Trello CEO Offers Advice on Working Remote

Trello CEO Michael Pryor

Trello CEO Michael Pryor says remote working can lead to isolation.

Working remotely is something people strive for, and love doing. Still, it’s not without its pitfalls. Staying sane when you’re solo can be difficult, and managing distractions is equally tough. But you’re not alone in those struggles, and chances are your employer knows it – or should.

Technology sits at the intersection of isolation and collaboration, too. It helps remote workers stay in touch better than ever, but also shows why offices may not be necessary for many companies. Part of the remote worker’s tech stack might involve Trello, a workflow tracking tool recently acquired by Atlassian for $425 million.

Trello has become increasingly useful for development and engineering teams, where so much in-person collaboration involves a whiteboard for project management and brainstorming. It joins HipChat and Jira, Atlassian’s respective communication and issue ticketing tools, as solutions for remote employees.

Speaking to Trello CEO Michael Pryor, it becomes clear that technology can do harm if you allow it to. He points out that, while tools like Trello and HipChat bridge gaps, they may leave users with an increased feeling of isolation. “Building a team culture can seem hard when team members aren’t spending time together in the same place everyday,” he tells Dice.

His solution for his own employees is to make sure they spend time together: “Because Trello is a largely remote company, we make it a point to host an annual company retreat, flying out the entire organization to a single location to brainstorm, relax and socialize. I find that giving remote employees an opportunity to bond with teammates in-person makes collaboration and communication remotely so much easier, smooth and enjoyable.” Pryor also says finding moments to socialize remotely is critical:

It’s also important to create opportunities for dispersed teams to socialize remotely, like having a social committee in charge of remote-friendly activities like online trivia nights and coffee meetings. These activities help establish a sense of camaraderie and provide people the chance to get to know each other outside of work, even when spread hundreds of miles apart.

Getting out of the house now and again might help. “It’s important to remind yourself to carve out time to get out of the house and interact with real live people – whether that’s attending industry networking events in your city or spending time working out of a co-working space or cafe,” Pryor says. “Dedicating this time to meet and see people is vital for your sanity if you are working from home.”

During office hours, Pryor puts the onus on management to help satellite employees feel included. At Trello, Pryor treats everyone as remote employees when meetings are necessary. “If one employee is remote, we require the rest of the team to videoconference in from their laptops, instead of from a room hooked up to a videoconference system. This enables everyone to communicate openly without making another employee feel distant. We’ve found that if everyone sits at their desk on an individual video call screen, the playing field is equal, with everyone’s input on equal footing – making sure remote workers don’t feel isolated.”

According to Dice’s own Salary Survey, working remotely is an important benefit for a growing number of people. We also know what companies are looking for when they’re hiring someone who won’t be in an office daily.

It’s still work. You still have to perform. Pryor has outlined some good ideas for both companies and employees to feel inclusive, included and positive about their relationship, but results matter. Whether you’re the most communicative remote employee or not, solid work remains the benchmark for success.

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