As founder and CEO of Orum, I didn’t necessarily set out to create a remote-first company. But we started in late 2019; it wasn’t so much a decision as a necessity.

We’re now four years into this journey — and 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 are quick to point out the gaps in remote work: You don’t get as much coaching; you don’t learn as much by osmosis, i.e. overhearing folks in the office chatting; you don’t bump into people in the hallway and enjoy the social impact of sharing a space.

We are aware of those gaps. But rather than try to deny them, or to make remote work as much like in-office work as possible, we ask: Are the business results as good as they can be?

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, it is not for everyone. People tend to love or hate remote work, and we’re not here to convince anyone that it’s the right move for them. We want to hire people who want to work remotely, and they seek us out — because they, too, see it as a feature.

Intentional Communication and Scheduling Is Crucial to Ensure a High Bar of Execution

We actively maintain Orum’s communication philosophy — specifically not called a policy, as it’s an ever-changing document — so everyone is clear on expectations for themselves and their team members. 

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

Asynchronous communication rises to the top of the food chain of importance when you're in a remote setting. After all, our folks are across multiple time zones.
We ensure everyone is clear at onboarding about when they overlap with their manager and teammates. In some cases, your manager might work in a time zone such that they start their day hours after you do. As a team, we’re intentional about creating that overlap and keeping it top of mind when we schedule meetings: We overlap 12 pm - 6 pm ET so that each U.S. time zone intersects in a way that facilitates team meetings without making it challenging for people outside of New York (where I am based).

Slack is Our Primary Communication Tool

We’re not an email culture. You won’t really get many emails from me besides our Orum Weekly newsletter that I send every Monday. And we allow people to communicate their need to stay heads down on a project: They can schedule deep work time as needed, blocking off several hours to finish a product requirement document or whatever it may be.
These types of frameworks are available to everyone to read in our communications philosophy, which is a living document pioneered by our VP People, Sarah Flaherty. We just updated it in January 2024, and we will continue to do so periodically — because what works when you’re 10 people during a pandemic might not be best when you grow to 45, and remote work is intentional. These frameworks are simply what works for us at this moment at Orum.

It’s Possible to Create That IRL Magic in Different Ways

I agree with people who say there’s something irreplaceable about connecting in person. That is still possible to do in a remote-first culture — not as often as those hallway conversations, but something far more concentrated and special.
For us at Orum, it’s 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.
Our All Hands events are not annual or on any other type or set schedule; we hold them as needed, and we see them as something to earn and look forward to. They’re only two days, so everyone remains fresh and energized.
The first night in New York, each of our executives hosted a dinner with team members from across several different functions to get to know one another — we focus more on the personal than work, 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 stories firsthand.
Rather than stretching everything over a few days or a week, it’s a flurry of fun and learning packed into a pretty short period. They meet and they bond and they get things done, but they aren’t exhausted. In fact, people tend to leave wanting more.
So, no, we don’t have the everyday chatter around the watercooler. But we have something just as powerful.
The fact is, I’ll never box myself in and say we’ll be remote-first forever. But at this moment, Orum and its people are thriving thanks to remote work. Are we doing well? Are our people highly engaged in the work they’re doing? Do they understand how their work affects the company’s strategy and business outcomes?
Those answers are unequivocally yes. So we’ll continue to treat remote work as a roadmap item: an intentional feature that we’ll invest in and optimize, as it’s a key to our future success.

Ready to move?Let’s talk.