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  • feedwordpress 04:35:49 on 2020/03/06 Permalink
    Tags: Automattic,   

    Coronavirus and the Remote Work Experiment No One Asked For 


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    “We’ll never probably be the same. People who were reticent to work remotely will find that they really thrive that way. Managers who didn’t think they could manage teams that were remote will have a different perspective. I do think we won’t go back.”

    Jennifer Christie, Twitter’s head of human resources, in BuzzFeed News

    This is not how I envisioned the distributed work revolution taking hold.

    It has been a challenging time around the world—from how we live our daily lives to how we keep our kids safe in schools and our family members healthy in assisted living communities and hospitals. 

    And then there’s how we work. Seattle (and all of King County in Washington State) is encouraging companies to have their employees work from home. Given that Automattic is already distributed, we’re receiving requests from the press and other companies about how to navigate what is turning into a massive global work-from-home experiment. 

    It’s not ideal on any level. Even at a remote-friendly company like Automattic, we rely on in-person team meetups and conferences to strengthen our connections and get work done. For now, we’ve canceled all work-related travel.

    But as the BuzzFeed story notes, this might also offer an opportunity for many companies to finally build a culture that allows long-overdue work flexibility. Millions of people will get the chance to experience days without long commutes, or the harsh inflexibility of not being able to stay close to home when a family member is sick. 

    Or even when you’re sick yourself. How many people in America go into an office even when they’re feeling under the weather, because of pressure from the company or managers, or because their sick days come out of their vacation days? This might be a chance for a great reset in terms of how we work. 

    For those asking for tips, my Distributed Podcast has a wealth of advice and stories about how we operate. But here are four good ones to start with: 

    1. Operate as if everyone works from different time zones, because one day they might. This means more communication, likely written, that is accessible to people even if they can’t attend a specific meeting or be in a specific place. If you can minimize the number of real-time meetings, do so. Embrace asynchronous communication.
    2. If you are hosting a real-time meeting, improve the audio (and video) quality. Don’t use conference call lines with grainy phone audio. Sign up for Zoom, which allows for crystal clear audio calls or videoconference chats. Make video participation optional unless it’s planned well in advance. Record these calls so folks who can’t attend can catch up on what they missed. Everyone must use good headphones with mics (I love Sennheisser) to minimize external noise. Krisp.ai is also cool. Need a quiet place without distractions? Try a parked car or a closet.
    3. We use our own WordPress blogs, called P2, instead of email as our central hub of communication so people throughout the company can access every team’s long-form notes, documents, and priorities. We’re bloggers by heart, so we blog a lot. There are other similar tools, like Basecamp. Make it your new office.  
    4. We also use Slack for real-time chat, social connection, and urgent conversations. Check out Matrix for an open-source, distributed version. Use it to chat and connect with your colleagues, but don’t let it replace your long-form planning notes in No. 3. Also create an etiquette that doesn’t force people to become chained to it all day and all night. When you ask a question in DM, do not expect that person to respond immediately, and ask your question upfront. Never write “got a sec?” and let it hang there. 😁

    The truth is, there are a thousand ways to do remote work, but it starts with committing to it at all levels of the company. If you assume positive intent and place trust in your coworkers and employees—knowing that if they do great work in an office they can do great work anywhere—then you will all succeed. 

     
  • feedwordpress 19:54:48 on 2019/04/15 Permalink
    Tags: Automattic, , , happy tools   

    Happy Tools, for the Future of Work 


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    Distributed work is becoming a reality for more companies. Automattic has been operating in a distributed-first fashion for more than 13 years now — we’re now up to more than 850 employees in 68 countries. But even in companies with physical offices, more employees are distributed around the globe and working together. Google just shared some fascinating stats about its work culture, with 100,000 employees working across 150 cities. Two out of five work groups have employees working from more than one location:

    We’re a more connected world, so it makes sense that global business wouldn’t be confined to just one physical space. I often use Google as an example because I’ve been in meetings there where people were one building away from each other but still using video chat because of the time required to walk between meetings on their campus.

    With that in mind, the team at Automattic has decided to start sharing our expertise and the technology that makes it all work. Introducing Happy Tools:

    Our first product is Happy Schedule, which helps teams manage flexible schedules across time zones. Right now we’re rolling it out in a consultative way with just a few early customers to make sure the team can be totally responsive to their needs. We’re excited about this and other upcoming tools, because we believe that this is the future of work. We’re excited to have other companies give it a try.

    Keep an eye on this space: There’s an entire suite of tools that make up the operating system of what has helped Automattic scale so effectively over the years. I’ve always believed it’s important to invest in your internal tools, and I’m excited to release more of them. If there’s something better in the market, we won’t release a tool for it — I’d rather use something external than have to build things ourselves — but where the industry still has a gap after such a long time, we’ll throw our hat into the ring.

     
  • feedwordpress 20:32:43 on 2019/01/16 Permalink
    Tags: Automattic, , , ,   

    My TED Video on the Future of Work 


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    I was thrilled to participate in TED’s new video series, The Way We Work, and not surprisingly I made the case that distributed work is where everything is headed.

    Why Working from Home Is Better for Business

    This company is so dedicated to remote working that they literally don't have an office. Here's why a "distributed" workforce is better for business — and employees:

    Posted by The Way We Work on Monday, January 14, 2019

    It has over 130,000 views already! What I really love about this video in particular is that we get into the specifics of how a company can start to embrace a culture of letting employees work from anywhere, even if it started out as a traditional office with everyone in the same place. Automattic never started that way, so even as we’ve scaled up to more than 840 people in 68 countries, there’s never been a question — it’s now built in to our entire culture.

    For distributed work to scale up, it’s going to require more CEOs, workers, and managers to test the waters. Any company can experiment with distributed work — just pick a day or two of the week in which everyone works from home, I suggest Tuesdays and Thursdays, then build the tools and systems to support it. Yes, that may require some shuffling of meetings, or more written documentation versus verbal real-time discussion. But I think companies will be surprised how quickly it will “just work.”

    If the companies don’t experiment, workers may force them to do it anyway:

     
  • feedwordpress 01:03:55 on 2019/01/15 Permalink
    Tags: Automattic, journalism, kinsey wilson, local news, , , ,   

    Journalism and Newspack 


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    WordPress.com is partnering with Google and news industry leaders on a new platform for small- and medium-sized publishers, called Newspack. The team has raised $2.4 million in first-year funding from the Google News Initiative, Lenfest Journalism Institute, Civil funder ConsenSys, and the Knight Foundation, among others. We’re also still happy to talk to and engage other funders who want to get involved — I’d love to put even more resources into this.

    It’s been a difficult climate for the news business, particularly at the local level. It also breaks my heart how much some of their limited resources these organizations still sink into closed-source or dead-end technology. Open source is clearly the future, and if we do this right Newspack can be the technology choice that lasts with them through the decades, and hopefully our 15 years of growth lends some credibility to our orientation to build things for the long term.

    Here’s Kinsey in Nieman Lab:

    The goal is to both make sure that the catalog of publishing tools as well as business tools they need to be able to run what one hopes is a sustainable news operation are addressed simultaneously. It’s not simply a CMS for a newsroom, but a full business system that enables publishing and monetization at the same time.

    Nieman Lab interview

    As you have come to expect from Automattic, everything will be open source and developed to the same standards WordPress itself is. We’re working with Spirited Media and the News Revenue Hub on the platform, and we will likely look for even more partnership opportunities from across the WordPress ecosystem. If you’d like to invest or get involved, drop us a line at newspack@automattic.com.

     
  • feedwordpress 16:40:50 on 2018/10/16 Permalink
    Tags: Automattic, , ,   

    The Importance of Meeting In-Person 


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    I recently returned from Orlando where Automattic hosted its annual Grand Meetup where nearly all of our 800 employees from around the world, spend a week together in the same place. (And yes, we’re hiring.)

    Despite being a fully distributed company, I believe it’s still important to meet face-to-face — just not every day, in the same office. The Grand Meetup is our chance to get to know the people behind the Slack avatars and build relationships that can carry us through through other 51 weeks of the year, when we’re working from more than 65 countries. It’s so much easier to hear the nuance in someone’s chat messages or p2 posts if you’ve hung out with them at Harry Potter World, or learned about their family, pets, and hobbies during a flash talk.

    Photo by Paul Jacobson

    The week can be mentally exhausting, given that you’re often meeting many people for the first time. But we urge people to take it at their own pace, and the results are well worth the effort. Our data team actually studied the impact of the Grand Meetup on our work relationships — the connections established between coworkers using our “Meetamattician” tool were demonstrably closer after the meetup:

    Before the Grand Meetup.
    After the Grand Meetup.

    This year we were proud to welcome some incredible keynote speakers: Wild author Cheryl Strayed talking about creativity and writing; Automattic board member Gen. Ann Dunwoody, the first woman in U.S. Army history to achieve the four-star officer rank; Ari Meisel on delegating and automating your life; and Dan Harris, author of 10% Happier, on the panic attack that led him to embrace meditation and mindfulness.

    Instagram Photo
    Photo by Leif Singer
    Ann Dunwoody. Photo by Luca Sartoni
    Ari Meisel. Photo by Luca Sartoni
    Instagram Photo
    Photo by jessicacg
     
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