What is it that makes Articulate’s culture so awesome? Is it the non-existent commute? The lack of a tooth-brushing policy? Could it be the amazing work we do or the awesome testimonials we get from customers on the regular? Maybe it’s more about the lack of pants?
Yes. It’s definitely about all of those things. But let’s take a look at the bigger picture, because there’s a lot more to it.
Determining what qualities make up a workplace culture can be a challenge. There are so many pieces that help shape culture at any given company that it can be difficult to quantify them.
In my experience, culture so often starts with the office environment and how it feels to constantly occupy that space:
Are we chained to our desks from the early morning to the wee hours of the night?
Do we get fancy chairs or animatronic workstations?
What’s the food sitch? Are we bathed in a flood of bright fluorescent light or do we get sexy mood lighting?
Perhaps most importantly, just how casual are casual Fridays?
In office-based work cultures, people easily get caught up in these details, and while some of them are more important than others, these variables don’t really define culture for us as a fully distributed company. At Articulate, we choose the space we work from. We fulfill our own snack destiny, and we can work from bed if we please. It’s up to us to decide whether or not we wear European swimsuit bottoms, leather chaps, or completely freestyle the off-camera netherlands during conference calls.
Suffice to say, working remotely is awesome.
So, what’s next on the list of “Things That Make a Company Culture”? People, you say? Of course. We’ve got that dialed.
We’re a fantastic group, passionate about building great products and bringing smiles to our customers around the world. Our organization is, for the most part, incredibly flat. This allows everyone to have a voice. Communication is lightning fast because of the real-time tools we use to keep in touch, including Slack and Zoom. Best of all, we’re nice to one another. We have no problem hanging out on the beach together for an entire long weekend at one of our yearly retreats.
All of the things I mentioned before are important components of Articulate culture: the people, the ease of communication, the freedom… But when I really drill down to the core of what defines our culture, one thing stands above the rest.
It’s the autonomy we’re each given to exercise our craft.
I’d like to share a story about where I was at the beginning of this year. It all starts with my car. I was trapped in my car, in a sea of other cars, sitting on the 110 freeway waiting to arrive at my concrete box of an office in downtown LA.
After more than an hour commute, I’d arrive at my desk, make some coffee, and start on my to-do list. We’d break for lunch around 12:30, share some laughs, and get back to our desks, noses to the grindstone. The afternoon would be filled with impromptu design reviews, micromanaging eyes, panicked last-minute requests.
Stressful tension was thick in the air. There was no sense in addressing it. That panic was baked into the company’s culture.
I would keep working until it was dark, or until I was ready to die of Clif Bar poisoning—whichever came first. Then, I’d begin the same long, one hour and 15 minute journey home, and arrive home drained from the commute and the hectic day. It would often be too late to cook a good dinner for myself, and I’d be too tired to do anything but fall asleep in front of the TV. Rinse and repeat. I’m sure it sounds familiar.
Now, fast forward six months.
I’m sitting curbside at a French-themed cafe. There’s a heat lamp next to me, keeping me warm while I work at my laptop and simultaneously destroy a poached egg and salmon plate. It’s July and it’s cold, but that’s because it’s winter in New South Wales, Australia. I came here to take a music production course taught by one of my favorite artists, only offered in the land down under. No need to take time off work. I’ve got an apartment in Sydney through Airbnb, and I have no problem waking up just before dawn to make my series of daily meetings.
Each day I split my time between cranking out wireframes and user flows for exciting new projects, working on assignments for my music production class, and devouring any Australian food within arm’s reach. I resurrected my exercise routine, started working on my passion projects again, and became incredibly excited about my design work. Life had changed significantly for the better.
Before Articulate, I didn’t know the lifestyle I have now could be a reality without committing to the life of a freelancer. I believed that hustling for projects, disputing rates with clients, and weathering inevitable “dry spells” were the natural cost of autonomy at work and in life.
Fortunately, I was wrong. Sure, traveling abroad while working isn’t a regular occurrence, but it’s not off the table. That’s a testament to the trust and productivity we’ve built into the core of our company culture.
We create our own work-life balance each and every day. We’ve got regular check-ins and video scrums, but there are no meetings held simply for the sake of meetings. We have the solitude we need to get work done in peace, yet any necessary group work sessions are just a Google Hangout away. And if you’re feeling low in the afternoon and need a pick-me-up, go for a run. No big. Come back feeling refreshed and crush the next item on your to-do list.
We have something truly special here: a culture that cultivates happy, well-rounded people. We have the ability to practice and develop our crafts in an environment that doesn’t just support your task list, it supports you as a whole.