Juliana Chan Takes a Unique Approach to Her Business
In a rapidly changing world, the concept of remote work has gained immense popularity. Juliana Chan, the CEO of Wildtype Media, a STEM-focused media communications firm, recently made the bold decision to take her company fully remote in August. In this article, we delve into her insights and experiences as she navigates the challenges and opportunities presented by this transformative shift in the world of work.
The Brave Decision to Go Remote
When Juliana Chan made the pivotal choice to go fully remote, she encountered praise from some and skepticism from others. As she reflects on this decision, she acknowledges the inherent challenges remote work brings to the table. These include employee disengagement, communication difficulties due to the absence of non-verbal cues, and concerns regarding data privacy. Despite these challenges, Chan’s instincts guided her toward what she believes is “the future of work.”
“Our office lease was coming to an end in August 2023, and I felt it was underutilized after reviewing the usage of the office over the past three years,” Chan added.
“Furthermore, I have never had one person ever complain about our remote-work policy … during performance reviews [employees] always share with me how grateful they are not to have to fight traffic jams and commute daily.”
Redefining the Workplace
A key catalyst for Juliana Chan’s decision was the impending end of her office lease in August 2023. Upon reviewing the underutilization of the office over the past three years, she saw an opportunity to embrace remote work more fully. Surprisingly, employees welcomed this change, expressing gratitude for the elimination of daily commutes.
Currently, Juliana Chan oversees a team of 20 members located in Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, and India, supplemented by 30 to 40 regular freelancers scattered across the globe.
The Demand for Remote Work
Juliana Chan’s LinkedIn post about transitioning to remote work triggered a flood of inquiries from job applicants seeking remote positions. This unexpected interest aligns with recent data indicating a persistent demand for remote work, even as some companies reconsider their flexibility initiatives. However, Juliana Chan emphasizes that selecting a strong remote worker requires a refined approach, distinct from hiring in-person employees.
“A potentially strong remote worker could be a very different pick from a strong in-person worker,” she explained.
“The types of in-person behaviors that are traditionally key to success in an office setting may not matter anymore in a remote setting, so I cannot assume past success (in-person) will translate to future success (remote).”
Traits of a Strong Remote Worker
According to Juliana Chan, a “prototypically strong remote worker” possesses two essential traits:
1. Excellent Virtual Communication
Effective virtual communication extends beyond using tools like Slack, email, or Zoom. Juliana Chan emphasizes the importance of active participation in virtual discussions and the creation of professional relationships with remote colleagues. Asking for help and self-reporting problems are also vital skills for a remote worker.
“They may simply ‘disappear’ [and act] like they were never part of the company in the first place,” she explained.
“They may not participate in virtual water-cooler conversations, put in the effort to create 1:1 conversations … or invest their energy and time into creating strong professional relationships with their virtual teammates.”
“While most people would like to work flexibly, not everyone is suited for it. All of us have different personality types and levels of professional experience, and our needs at different stages of our career are also remarkably different,” she added.
For remote work to thrive, employees must be accountable for their performance. Juliana Chan highlights the significance of this trait, as it enables the formation of high-performance teams that operate autonomously, even without physical meetings. Lack of accountability can lead to missed deadlines and communication breakdowns.
“This is a gamechanger: if everyone agrees to be fully accountable … It is possible to create high-performance teams that have never even once met their remote colleagues in real life, while operating nearly autonomously.”
“While this is also a problem in an office setting, the problem is compounded in a remote setting as nobody (not even the supervisor) has any visibility on the matter.”
Fostering Engagement in a Remote World
Despite the shift to full remote work, Juliana Chan remains a proponent of face-to-face meetings and believes in the importance of keeping employees engaged. She organizes company-sponsored lunches, arranges visits for overseas employees to Singapore, and invests in overseas retreats. She emphasizes the human need for physical interaction and suggests that shared purpose and mission are critical to preventing employee disengagement.
Juliana Chan’s journey to embrace remote work as the future of business offers valuable insights into the evolving world of work. As companies navigate the challenges and opportunities of remote work, Chan’s experiences provide a roadmap for creating high-performance remote teams while nurturing employee engagement.