I have worked in many different environments throughout my career. I have worked in the same building as my teammates and even for a company that had us all in the same room. I have also worked in hybrid environments with a mix of in office and remote employees. In the hybrid case, I was always onsite. I had never been on the other side, where I was remote and there were other people physically together. And in my five years working for Aha!, I have always been grateful to work for a fully remote company.
I knew I did not want to work in an office anymore and only truly discovered while working at Aha! how great a remote team can be.
Frequent communication and collaboration are invaluable to every group at a company. As an engineering team lead, I know this doesn't come as naturally to some as it does to others. Engineering team members can be especially susceptible to losing contact with the rest of the team and company when they are in a hybrid situation.
When some people are in person and others are remote it is harder for everyone to succeed equally. Some teams may see the creative work, decision-making, and architecture being discussed without the remote engineer that will do the actual work. Those decisions are encoded in the form of features, tickets, or tasks that flow down to the engineer. If there is any confusion in the work assignments, it may be perceived as a communication error on the part of the remote engineer.
When everyone is remote, there are no communication barriers. We are all accustomed to jumping on a video call or sending a quick instant message.
Twice a year, our entire company gets together in person for a week at a destination travel location that we call our company onsite. Everyone has an amazing time discussing the product roadmap, meeting with teammates, volunteering through our Aha! Cares program, and enjoying great meals together.
In June 2022, Aha! was able to host an in-person onsite for the first time in over two years. Due to everyone's different circumstances, not everyone was able to attend, including me. We have a truly exceptional team that coordinates these events to include everyone as much as possible — whether onsite or offsite. But I was worried what that might look like.
So what was it like? At Aha!, we go above and beyond with everything we do and this event was no exception. Everyone tried their hardest to make sure we felt included. We even had our own events that were just as memorable as those at the previous offsite.
But hybrid work events are just not the same. Sometimes it was hard to hear side conversations and the random comments thrown out in the audience that caused a ripple of laughter.
The positive takeaway from the experience was that it crystallized in my mind the idea that I never want to work for a hybrid company. I don't think hybrid environments can ever work without leaving some team members feeling left out.
This onsite (when I was offsite) had me feeling left out in a way that I didn't when we were all in person or all remote.
Some aspects of hybrid environments may improve over time. Technology, tools, and processes can always get better. As hybrid environments become more common, people may also become increasingly familiar and comfortable working with remote and colocated team members at the same time. Even with all those improvements, there is no way to include a remote employee in the random dinner a team might share together.
I am lucky that Aha! will always make a great effort to include each and every team member. And I now know for certain that hybrid will never be as good as fully remote or fully in-person. My teammates at Aha! are all so passionate and motivated to bring their best to work every day — 100% remote is what works for us. I am more excited than ever to work for a fully remote company and I am especially excited for our next company onsite.
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