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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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Apr 25, 2019

21st century work-life has many differences from the traditional paradigm, and one of these differences is the many ways we can use technology to make our work visible to others.

 Even when we’re working remotely the internet can remove the walls, and we can decide consciously whether and at what point our work will be of value to others if we choose to share it.

 It’s all about visible teamwork – and the way this has evolved from ‘working out loud’, to become something far more deliberate and conscious. We are used to this as an internal concept, how we share with one another (and we’ll explore this in far greater detail when we bring you our special series on ‘Thinking Remote’ and our upcoming training course).

But what about how we share publicly, when our sharing becomes part of our brand expression and content dissemination? Even when we’re recording our podcast, we’re talking about our work with an awareness that there’s an audience, a third party to the conversation, which brings qualitative differences to how we think about and discuss what we are working on…

Someone who has been "working out loud” in the team for a long time, and since evolved the practice to share outside of his organisation is Jochen Lillich, from (Pilar actually recorded this last year, but he’s only doing more of it now!).

14.08 The voice behind the blog: Jochen Lillich

Friestil is the German word for ‘freestyle’, and his blog post explains how Jochen came to be livestreaming his work on Twitch, about as ‘out loud’ as you can possibly work. Twice a week at fixed times he does his coding in public, narrating in real time as he does the work, and also managing a live chat about what he’s doing. It’s like a screencast, but completely live and unedited, radically transparent.

As a gamer, progressing from recording for internal use to livestreaming publicly felt like a natural transition for Jochen, and reflects Freistil’s transparency values – as coding is an unpredictable environment, things don’t always go to plan. The community - whose numbers grow steadily – can even suggest and help out when things get stuck, and Jochen feels strongly that his work has improved as a direct result of this regular broadcasting. Committing to the twice-weekly slots creates structure and accountability as well as a learning environment - an interesting solution perhaps, to the discipline issues some people struggle with when working from home…

As well as weekday sessions, Jochen is also live coding on Saturdays 3.30pm, to reach people who can’t make sessions during the working week.  Tune in here if you’re curious to see Jochen in action!


So how else could this kind of radical transparency be used to make our work visible?

Maya is the first to admit that as an introverted writer, she couldn’t imagine anything worse than ‘writing out loud’ in this way (and declined Pilar’s challenge to try it!).  But Jason Fried from Basecamp has done just this and created a Youtube channel called ‘Getting Real – how we work at Basecamp’ (their podcast Behind the Scenes is also a great example of their approach). 

Maybe it naturally suits certain industries, like the very open-source based software industry, to work in this way - though it obviously can work for collaborative writing projects. But at what point could ego get in the way and offset the benefits the Hawthorne effect (where we raise our game because others are watching) brings to the situation? Lots to consider…

But sharing this way can only increase informal learning within the organisation, not least as it provides a focus, for watching and conversation (we found evidence for this in “Non-formal learning and tacit knowledge in professional work”, by Michael Eraut, British Journal of educational psychology, 2000, 70, 113-136).  It also reflects the blended aspect of organisational community, in which people can move fluidly between roles such as employment, contracting, consumption, being a brand ambassador (have a look at episode 193 when we discussed an article about just this kind of silo-busting). 

Certainly in hybrid teams, where remote employees might be concerned about their visibility, livestreaming certainly adds new possibilities for making yourself and your work manifest - both within and without the organisation.

Red flags: obviously there might be security aspects, considerations of intellectual property and personal data. With coding in particular there must be risks of disclosing sensitive content accidentally.  It requires very explicit understanding of boundaries – what is part of the public story? It’s not about sharing everything, but sharing meaningfully and appropriately. For more on this, Pilar recommends reading “Show Your Work” by Austin Kleon.

Even the most transparent organisation has some ‘trade secrets’ – and once again, really conscious and deliberate practice must be the solution.  But it’s great to see the opening of content like company handbooks online, such as MeetEdgar and Buffer (who share so much! Even salary data!, and it’s an excellent way of communicating company culture to potential new hires.

Start with your own team, if you need to get comfortable with greater levels of spontaneous transparency and visible teamwork… Take a look at our podcasting products, for your team or organisation, as a potential first step. If you don’t want to share your face or your screen, just sharing your voice is amazingly intimate, and reminds us of the variety of ways we can communicate


57.11 Richard Mackinnon: Workplace Psychology Definitions

Today we have 3 more fascinating definitions from the workplace psychology expert Richard Mackinnon:

Psychological Contract – we have legal contracts of employment in the workplace, but it can’t encompass every aspect of what we do. We supplement this with built expectations, particularly with our direct management… But if these expectations are not discussed, it’s easy for the other party to breach this ‘psychological contract’ (eg “if I work late tonight, I can leave early on Thursday”). Explicit discussion matters - exposing the expectations below the waterline really helps avoid misunderstandings and potential conflicts (see episode 19 of My Pocket Psych podcast for more on this)

Stress – What Richard experiences when Pilar asks him to define complex terms in a few sentences! But true stress is when the demands upon us exceed our capacity to deal with it all, and as such it’s highly subjective, and hard to deal with. Identifying the source is a good start, because you can only reduce stress by tackling its cause. See episode 13 of My Pocket Psych for greater detail.

Resilience – from adverse circumstances can come personal growth, and make us stronger… Increased self-awareness, learning from experience, and new perspectives. It’s not about bouncing back to where we were before, but being somewhere new on our developmental journey, a point we only reach as a result of what we have experienced. More on this in episode 16 of My Pocket Psych

This concludes our series of definitions with Richard, but check out My Pocket Psych, on which Pilar is a regular co-host, and for lots of additional inspiring content about the way individuals and teams function.