Greetings Wheels Up Collective friends, family, clients, and followers. I’m Karla, one of the newest additions here on the team, just four months into my role as resident Managing Editor. The fact that I’m here at all is a bit of a testament to the times we find ourselves in and to the vision we’re committed to at WUC - one of an entirely new way of doing business.
I’ll never forget those first video calls I had with Elise and Amy; I was camped in my vintage Volkswagen van alongside a cow pasture in central Oregon. I’d recently been laid off from a position I’d held at Microsoft for 11 years - my longest stint at any one company in my 17-year content marketing career. In my three short weeks of unemployment, I’d fallen swiftly into a relaxation unlike any I’d known in adult life. I woke up without an alarm, I moved my body through nature when I felt called to, and my young dog and I shared seemingly unlimited moments of pure joy unhampered by really any exterior demands. With the warm, high desert wind blowing gently in my open slider door, I remember feeling excited at the prospect of working with words again every day, and with writers who loved them as I did. And I remember, too, I was terrified to go “back to work”. I knew that to be sustainable, life at Wheels Up would have to be different. Four months later, I’m happy to report that it is.
I was always passionate about the concept of asynchronous work, though for years, I didn’t have a name for my vision. It just lived in me as the obvious truth that in traditional corporate America - where we were commuting long distances to a physical office, clocking in on a predetermined schedule, and most often sitting alone staring at a screen near other folks doing exactly the same thing - we weren’t optimizing our use of time, the quality of our work, or in any way, our overall lives. It always seemed to me like we were making the experience of work unnecessarily hard on ourselves, without discernible benefit.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the first known outbreaks clustered very near my hometown, mine was one of the first companies to go remote. “This is it,” I thought, “this is our chance to do something different.” It was in May 2020 from an Airbnb near the Grand Canyon that I first stumbled across the right words for my vision. Indeed, Distributed Work’s Five Levels of Autonomy by Matt Mullenweg released the blueprint of my dreams.
My former employer never saw the opportunity quite like I did. But at Wheels Up, we’re operating pretty darn close to Matt’s outlined Level 4: Asynchronous Communication. The benefits are clear to me, and I’d wager our clients - whether they know it - are seeing the benefits too.
Here are just a few that come to mind:
We can attract the highest quality workforce
We’re more than remote - we’re dispersed without a central location, which means our talent pool will never be limited to those within driving distance. We can hire, contract to, partner with, and collaborate with the most talented folks in the industry. It’s a pleasure for the experience of working here, but also a major benefit for the clients we serve.
We generate naturally diverse perspectives
With a workforce that’s experiencing daily life in such distinct ways - including unique weather, dissimilar housing, and varying political, racial, and socioeconomic environments; we’re bound to approach problem solving, creativity, and workplace culture formation with a diverse set of perspectives. If you believe, like I do, that diversity is a birthplace of growth, you understand already why I’m a believer. There’s no doubt this translates to the outcomes of our work.
We keep creativity alive
There’s nothing sadder to me than hiring a group of vibrant, passionate creatives and hamstringing them via confinement to set schedules, uninspiring workspaces, and forced commitments to work on approved company projects exclusively. And yet, that’s the exact model employed by the largest tech companies around. Yet, they wonder why their products don’t come alive with creative edge. Asynchronous work allows creatives to be what they are - creative. I myself maintain part-time work as a portrait photographer, have hours of my week earmarked to work on my book, and get to take classes each week on subjects that just spark my interest. When I sit down to put on my Wheels Up Managing Editor hat, you bet I’m doing it from a place that’s full of excitement and inspiration, not to mention fresh knowledge. And wouldn’t we all want that for our team?
We get better work when people are on their own schedules
The makeup of any community is simply a conglomeration of spectrums. Indoorsy and outdoorsy. City dwellers and country folk. Introverts and extroverts. Morning larks and night owls. Asynchronous work affords everyone the opportunity to live in unabashed embracement of our natural proclivities and rhythms. And isn’t that what every company dreams of? A lead sales manager firing on all cylinders first thing in the morning from an apartment she loves in some downtown city? An imaginative designer adrift in the inspiration of a quiet evening spent in her sprawling yard in rural backcountry? When we live in tune with our natural states of being, it’s just true that everyone benefits from that energy, perhaps the quality of work most of all.
Truly, when I think about the opportunities missed in the workforce today, this is top of the list. Giving people the ability to integrate their work into their lives - to live in a freer, more naturally flowing state much more of the time, and to do so without guilt, shame, or the arduous task of pretending work is always the central function of life - is giving them the gift of longevity in their careers, fresh energy in their spirits and minds, and empowerment to step into their fullest potential, qualities I am unafraid to claim significantly impact output, results, and the overall client experience.
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