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Remote Work at ThirdPath Institute

Team Members
*As of June 2015
ThirdPath Institute Team

ThirdPath Institute Team

ThirdPath Institute Remote Company Q&A
Jessica DeGroot, President and Founder - Interview with Remote.co

ThirdPath Institute provides coaching, training and workbooks to individuals and families looking for new and better ways to balance work and life. In addition, we work with leaders who want to follow integrated career paths – not only does this help leaders create more satisfying solutions, it also helps them become role models for everyone around them.

We started out as a remote workplace.

We could not have been as successful using any other approach. Launching our nonprofit as a virtual organization helped us: (a) keep our costs significantly lower (b) develop a strong network of resources across the US (c) become experts in the work we do because every day we learn something new from “practicing what we preach.”

There are many “big picture” reasons, such as the fact that it’s good for the environment (reducing drivers on the road); good for families (increasing parents time with children); and good for communities (people are around more to help each other).

But it’s also good for business. Not only are there cost savings, working remotely can be an excellent tool for creating uninterrupted work time – this can translate to employees getting their work done more effectively.

When we launched our nonprofit 14 years ago, it was more cost effective than any other option.

We only work remotely, so the process is the same for everyone.  During the hiring process we include at least one face to face meeting.  Although we have hired employees who have never worked remotely, it helps if the person has had experience working remotely.

Yes.  Here’s a direct quote from the handout we use:  “Sometimes a quick response is needed to a question.  When this is required, please either call the person or send them an email with “IMPORTANT” written in caps in the subject heading.  During normal work hours it is safe to assume you will get a response within 1-2 hours for important matters. If outside of work hours, make individual arrangements.”

I think this is a very important question for all organizations – not just organizations with remote workers.  Too often a “flexible workplace” turns into a workplace where people “flex” their work into evenings and weekends as a way to catch up on work.  But when workers are in a chronic state of “too much work” – it is likely they become less effective, efficient and creative.

ThirdPath has developed a number of tools to help people prioritize their work so that they can make better decision about how they use their time at work.  The tools also help them easily communicate how they are progressing on their most important work. This helps employees manage their productivity while also creating time for their lives outside of work. We’ve also had a lot of success helping leaders and professionals use these tools.

Employees start with two weeks of paid vacation.  We also accommodate employees with school age children by letting them take extra unpaid time off over the summers.

(a) At the start of our weekly one-on-one calls, we take a few minutes to talk about something that we are enjoying being involved with both at work and outside of work.

(b) We have face-to-face staff meetings every 3 months.  And at the start of our virtual staff meetings, we show a picture of our families and share an update about both work and our lives outside of work

(c) We get together once a year with our spouses for dinner

If someone was switching from a traditional approach to supporting more remote workers, I would make three recommendations.  (1) Help people understand that remote work will not work with every job (for example, a doctor or receptionist can’t work remotely). (2) Encourage people to start with a pilot group that included at least 3 managers.  The pilot group could be encouraged to work remotely at least one day a week for a specified period of time (at least 6 months).  During this time the pilot group could routinely share information about what was working well, and what was challenging. (3)  This information could then be used to create a more transparent process for others to follow.

(1) It is important to develop easy and effective ways to keep people connected.

(2) If you work in a 100% virtual workplace, you also have to come up with an effective way to address problems that might surface with an employee at work.  Instead of meeting with that employee face-to-face, you need to develop other thoughtful and supportive ways to communicate the problem and develop a solution.

(3) Over time we have learned that some people are just not a good match for working in a 100% virtual work environment.  They feel too isolated.  For example, people who are just starting their careers may feel like meeting other people at work is an important part of what they value about work, therefore working 100% remotely is not a good option.

We used to have employees who worked in different states, but over time we have found it valuable to live close enough to each other that we can easily see each other every few months.

Both my husband and I have made a series of changes to flex our work, and to even work reduced hours when our children were very young. By doing this, we both had plenty of time and energy to care for our children and our relationship with each other.  This year my youngest child graduates from high school, but my husband and I are still both committed to creating time for other things besides work.  Tune in next year and we’ll let you know how things are going.

Brigid Schulte’s book, Overwhelmed, Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time.  Brigid does a great job describing why so many of us feel overwhelmed today. She also provides great ideas for how to change this.