“It’s been a funny journey working remotely,” says Box CEO Aaron Levie. “A month or two into the pandemic I distinctly remembered that we actually started our company completely remotely. The move to this remote work style is causing us to realize how different managing and leading businesses and executing can be if we were able to take advantage of virtual technology more even when we go back to the office. This completely opens up a new way of working.”
It’s Been A Funny Journey Working Remotely
It’s been a funny journey working remotely. A month or two into the pandemic I actually distinctly remembered that wait a second, we actually started our company completely remotely. My co-founder and I were going to two different colleges at the time and so the whole business was run over instant messaging. Before we had Slack we had AOL Instant Messenger. Before we had Okta we had really bad passwords. We were a remote company and we started our own product because we wanted to make it so people could easily access and share files from anywhere. That was the origin of the business.
Fast forward 15 years later, we have 2,000 employees, we work in offices, we have a lot of the standard ways you think about when scaling up the company. When we had to instantly move to a remote and distributed way of working it really hit me how much of the work style that gets embedded into our companies are really actually things that just carried forward from the 20th Century when everything was analog and everything was done in person. All communication was done between people either through written communication or just a meeting.
Pandemic Opened Up New Way Of Working
You realize that when you go virtual and you go remote there is actually so much potential to be able to work in a digital-first way. When you think about a team meeting as an example, so many of our meetings are arbitrarily sized to the number of people that fit into a conference room. So it’s kind of bizarre that work just happens to be the six to twelve people that can fit into a conference room space. Certainly for software projects or a particular team that’s a pretty good logical size. But that’s not the right size that contributes to a brainstorm. That’s not inherently the right size of people that you want when you’re communicating information and getting the best ideas around how to go drive the business.
So having that Slack channel with 150 people in it that cuts across different parts of the organization we are able to get contributions from people that would have never been in that conference room previously. That completely opens up a new way of working. Think of what you now do on video and the ability to include voices and ideas from people that previously wouldn’t have spoken up or wouldn’t have had an easy opportunity to contribute to some particular part of the business or strategy or have a two-way dialogue on a really important business topic.
Real Potential That We Want To Continue
We had a meeting with all of our top 200 leaders in the company last week and that was a complete bidirectional discussion in a way that would never have been possible in person. That’s usually a person with a microphone just communicating outward to everybody in the business and not actually having it be a dialogue to get feedback. The move to this remote work style is causing us to realize actually how different management and leading businesses and executing can be if we were able to take advantage of virtual technology more even when we go back to the office.
None of this requires you to be remote it’s just sort of the remote that was forced upon all of us to the point that we are now realizing that there is actually some real potential here that we want to continue to maintain going forward.