Company Culture

Can you have an all IRL local team and remote employees? This founder thinks so

Christian Pinkston, the founder of Pinkston in Falls Church, has several remote employees and a local team that's required to be back in the office full time. Here's how he manages both — with the help of an Airstream kitchen.

The Airstream camper kitchen at Pinkston's new office.

(Courtesy photo)

Following the (gestures in circle) everything that was 2020, we’ve seen a lot of different work models grow and change, be it remote, IRL or a little bit of both.

But those seeking an all-in-person model while also hosting remote employees can find it hard to navigate without leading to turnover, a lack of competitiveness in hiring and more issues.

Pinkston, a local communications company, thinks you can have a bit of both. The largely IRL company is headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia, with an additional office in Oklahoma City, as well as several remote employees.

For its NoVa workers, the office policy took different approaches throughout the past few years (the Oklahoma office was gained through an acquisition in 2021). Like most companies, Pinkston initially sent employees in early 2020 before giving them the option to return as they pleased. Once vaccines were readily available, founder and CEO Christian Pinkston said, the company asked employees to return to the office full-time.

With the policy, though, the company realized that it needed a larger space since it had more than doubled its employee and client headcounts. His solution was to create an even bigger, tricked-out office that would have the space for these employees — and act as an incentive for them to return.

“What we do for a living is so collaborative and so creative and so team-oriented, we’re just better when we’re together,” Pinkston told Technical.ly.

The new space, officially launching today, features a collaborative workspace, living rooms, an Airstream kitchen and a speakeasy that the company can use for special events. Pinkston said there’s also an in-house barista and company-hosted happy hours. For COVID-19 safety, he added that the new office features updated air purification systems and air quality sensors, as well as UV lighting technology.

The goal, he said, was to create a space that people naturally want to come to, office or not. In 2022, he thinks the office needs to be a space that creates community and growth at a personal and professional level.

“You have to create a space and culture that people want to come to, that people gravitate to,” Pinkston said. “They’re not going to come to a cubicle farm. They’re not going to come to an old school environment that is nine to five, get your work done and walk away.”

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But alongside the new office, Pinkston has some remote employees that are also part of the culture. The CEO said that while the company has some jobs, like video production, that need to be done in person, several positions can be done from home. His solution has been to let two main factors determine employee office status: job and geography. If someone lives outside of the metro area and can do their job from home, he’s been happy to let them carry on as a remote worker, he said. But if they’re living locally or have a job that needs to be done in person, they need to show up at the office (and yes, there have been a few people who have moved outside the area and transitioned into a remote employee).

“You have to be thoughtful and predictable about your policy so some people don’t feel like there’s a sense of favoritism or unfairness,” Pinkston said.

Pinkston added that creating a work environment for employees to be in-office all day, every day alongside remote employees with no turnover means going the extra mile to build something that employees want to be in. He thinks it comes down to valuing employees and their well-being first, and business second, while also developing a positive space and culture that makes them want to stick around. A culture like this, he noted, also means hiring a team that wants a space like the one you have, since it might not be for everybody.

“It’s a lot more than just a workspace,” Pinkston said.

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