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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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Feb 14, 2019

In today’s episode we look at how the very traditional industry of accountancy services is adapting itself to the needs of 21st century clients, when we interview our own accountants! And we also bring you a Wellness segment, and a return to perennial favourite ‘Oh No My Team’s Gone Remote!”

 Thank you for all the feedback on our recent special episode all about Twitter conversations and themes – don’t forget to join in the conversation, we’re @Virtualteamw0rk. Lots going on, including updates on our upcoming book launch for Thinking Remote: Inspiration for Leaders of Distribute Teams.

 But now, let’s hear from Jennifer:


5.44 21st Century Work-Life: Jennifer Denning, Founder, Finling

Specialised in supporting entrepreneurial fast-changing businesses with particular expertise in technology, property, and business services, Finling were a great choice for Virtual Not Distant. They operate from a colocated office (in fact, a single room) in Wimbledon, London, and run face-to-face events to get to know their clients – with whom they work entirely virtually. 

They help clients choose and implement the right cloud software, driven by founder Jennifer’s fascination with the evolution of technology to become accessible to SMEs – businesses who now need something beyond traditional high street compliance accounting. Because the world of “beautifully organised and tabbed files” is starting to evolve beyond existence – today we need data engineers in accounting. Change is getting faster, and it’s not always about growth, but the complex pivots of entrepreneurial life.  Jennifer’s work with their clients suggested a lot of parallels with what we do here at Virtual Not Distant in fact, bridging HR and tech to provide a holistic and flexible tailored solution.

Working on an ‘open book’ basis with clients, Finling are more like an outsourced finance department than a traditional supplier. This creates an unusually close working relationship based on effective collaboration, often including coaching on use of appropriate tools for secure online sharing and effective process control and discipline – because we all know that going online can expose holes in procedures where they are woolly. Everyone benefits from using software correctly, and getting the right services in place helps their clients’ businesses thrive.

Whilst they work remotely with clients, their core team all work from the central office, (though some specialist contractors are more flexible, including work at home and on-site with clients)  This suits their high-pressure high-trust environment of professional client service work. But they use a lot of technical collaboration tools to manage the work, which is no different to what they would do remotely – in accounting, everything needs an audit trail, so you create a task or instruction for someone electronically instead of turning around and asking them. This enables a lot of the work to be made visible without actually talking about it, creating a different quality to the interactions in the office. “Sometimes we’re silent for a long time” – A really interesting perspective into how people share and connect as a team when the work itself doesn’t need explaining

A really interesting conversation all round, in which we also talk about Open Banking, and how new standards are making it even easier to integrate all the financial tools and services businesses use, and work with clients as they expand internationally

You can connect with Jennifer at 


42.25 Wellness: Commuting and health

We wanted to discuss this article:

We often talk about the quality of life gains which office-optional work can bring, especially for those with long commutes – but this research puts numbers on it, in quite a chilling way, including significant detriments to mental and physical health. Particularly as the commute should be unrelated to the work itself.

People with long commutes are more likely to get less than the recommended amount of sleep, more likely to be obese, even more likely to smoke…

The research distinguished between flexible working and working from home, which was interesting, as for productivity gains it does appear to be the autonomy which makes the difference. 

Difference to the tune of a full extra week’s productivity per year, in case you need to make a business case for it in your own work.


52.23 Oh No My Team’s Gone Remote! And how will we maintain high levels of trust?

All relationships depend on trust, but building this can be more difficult without the face-to-face interactions of the traditional workplace.

The Culture Map by Erin Mayer (as recommended in our latest newsletter defines two categories of trust, and gives us a useful framework for considering our online relationships: cognitive trust is built through work interactions, the skill as well as the will to follow through and deliver. We can have high cognitive trust with people we don’t feel we know well as individuals, yet can rely on utterly in a professional capacity.

Effective trust is how close we feel emotionally, in terms of shared values and character and activities... And this might be very important to some working relationships as well, and how we enjoy spending our time.  Or it might not be necessary at all, to work closely and effectively with somebody.

As always in remote teams, building trust – especially the levels of disclosure associated with effective trust – requires a degree of deliberation and planning, if only to ensure the spontaneous sharing and connection has a place to occur online instead of in a shared office.

(If you enjoyed this theme, do check out another episode where we dig into building trust in more depth