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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 one of two

These shownotes for both episodes are available at -because it really is just one big conversation

What’s going on

  • Buffer are looking at the introversion question too - and how to make this work when virtual teams meet up in ‘real’ life Ten reflections on Buffer's 10th team retreat. I am sure it helps if your CEO is introverted! But there are lots of good ideas in here for every team.
  • Santander brews up the first uk work cafe for small businesses - is it a cafe, is it a bank, is it a co-working? An incubator? We’re not sure, but we like the idea and look forward to seeing how it develops, the more flexibility the better chance of everyone finding their perfect work space locally, and these days banks need to do more to connect with their communities.
  • Formatting in Trello - yes you can italicise... but not in the mobile app. Oh well! We all learn something new every day, and this was news to us.
  • New MSTeams accessibility features, explained at Use Immersive Reader in Microsoft Teams   Shared by our friend from previous podcasts Chris Slemp (ep. 202 and others). Text is NOT the optimal communications mode for everyone, and it’s good to see platforms addressing this.
  • We’re looking for more evidence-based research to support our work with remote teams - Pilar had a shout-out on LinkedIn here with some fascinating replies. Can you add anything?
  • Speaking of networking, Pilar is starting a face-to-face meetup group in West London, for people in the remote leadership space. No powerpoint or pitching, just coffee and in-depth conversation. Let us know if you’re interested and date (likely October) will be confirmed.
  • And another upcoming event which might interest London area listeners, from Minds@Work LAB on the 17th September 2019, all about Mentally Healthy Remote Working - so do check that out,
  • Finally, don’t forget to let us know about any events you know about or are planning, that we can share with our community


Collaboration platforms - how we’re using them now

A truly 21st Century work-life phenomenon, it’s time to talk about the tools we use every day. It’s time to talk about ‘chat’ - whether you use Slack, MSTeams, Twist, or other more project-management based tools which also include the ongoing conversation that ties the whole work process together.

Slack was one of the first truly built for business, rather than repurposing consumer tools like MSN messenger and Skype (which was a consumer tool at first, and now Skype for Business is being subsumed into MSTeams).  

We enjoyed this paper about How scientists use Slack, which demonstrated the versatility of it and how different types of workers can shape it to their own needs, from conversation to creation. Collaborating on a research paper with international colleagues is a great example of time-agnostic asynchronous remote work.

They also use the reminders tool - and we didn’t know you could set reminders for other people. Very interesting! And there’s a subtle difference when an app asks or reminds people about something, rather than a colleague…

Interesting too how tools like Slack are being used at an organisational level, with hundreds or sometimes thousands of users - requiring very different moderation and interaction approaches, and potential new challenges, and leading Slack to introduce new admin tools for professional users. We’d rather see team agreements and consensus, than controls - but perhaps with scale it’s becoming inevitable.

So these tools are becoming multipurpose communications hubs, not always real-time chat - channels can become discussion forums, co-creation spaces, announcement channels and so on. And as we’re always saying, asynchronous conversation rocks!

Our friends at Buffer experimented with turning Slack off altogether - Slack-off Fridays: What Happened When One Team Experienced a Day Without Slack - there are many other ways to do visible teamwork effectively.

 The use of the word chat (or instant messaging, from which these tools evolved) frustratingly suggests an instantaneous response. So we need a new collective noun. What shall we call them? Does “collaboration platforms” work? “Digital hubs”? Where we live and do our work online needs a better name, so please let us know what you think!

Don't forget to continue to download and enjoy part two of this conversation next...