45. In a world without offices, what is a company?

I spent over 20 years defining my identity within the walls of a corporate office. Outside of the work, which most days I loved, that space created memories, laughter, joy, sadness, and relationships that I treasure to this very day. I enjoyed tossing around an idea at a colleague’s desk, brainstorming in front of a whiteboard with my team, watching the IT Crowd over pizza in the boardroom, and participating in the games we played to make things fun, such as the annual fantasy football league.


Perhaps one of my cherished moments is when my daughter would come by to see her dad for lunch, and Dawn, our lovely office manager, would sneak into Uncle Pete’s office with her to draw messages on his whiteboard.  


What happens when that all goes away? 


Relevant Bits began as a company without offices and a remote team that spans multiple continents and time-zones. Due to the ongoing pandemic, what was once common to us but rare for most, working remotely from home, has become the norm. For many, that is a significant adjustment. I know it was for me. 


The Cambridge Dictionary defines a company as the following: “an organization that sells goods or services in order to make money.”


Based on that definition, remote or not, check! It’s concise, if not a bit cold. Is that all there is to a company, groups of people gathering together to chase the almighty dollar? In the transition from office to remote, many of us discovered a greater definition of a company than that. 


It may be helpful to look at some of the alternative definitions of the word for some clues. Going back to the Cambridge Dictionary we find:

  • “the fact of being with a person or people, or the person or people you are with”
  • “to be pleasant and entertaining to be with”
  • “to stay with someone so that they are not alone”


These point to a community, measured by its humanity as much as its balance sheet. It’s an organization with a shared purpose, one strong enough to bond people together over the most significant obstacles, be they distance, culture, language, or even a global pandemic. It’s a partnership that celebrates the success of its clients as much as its own. It’s a team believing it can make a real difference.


You don’t need an office to create any of that. It takes communication, trust, and a little dash of crazy fun. That can happen anywhere, anytime, and by any means. While we can’t always physically be together, trust me, these long-distance relationships can work. It just may take a little extra effort when you’re sitting halfway across the world instead of at an adjacent desk.



This piece is part of our 100 Lessons series. When the UX Collective published their annual trends report (100 Design Lessons for 2021), I looked through and wondered what it would be like if members from our team were given one of the statements or questions and asked to write an article around it. So, with little guidance or direction, that’s what we’re doing. Follow along to see if anything interesting comes out of it!


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