Why do remote companies do meetups?

This is an issue of my newsletter focusing on the psychological and technical aspects of the Internet, particularly remote work, online economy, and cognitive load.
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Last month, after two years of no flying, I got the opportunity to meet my coworkers in Playa Del Carmen, close to Cancun. It was exquisite – we got to hang out on the beach, eat buckets of guacamole, race jet skis, work a little, swim in the Cenotes, and most importantly – bond as a team. I got to find out how extraordinary human beings my teammates are.

Meet my colleagues

Before the pandemic, all my previous teams would meet at least three times per year in an exotic location to remind ourselves that we are still human beings, and not only windows in the company chat. But, as we created our team just before the pandemic, we were yet to see each other in person.

Why Remote companies do Meetups

  1. People need relationships, and trust to work effectively. Once you connected with a teammate, shared a meal, and even lived together (yup, we rent huge villas together when possible) – you develop an empathy for your coworkers, and can undestand them much better over the imperfect mediums such as Slack or Zoom. It becomes much easier to assume positive intent, if you went on an adventure together, or swapped stories about family struggles.
  2. All those mythical whiteboard planning sessions, that supposedly make working in the office so much more effective and creative? They can happen during a meetup, although I have yet to see brainstorming session that beats asynchronous exchange of thoughtful ideas.
  3. This is a perk, I’m not going to lie. The perspective of being paid to fly across the world to exotic location to ride jetski with coworkers is one of the reasons I continue to be very happy at Automattic.

Read about “The Importance of IRL in a World of Screens” on distributed.blog.

The trip reminded me why I love Remote work so much and how there’s a season for everything. Five years ago, I traveled to the same spot with my wife (then-girlfriend). Since it was only the two of us, we stayed for 1.5 months roaming across Yucatan and swimming in every Cenote we could find. Every time a meetup would come up, we would both go, and extend the stay to at least a month to take advantage of the paid-for flights and transfer time.

This time, it took painstaking preparation – my wife had to drive to her parents with our baby and the dog so that she could have some help while I was having fun. Instead of extending the trip as much as possible, I allowed myself to fly one day earlier to scuba in the Cozumel Coral Reef (2nd biggest in the world, and item 112 on my Bucketlist), where I met charlie – a giant, 4-meter turtle.

Meet Charlie

Every situation allows you to do something unique, only possible in that time and place in life. So try to take advantage of that before wishing for a different arrangement. Yes, I know this is something only a privileged and lucky person would say.

Three surprising things

Unnecessary Inventions

Unnecessary inventions is a very aptly named blog of Matty Benedetto, who “over the past two years, he has designed and fully prototyped over 280 new inventions that solve problems that don’t exist.”. My favorite is the Slice Slapper, a device to cut a triangle of Pizza right from the middle of your pie:

The Slice Slapper™️ Eliminate horrible pizza toppings in an instant! Our debut removal tool features an easy push button and tri-angled blades to rapidly chop away any potion of your pizza pie featuring ingredients you would NEVER eat. Simply locate the deplorable section and slap it away to customize your pizza to your unique one of a kind taste. Now… who TF ordered the pineapple olive mushroom pizza?!?

Polish Hogwarts

Czocha Castle is quite possibly the most interesting place in Poland. It doubles as Hogwarts for events, has 40+ secret passageways, is embellished with hundreds of Freemason riddles, and possibly houses art stolen before WW2. Read more here.

Tech jobs filter problem

Tech jobs are cushy, comfortable, and come with many perks. As a result, Google and others continuously sit at the top of “best places to work at” lists. However, the interview processes are famously demeaning and unrelated to the actual job at hand. A recent study found them measuring anxiety more than tech skills, but the best explanation can be found in the Hacker News comment section:

Google (& similar) have more applicants who can do the job than they have positions, so instead of checking for that and calling it a day, they filter for some combination of IQ and how bad you want it—willing to do a ton of otherwise-low-value prep work & practice, and to go through the painful interview process itself, likely several times at different companies, even for successful candidates.

At Automattic, we take quite a different route – you get hired for a (paid) trial period, and you can see if you like it before committing.

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