Portland Marketing Analytics is headquartered in Portland, Maine. If you haven’t been, please visit. It’s a city that has collected more than its share of superlatives for its size, from “foodiest” and “most livable”, to “greenest” and “most lobstah chowdah”. I couldn’t imagine a better place to be: metropolitan gastronomic experiences, active arts and culture scenes, picturesque coastal setting and Victorian architecture, access to the real outdoors, superior higher education.
Yet, PortMA maintains a remote working environment, which complementary to Maine values, lets employees set up their offices wherever they please. I wouldn’t chance it anywhere else – stints in Washington and Boston confirmed this for me – but I see why winter might put some off from Vacationland, the way life should be.
Working remotely introduces some cultural challenges. Without the water cooler breaks, mid-afternoon banter, or office happy hour to build company culture, we have had to take a different approach to teambuilding. Bi-annual company meetings, for example, become very important because they are one of the few times the whole team is together. A recent meeting included some skeet shooting, a little bit of work, The Escape Room, and dinner at one of Portland’s finest restaurants.
The daily grind, however, gets careful consideration and special attention. We strive to recreate the office environment as closely as technology will allow while upholding the flexibility that staff desire in a remote working environment. And it all comes down to communication: where teambuilding – or any interaction, really – breaks down is in a failure to communicate.
We’ve approached this with radical transparency. Everything is scheduled: anything that is a good excuse for a meeting gets a meeting on Google Hangouts. Where at another office you could have taken a stroll to your coworkers’ cube, we schedule a video chat. People collect and pass so much information in face-to-face communication that nothing can substitute it in decision-making and teamwork. We are also much more agreeable with each other if we can see each other. For example, how many times have you been blow-a-fuse upset at the Post Office but never actually lost it because the lady at the front of the line has a smile on her face while telling you that your package is lost?
That’s our modus operandi, and it works pretty well. I think the same is applicable to most everything else we do in event marketing analytics. When there is a problem with data collection, the best thing to do is call the field staff. When we’re answering questions about a recap report, the best thing to do is dial into the conference line. In a way, we’re all working remotely now; PortMA has just taken it as a culture.