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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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Jun 20, 2019

We have reached episode 200! We are celebrating… and we invite you to celebrate with us.

Many of our listeners and guests responded to our call for contributions for this episode, and it’s wonderful to reflect the diversity of teams and people working in various ways virtually and remotely and flexibly, as expressed in the variety of ways we celebrate together. Because 21st Century Work Life is about choice and the way you want to do things.

Maya and Pilar may have celebrated this milestone by connecting with listeners and how they celebrate. Sometimes it’s the smallest things - like the way emojis can convey so much emotion, in so few pixels.  (And if you’d like to communicate more with fewer words, send us your favourite emoji as a celebration of this episode!)

Larger teams might create more formal ways of using their regular communications channels to celebrate in a slightly more structured way, such as Morgan Legge (interviewed in Episode 146) at who sent us a screenshot of their Slack, where they have created channels for #humblebrag #gratitude and so on - things that are outside of the everyday work but weave the recognition and acknowledgement of each other throughout the working day.

Gant Laborde (Episode 174) at Infinite Red have a #kudos channel for similar effect, and also have internal ‘ask me anything’ sessions to wrap up successful projects - which often take on a celebratory tone. Tim Burgess from ShieldGeo share that they go further and prompt all team members to contribute to a weekly round-up of shout-outs for colleagues - a lovely way to encourage people to reflect on who has helped them and how, and all interesting uses of asynchronous communications from all these teams: you don’t need to be in a special meeting or conversation, to recognise a job well done.

When new people join a team that is also a cause for celebration, and Marcus Wermuth from Buffer (Episodes 188, 195 and more to come!) shared how they have a GIF party in their Slack to welcome new arrivals (because if an emoji speaks a thousand words, how about one that moves..?) Marcus also shared he likes to celebrate work things with his wife, do something out of the routine in the working week, it doesn’t have to be with his team to be a celebration.

Jamon Holgrem ( Episode 183) from Infinite Red does something similar, ‘pelting’ new hires with GIFs in a special channel, while at Buffer they use an app called for calling out more business-related achievements for specific recognition and attention.

Employees who are around long term can be acknowledged in other ways:

17.57 Teresa Douglas (Episode 193) from Kaplan (author of Secrets of the Online Workforce)

On their 10 year anniversary with the company they celebrate with a professional caricature portrait of their team-mate, reflecting aspects of their interests and personality in a unique way - Teresa got hers last year.

They also celebrate in more ad-hoc ways, including ‘secret’ team happy hours over video where all of the Canadian team got together to celebrate with one another, on the day that all their US colleagues were enjoying Memorial Day - being a multicultural team means you can enjoy each other’s local holidays in creative ways.

Meetings are often the focus of team celebration of course

Alison Jones (Episode 173) of practical inspiration reminded us to look beyond the work in hand, and they have a quarterly team meeting in which they ask each person to reflect on their high spots for sharing and validation - bringing a great positive energy into the meeting from the opening.

(Talking of books - Maya and Pilar’s book Thinking Remote: Inspiration for Leaders of Distributed Teams is now available in audiobook. Message us for your FREE copy before the 1st July 2019, so you can celebrate with us!)

22.09 Vladimir Smolyakov Vivify Ideas

As an Agile company Vivify Ideas use their cyclical retrospectives to present their projects to the wider organisation, in the presence of refreshments and a celebratory atmosphere which also helps share information within the larger group

They also celebrate personal achievements and accomplishments, which is really motivating, to feel that a team of 100 people is behind you and encouraging your work.

25.00 Mark Kilby, Agile coach at Sonatype, (and veteran guest of episodes 73, 95, 175, 197... )

On Mark’s teams they use celebrations to maintain connections and also to reflect the characters of different team members - not everyone is comfortable being called out directly, or indeed doing that calling-out themselves. Some retrospectives might be very celebratory and full of appreciation, and we have to be sure to loop in the right people if they’re not in the room so they are included in the acknowledgement. Mark also shared with us how their teams all went out for, or stayed in, for lunch - including a colleague who joined them from a restaurant via webcam!

In global teams, practicalities can prevent some kinds of celebration

In hybrid teams it’s important that celebrations don’t take on a ‘them and us’ quality, also to acknowledge that not everyone can easily get themselves to a central location even for an epic party, so those at the greatest physical distance could feel excluded.

But it does take a lot of planning to celebrate well together in a dispersed team. Jane Hatton (Episode 180) from Evenbreak used to buy donuts and icecream when their colleagues were colocated, and recognises that this is harder to replicate in remote. Their work meetings online tend to be about work - but, as they’re all friends too, they connect more informally on social media as well, reminding us that we can use the whole internet to support our teamwork relationships!

40:13 Luis Magalhaes at the DistantJob podcast

Luis shared that they use Zoom calls to celebrate birthdays, which felt a bit awkward at first, but with the founder’s determination and persistence some flow was instigated (including a flow of liquid refreshment), and the team now looks forward to these friendly gatherings.


42.34 And finally we had to celebrate with Ross and Maya, just getting the whole Virtual not distant team on one call for once - complete with outtakes and rustling!

And we also happened to be recording on Maya’s birthday. We all enjoy doing different things on the anniversary of the day we are born, including recording podcasts.  Ross prefers to get away offline and go camping, but is planning a party this year for his birthday, and Pilar recently celebrated going out to eat with friends.

We wrap up with some quick celebrations from even more previous guests, including Paul Read’s new online course, Robert Glazer making team-member’s dreams come true, Richard Mackinnon’s 40th podcast episode (featuring Pilar), and let’s remember to celebrate Pilar’s other shows Management Cafe and Wordmaze, and Maya’s Crypto Confidence show.

Finally from Pilar, Maya and Ross - from our three different countries - we’re celebrating all that podcasting means to us, and celebrating each one of you wonderful people who listen to us every week. Thank you!