Being a completely remote working team, our personal lives here at Carousel Apps have become entwined with those of our work life. In fact, I’d go so far as to say they are no longer separate entities, but rather each involves the other to form…well, life as a whole. Personally, as I recently explained in a Remotive article, remote work has been one huge positive leap in the right direction, and one that I’ll never step away from. But this isn’t just thanks to the fact that I can set up shop from the comforts of home – it’s so much more than that now. At the heart of our happiness and genuine drive to work, lies the genuine concern for our happiness itself. And this is a major contributor to Carousel culture.
Things weren’t always better
Just a few decades ago and, let’s face it, in many companies nowadays, work was work and not to be confused with one’s emotional or personal life. Bar occasional chit-chat, hobbies, home and family life were left at the office doorstep, to be picked up again upon entering your front door, slipping into comfortable clothes and assuming your ‘other identity’ of whomever you may be at home. As Nate Hanson wrote in “The Last Generation of People Who Hate Their Jobs“, “Business is business.” And like him, my dad also donned his suit and tie to sit in a cubicle, counting the days till early retirement.
On the threshhold of change
But now, ideals are changing. Tech is allowing us new freedoms. Newer generations are recognising that life can be lived to its fullest and that’s only possible if one feels fulfilled not just on the weekends, but also inclusive of Monday through Friday 9am to 5pm. We’re entering the next paradigm in human history; it’s time to be teal. It’s not just that businesses have realised that happy employees are productive employees, more importantly, we have started to care about people. The realisation that business does not have to mean a cubicle-cell and an emotional vacuum means some companies, including yours truly, are welcoming new takes on company culture.
Our approach to low-cost happiness
If you’re thinking that fostering happiness must be an easier thing to do with spare cash – think company retreats, hobby support and handy health gear a-la Buffer – well, yeah, you’re probably right. Cash does make the world go round, but not its full 360. Our team is a small one and we haven’t yet had our lucky break. So here’s our approach to a happy and fulfilling culture, with minimal spending.
Our team logs in and out of our virtual workspace at all times of the day, our faces popping up then vanishing again from Flowdock as and when we please. Whilst to some this may sound disjointed, we’ve created a workflow that supports this type of scheduling or lack thereof. Through many helpful apps, which we’ll look into in more detail in the future, structured processes including funnelling specific tasks through certain routes, and very clear communication, each one of us knows exactly what we should be doing independently of the others and are kept up-to-date on tasks. Like forming any habit, it took some weeks of being stricter on ourselves to follow certain paths, and yet now it feels like second nature.
And the freedom this creates is priceless. Work doesn’t hold us back from getting on with life. Juanjo can drop his wife off at work every day, Pablo pops out to conferences and talks, I get to spend afternoons taking my kids to the beach. The balance between work and everything else is exactly that, balanced. With no limitations and stress about having to be somewhere at a certain time, without the need to stress about missing important appointments or even just to be able to pop out to meet a visiting friend for a coffee, and with the opportunity to sit down to a computer when we feel our most productive, it’s easier to embrace doing just that.
Going beyond our personal freedom, we decided we also wanted this for the company as a whole. Although we could market our team as a ready-made package with developers and customer support crew at the ready, selling out our services for commission would sap the joy out of our work. Nothing beats the excitement of brainstorming a new idea, building it, releasing it, watching it grow and knowing that the potential is limitless. We work from passion.
We all need a little help from our friends, right? For us, the same applies at work. We may be hundreds or even thousands of miles apart, but knowing your team has your back gives us that warm fuzzy feeling inside. Not just for times when emergencies pop up and you ask your colleagues to help complete your tasks, to which they always say ‘yes’ with a little smiley icon, but for the happy things too. Like giving Mhairi a Skype-high-five for catching a great wave or congratulating Pablo on buying (and using!) his first kettlebell.
It may be that we’ve happened to find the friendliest people around to join the team, but more likely, I get that feeling that creating such a supportive environment brings out the best in us all. And we like to share the love.
I’ve found my ideal city to raise a family in Barcelona; Mhairi spends her free time surfing at her local beach in Bali, and Vladimir has stayed close to family in Belgrade. With such differing goals and lifestyles between us, there’s no one city that would keep us in tune with our goals. Instead, living in the places where we thrive on a personal level, allows us to concentrate on what needs doing on a professional level.
The core characteristics
You could say that these three features form part of the core of Carousel App’s culture. They’re what we’ve discovered to work for our team thus far (remember, we’re pretty new to this scene) so there’s always room for our ideals and our methods to evolve, but one thing I’m sure of is that happiness will always remain at the heart of what we do.