How to Run a Remote Company, With Chris Dyer

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How do you run a remote company that functions way better than a traditional office does? Chris Dyer shows us how, with solid strategies for remote team productivity and a remote company culture that caters to all personality types and work styles. 

Also, if you want to dominate in the remote leadership field, you’ll find a very special secret discount at the end of this article! 

Other Remote Interviews to Check Out:
Running the World’s Only PR Company from a Yacht, with Erin Carey 
Being a Remote Employee vs Remote Entrepreneur, with Victoria Puzach
How to Find Remote Jobs with Jordan Carroll, The Remote Job Coach
Running a Remote Real Estate Business with Matt Bowles, Maverick Investor Group 

Chris Dyer shows us how to run a remote company with these top hacks for remote company culture and remote team productivity! #remoteteam #remotecompany #ChrisDyer #remotecompanyculture #remotebusiness

Introducing Chris Dyer, Remote Team Productivity Maven and Pioneer

Chris Dyer is the founder and CEO of PeopleG2, where he manages 30 full-time remote employees and 3,000 contractors. PeopleG2 is routinely ranked one of the best remote companies to work for and has been listed as one of Inc.’s 5000 Fastest Growing Companies. 

He made the transition to remote work during the recession in 2009 with stunning success, and Dyer is now a world-renowned expert on remote leadership and productive remote company culture. His commentary is featured regularly in leading media outlets such as Fast Company, Forbes, Inc., BBC, NBC and The Telegraph. Dyer is the author of Remote Work: Redesign Processes, Practices and Strategies to Engage a Remote Workforce and The Power of Company Culture: How any business can build a culture that improves productivity, performance and profits

In this interview we talk about:

  • How and why Chris took his company remote in 2009 (spoiler alert: it wasn’t because he had a crystal ball)
  • Remote team communication styles, tools, and tips
  • It is better to be an introvert or an extrovert in a remote work environment? 
  • How remote company culture is better than a traditional office
  • The 4 different meeting types and how the intentionality behind them increases remote company productivity and culture dramatically 
  • What “feed-forward” is in relation to feedback
  • The opportunities remote work presents to people who might otherwise be impossible to hire

Check out our chat here! You won’t want to miss it. I was fascinated in particular by his 4 different meeting types. So unique and helpful to remote teams! 

Interview Transcript: Remote Team Productivity and Remote Company Culture Hacks

If you’d rather read than watch, then please enjoy this transcript of our chat. 

How and Why Chris Dyer Went Remote in 2009

Nora: I definitely want to start at the beginning and the beginning is 2009, when you took your company remote in the recession. This makes you a thought leader because remote work was not even a thing back in 2009. You, like me around the same time, probably found yourself stumbling up the learning curve. I’m curious, what was your inspiration and what did you learn from this experience?

Chris: Well, this is when I admit something that I don’t like admitting, which is I didn’t do it because I had a crystal ball, and I didn’t do it because I thought it was the future of work, and I didn’t do it because I thought it would be better for our employees. The only reason we went remote was to save money. That was our starting point because it was a recession. I thought, I need to keep my people. How can I keep my people? The only way I could come up with was to get rid of rent, and to get rid of the telephone costs, and to get rid of all these things that we couldn’t afford to pay for. 

We could either pay for rent or we could pay our employees. We had that choice. I thought, “Well, I can get rid of rent pretty easily.” I’m very fortunate that our lease agreement was coming up in a month. I said, “Let’s just not renew. Send everybody home. We’ll survive, and then when we’re ready, we’ll come back and we’ll get a new building.” 

It wasn’t until we went remote, and about two weeks into it, that everyone went, “This is awesome. We love it. What the heck were we thinking?” Then we began to think about this some more inspirationally and figure out, “How can we keep this?” And, “Wow, this is so much a better way to work.” 

Practically speaking, I did it to save money. I did it to save my people. That’s a story I do like to share with CEOs who are thinking about right now, “Do I go remote? Do I go hybrid?” I can usually give them a pretty good argument how it’s going to help their productivity, their performance, and their profitability. That gets them excited. Then, it’s great for their people, too. But that’s what the “C level” people are thinking about first.

Nora: I anticipated the pandemic would change the face of office space because once all these companies figured out, out of necessity, they had to go remote. They, like you in 2009, were looking at their bills of their office lease and the amount of space they had, and realizing, “This might not be entirely necessary.” This could be a new way for companies to completely restructure and save a lot of money, in that way. That’s an opportunity, a silver lining, we can attribute to the pandemic. 

Remote Team Communication Styles, Tools, and Tips

Nora: You did a TED Talk called “Why Failure Doesn’t Suck.” Which is great, in that you talk about how one of the very necessary things for remote teams is open communication. That’s not the easiest thing to create an environment where employees can communicate very openly in a remote work way. How do you facilitate the kind of open communication that’s necessary to keep the team moving forward in a remote way?

Chris: I learned the lesson over the years that if I was loosey-goosey, cool guy, “Hey, whatever works for you guys is fine”, that we were going to fail because what employees want is rules. This drives me nuts because I wish they didn’t, but what anybody wants is structure and rules and how do I play the game of work here? We had to come up with very specific things that we reinforce and that we expect from our people, that then facilitate high amounts of communication.

I’ll give you some examples. One, all internal communication must be in Slack. We do not allow email, just internally. All the email addresses are just for people in the company. No, it’s in Slack. We don’t text unless it’s an emergency. That way we keep people from feeling like we’re going to come after them and bug them.

I don’t know if you’ve heard, just recently Portugal passed a law that your boss can’t text you after work. We had already put that in place. Unless it’s an emergency, you shouldn’t be texting your coworkers. It needs to happen in Slack. So they have the ability to track it, to see it, to remember it. If it’s in a room, it’s now transparent to the whole team about what’s happening.

And, if you want to be off you can just mark yourself inactive and you don’t have to be being pinged while you’re watching your kid’s soccer game, or you’re at a beautiful meal looking at the Eiffel tower, or whatever it is you’re doing, that you don’t have to be bothered for that bit of time. You can turn off and then turn back on.

That was really important for us to create those rooms, those spaces. Then we curated very, very specific meeting types that allowed us to do these different types of meetings to help our employees understand, “How long will I be on the call? What kind of meeting will this be? Am I coming to help? Am I coming to teach? Am I coming to debate? Am I coming to learn? Am I coming to shut up and find out what’s going on? What kind of meeting are we having?” 

Because what I’m finding where people are failing with remote work is they just keep inviting people to an hour long meeting. And it’s the same meeting, but it’s not the same meeting.

So leaders are really frustrated, “Well, why aren’t my people coming with better ideas? And why aren’t they telling me what’s going on?” Because you didn’t ask them to prepare for that. You just told them to show up to a meeting, and then you magically expected them to have all the answers and have thought through this problem. Well, did you tell them what the problem was? No. 

There’s very few people who can just BS out of their mouth– I’m one of them– about something just off the top of their head. Most people need time to think about, to research it, and to come up with a plan, and ideas, and then present something they feel confident about. You have to create those good spaces for people. 

Nora: To build on that. People tend to process information differently, right? Some people are audio, some people are visual, some people are kinesthetic, for that matter. The communication style, when it comes to remote work, becomes very important. Because some people will get the message stronger in one way versus another. How do you address the different communication styles that people have and marry them within a remote team? 

Chris: We try to ask them to try to pick the medium that works best for them when they can choose. We also try to make sure we communicate important things in multiple ways. If I want my team to know something very specific, it is very common for me to write it in Slack, and then maybe follow up with a video of me talking about it. So, I have a video and then I would explain it. If they just want to read it, they can read it. If they want to watch me, they can watch me.

We use this a lot for training videos. We found that people did want to connect, and they wanted to have that moment with a trainer about how to use this new software, but then they also wanted that recorded. Or they wanted someone to demo that system in a recording, like on Loom, or Vidyard, or one of those.

When we surveyed our staff and said, “Well, why was that important to you?” They said, they finally admitted, “Because I can watch that video over and over again until I understand. And I don’t have to feel stupid that I have to go back to the trainer five times because I didn’t get it, or I didn’t understand how to do it yet.”

People would just not tell us. They didn’t want to raise their hand and say, “I feel stupid. I don’t get it.” They would just pretend they got it and do a bad job. Until you got mad at them and then it happened again, or fire them, or whatever was the outcome. Instead, they could watch that video a thousand times if they needed to, until they got it. Until they understood how to do that thing you wanted them to do. We found that the written and the video really works for our team. 

Chris Dyer and the Eiffel Tower, expert on remote leadership

Introverts vs Extroverts in Remote Environments

Chris: You’ve mentioned the kinesthetic one. Maybe in other teams, you need to have them do other things. Maybe that’s important for that group of people. For my people, I don’t know why this is, we tend to have a lot of introverts in my organization that are really happy to just be left alone and read it or watch it on their own time. And then let me know if they have questions 

Nora: Certainly, I would think that remote work lends itself best to people who are introverted, for exactly those reasons. As you were talking, I was thinking, “What would be a kinesthetic application for someone who is really extroverted?” The only thing I can think of would be, and it’s not even entirely kinesthetic, would be the live calls.

Live trainings, or communicating with other people, will be the closest thing to what an extrovert would perhaps need. To have that live interaction. Versus an introvert who would prefer to just go back and watch and rewatch a video or read and reread some trainings in that way. 

Chris: Yeah. I will say extroverts do really well in remote environments as well. However, there’s a couple of things that are a little bit different for them. The first is we actively coach our extroverts that, “Hey, you’re going to have to have your social outlet. Some of the energy that you get from being social, you’re going to have to go and recreate it somewhere. 

You’re not going to get as much of it at work as you would if you’re working in the office. You need to go and join a club, or go to an extra networking event every week, or whatever it is you need to do. If you need a certain amount of hours of ‘I’m around people.’ Cool. You just gotta put it somewhere else. Because it’s not going to happen as much at work as you’re used to.” 

Number two, though. Extroverts tend to be far more productive in remote environments because, yes, they like people. And yes, they like to talk. But they like to talk too much. And they get stuck in too many conversations and their productivity goes down. 

I am a card carrying extrovert. And I’ll tell you, I love remote work because I can sit and work for four hours and no one bugs me and I can get my stuff done. I’m really happy because I feel like I was productive. Even though, then I need to go have two hours at a networking event to recharge. I can do that. 

I have a sales guy, and he was a good salesperson for us when we were all in one office. He is my best salesperson now because he’s at home. He would talk to a statue. This man talks nonstop. Removing him from being around so many people made him more productive. He recognized that. He understands that, “I’m now talking to clients. If I want human interaction, I gotta get people on the phone and talk to them.” Great. That’s great for selling.

How Remote Company Culture is Better

Chris: It’s just about knowing who your people are and then creating the right environments for them. I don’t know if you do the TikTok at all, but there’s been some really funny TikToks. People have, “Welcome to the team. Would you want to sit on the introverted side of the company, or the extroverted side?”

It’s really funny how they differentiate that. I realize we kind of already have that here, in the remote space, because of the way we created things. The introverts can kind of clump up to where they’re really happy, and the extroverts can clump up to where they’re happy. And there’s a good amount of crossover that they can still communicate and work together really well.

Nora: What I’m hearing here is, ultimately, the secret sauce is in intention. Really for extroverts, again, creating a space where they can intentionally be productive and will not be distracted in a way that they might be if they were in an office and someone came in, and now suddenly they’re talking and they’ve lost that productive time that they had scheduled for themselves.

That intentionality of creating productive spaces, as well as recognizing the different work styles and personalities of all your employees, and being able to provide advice and various environments and tools to allow them to be their ultimate selves, and as productive as they possibly can be. 

I will say the one thing that I miss the most from working in an office was, I might be on my way to the copy room and I walked by accounts payable. I have no business with accounts payable, but I stopped briefly. I have that conversation with Sylvia because she’s there. Over the days, weeks, months, and years, I get to know these people who I might not necessarily have any other reason to be in touch with, except that we are in the same office environment together.

I guess it’s the proverbial water cooler. You’re at the water cooler chatting with different employees in the office. And although that might not quite be considered billable work from an employer perspective, in my opinion, it really increased the cohesiveness of the team, and the company as a whole, and created that company culture that really helps the company as a whole, and the team as a whole, move forward. 

That water cooler culture is difficult to replicate remotely. How do you create that cohesiveness with a team? 

Chris: I actually think that what you’re describing is good, but there’s actually a better version of that. We do two things that’s important. 

The first is, we have a water cooler room in Slack. We have a place where people can intentionally bump into each other. They share– I’ll give you an example. The day after Halloween, we had everyone sharing pictures of themselves, or their kids, in their costumes, and what they did for Halloween.

There was this opportunity for everyone, not just you and Sylvia, to have an interaction. Now everyone can see those interactions. We actually magnified that. Instead of it just being, “What happened to you and Sylvia”, it’s now, “What happens to you and Sylvia and everyone else in the company.” Inside of this room, we all get to share, we all get to see it. We kind of magnify that outcome. 

The second part is, you’re sort of saying, “Well, I’m able to maybe have some strategic conversation, or maybe we may get to see what she’s working on. Maybe I would not have ever noticed that she’s working on this one project that I could help her with if I hadn’t walked by her office.” And things like that.

We do ask people to be self-selecting onto our groups and onto our teams, our temporary teams. We don’t, as senior leadership, say, “I think these five people should go and pick a new CRM for us.” We go to the entire company and say, “We are thinking about a new CRM. Who would like to be on that team?”

That allows people from all different parts of the organization to say, “That’s interesting to me. I have experience doing that.” We do end up with a team where there’s a salesperson, and an accounting person, a customer service person. We get people that end up being on a team that can cross-pollinate across the organization, and share about what they’re doing, what they’re working on, so that they get those opportunities in a much more directed way. Again, it’s not just two people, it’s now five people, or seven people, that are having that interaction. We’re sort of magnifying or multiplying that outcome.

Chris Dyer is a remote company pioneer 

Four Main Meeting Types and What They’re For

Chris: The last thing that we do is we have very specific meeting types. If I tell you all of our meeting types, we’ll be out of an hour here pretty quickly. 

The most common meeting we have at our company is called the cockroach meeting. 

A cockroach meeting. If you have a cockroach in your bathroom, it’s a small problem. You may not want to be the one who cleans it up, but it’s one problem. It’s one cockroach, one problem. Anyone in the company can call a cockroach meeting. They have the ability, anybody, day one, your first day at my company, you can call a cockroach meeting, and you can invite any five to six people you want. It can’t be more than seven people on the call. 

You can invite the CEO, you can invite the head of sales, you can invite someone in IT. You can invite anybody you think can help you with whatever it is. Your cockroach. What your one problem is. No one in the company has to come. It is totally optional for you to attend a cockroach meeting. We just ask that if you can’t come, you would decline, so we know you can’t be there. The meeting is 15 minutes or less. Always starts on time. We always try to end early, and it must only be about one agenda. 

The last time I surveyed my team a couple of months ago, we do an average of 35 cockroach meetings a day across the organization. They are constantly popping in for seven to eight minutes on average, saying, “Hey, the client called, this is the issue.” Instead of them doing what you were talking about, walking down the hall and having one-on-one conversations, and bumping along like a pinball trying to maybe figure out, “What am I supposed to do about John at XYZ Company, who has this thing for me?” 

Instead, we’re intentionally bringing those people together. Maybe someone in accounting. Someone in customer service. Maybe that salesperson who originally created the deal. Maybe my manager. Let’s get in. “They asked for this. How in the heck do we make that happen?” “Ah, we had this happen once before. You needed to do this, this, this.” 

Or, “We had this happen before. We cannot do that. We’ve been told. Chris has said, ‘Absolutely not. That’s illegal to do.’ We need to go back and communicate that.” In seven to eight minutes, they communicated across the organization. They got their problem solved, and they didn’t have to bump around and have one-on-ones all day long to try to maybe come up with something that maybe is, or is not, the right solution, or without anybody else kind of knowing what they’re thinking.

There is a better way to do it. It just takes a lot of, to your point, intentionality to create and design that how we want people to operate inside that remote space. 

Nora: That is fantastic. I’d never heard of a concept like that. I think that that is amazing. And how many meeting types did you say that you have, in entirety?

Chris: There’s cockroach meetings, ostrich meetings, tiger team meetings, and tsunami planning meetings. Those are our four most common. Then we have the stand-ups, and we have the things you would typically expect inside of a team environment. But those four are the ones that have the funny names, that have very special rules that people know what’s going to happen.

Cockroach meeting, you know you’re coming to help them solve a problem. 

Ostrich Meetings

Ostrich meeting. It’s all the same things, 15 minutes and all that. But you know you’re coming to help teach someone something. If you don’t know how to do an Excel formula, “Who in the company knows how to make a formula that does this thing in Excel?” “Ah, I do.” And two or three people. Or, “I don’t know how to do that, but I would love to learn that, too. I know that you’re going to have that meeting. I’m going to pop on because I want to learn to write.” People can educate themselves and learn as they’re going along. If they’re interested. Because there’s the visibility, we’re saying, “Who wants to help me learn this thing?” That creates a lot of intentionality. 

Tiger Team Meetings

The tiger team meeting. Imagine there’s a tiger in your bathroom. It’s a lot bigger problem than a cockroach, right? You would need a dart gun. Tranquilizers. You need Animal Control. Maybe you might need a crane to get it out, or maybe seven or eight really strong people to help you carry it out once it’s asleep.

It’ll take a lot of coordination, and effort, and people to get a tiger out of your bathroom. That’s the same. If we’re going to call a tiger team meeting, it could be an hour. It could be two hours. It could be all day. It could be on Zoom. We might even fly people in. It might be in person if it’s that big of a deal.

“We’re going to land the million dollar client. We’re going to lose the million dollar client. They’re about to change the law that will totally, radically change our business. What’s this big thing we have to deal with?” There’s going to be a big agenda, and you’re going to definitely have an idea of what you’re supposed to do, and show up prepared, and have researched things, and talked to other people.

You’re going to show up to this big meeting. Again, five to seven people. And you’re going to help us solve a gigantic problem. Think about the energy, and how you would approach a tiger team meeting, if you were asked to come to one– that typically is called by management, it wouldn’t be called by anybody– and how that changes your focus. It changes your energy. 

As opposed to, “Well, I’m just being asked to go in this little cockroach meeting. I’m just doing someone a tiny favour for seven to eight minutes. I can do that, and then get back to my work.” 

As opposed to, “Well, this is a big deal. I’m going to be on this meeting all day. I’m canceling all my calls. I cannot meet with anybody on Wednesday because Chris needs me to come and help with this gigantic problem.” 

Tsunami Planning Meetings

The tsunami planning meeting is a fake meeting. We do this once a month inside of every team that is an infinite team. Teams that exist forever. Sales team, marketing team, customer service team. Things like that. Not temporary teams.

We do it once a month. It’s 30 minutes. We give all of our teams a fake topic. What would happen if there was a giant pandemic? What would happen if Chris got hit by a bus and was in a coma for six months? What happens if Starbucks called us tomorrow and said, “We need to give you all our background checks starting next month.” What would we do? How would we handle these imaginary things? 

Now, why would I want to do that? First of all, it is amazing what ideas people come up with when it’s a fake idea that you can implement for free, anyways. Go back and ask your team what they would do with a million dollars. Ask them to brainstorm that. “If I said, ‘You have a million dollars. You could do anything you want with it.'”

Very rarely does anyone say, “Give everyone a piece of that money. We just will take the money and walk home.” They always say, “Oh, we could do this thing and we could create this. And we could…” And usually most of their ideas are free, or cost very little. Because you’re getting them to think about things in a different way.

What we find inside the tsunami planning meetings is this creates psychological safety and helps us curate the meetings. That it lasts all month. We get this energy. People practice this disagreeing and arguing about a fake topic, are less afraid to give their ideas, because it’s not a real thing anyways.

They recognize that, “My boss didn’t get mad at me for disagreeing. No one yelled at me when I disagreed with them.” Or, “No one told me I was stupid when I came up with this idea.” Their psychological safety has been created. So, all month, they’re now doing great meetings with their teams and with different people because they have this fresh practice and confidence.

If you did any sports as a kid, you spend 99% of the time practicing. Most of sports is practice, and a little bit is showing up and actually performing. Yet, at work, it is almost 100% performing and no practice. We said, “We need to have a way to practice good meetings.”

The last thing that we do inside the tsunami planning is, if we see there’s something going on the leader might recognize. “I’m noticing that Jane isn’t talking very much.” Or, “I noticed that John is interrupting all the time.” Or, “I’m noticing that Kevin, that guy needs to shut up. He is just talking and talking and talking.” You’re like, “Wow. Okay.” 

As a leader, you can say, “I need to go back and help those people. I need to give them what we’d like to call feed-forward.” Instead of feedback, get rid of feedback. It’s terrible. Give them feed-forward. “What I need from you in the next meeting is…” Giving them future forward-thinking direction.

“John, I noticed that in this last meeting, you were really excited. I really need you in the meetings coming up this month. Can you help me with listening twice as much as you talk? Can you make sure that you’re not interrupting your team members? Let them finish what they have to say. What you have to say is important, but you let other people finish.” “Oh yeah, I can do that.” 

You’re curating these meetings. You’re sort of helping them and coaching them. Instead of having an annual review going, “Well, John. In all of the meetings all year long, you pissed everybody off because you were always interrupting.” How good is that? That doesn’t help. We need to tell them right away what we need from them. That sets the stage for all of our other meetings being successful. 

Nora: I’m assuming that people can dive even deeper into all of these different meeting types and how to hold them in your book. Is that correct?

[Remote Work: Redesign Processes, Practices and Strategies to Engage a Remote Workforce]

[Chris’s new book: The Power of Company Culture: How any business can build a culture that improves productivity, performance and profits]

Chris: Absolutely. 

How to Ask Your Employer if You Can Work Abroad

Nora: There are a lot of viewers here, or listeners here, who work remotely. They have remote jobs. They want to take their jobs abroad. They want to travel long-term while working remotely, but they’re scared to ask their employer for permission to work abroad for fear that their employer is going to say, “No.” What would you say to someone who’s in that position? 

Chris: If you really think it’s going to be problematic, but you think you can do your job anyway, sometimes it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

That would be the first thing I would say. If you can do your job, and you’re willing to work the hours when you need to work the hours, and maybe you have to work at night while you’re in London so no one knows. It’s not really their business. There’s that one perspective, right?

Go do what you want to. As long as you’ve figured out the legal ramifications and all that with being paid. If that all makes sense. I’m not an expert on that part of it. But, I know lots of people that that’s just what they do. Just going and asking HR, “Is it okay if I go work in London.” This sort of conduct can cause a whole other problem.

Now, if you think that they would definitely be really mad at you, and fire you or whatever, if you didn’t communicate, then yeah. I think what you need to is– what I have seen work really well is to say, “Listen, I love my job. I don’t want to leave, but I really need to be in this other place for a period of time. Would you mind if we try this as an experiment? Would you mind if we gave this three months, or six months, to see how it goes. We reevaluate, and if it’s not working out, I’ll come back.”

To give the employer lots of options and lots of the ability to say, “I just want to try this out.” If it doesn’t work out, well, then you can figure something else out. Typically, it does work out. They don’t notice any– all their fears didn’t come true. They’re just fine. 

It does help if they’re a bigger company that maybe already has a footprint in the country or the place that you want to go. So they already have the legal sort of setup. If you’re talking about working for a small organization that only has an office in California. I’ve had people that did want to work abroad and it was a temporary thing. It was totally cool by me. Have at it. 

But if they were going to permanently reside there, we had issues. We didn’t know how to handle some of the legal and compliance stuff. We had to think about how to recreate that relationship with that person. Do they need to continue to be employed? Could they become a contractor? Could they work under someone else’s– It was lots of really creative ways that we could help them handle that based on where they were going, but we just didn’t have any legal way to pay them if they were in England. You have to just sort of work through those complexities. 

The larger the company, the more likely they are to have some of those resources and abilities to do that. They’re probably also the more likely to say, “No” too. 

I say it’s good to have a two-pronged plan, meaning you should be looking for someone who you can work for in that place that you want to be. While at the same time, negotiating that with your current company. So you kind of have a little bit of leverage and you have a backup plan. That company says, “No”, you can still go and work for that other one. If they say, “No, you have to stay here.” “Oh, okay. I already have it in their job.” 

In this market right now, a lot of companies are jumping through hoops to help people stay. All you need is a relocation. It should be pretty good. Especially if you’ve already proved yourself to be a good remote employee, you’re kind of already halfway there. It’s probably figuring out most of the legal compliance stuff is the biggest issue. 

Nora: That’s certainly my understanding that the biggest obstacle from an employer’s perspective is, if you have more than a certain number of employees working at a certain geographic location, then that creates a whole new set of tax liabilities for the company.

Like you say, this is their murky waters, legally, to navigate as an employer. Especially if you’re a smaller company trying to figure out what’s allowed. And who’s where? And what? And why are they living there? Are they just visiting? What’s different? How long can you visit before you’re considered a resident? All of that sort of stuff can be very complicated, which I’m assuming would be one of the reasons why an employer would just go, “No.” 

Chris Dyer teaches us how to run remote teams effectively even while traveling 

How to Manage Remote Teams Spread Across the World 

Nora: I’m also wondering, from an employer perspective, do you notice any differences between managing a remote team that is all in the same city, versus across the state, versus across the country, versus across multiple countries and time zones? Are there differences for you as an employer, as a remote team manager, and how you manage those differences? 

Chris: The differences that are universal, are how you work asynchronously? That is an issue. You have to figure that out and be very intentional about, can this person work async? Do they have to work at the same time that everyone else was working at headquarters, or whatever your standard time zone is?

It’s pretty hard, more than five time zones tends to get a little bit sticky. You go six time zones and it starts to become like, people are on the same team. It’s really difficult to manage sometimes. If they need to be collaborative. Now, if they’re doing work that’s independent and they’re just kind of communicating with each other.

I have a research team. They could do their research anytime of the day, anywhere in the world. It doesn’t matter. As long as they’re just keeping up with each other about what they’ve done and what they haven’t done inside our Slack room, they’re fine. 

Customer service, that would be a whole ‘nother ball of wax. Because they would have to work when my clients would typically be calling in. They’re okay with that. Sure. I’m okay with that. If they’re not, and they’re going to try to answer tickets at three o’clock in the morning. Well, that’s not really gonna work. 

It does depend on the job and what’s happening. That is assuming that you’re talking about hiring people who are generally– let’s just say you had a company that you started in Toronto, you guys went remote, and then some of those people from Toronto decided they were going to go live in different parts of the world.

Well, those people are from the same place, speak the same language, have a lot of the same cultural values. That’s very different than a company in Toronto, and now we’re going to go hire people in London, and we’re going to hire people in the Philippines. We’re going to go hire people in Australia. You’ve added in the complexity of totally different values, cultural norms, language. That changes the game too. 

We have to think about what you’re really talking about here. The easiest to me is, “Hey. I’m John.” Who I know because he lives two blocks away. Even though he works remotely has decided he wants to go live in Tanzania for two years. Cool. Go make it happen. We’ll work with you. That’s totally different than me hiring someone in Tanzania and having to figure that out. You have to decide what it is you’re going to do.

Nora: You’ve definitely laid some amazing foundations here for remote work, from an employee and employer perspective. Forms of communication. Ways people can replicate the water cooler in even better ways than what exists in a traditional office environment. What it is to manage and work across time zones, countries and cultures. 

The Remote Work Future is Now

Nora: Do you have, no pressure, any final piece of advice that you would like to impart to people who are remote workers and/or remote employers?

Chris: I would say that remote work is a part of our future. One of the silver linings of COVID was that it probably fast-forwarded us by 25 to 30 years of acceptance. I think it was going to take a really long time to get a generational shift. It was going to take a whole bunch of people retiring and leaving the workforce for remote work to finally have a real stake. Now that we’ve done it, and almost everyone went and practiced it, and realized it was great, or they could handle it, or they could manage it, or it wasn’t that much different.

We fast forwarded really rapidly. Think about how your organization, or how you as a person, can continue to leverage this in a way that is beneficial for the organization and the employee. To have better outcomes going forward. Because for us, it allowed us to grow faster. It allowed us to hire people in places we never could have hired.

It allowed us to afford people we could have never afforded because honestly, a CMO in Kansas does not cost what a CMO costs in Los Angeles. There’s different costs of living. There’s different expectations. A different competitive market. So we could hire different people. It also allowed us to hire people that maybe we would have never hired before.

I mean that in lots of different ways. It helped us be a far more diverse company by expanding who and where we hired from. It allowed us to hire different groups of people that we would have never thought about hiring, that turned out to be fantastic. One example is, we discovered that spouses of enlisted military folks had a very difficult time being employed, or staying employed. If their spouse got redeployed to some other base, or some other country, they would lose their job. Typically, people knew not to hire the spouse of a military person because they knew they’d probably lose them in three months. They do all this training and they would lose them in three months.

We didn’t have that problem. You’re like, “Go. Go wherever you need to go. You can live on a base.” That’s different. Legality wise, that’s different. You’re living on a base. That’s America. That’s considered a part of it. We didn’t have to worry about wherever they were. Go wherever you want to go. As long as it made sense with the time zones for your job. We could hire a lot of incredible people, absolutely brilliant people, just smarter than anyone you’ve ever met. That couldn’t get a job just because of their situation. 

We’ve been able to hire very neuro-diverse people who cannot handle being in an office for long periods of time because of their anxiety. Because of maybe they’re on the autism spectrum. Whatever that may be like. They could not function long-term in a traditional setting. Yet with us, they flourish. They do great because they don’t have to deal with some of the things that are a challenge for them. 

We’ve been able to use this as our superpower. I’m happy to see other companies will be able to use it as their superpower. I’m a little bit worried we’ll lose some of our– it’s nice to have this untapped superpower that no one knows about. Now everyone kind of knows about it. But I think it’s good for society. It’s good for the world. It’s good for people in general, so I’m happy to share it. There’s so much that remote work can give to everyone involved for a lot of jobs. Not all jobs, but a lot of jobs. That can really help us, from a global society standpoint, be better. 

Final Words 

Nora: You are a pioneer in this industry. You are a thought leader in this industry. You are helping people adopt remote work in productive ways around the globe. Thank you for that. Where can people find you?

Chris: They can find me Chris You’re welcome to connect with me on LinkedIn. If you want to find me there. On all the other social platforms, if you prefer one of those. LinkedIn is probably the area where I do the most talking. On my website, there’s lots of great resources. 

Nora: Awesome. Well, thank you so much. I’ll definitely include the links to your website, your social, and of course your book in the show notes or description. So please, everybody have a look for that.

[Remote Work: Redesign Processes, Practices and Strategies to Engage a Remote Workforce]

[Chris’s new book: The Power of Company Culture: How any business can build a culture that improves productivity, performance and profits]

Thank you so much, Chris, for joining me today. My name is Nora Dunn. I’m otherwise known as The Professional Hobo, and I will catch you next time.

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