Reimagining Remote Work: My Journey from Digital Connection to Real Connection

· 3 min read
Reimagining Remote Work: My Journey from Digital Connection to Real Connection

I’ve been working remotely for more than twenty years. Not only that, but I was running remote businesses for the same amount of time. Yeah, I started early. I was working with customers across the globe, I was working with teams scattered among different cities, time zones, and countries, and it was working great. For a long time, I was under the impression that meeting in person wasn’t necessary. Maybe because I never had to transition from working with people face to face to just written communication and online meetings where the best you can get is speaking to a talking head. It was a default, and it was more than enough for me.

A Change in Perspective

Last year everything changed. I moved to a city in Serbia where one of my colleagues lived. It was weird sitting next to the person discussing our normal day-to-day work while each one of us was looking at the computer, making notes and sending links to each other. But the experience was amazing and we liked it. It was the first time in almost six years of us working together where instead of having a meeting online, where each one of us was in the comfort of our home, sometimes just out of bed or having lunch, to an in-person meeting where we had to go to a coworking space where we rented a meeting room and be physically present.

Expansion and Adaptation

While I continued my journey and moved to Portugal to set up a new branch of our company, more people from our team moved to Serbia. It’s a great country in the Balkans, and the combination of cost and quality of living is amazing there. It’s also an emerging tech hub and the country invests heavily into attracting remote workers and tech professionals from all over the world.

New Approach to Team Collaboration

This year we’re taking it further. While all continue to work remotely, enjoying the benefits and fighting the challenges of a home office, we now have the option to meet in person regularly. People who are in the same city have the luxury of meeting in person every Friday in an informal setting. The meeting is optional; there’s no pressure to attend.

Benefits of In-Person Meetings

I already see the excitement of the team about this. It’s almost like going for a summer camp with your friends — you get the benefit of traveling to another location you’re unfamiliar with, but also feeling at home there. But even if we leave the emotional side of this kind of get-together aside, they have a tremendous benefit on how teams work. People have fewer conflicts with those whom they are familiar and have an emotional connection with. Productivity of the team improves, morale improves, and as a result, the organization becomes stronger.

Thoughts on the Necessity of Physical Presence

Does this mean that I think working together in the same room or building is better? No, I don’t. I’ve read countless articles about how companies are laying off remote workers because they’re not effective, or forcing employees to get back to the office. I think this happens because a lot of managers allowed their teams to work from home because they had no choice because of COVID and now they’re simply trying to get back to the normal state they’re comfortable with. In my opinion, and me and my team is the living evidence of it, remote work is great, both for the company and for the team, no matter how big it is.

Specific Considerations in the Tech Industry

If we talk specifically about the tech industry, I think it’s an extremely creative and very hard job to do. I’m not an expert, but I don’t know any other industry where people need to constantly build new things that no one did before, in a specific time frame. Yet, that’s what people in tech do every day. Maybe this changes with AI, but I doubt it, as it’s just a tool that should be used by professionals. I get that there are industries and organizations where people have to be physically in one place — it’s us, the lucky ones who work in tech and a few other industries who get to enjoy the benefits of remote work.

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