As we navigate the waters of the post-pandemic work landscape, it’s evident that remote work is no longer a mere trend, but a new norm that is here to stay. But how does that translate into different sectors, and what challenges do we encounter on this journey? To delve into these questions, I recently interviewed Roman Peskin, CEO of ELVTR, an ed-tech platform
The Remote Work Reality: Not One Size Fits All
Peskin said that he believes that almost anything can be done remotely, as long as you have the right tools and processes in place. “We have a team of over 100 people, and we’re spread out all over the world,” Peskin said. “We use a variety of tools to help us communicate and collaborate, and we’ve developed a number of processes to make sure that everyone is on the same page. As a result, we’ve been able to be just as productive, if not more productive, than we were when we were all working in the same office.”
But, he also gently pushed against the idea that everything can be done remotely. Sales, he argues, is a function that thrives on high energy, the exchange of ideas, and the buzz of a shared physical space. His sales team, like a group of athletes in a locker room, feeds off the energy and camaraderie of a shared environment. Yet, ELVTR has found a successful compromise, allowing sales staff to transition to remote work only after a period of in-office training and showing good numbers.
Indeed, my clients who I helped transition to hybrid work often find that sales teams in particular benefit from more in-office time. That in-person time proves beneficial for motivation and mutual learning, in a way that, say, developers and accountants don’t seem to need as much.
This nuanced approach is like cooking a gourmet meal—you need the right ingredients and the right environment. Sometimes, that means the sizzle and steam of a bustling kitchen. Other times, it’s the quiet solitude of a home kitchen.
Sourcing the Right Ingredients
But how do you ensure that the rest of the team, outside sales, functions effectively in a remote setting? Peskin’s answer is a delightful culinary analogy. Just like creating a delicious dish begins with choosing high-quality ingredients, building a successful remote team starts with picking the right people.
Once you have your ingredients, it’s about not screwing up. That means providing your team with the resources, onboarding, and training they need, then stepping back and letting them work. The goal is to achieve a harmonious work-life balance—a phrase that Peskin argues is misleading. If life starts after work, it implies that work isn’t a part of life, a notion he strongly opposes.
He believes that we live 24/7, and sometimes we work at odd hours, not because we’re being exploited, but simply because we feel inspired and energetic. His company follows a flexible schedule, asking people to overlap their work schedules for necessary meetings, but otherwise allowing them to work when and where they are most productive.
Avoiding Burnout in a Remote World
In the world of remote work, one of the biggest monsters lurking in the shadows is burnout. In the absence of clear boundaries, work can bleed into personal life, leading to exhaustion and a drop in productivity. To combat this, we need to establish explicit expectations about communication.
For instance, it’s perfectly fine to send emails outside of work hours, but no one should be expected to respond to them until the next work day. By clearly defining these expectations, companies can help reduce burnout and create a healthier work-life balance.
Navigating Time Zones and War Zones
In a remote world, time zones can be a tricky beast to navigate. Peskin’s solution? Treat offline messages as an inbox that can be addressed during work hours and use a different platform, such as Telegram, for urgent matters. But what happens when the challenges extend beyond time zones, into war zones?
When war broke out in Ukraine, ELVTR’s Kyiv-based team was forced to take Zoom calls from bomb shelters. Despite the alarming circumstances, the company continued to operate remotely, with team members spread across Western Ukraine and other European countries. ELVTR helped employees evacuate and set up temporary housing and workspaces in other parts of Ukraine and Europe. While difficult, this experience highlights how remote infrastructure can withstand even extreme circumstances. By staying dedicated to outcomes over location, ELVTR powered through a crisis that would have devastated an on-site operation.
The future of work is flexible, global, and virtual. Following the model of companies like ELVTR, embracing remote work and a results-focused management style can unlock greater productivity, work-life balance, and business continuity. When you hire the right people, give them autonomy and trust, establish clear norms, enable asynchronous work, and support them through disruptions, physical location becomes secondary to outcomes and impact. The office of the future is everywhere—and success will follow.
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Image credit: Ivan Samkov/Pexels
Originally published in Disaster Avoidance Experts on April 24, 2023