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Joining a Global Remote Team: Expectations vs. Reality

5 min read

As an HR professional, I pride myself on being an outgoing person—a quality I fall back on when I start a new job as my launch pad for success. I make myself very seen by walking the floor, making eye contact, and getting to know the people I am there to serve.

But Float is a different setting than I’m used to. As a global, fully remote, async-first team, the way we communicate and collaborate has several nuances to which I needed to adapt my approach.

The difference isn’t just diversity, it’s distribution

Looking back over the years, I have been really fortunate to have worked with people from all over the world. I really cut my teeth as an HR professional working for a chain of Southeast Asian noodle bars on the west coast of Canada, learning the importance of inclusive communication practices combined with people-centric policies. This serves as the foundation of my philosophy for people operations and an amazing employee experience.

Comparing my role at Float with the noodle bar, though, the obvious difference is not in the diversity of the people. For many of our teammates, Float is the most diverse company they’ve worked in, exactly because it's globally dispersed and has a hire from anywhere policy.

However, the many communication nuances typically picked up in a collocated work environment instead happen in a tech-mediated environment that often isn’t real time. And that is something that had me worried from the start.

The challenges I expected to face

Leading up to my start date at Float, I was unsure what to expect. Based on what I knew about the mode of working, I was constantly asking myself these questions:

  • How would I convey my sincerity and make a genuine connection when tough situations or personnel issues cropped up?
  • How does the team at Float connect culturally to the organization and one another in a digital environment, and how does that impact the relational capital at Float?
  • Would I feel lonely or isolated?
  • Would others feel lonely or isolated? And how does the company work to address the social needs of its team?
  • What are the optics like for career development and growth? How does the team at Float (myself included) see what career paths look like without being able to actually see others do their work?

I am a hands-on person and love learning about the many aspects of the business I work for—a true generalist at heart. So to help prepare me for my new role and to quell some of my anxieties about working fully remotely, I spent a good amount of time pouring over Float’s content. I wanted to be sure I could use my experience to succeed in this role, regardless of the environment.

The reality eased my fears

Fast forward ten weeks, and I can tell you that all of my worries were unnecessary. Because of the team’s goals, my previous experience continues to serve me in the work I do at Float. The core goal for us on the Talent, People and Operations team is to ensure that the formula we use works: Amazing Employee Experience = Strong Communication + Policies and Practices.

I like to think of this formula as the cultural backbone of a company and was very happy to see it coming to life in the policies at Float. I believe that policy creation is one of the most important functions of a people ops team, and communicating a policy to the team once its set is equally essential.

Of course, in a globally dispersed company like Float, there are far more cultural considerations while designing policies that prioritize employee well-being and measure it against the viability of the business. It’s done by asking what do our employees need and how can we address those needs?

A great example of this at Float is the implementation of No FOMO week, which is designed to allow the entire team to take a (much earned) break in the last week of the year. The policy was intentionally designed and communicated so as not to skew towards western holidays, e.g. Christmas, which may not be relevant to everyone on our team.

The onboarding process made all the difference

The onboarding process was crucial in helping me adapt to a new collaboration paradigm. The talent team uses Notion to design a welcome page for new hires with an embedded to-do checklist and links to the company literature to keep you on track and immersed in the culture. Another key factor that I absolutely loved is the agreed upon way to communicate that is shared right away in your onboarding session with the operations team (more on that below).

The digital work environment at Float is supported by a suite of carefully curated tools that ease into your role and subtly guide you on how the async model works. To me, this process made me feel respected, seen, and like I belonged from day one.

It's okay to take a day to get to those Slack notifications

To complement the formalized communication practices, my manager let me know that it’s okay to take some time before responding to a message. In a remote async environment, it's completely normal to take a day to get to Slack notifications.

For someone that was used to the hustle and bustle of a busy office environment, this felt awkward at first. When I shared this concern, I was gently reassured that what I was feeling was normal and a part of adapting to async work. The focus at Float is on being clear, concise, and respectful of each other’s time. We do this by favoring brevity over multiple immediate messages across a day.

The nature of working asynchronously means that my manager and I sometimes only have an hour or two when we are online at the same time. It doesn't mean we don't communicate; we just pay extra attention to how we communicate to make the best use of each other’s time.

Relying on feedback to improve

To structure the feedback part of the onboarding process, Float uses 15Five for weekly check-ins. The check-in is a simple diary between you and your manager that prompts you to share what went well and what didn't over the last week.

This really helped me be introspective about the learning process and get real with my feelings. It also allowed me to track my progress and look back over my first weeks at Float, which (like any new job) can be a bit of a whirlwind. The process allowed me to track and celebrate my progress.

Working together while being apart

After onboarding, I now have a few successful projects under my belt and a fantastic working relationship with my manager. She is located in Australia, which is on the other side of the world from Canada, but I feel like the distance is actually beneficial for us. While I am working on writing a policy or troubleshooting an issue during my day, she is resting and recharging. When she wakes up, I pass the baton. From an efficiency standpoint, it’s really amazing. I’m sure there are other beneficial nuances to our remote work relationship that I can't quite wrap my head around just yet.

From where I am now, it's hard to imagine why I ever felt nervous or unsure about how I would be able to contribute at Float. I can see now that no matter where you are located or your work scenario, collocated, hybrid, or fully remote people need the same support to live their best work lives. They need defined and inclusive communication practices, thoughtfully built people-centric policies, and above all, to feel they are seen and valued for who they are. Float provides all of that and more.

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