As many startups do, Muserk began as a fully remote team. Once our business solidified, workflows increased and collaboration became increasingly more important. The logical next step was to get as many people as possible into one place. With team members all over the world, however, we couldn’t expect the entire company to move to Nashville.
In the throes of COVID-19 we were forced to move the team remote. We had gotten used to office life, and the team had grown significantly. Were those distant memories of a fully remote team lost? We couldn’t be sure how big of a challenge this would be to overcome. Luckily we still had members of the team outside of Nashville, and all along we had accidentally been preparing for this.
The office has always served as a hub for us. Once a quarter we assemble in Nashville for a week to share everything the company has been doing, and the division in each group’s effort is obvious. Each team is working on their own thing, and some of that knowledge doesn’t come across day to day. Because it doesn’t need to. Communication is key to facilitating a remote team, and, like any good team, we should even strive to over-communicate. That over-communication can quickly become a distraction, however, if it’s not effective.
Working in an office we’ve figured out what information streams matter to us, how to separate those, and how to tap into the ones we care about. In order to subscribe to all of the conversations happening at Muserk, and mute them when they get in the way, we make our chat channels as granular as possible. Discussions often happen in chat rather than in person, and we are in the habit of posting the results for those who were not there. We send casual meeting invites to those who may or may not care about the topic in case they want to be involved. Scheduled meetings auto-create video links within our calendars, and we join with tablets to use as whiteboards. When COVID-19 kept us from getting to the office, we worried about how it would hinder collaboration, and in hindsight we had been preparing all along. Without even knowing it we had fostered a remote-first culture that even our new hires, with no remote experience, were able to seamlessly adapt.
So has the office become unnecessary? Without it we wouldn’t have figured out who we are as a team. The lessons about communication may have required more effort, or taken longer to develop. We inadvertently learned a valuable lesson about disaster preparedness that we can carry on into the future. When we go back to the office, this moment will remain in the back of our minds. We may never be in this situation again, but if we are, the transition will be just as seamless.