On building inclusive remote workplaces
Before leaving for my 1st real leg of travels during Q1 2020, I returned home to Toronto, Canada for a week. I saw my family, attended potlucks and parties, and most importantly, visited my doctors- the dentist, optometrist, family physician, you name it. I also managed to squeeze in one more Remoter Project production, too. If you’re thinking, “When does this girl sleep?!” I’d say, “Good question, I’ll let you know.”
Rewind to my first days of cold networking for Remoter. I sent an e-mail to Mari Moreshead, Director of People and Operations at Creative Commons. I just learned that they were a globally distributed, remote-first company. So when I received a reply, all I could think about was, “such a large non-profit organization, they must have nuggets upon nuggets of experiences.”
Throughout our back and forth, I learned that Mari was conveniently located in Toronto and that two other members, Victoria (Communications Manager) and Alison (Events and Operations Manager), could participate. So when I knew that I was going to be in Toronto, my opportunistic self squeezed in this meeting.
We met at my alma mater, Ryerson University. I don’t know if it was the 2.5 months of back and forth, or being home for a bit, but meeting Mari and Victoria in person was surreal. When you finally put a face to an e-mail, you’ll know what I mean. I was dizzy. Although it could’ve also been the overdose of coffee that morning, not sure.
Open access and sharing for all
Creative Commons is at the heart of the open movement, solving global problems through transparency, collaboration, reuse, and free access. They make it easier for people to share, access, and build on the creativity and knowledge of others. They’ve been building and refining their remote company culture since their transition 5+ years ago. Now, they’ve got members spread across North America, South America, and Europe!
Our conversation starts with a little bit of insight into Mari and Victoria’s daily routines.
As the only ones in Toronto, they like to make use of Flexday, a service that allows people to book spaces to work at, on-the-go. It’s great for one-off meetings.
When talking about morning routines, Victoria mentions she gets up relatively later than Mari, to which Mari explains it’s because she needs time to ‘hatch.’
“Because you wake up, you’re in this egg and you have to wake up and become a human being, right? So that’s why I get up extra early, because I need a little bit more time to hatch and be ready for human consumption.”
Mari was also our first participant in the Diverse Workspace photo series, which highlights personal touches in remote workers’ workspaces. What motivates her to hatch for the day? The answer, I suppose, could have something to do with her cat, Peeps.
Inclusivity and diversity in a remote workplace
We dig deeper into how they continuously improve inclusivity and diversity in their remote workplace.
Bouncing off one of the initiatives in the video, Creative Commons uses Donut chats with specific question prompts. Victoria tells us about the time she was paired with more senior management during her donut chats.
“We did one before the holidays kicked off, and it was more about reflecting on 2019. People talking about not only the things that went really well but also the challenges that they had. It was really nice to have that opportunity to talk with people that I normally don’t get to talk to about their personal lives. I think it was great to feel that we trusted each other enough to open up about things that had been going on in our lives and to really feel like everyone was listening to you and supporting you. And you know, once one person starts opening up, everyone starts opening up, so I think just having something as simple as booking a conversation and having like a couple of prompts of questions can be really powerful.
- Victoria Heath
On the topic of inclusive initiatives at Creative Commons, their events & operations manager Alison Pearce also called in to chat about the CC Summit that’s opened to the public, and internal retreats they hold as a remote company.
PS: Now, when we recorded this in January, we had no idea how crazy the world was going to flip. Alison just recently wrote a post about the changes that will be happening to adapt the 2020 CC Summit virtually.
She also has young children, and says “the benefits to my entire family of working remotely are undeniable for sure.” As someone who used to work at a company with a huge emphasis on presence culture, she found herself losing time with family. “Now, I drop my daughter off at school every single morning, and I join the morning circle and sing O’ Canada, the whole deal, which is awesome. It makes such a difference in my time with my children and my partner.”
It’s in the details
I am notorious for running at 500km/hr. My coworkers tell me to slow down. My parents tell me to slow down.
On the contrary, Mari and Victoria give me the impression that they’re “down to the last detail.” For instance, did you know that the verbiage you use to greet people may be a bit exclusive? This was brought up for discussion by Victoria, as you can hear below.
But that’s what makes their remote journey exciting and of huge importance at Creative Commons. I’m a fan of how intertwined their company mission and values are, both externally and internally. From their commitment to open source, accessibility, and transparency, to their stories of how presumptive language can be exclusive, and how they easily pick out vivid, memorable moments from their company retreats and day to day interactions. They practice what they preach.
Changing the world
Nearing the end, I ask them if they saw their company as a team or a family. On Remoter’s end, we just tidied up our Founding and Growing Remotely free online course chapter about this topic. The nature of remote work makes it harder to get close to co-workers, compared to co-located teams. “I think we’re a team, especially because we’re nonprofit and really mission-driven. So it does feel like we are on a team and we are driving to the same location,” replies Mari.
“We’re a team that is changing the world. A family doesn’t change the world,” says Mari.
“They fight,” says Victoria, laughing.
“But a team changes the world.”