Here’s why the father of American literature was wrong (kind of)
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s time”
– Mark Twain
While the sentiment of the quote is progressive towards cultural understanding, Twain unfortunately missed out on the age of remote work by a decade or seven.
Today medium to enterprise-sized companies spanning physical and virtual borders are opting into a remote work policy. Not only are they increasing the opportunity for a more diverse workforce, but also the opportunity for cross-cultural learning.
Don’t get me wrong, firsthand in-person experiences will almost always triumph in terms of cultural learnings. But the day-to-day correspondence and relationships you build with coworkers living abroad is a close second.
As an employee of Rock Content, a global remote-first company, I wanted to share my perspective on how I’ve traveled the world with my company. Without ever having to leave my desk. But first, let’s dive into the experiences of other companies to see how they have adapted.
Remote Diversity: A Talent
Relocating, having an extra long commute, or refusing a job.
Those are the three choices you have when you are offered an exclusively in-office position outside of the typical commute range.
Unless you’re ready for a change in scenery, none of the options seem ideal. If only there was a way you could grab that dream job without having to move halfway across the country (or world)…
Leaders across the globe are starting to recognize that their small talent pool can quickly become a large talent ocean through a remote policy. Let’s take a look at what the leaders of Cotopaxi and Airbnb have to say about the matter.
In a letter to the employees of Airbnb from their CEO, Brian Chesky, writes
“If we limited our talent pool to a commuting radius around our offices, we would be at a significant disadvantage. The best people live everywhere, not concentrated in one area. And by recruiting from a diverse set of communities, we will become a more diverse company.”
Chesky hits on two integral pieces of a WFH policy. The first is that if you bind your job candidates to a physical location, it puts you at a disadvantage when it comes to the potential of talent.
The second piece being that expanding to a larger geographic area, or even a global network, can provide a whole new level of diversity in the company.
While it looks great on a company, diversity and inclusion hiring isn’t a box to check off, or a Marketing tactic – it’s to give an equal opportunity to everyone, because it is the right thing to do.
But is going global with your hiring that easy?
In an interview Davis Smith, CEO of Cotopaxi, stated
“It’s a lot easier to hire a diverse team when you aren’t limited to a specific geography….I’ve asked myself many times: At what point does this catch up to us? Because so many people are new and maybe they don’t understand the culture as deeply. But our culture has changed and all those rituals and traditions, we had to wipe them clean and start over and we’ve created new ones that work for this new environment.”
While acknowledging the diversity aspect no longer being limited, Smith does raise an important question to those looking to make the switch.
Who should adapt? Should the new employees take on the culture their employer has already set in stone? Should the employer start fresh to accommodate everyone’s cultural values?
The short answer: Yes*
*with a shift in mindset
Intercultural Mindset = Cross-Cultural Learning: A Checklist for Adaptation
Remote culture can have its challenges….(obviously). Not being bound by physical borders doesn’t mean being unbound by virtual borders, also known as time zones. If you’re in the eastern United States and your coworker is in eastern Brazil, no big deal, it’s just 1 measly hour ahead.
But if you work in England and your coworker is in Australia, they’re probably a full work day ahead of you.
Aside from time zones there are language barriers, cultural holiday schedules, digital miscommunications, the list goes on. But through struggle, comes the opportunity for growth.
To hopefully mitigate these challenges, ASU gives these six practices to grow your global mindset in this new age of remote working:
1. Self Awareness
Under the ancient Greek proverb of “Above all, know thyself”, the first thing to do is to check your own culture and biases.
It can be uncomfortable and challenging to look at yourself through an honest lens, recognizing that your own culture may have fostered biases. But this is a crucial step on the path of working through them and developing your own awareness and cultural understanding.
Employers typically like employees that ask a lot of questions about a role. It shows they’re eager to learn as much as possible, so they can develop their skills faster, and overall become better at the job. The more questions, the better the understanding.
Now apply the same idea to your global coworkers. Ask about their culture, country, thoughts, feelings, etc. Gain a better sense of how the people in their culture communicate, and start to forge that international relationship. As stated earlier: the more questions, the better the understanding.
3. Be Flexible & Open-Minded
When it comes to cross-cultural learning, nothing is really black and white. Neither party is necessarily “right” or “wrong”, it’s just a matter of different beliefs based on societal upbringing. If someone is doing something different from how you normally do it, it may be the time to step out of your comfort zone.
4. Learn A New Language
Language study can help by providing new cultural perspectives. From personal experience, as a native English speaker working for a company where a great number of coworkers speak Portuguese, this practice has been one of the most interesting.
It not only broke the ice on things to talk about besides work, but gave me a goal to be able to communicate with anyone in the company using their native tongue. But the most remarkable part was others willingness to teach and support in learning. I’d highly recommend asking someone that speaks a different language to teach you, from my experience they’d be ecstatic about it.
Developing your global mindset isn’t quite like riding a bike, it’s more like training a muscle. It takes practice and repetition to keep it going. The more accustomed you are to thinking globally, the easier it will be to adapt in a new cultural setting.
6. Never Stop Learning
To go back to the question, who needs to adapt when a company shifts to a remote working environment? The answer is still both. Employees should start down the path of adapting a global mindset to work in harmony. Employers should foster and nurture the idea of inclusivity while building out the frameworks of their company’s new state of being.
In a guide explaining how to adapt company culture to remote work, Zoom provides the much needed foundational message of:
“Remember, true culture is not about perks, proximity of team members, or the processes you have in place, it’s about inclusivity.”
My View On Working Remote
In 2020, Rock Content, like many others, shifted from being an office-first to a remote-first organization with the same idea that the future of work is remote, with people “globally integrated”. Rock is always open to evolve its practices and to find ways to engage employees from around the world.
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this first hand in my seven months of being here. I knew that working for a global company meant having global coworkers. What I didn’t necessarily expect was the encouragement to routinely reach out to them.
Urged by leadership to reach out to people with similar roles, I started slowly breaking down the “borders”. Similar roles became teams, teams became departments, and so on and so forth.
Now my day feels odd if I haven’t talked to a coworker in either Brazil, Italy, England, you get the idea (Rockers are everywhere). But one of the things that makes me most proud to be a Rocker is the initiatives of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team.
The incredible global mission they are on is grand, but instead of talking about it myself, check out the amazing results they’ve achieved in Rock Content’s 2021 Social Impact Report!
When it comes to our people, we never stop learning, and you shouldn’t either.
Obrigado a todos, and keep rocking!
Do you want to have experience working in a global and remote environment? Please, check Rock Content’s opened job positions. I hope to see you soon in our Slack.