As the founder and CEO of Orum, I set out on the journey of creating a remote-first company in late 2019, not out of choice but out of necessity.

We’re now four years into the journey and this decision has proven to be both challenging and rewarding. As the debate over remote work vs. return to office continues to rage, we’re sharing what we’ve learned so far.

Remote work is a feature and not a bug

Proponents of in-office work often highlight the gaps in remote work; reduced coaching, less learning by osmosis, and fewer social interactions. At Orum, we acknowledge these gaps and instead of trying to replicate the in-office experience, we focus on whether our business results are optimal.

At Orum, the answer is yes. Remote work is going well for us. Therefore we consider it a feature, and we focus on optimizing to make it even better, just like any product we build.

And just like any product, remote work isn't for everyone. We seek people who view remote work as a beneficial feature, and they, in turn, seek us out.

Learn More About Our Remote Work Culture

Intentional Communication is Crucial

We actively maintain Orum’s communication philosophy — specifically not called a communication policy, as it’s an ever-changing, dynamic document — that sets clear expectations for everyone.

Our motto is “remote, not distant,” and that ties into our communications.

In a remote setting, asynchronous communication becomes crucial, especially with team members spread across multiple time zones. During onboarding, we make sure everyone understands when they overlap with their manager and teammates. For example, some managers might start their day hours after their team members. We intentionally create this overlap and keep it top of mind when scheduling meetings. Our standard overlap is from 12 pm to 6 pm ET, facilitating team meetings across U.S. time zones without making it challenging for those outside of New York (where I am based).

Promoting clear communication at onboarding helps everyone understand when they overlap with their manager and teammates. This intentional approach to scheduling allows us to have effective collaborations and keeps us operating at a high standard of execution.

Slack is Our Primary Communication Tool

We’re not an email culture. Our team mainly receives our Orum Weekly newsletter from me every Monday. We also support focused work time by allowing team members to communicate and to schedule deep work periods for tasks like completing a product requirement document, or whatever the task at hand may be.

Our communication frameworks, documented in a living communication philosophy led by our VP of People, Sarah Flaherty, are accessible to everyone. Updated in January 2024, these frameworks evolve with our growth — from 10 people during a pandemic to 45 today — to ensure remote work remains intentional and effective.

Creating IRL Magic in Different Ways

I agree that in-person connections have a unique value. In our experience, that’s possible to do in a remote-first company — while not as frequent as hallway conversations, remote-first cultures can create concentrated and special in-person interactions.

For us at Orum, these happen during our All Hands meetings. I wrote in December about how our “remote not distant” culture was clear in how our team members hugged, laughed, and bonded at our recent New York meeting — even though many had never met in person before. These events are not on a set schedule; they are earned and eagerly anticipated, lasting only two days to keep everyone energized.

On the first night in New York, our executives hosted a dinner with team members from different functions, focusing on personal connections with conversation starters like 'What’s the best $5 you’ve ever spent?' The next day all of Team Orum came together for a packed one-day agenda, which included several Orum customers sharing their customer stories, which ended in a burst of camaraderie without their social batteries being drained; They met and they bonded and they got things done, but they weren’t exhausted. People leave these events wanting more.

Future Outlook on Remote Work at Orum

While I can't box myself in and definitively say Orum will always be remote-first, our current success speaks volumes. Our team is thriving, they are highly engaged, and they deeply understand how their work impacts the company’s strategy and outcomes.

So, we’ll continue to treat remote work as a critical roadmap item: an intentional feature that we invest in and optimize, as it is key to our future success.

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