How half our team traveled abroad for two weeks and still stayed productive.
We’re no strangers to working remote.
Back in October, I worked from Banff, Alberta because I am passionate about climbing mountains. (Summits are awesome!)
Our Branding Goddess and Design Adventures, Manon, spent 4 months working remotely while traveling the world last year. She wrote all about it in this great guide.
This year, we pushed the concept further. Eight of us moved to Puerto Rico for two weeks and still managed to produce great results. Here is how we did it and what we learned.
Feeling lazy or in a hurry today? I’ve got you covered.
Happy means productive.
Remember those Monday mornings in that job you weren’t so passionate about?
Adventure leads to creation.
New connections. Different environments. Ideas worth spreading.
Collective objectives drive results.
Focused team empowerment aimed at precise goals makes you unstoppable.
Always be unstoppable.
Feeling inspired? Let’s begin.
#1 Choice trumps obligation.
Sorry Neo, you might be the One, but you are wrong on this one.
“Choice. The solution is choice”
Our philosophy is all about choice. Our culture is balanced between commitment and pleasure at work. Hours and presence at headquarters are highly flexible. Rather, we focus on delivering quality on time.
We feel that a healthy dose of freedom is essential to creativity and engagement. Not everyone is productive for a nonstop 8 hours and even less during a fixed 9 to 5 schedule. Some are productive at night, others in the morning. Everyone has their own uptime and downtime. We’ve all felt it. When you’re “in the zone”, you have a sense of flow, ideas and solutions come naturally. One hour of work at maximum productivity is priceless.
During our time in Puerto Rico, the beach and pool were calling to us. Taking breaks and splitting work sessions were common in order to enjoy the sweet sun and a refreshing swim.
At this point you are probably asking yourself: with so much freedom, how do you guys manage to produce any work at all? Part of the answer is trust. We trust employees to work when and where they are productive. Trust is a precious thing and it goes without saying, if you break it, consequences will follow.
powerfreedom comes great responsibility.”
-Not Uncle Ben, from Spiderman
In the past 6 years, this trust has only been broken once. That person is no longer part of the team. Even so, fear is not the solution.
The real secret to producing results is something different.
#2 Forging the entrepreneurial Spirit.
It’s all about having the right people. At Arcbees, we forge the entrepreneurial spirit within each member of our team. In turn, they do so with whom they engage with.
It’s a virtuous circle, a positive contagion.
There are many types of entrepreneurs and every single one has the ability to create value in their own way. However, one common thread binds them together: their sense of engagement.
Once touched by the desire to create as a team, every team member becomes personally involved in building the project’s success. This removes the need for surveillance and constant validation. No matter where and when, every team member is committed to working the time needed to ensure the project’s success.
This is exactly what empowers us to produce results while traveling abroad, but it is not enough. There is something more.
It is no surprise, telling our partners and clients about our travel plans raised somewhat of a worry.
“How are you guys going to stay productive?”
“Will my project be ok?”
“You people are crazy”
“Can you bring me with you?”
-Concerned (and somewhat jealous) client
The conclusion remains: there is risk involved. We believe in problem-solving, not by avoiding risk, but by managing it.
#3 Pull vs Push.
Our clients’ interests are always at heart and in mind. Without their constant satisfaction, there can be no Arcbees. To consistently produce results in a free and fun environment, a minimum of structure is needed.
Like any other business, we have systems and procedures: bi-weekly sprints, morning scrums, peer evaluations, code reviews, etc. At this point in the article, it might be difficult to believe, but it is true.
We do, however, have one specific criteria when designing them that is worth mentioning: stickiness. A newly implemented procedure is considered sticky when it is used and appreciated by the team. If it doesn’t stick or doesn’t respect our clients’ needs, we figure out why and go back to the drawing board. As management, it is our job to provide tools and structure to help employees flourish and work productively, not overburden them with unnecessary control.
The same goes for our office. We appreciate it being full of life. Even though people can work when and where they want, most days people are at the office. They come in to see their colleagues, produce great results, joke around, learn something new, solve awesome problems, drink terrible coffee, and make clients happy.
So how does all of this combine? Was our trip a success? Does a choice-friendly and pull management style environment filled with entrepreneurial spirits produce results when working in Puerto Rico for two weeks?
It does, but at a cost.
#4 What we learned
To be honest, I was a little worried about our team’s productivity before leaving.
Boy was I wrong!
The positive contagion I mentioned earlier definitely took hold during our time in Puerto Rico. Some of us were logging 16 hour days. At one point I even thought, why are we even here?
Key takeaway #1: Set limits.
We were so worried that we wouldn’t work well remotely that we overcompensated. It’s the dark side of the entrepreneurial spirit.
Key takeaway #2: Take some “me” time.
Spending 2 weeks with your colleagues in a tropical place is awesome, but we all need some alone time if we want to stay collaborative. A bit of peace and quiet and respecting each other’s space helps prevent social exhaustion.
Key takeaway #3: Be more than a colleague.
Even though we are already somewhat of a family, it is during times like these you get to know who you work with a little better. You get to know your colleague’s from a different angle. It opens the door to do something extra. New conversations, mutual aid, and deeper bonds build corporate culture.
Tips & Tricks
Before you leave
Make sure the team can work efficiently and enjoy their time
- Plan for a workspace: choose a place to stay with enough space for all members of the team including a designated space where people can work. A kitchen or living room with a dining table are also great ideas. Airbnb and its simple filtering options make it easy to find something great.
- keep communicating: we use Slack to share information easily.
- Confirm Wifi reliability and speed: you can ask the host for an internet speed test (like this one, powered by Netflix) before booking.
- Look for activities: it is easy to let work take hold of your schedule once you’re there. Identify nearby activities, to unwind and take breaks.
- Get a Poo-Pourri spray: It might sound silly but, proximity with colleagues may have its limits. We’ll let you be the judge.
- A quick list of the digital nomad’s necessities:
- Laptop, charger, and extra battery in case the power goes out
- Phone and charger (right, Max?)
- Extension cords (We recommend at least 2 for eight people)
- Sunscreen (be safe out there)
- Paper and pencil
- Pack of cards
- First-aid kit and appropriate medicine
During the trip
- Work on the plane: at 30,000 feet, productivity can soar.
- Start the day with some planning: schedule your work and fun time. Looking up from your laptop and realizing it’s too late to enjoy the day it not a good feeling.
- Download MAPS.ME: get around without a connection.
- Take pictures: they make for great memories but also marketing assets.
- Working with your feet in the pool is possible.
- Swimsuit meetings are no less serious.
- Regular breaks: they help you stay productive.
- Get your drink on: always have fresh drinks at hand to hydrate the brain!
For the team’s designated cooks:
- Plan meals 2 to 3 days in advance: It simplifies group trips to the groceries.
- Breakfast & Lunch: leaving them at the discretion of each team member helps not to cut the flows of work.
- Supper: have together around a big table. Our trip’s best recipe: a chirashi bowl.
- Puerto Rico has an impressive selection of craft beers. Thank you Untappd for helping us discover them.
We took a risk.
We set out to test if working remotely as a team could succeed and we humbly believe that we did. Collective memories were engraved, adventures were lived, happy moments were shared, and great work was produced!
Hopefully, our adventure will inspire other teams and businesses to renew how human resources are managed.
We came back from our trip with a funny feeling. It doesn’t feel like the end of our adventure. It feels like a beginning. The start of something new.