come to terms that I was really going to have a Grand child and she already helped me come around and see the blessing it will be.
As I’ve written about I’m working on getting back into shape and I share my milestones in that with my team as well. They cheer me on, motivate me, and even push me to keep going and do better. One team member when it had been a couple days since I’d ran went on a run themselves and shared it pushing me to go too. We’re doing it together even though we’re far apart.
Learning to play tennis and I’ve had team members who play giving me tips, and are challenging me to matches if we can make it work when we are together soon.
One of the hard times is when a team member is having a hard time. You badly want to be there for them, close to help, and it is harder being far apart. Thankfully it’s easier than ever to arrange deliveries or ship things to people. Even if it is just a distraction from what is going on in their lives.
Even being distributed I consider my team friends and I’m so glad to be able to work with them. Very much looking forward to getting some in person time again soon.