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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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Nov 15, 2018

Former co-host of this show Lisette will be familiar to long-term listeners, who might have wondered where she’d got to – well, wonder no more! She was busy writing “Work Together Anywhere”, which gave us a great excuse to catch up in our featured segment today.

And don’t forget to join us over on twitter (@PilarOrti or @Virtualteamw0rk), where one discussion this week has been all about what we call that bit on the screen where our colleague’s head appears. Not as obvious as it sounds! Can you add any suggestions?

Speaking of social media, we were so happy to be included in Geoff Watts’ video about his top 10 agile podcasts – he’s a great entertaining Youtuber and podcaster, and we’re in some great company here:



 The Voice Behind The Book: Lisette Sutherland, author of Work Together Anywhere 

 It’s been a long time since we had a ‘virtual coffee’ with Lisette, so this was a great trip down memory lane for us both!  We don’t always have this degree of intimacy with our interviewees, at least not to the extent that they admit they started writing their book as an excuse to talk to people who might hire them for a job…  But the director of Collaboration Superpowers soon realised there was a genuine demand for a practical ‘how to’ handbook, to underpin the workshops they delivered.

Written over a span of 5 years in the end, the book project morphed from a neon coffee table design vision to a practical, highly-navigable and structured guide, to help readers solve their own problems by being able to find the information they need most in the moment. Lisette’s insight into the collaboration process with her designer and editor will be valuable to anyone embarking on challenge of bringing a book into the world.

As well as the practical stuff, Lisette’s work with Happy Melly (and long-term quest for aligning work and personal fulfillment) helps keep the focus on why working flexibly and remotely is so rewarding. In her extensive career helping teams work better together online, she’s seen some changes, including improved acceptance and technology – but sees that there is still a long way to go, and lots of work to do. 

 But she also reminds us that nothing beats a direct conversation, when working remotely. We shouldn’t be afraid to get on a call – or to try something completely new and different. There are so many blended and creative ways to communicate now, from video messages to picking up the phone, so don’t think about a dichotomy between text and ‘real’ connectivity.

Above all Lisette reminds us to keep learning, stay humble, and continually evolve our practice and mindset – so our work can stay fresh and at its best. However many years of remote work experience we might have, we can still grow and develop. We never said remote was easy – but work in general isn’t easy.  With the right tactics and information, we can make it better. And there is no universal formula or single right way of doing this stuff. Personalities, energies and motivations combine differently on every team, however they are located. 

As well as the book, you can enjoy Lisette’s podcast (and don’t forget our own archives, talking to Lisette, through to the end of 2017!)


Recommended Tool: Loom

A powerful way to share little videos, recording your screen in real time along with narration – and it’s a great way to share learning and ideas in remote teams.  It’s available as a chrome plugin, free, and super-easy to share and distribute. There’s no need for an account to view the videos – in fact you can see one right here

Wellbeing: Are you a Lark or an Owl?

 It’s been a while, and we should not take wellbeing in remote work for granted.  And today Maya and Pilar reflect upon is the tradition of the ‘work day’, and how we can still end up following a habit from the industrial revolution…

Could we be more productive, fulfilled and effective, by listening to our own energy levels and circadian rhythms?

We talk a lot about the tools we have to collaborate asynchronously with colleagues in different time zones, so perhaps we could use them to work more flexibly with each other, and ourselves? To create a culture where we share stuff like ‘I am going for a walk to clear my head’ or, have a special Slack status to signify a siesta? 

 Team leaders can take the initiative and make sure that true temporal flexibility is part of your “work day”.