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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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Sep 26, 2019

For once we are truly working from home, because we’re recording this episode in Maya’s home office! Usually we record from different countries on Skype, but it’s quite fun and very appropriate to do things differently today.  

This podcast is brought to you by Virtual Not Distant, a London-based consultancy helping organisations transition to successful office-optional working.

What’s going on?

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker recently unveiled an $18 billion transportation investment bill that includes a tax credit that will give companies more flexibility in offering work from home perks to their employees - more on LinkedIn here.

Employers are not supporting tech learning, at least not as much as their employees would like. This UK research in People Management was disappointing to read. The reasons why are not clear, but the expressed frustration certainly is. Leaving people to figure things out for themselves is NOT the way to implement effective digital transformation!

WeWork have cancelled - sorry, postponed - their forthcoming IPO Pilar and Maya don’t really get it, the corporate co-working movement and replicating the office you’ve left behind, but clearly some people love it… Not enough to fundamentally shift the problems of office space costs, but maybe it’s good to remind us of the many different options in terms of co-working alone.

Work From Home Week - listen to Rebecca Corliss, VP of Marketing at Owl Labs, recapping on this interesting initiative they promoted in July, encouraging corporate partners to experiment systematically with home working.  It’s great to learn more about their ‘Meeting Owl’ product as well, a 365 degree conferencing camera that puts the remote participants in the centre of the hybrid meeting, instead of stuck up on the wall somewhere. Work From Home Week was a great experiment which taught participants a great deal, and the blog post shares these fascinating insights.  “#WFHW” will be repeated, but you don’t have to wait : Why not have your own ‘work from home week’ within your organisation?

BBC Bitesize have been writing about ‘workplace perks’, and we all went ‘ahhh’ about the concept of ‘Fur-ternity’ leave - offering new pet-parents the option of working from home for a week while settling a new non-human family member. Anything that brings on experimenting with remote working is fine by us, as is any embrace of the diversity and individuality of human motivation.

Pilar has been a panelist this week for a Minds at Work event, which was run as a hybrid event in London plus a parallel remote one, while the two cohorts were kept completely separate.  The remote side used Remo, a new tool for remote events, which worked very well - offering lots of flexibility for participants to ‘choose a table’ and talk to each other, then listen to broadcasts in bigger sessions.

Event sessions included finding your community at work, and how that differs in the remote space (do people still meet their best friends or their life partners at work?), as well as the ways we communicate and changing degrees of formality and the evolution of the business conversation generally. 

So many shifts, and the question of how to make remote work better are often questions about how to make work better generally… this event and others are really helping to broaden the conversation, and if you get the chance to participate in one in future, why not check it out?

You can do so from anywhere in the world, for example somewhere like Maya’s home office - which she has recently reclaimed from a shared space, banishing her other half to his own home office in another room! She has added a comfortable arm chair for reading and research, and also a standing desk zone (though the way this is being used as a bookshelf reveals that not a lot of standing up takes place every day) - at least the theory is there, and it’s good not to sit too much!  Also to change your focal point, by looking at something further away than the screen in front of your nose.

A work in progress, Maya is doing her best to organise the space - small as it is - by function, to create different zones for different activities, which is a powerful way to overcome any feeling of being “stuck in one place” all day, as well as switching up the energy: Pilar does a similar thing moving around her apartment, and both enjoy getting out of the home office and interacting with other people in the neighbourhood too.

And how about if more employers encouraged people to do things in their community, safeguarded the time needed to take a class or do some exercise? Surely everyone’s health AND productivity would improve. 

But you can always find ways to connect when remote working, such as apps like FocusMate - which pairs you with an accountability partner to work alongside  remotely via webcam. Anything which helps you get things done is worth a try, though some people might find it distracting or want to talk to the other person and get to know them - which is the opposite of the whole idea.

We would love to hear your thoughts about working from home - which is just one aspect of remote working and wholly optional one. Let us know what you thought of this episode, what you think of working from home, and what you’d like us to explore and discuss next. Send us your comments, or catch up on Twitter to join the conversation.