Why Technically Media has become completely distant

Written by Technically Media CEO Chris wink, Technical.ly’s Culture builder the newsletter contains tips on growing powerful teams and vibrant workplaces. Below is the latest edition that we published. Sign up to get the next one.

In 2012, after a series of telephone interviews, I met Technical.ly’s first remote employee in the pretty garden of a cafe in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood. The other three of us who made up our new local information technology organization used a small two-room office in downtown Philadelphia.

Our vision then, as it remains today, to grow and serve a community of technologists and entrepreneurs with journalism about how local economies are changing to help advance their careers and businesses.

Over the next 10 years, Technically Media mixed two strategies for the location: we used coworking spaces to house the teammates we employed in each community we reported on (because we required that we have reporters in each community), and we have also maintained a central office for other staff. After several small offices, in the fall of 2015, we moved to the top floor of a historic publishing house.

We maintained a hybrid team because we wanted to both honor each community we serve and invest in a single corporate culture. We did our best and I think we did an admirable job. A decade later, however, we gave up our physical office and became a fully distributed company. We’ve made a choice, and your business needs it too.

Let me tell you why this is the right decision for us now – and why I still believe physical offices will remain important to others.
As this pandemic turns into a painful seasonal nuisance, remote working will have increased considerably, but it will not yet be the most of what American professionals are doing.

In 2019, 5% of American workdays were done at home. After the pandemic, this number is expected quadruple to 20%. That’s a remarkable increase in such a short time, but it will still be a far cry from the nearly two-thirds of Americans who were working full-time from home at the peak of remote working in the pandemic.

The office draw is well documented. Although a massive change in remote working has increase productivity, it devastated our sense of belonging. Humans are simply better at connecting with each other in person. One CIO told me she bet the majority of large companies will always find profitable physical offices – and most Americans work in large companies.

The flexibility of asynchronous work for our working parents, digital nomads, and focused introverts was too alluring. Our team wanted space to work.

The current wisdom is that desktop usage will just change. To call on-site new off-site. Earlier this year, we planned to do the same – add a check-in booth, get a better coffee machine, rearrange furniture for a more collaborative space – and these changes just might make the most sense for your team. , or even ours one day.

Not now. In a survey of our team earlier this year, two-thirds said they would prefer to be in the office one day a week or less. In 2019, a quarter of our employees worked remotely, in different cities; they just couldn’t have the same experience as those teammates who came to our headquarters. As a small team of 20, that kind of difference didn’t make sense. The pandemic has made this obvious point even more evident. Like all of us, we experimented with new ideas for successful remote working – and remembered repeatedly that we were already a widely distributed team.

We made our monthly call to all long-standing teams more interactive and we added a stand-up to all teams on Monday morning. We provide a monthly IT budget to cover home office expenses and we design internal inter-departmental hackathons. Now each of our teammates will get the same experience, and we can focus on improving that.

In this survey of our staff earlier this year, there was the option to list as a preference never to come to the office. Not a single teammate chose this. In a follow-up section, the prevalent comments were that instead of a daily commute to the office, we should run quarterly activities for the whole team and other occasional in-person coworking days. Otherwise, the flexibility of asynchronous work for our working parents, digital nomads, and focused introverts was too alluring. Our team wanted space to work.

Becoming an exclusively remote business is also important to the way we serve our readers. We develop and serve a community of professionals as we bring together technological ecosystems of the country and increasingly of the world. Orientation around a single physical seat does not correspond to this job. In contrast, many of the clients we serve, many of whom proudly and rightly boast of their hometown credentials, feel stronger because of the time together that an office can facilitate.

In 2012, I still remember our first remote worker asking how often we brought him “to the mothership”. No matter how much we tried to mirror wherever we posted, having a HQ pointed us there. Technical.ly must focus on the people we serve, wherever they are. It allows us to do better.

Whether you choose a constellation of smaller offices or a larger head office or whether you are relocating entirely, there is no one right solution. The wreckage of this pandemic will give us more flexibility. If we take it.

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