Brought to you by Virtual not Distant, the 21st Century Work Life podcast looks at leading and managing 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.
WLP305 What’s Going On: The 4-Day Week, Good Audio and Introvert Stereotypes
In this episode, Maya and Pilar discuss the the recent developments around the 4-day week experiments in the UK and Spain, they reflect on whether audio quality might give rise to a new kind of unconscious bias and they have a go at introvert/extrovert stereotypes. Plus, bits and pieces around collaboration tech and news from our network.
The approach to the 4-Day Week has many parallels with remote work. Organisations need to have the appropriate culture, and it will look differently in different companies. A chip shop featured in The Guardian’s article Thousands of UK workers begin world’s biggest trial of four-day week is a prime example of this, where they’ve implemented a whole new set of shifts, to make sure that customers still get the same level of service.
Pilar, who pays unusual attention to audio, has noticed that her first impressions of people online, specially those featured in events, is affected by the quality of their audio. If remote workers want to show up as their best in meetings and presentations, it’s worth organisations, or individuals, investing in external microphones. (We recommend a YETI microphone.)
There are still many misconceptions of what introverts are, thinking that they are always shy. There are some introverts who are shy, but there are also shy extroverts. It’s all about how energy is managed, and what energises us.
A short and fun one to end with: are we in danger of “slack-splaining”? We discuss this article which talks about how so many people are overthinking their written messages (on Slack, etc) and the stress it’s causing.
Full show notes here https://www.virtualnotdistant.com/podcasts/4day-week
WLP304 Transitioning to a Hybrid Workplace
David Stoddard is COO and Partner at Barnett Waddingham, a leading independent UK professional services consultancy at the forefront of risk, pensions, investment and insurance, with almost 1,500 employees in 9 offices.
(By the way, Pilar was very impressed by their website, have a look.)
David is the Chief Operating Officer, one of 100 partners, and he leads the non-client facing areas of the business, including the transformation across the business - Work Smart. The company has 9 offices across the UK.
Pre-pandemic, the office was at the centre of the work and the hub of connection.
David and his team surveyed the employees through a regular pulse check throughout the pandemic, as they were concerned that people felt disconnected and were going through difficult times. They surveyed how people were feeling, what was working well, what wasn’t working well, etc.
Some of the things they found when they surveyed their people confirmed their expectations, like people seeing a benefit of working together, and the benefit of having more time to work in a focused way, and the work life balance that the pandemic had provided. It was also very clear that everyone’s experience was personal, and had different views on what the best ways of working were.
The team also found a few surprises amongst the survey replies, like the fact that some people had adopted pets during the pandemic and so were concerned about having to leave them in order to go to the office.
The organisation is now adopting the Work Smart framework, but with the knowledge that each part of the business is very different, eg some dispersed team which are client-facing, some teams where individuals benefit from focus solo time etc.
Clients shared much of the feedback with what they’d had from their colleagues. Clients also find the benefit of getting together in person, for example every three months, or at the beginning of the relationship. However, when there is already trust within a relationship, this is not as important, and meetings can take place online. In fact, throughout this process, they have been able to share some of their learnings with their clients, as they were also adapting to different ways of working.
The intention of the Work Smart framework is to create a framework that’s best for clients, colleagues and culture. Underpinning it is the belief that some activities at Barnett Waddingham are done best face to face, for example being immersed in a call when you have just joined the company. Apprentices and graduates can learn by osmosis by being in the same physical space.
At the same time there are some activities which are best done in quiet spaces, and for some people that will be the home - but some people will prefer to do these activities in the office.
Being conscious of what you’re doing and why during these experiments is important. Asking people to come back to the office needs to be more deliberate and the benefits of people being physically together need to be made explicit.
The “contract” with work has changed from the default being to go into the office, to consciously choosing to do so, or request so.
Leaders in the organisation also need to change how they work, as working with an office-based team is different to learning a hybrid team.
There is a risk of “cultural drift” happening over time, if you don’t deliberately work to sustain the culture of the organisation. People tend to be members of different teams, so there is the question of where do you form the greatest sense of connection or belonging? Probably with your immediate team, but then how do you connect to the broader culture? Social events are one example of bringing people together from different parts of the organisation.
There will be a period of adjustment as people discover what it’s like to be in the office now, as opposed to in the past. Meanwhile, David and his colleagues are
WLP303 Succesful Hybrid Leadership
Roberta Sawatsky is a “research storyteller”. As well as running her own consultancy, SAM is Remote, she is a business professor at Okanagan School of Business, Canada with a focus on HR and management. She blogs at Probe and Ponder… learning from life and travels. Below are some brief show notes. For a longer summary, check out:
Roberta’s research is around remote work/hybrid work/work from anywhere.
“You have to be willing to take the responsibility, if you’re asking for the flexibility.”
Roberta has had an interest in and has been involved in leadership her whole adult life, leading teams, or in a volunteer capacity. Whenever people are in a position of leadership or something less formal, leading by relationship, they have a responsibility to take it seriously, as they are influencing people.
Roberta’s recent research started in 2019, looking at the core competencies of remote workers. She then decided to build on that research, but focus on leaders, so she extended her study leave.
“Never underestimate the impact of culture shock.”
Check out Roberta’s post.
The research into leading hybrid teams
Proximity equity: the unconscious treatment to give preferential treatment to those in our vicinity.
Hybrid: Some people are colocated in the same physical space, or in the same town but not working in the office, while there are other members of the team working in other parts of the world.
Robert Greenleaf’s concept of servant leadership encourages questions like “Do those served grow as persons?” “Do they become healthier when being served”?
In the end, the philosophy behind what we do is important. What is a leader’s philosophy of leadership becomes important because of their impact over others’ lives, so Roberta started to ask questions around that. She mentions the book “Humankind by Rutger Bregman”.
“Autonomy in the workplace is not about passively letting employees be independent, it’s also not about working in isolation or doing work without guidance, boundaries, supervision or collaboration. What it is, is about allowing people to work the way that is most conducive to their own best performance.”
After covering the actions that leaders can take to nurture their teams and team members, Roberta turns to the leadership competencies.
Someone leading a team can grow these competencies and be aware of what they are already good at.
Link to Competencies for Successful Hybrid Leadership by Roberta Sawatzky
Roberta hopes that this research will reach leaders and will be incorporating this into her classes in September, as well as her consultancy and coaching work.
Connect with Roberta on LinkedIn and check out her research and company, Sam is Remote.
WLP302 What's Going On: Asynchronous Book Clubs, the Metaverse and Work, and the New Hybrid Complexity
Thanks to everyone who commented on our 300th episode! You can now find all the interviews over at the new podcast Work Life Changes and Remote Work in Organisations.
We kick off looking at “what might be going on”. Maya has written “Virtual e-residency, a future in the metaverse?”, a piece looking at the potential of emerging technologies, and how we might make use of them as part of work in the future. Will “hybrid” mean we use both the metaverse and the office? Will there be a place online where all Estonian e-residents and businesses can meet? And how will taxation work?
We bring in the voices of two of our guests from episode 300, for this section on asynchronous communication. (We like to practice what we preach!)
Mark Kilby tells us about a new experiment he’s set up using asynchronous video. He’s using the app Volley to bring people together who are reading his book and have questions and comments. It was not feasible to set up online meetings to bring everyone together, as readers are spread all over the world.
Following episode 294, where we covered a couple of articles on emojis, Ross Winter, our own “podcast polisher” has some further questions on the use of emojis: Why do we only have a handful of emojis? Should we ditch them? Are they harming the quality of our communication? What about predictive replies?
Or is it just a matter of sending a quick reply vs no reply at all?
John Hopkins, has recently completed some research on hybrid work in Australia. It outlines the three main hybrid work structures, and how happy workers are with them. Pretty happy by the way.
Back in the UK, two government politicians are determined to get everyone back in the office. One of our listeners asked for commentary on the news that an unnamed politician (we don’t want to give him the space here in our blog, but we name him in the episode) has been leaving notes on civil servants’ desks telling them they are much missed at the office. He wants everyone back and one of the reasons is that the tax payer is paying for the buildings. (Yes, you read right.)
One of our listeners sent us coverage of this story, with his own thoughts about how the different departments in the civil service are still recovering from the pandemic backlog, are at different points in their “digitalisation” and how some jobs can be done remotely while others can’t.
Finally, if you are looking for an activity for your team, check out these online puzzles from Google Arts and Culture. And let us know if you try them yourself! (Pilar heard about this in the After Hours podcast.)
We have some things to report from our network, but before that, Maya is hosting a new podcast: The Future is Freelance !
Thanks to everyone who commented on the 300th episode! And remember we now have a new show: Work Life Changes and Remote Work in Organisations.
Many thanks to Hans Gaertner for sharing episode 298 with Laurel Farrer, all about biases in the hybrid workplace, and to Zahra for letting us know that our work resonates at her end too.
Nancy Settle-Murphy recommends remove.bg to remove backgrounds from profile photos and make quick edits, and there is still time to get a 10% discount on Penny Pullan’s book Virtual Leadership, Practical Strategies for Success with Remote or Hybrid Work and Teams when you get it directly from the publisher’s site. (But you need to listen to the episode!)
Let us know what you think over at virtualnotdistant.com
WLP301 Enrich Your Communication through Asynchronous Video
Pilar talks to Brian Casel about asynchronous communication and how he uses his product, Zip Message in the day to day running of his business.
You can communicate asynchronously with Brian through his Zip Message page:
And you can find him on Twitter too https://twitter.com/CasJam
For more show notes, check out https://www.virtualnotdistant.com/podcasts/asynchronous-video
WLP300 Part 3 The Evolution and Future of the 21st Century Work Life podcast
In this episode, we focus on the 21st Century Work Life podcast: how it’s evolved and what it could cover in the future. And our guests have come wise words for you, our listeners.
00.00 mins Pilar shares how the show has evolved over the last 100 episodes. Some of the episodes she mentions are: episode 209 The Journey of the Remote Leader, episode 263 “Remote” is not the Only Challenge, episode 282 Asynchronous Facilitation and Online Collaboration, episode 286 The Challenges of Adopting Asynchronous Communication.
09.05 mins Bree and Pilar talk about the Connection and Disconnection in Remote Teams series and how the conversations around remote work in general changed during the pandemic.
15.39 mins We hear some general suggestions from guests about what they’d like a podcast like ours to cover in the future. Tim Burgess is first, he’s been leading a distributed company for a few years - he would like to hear more “secrets” from people who are in the remote space. Then we hear from Theresa Sigillito Hollema, who as a guest has talked about leading global teams, her speciality. She’s interested in the psychology of working away from each other.
Theresa refers to My Pocket Psych, so its from its host, Dr. Richard MacKinnon, who we hear from next. He’s also appeared on this show as guest, and as part of the Connection and Disconnection series. He would like the show to cover the “how to” for those new to the space (especially if it’s evidence-based). He’s followed by Mark Kilby, who’s also been on this show a lot, (and who Pilar got to meet in person, in London!) and would like a mix of the “how” and the “why”. Then we hear from Pinar Akkaya, it’s the first time she’s guested on this show. She’s looking for inspiration and “what if” scenarios.
24.49 mins Other guests have more specific suggestions. Simon Wilson kicks this bit off. He’d like to hear more - and be involved in conversations - about what asynchronous communication looks like in those teams embracing it, plus deep conversations about organisational culture. We then hear from Ross Winter, our podcast polisher, who would like to hear answers to questions like, Why are we spending so much time looking for connection online? Eva Rimbau Gilabert suggest we cover the transition to hybrid (of which there are many versions), especially when we can back it up with academic research, while Bree encourages us to continue with the diversity of perspectives and deepening the conversation about the future of work.
31.32 mins Finally, the guests have some final words for listeners of the show, and Pilar. We hear from Maya, Simon, Eva, Pinar, Richard, Tim, Ross (and cat!), Bree, Mark, and Theresa, who leaves us with an inspiring aspiration.
And thanks to Anish Hindocha, for contributing to the two other parts of this episode! (By the way, Pilar has “podcastinitis” and hosts many shows!)
And we have some outtakes from 40.03mins for your amusement after our MANY THANKS to all of you!
Awesome source for remote teams! Keep up the great work!
200 Episodes of Great Listens!
I can't believe Pilar has raeched 200 episodes! Such a great and feel good listen.
For anyone who's looking for inspiration, turn to this podcast. I find that I am always much more motivated after listening to an episode of this show. It wants me to improve in all aspects of my life.