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21st Century Work Life and leading remote teams

Brought to you by Virtual not Distant, the 21st Century Work Life podcast looks at leading remote teams, online collaboration and working in distributed organisations.

Join Pilar Orti, guests & co-hosts as they shine the spotlight on the most relevant themes and news relevant to the modern knowledge worker.

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Aug 29, 2019

Today we have such a detailed episode for you, that we’ve had to split it into two, for practical distribution reasons.

This is part two of two
These shownotes for both episodes are available at -because it really is just one big conversation.

Collaboration platforms - the dangers

Too much information, vs “fear of missing out”?

How do we stay on top of all the messages in our platforms, making sure we don’t get overloaded, while not missing anything vital? What if you get back from a holiday or an illness and there are 400 alerts…?

Your team agreement needs to specify what to check, as opposed to what you can let go, or the best way to catch up on the conversation after a break. And your team agreement needs regular review to ensure relevance and that it’s continuing to serve you well.  Your team changes, and so does the tool (for example you might want to consider the appropriateness of animated emoji use, non-trivial for any users with dyslexia, or whether our emoji-sets are too culturally exclusive anyway).


Too much text

Some of us type better than others do, and might also need to get comfortable with a speed vs accuracy tradeoff.  Remember you can dictate, you can record audio, you can record video. 

You can use photos, of drawings or even handwriting. Draw your own emojis!  While we can’t customise the platforms themselves, and how they look and feel, but our culture and team personality can really emerge quite creatively.

But, if it’s an important communication which might need to be referred back to or found in search, then text - which can be dictated text - is the only thing really searchable/indexable, for now (soon the AIs will be able to search our audio for keywords easily). So do consider that when choosing how best to post.

Episode 153 should we be talking or typing goes into more detail on this.


Always on

We need to choose a collaboration platform with good mobile tools, but we do need to remember to ensure those boundaries between work and non-work. 

When your collaboration tool is there on the homescreen of your personal mobile phone, you’re never away from it. Richard Mackinnon discussed on a recent Work Life Psych podcast ‘my phone, where’s my phone!’, how truly addicted to our devices we are.  

And sometimes we are left anxiously waiting for responses, in the same way as we crave our Facebook likes - is this person confused, annoyed, or just responding asynchronously when it suits them best?  The reward-centres of the brain that overthink these things have made the social networks billions, but do we want this effect in our work communications?

Managing hostility

This article from Workable about hostile work environment signs and fixes led us to think about how signs of bullying, harassment or oppression become visible (or not) in the online workspace, and an interesting Twitter thread emerged as a result.  

Conflict at work might be less obvious to others, but conversely it is easier to provide evidence of when communications are digitised. There are lots of issues here about whether this is done ‘officially’ or not - this article from People Management, Do you know what your employees are saying in private messages? discusses this in depth from a policy point of view, but everyone should remember that nothing in the digital space is truly secret.

It’s important that everyone knows how to discuss difficulties and with whom, and that people get to know their online colleagues as whole people and develop their own support networks.  And while there are apps which can help highlight inappropriate communications, (such as the one described here in Venture Beat Valued raises $1.7 million for Slack chatbot to combat workplace harassment), there are dangers in abdicating any of these responsibilities for team wellbeing and safety, to a tool or app.

So many issues to think about, when it comes to our collaboration platforms, whether we call them chats or digital hubs or our online offices… we need to use them well, use them right, because these ARE our workplaces now.

We conclude this episode with a lovely anecdote about two very creative people communcating asynchronously, in an unusual setting… but you’ll have to listen to find this little gem, which reminds us just how many different ways there are to communicate.

Don’t forget to keep communicating with us! About your collaboration platforms, or any other aspect of remote work.  You can message us directly, you can tweet Maya or Pilar or the Virtual Not Distant account at any time, to keep this conversation going - asynchronously of course.