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  • feedwordpress 03:53:27 on 2019/11/27 Permalink
    Tags: , distributed work,   

    Distributed Podcast: Clark Valberg, Lydia X. Z. Brown, Stephen Wolfram, and the Grand Meetup 


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    If y’all haven’t caught up recently with my podcast Distributed, this is a perfect moment to do so—the past several weeks have been full of insights from folks like InVision CEO Clark Valberg, attorney and advocate Lydia X. Z. Brown, Stephen Wolfram, and some of my own Automattic colleagues in-person at our Grand Meetup.

    You can subscribe at Apple Podcasts, Google, Overcast, Spotify, or wherever you like to listen. 

    The Importance of IRL in a World of Screens (Automattic Grand Meetup)

    “When you work in a distributed company, every time that you interact with your colleagues via text… you are taking out of your social bank account with them. So when you get people together, that’s when you have the opportunity to see each other face-to-face, and remind everybody that you’re all human beings. And fill that social capital back up because it’s so hard to communicate via text.”

    Building the Tools That Bring the Screen to Life (Clark Valberg, InVision) 

    “We needed it as a talent hack, as a talent arbitrage. Hire the best people wherever they happen to be, figure everything out later, hire them quickly, get them in the ship as early as possible and start seeing results. How can I just hire the best people no matter where they are?”

    Making Work Accessible, Wherever It Happens (Lydia X. Z. Brown)

    “I have believed from a very young age that every single one of us has a moral obligation to use whatever resources we have — time, money, knowledge, skills, emotional energy, access to physical resources — however that might be defined — that we each have a moral obligation to use those resources in service of justice, and fighting against injustice and oppression and violence in all of its forms, structural and individual, subtle and overt.”

    Inside Toptal’s Distributed Screening Process (Taso Du Val) 

    “I was going into an office but not seeing anyone or interacting with anyone except myself. So it almost was this zombie-like walk to the office every morning where I’m going to the office because I go to work, but I don’t see anyone who I work with. [laughs] And so I actually started waking up and just working on my computer at home. And then I said to myself, ‘Well, why am I even working from home?'”

    The Machine That Turns Ideas Into Real Things (Stephen Wolfram) 

    “You can do things that are very commercial, but a little bit intellectually boring. And it tends to be the case that you’re doing a lot of rinse-and-repeat stuff if you want to grow purely commercially, so to speak. Or, you can do things that are wonderful intellectually, but the world doesn’t happen to value them and you can’t make commercial sense that way. And I’ve tried to navigate something in between those two where it’s where I’m really intellectually interested and where it’s commercially successful enough to sustain the process for a long time.”

    Welcome to the Chaos (Sonal Gupta, Automattic)

    “I like to trust people and give them autonomy. But I keep in touch with them very regularly and I think it becomes clear pretty quickly if somebody is not doing work. We look at performance, and we look at communication at a distributed company. Communication is oxygen.” 

    Observe, Don’t Surveil: Managing Distributed Teams with Respect (Scott Berkun)

    “To work at a remote company demanded great communication skills, and everyone had them. It was one of the great initial delights. Every corporation has the same platitudes for the importance of clear communication, yet utterly fails to practice it. There was little jargon at Automattic. No ‘deprioritized action items’ or ‘catalyzing of crossfunctional objectives.’ People wrote plainly, without pretense and with great charm.” 

    How to Build and Strengthen Distributed Engineering Teams (Cate Huston, Automattic)

    “A senior engineer makes the whole team better, but we don’t want to be prescriptive about how people made the team better. That was up to them. There were options, but that was the expectation for everyone on the team. You come in, you’re an experienced engineer, we expect you to be making the whole team better in some way, and what that looks like is up to you.” 

    How to Stay Connected in a Distributed World (Leo Widrich) 

    “I started to feel like I was hitting a wall. This thing that I always dreamt of, to have a profitable company, to be financially secure, to have a team… I felt that having that success, having some of that financial security — it left me unfulfilled in a lot of other areas. — in the sense of deep lasting connection and also a lack of emotional resilience to deal with the ups and downs that startup life comes with.”

    Helping Creativity Happen from a Distance (John Maeda) 

    “My point is blogging is good for you. It’s mental health, it’s expression, it’s sharing your process with the world. And when you relate to the world, your standard of quality floats to that value of the world. It’s a market economy of ideas and by putting ourselves out there, you become relevant.”

    Engineering with Empathy (Han Yuan, Upwork) 

    “We really want to encourage empathy in general. And so a key part of empathy is being able to try to see the other person’s point of view. And in an organization as distributed as ours where people come from all around the world, we view it as an essential ingredient to developing deep and meaningful collaboration.”

    How to Do HR in a Blended Company (Zoe Harte, Upwork) 

    “That means saying, ‘Okay, our entire organization will connect this many times a year in this many ways. There will be an all-department meeting once a month, once a quarter — whatever is appropriate — and that we will cover these three priorities and in broad progress and how it’s impacting the business overall.’ And then the expectation would be that the smaller subsets of teams are meeting in this way.”

    On Building Automattic (Me)

    “Our distributed roots did not come from some grand vision, but instead emerged from cold realities. Colocation (being in the same place, at the same time) is expensive!”

    Is Remote Work Bulls—t? (Arianna Simpson)

    “I think having people come and interrupt you every 25 seconds, as is often the case in open floor plans, is definitely not the most productive situation. So the model I’ve seen work well, or the model I lean towards, is having an office where people are working from, but having private offices or spaces where people can plug in their headphones and just do work alone while still being in the same place as, hopefully, all of their colleagues.”

    For Years, VR Promised to Replace the Office. Could It Really Happen Now? (John Vechey, Pluto VR)

    “The technology forces you to be present — in a way flatscreens do not — so that you gain authentic experiences, as authentic as in real life. People remember VR experiences not as a memory of something they saw but as something that happened to them.”

     
  • feedwordpress 14:59:51 on 2019/05/16 Permalink
    Tags: distributed work,   

    Introducing the Distributed Podcast 


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    Distributed podcast

    I’ve been meeting with some brilliant people for Distributed, my new podcast dedicated to exploring the future of work. The first episode is a conversation with Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork, about how they built a distributed culture, and how flexible work will shape the future of the global economy.

    Unlike Automattic, Upwork does have an office in Silicon Valley (albeit one with a remote receptionist!). It was interesting to hear how Stephane’s teams balance in-person culture with inclusiveness for all employees, no matter where they live. Read more about Stephane’s work at Distributed.blog, and subscribe at Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

     
  • feedwordpress 19:54:48 on 2019/04/15 Permalink
    Tags: , distributed work, , 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: , distributed work, , ,   

    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 16:40:50 on 2018/10/16 Permalink
    Tags: , distributed work, ,   

    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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