The Remote Show

Show Notes:

Full Episodes with:

Tyler Sellhorn

Peep Laja

Chris Herd

Laurel Farrer

Kate Lister


Tyler Sellhorn: [00:00:00] 
Hello everyone. My name is Tyler Sellhorn and welcome to another episode of The Remote Show, where we discuss everything to do with remote work, with the people who know it best. Thanks so much for listening. The Remote Show is brought to you by We Work Remotely, the largest community of remote workers in the world.
With over 220,000 unique users per month, We Work Remotely is the most effective way to hire. Today we have a set of highlights from Tyler Sellhorn, myself, Peep Laja. Chris Herd Laurel Farrer and Kate Lister. Take a listen.
 There's a lot of mistakes being made out there in the world of distributed work right now. And we don't want to put people in their place and point fingers. The thing that we want to do is we want to choose curiosity over judgment. We want to lean into learning out loud.
Right. And that's exactly what we're doing on podcasts is we're taking the time to be thinking and talking and doing that metacognitive, not just thinking inside of what we're doing, but also thinking about what we're doing, " is this serving us still, or should we put it down and pick something else up?"
Right. What are the things that we want to be able to do? I like to kind of joke, you know, because of my background in team sports, right. That I'd like to be known as the Ted Lasso of remote work. Right. You know, that I'm kind of that raw, you know, enthusiastic BRRR BRRR BRRR air horns guy of saying, okay, let's lean into the we us hours.
That's one of the things I'm really grateful to have learned from, the Snider football is, is where I am still the technology coordinator here in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It's really, really cool to take lessons from other parts of life and apply them and bring them back to here. And I'm so excited to have the opportunity to potentially, you know, be learning from, the the very best minds. Who've spent lots of time thinking about remote work, as well as the people that are just now engaging with it and figuring things out for themselves and learning from best practices, but also learning from new perspectives as they come in to this way of working. 
Matt Hollingsworth: [00:01:56] 
And especially now where.
It's going to become a popular space, but I think we are, like I said before and uniquely positioned to help people as they move and transition into more of her remote consistently remote work environment.
Peep Laja: [00:02:09] 
We were mostly to hire for attitude. And we were looking for signs of. Proactivity taking responsibility. So if it's somebody young, fresh out of college, we will look at like extracurricular stuff that, you know, active member of the student organizations, just some, any, like, you know, let's say non-profit stuff on the side.
Now, obviously training for skill takes a long time. So I was training people to be conversion optimization analysts. And, uh, let me tell you. At least a year before I will show that person to a client, you know, there's a lot to know for that particular role. So now that, I mean, a, let's say a more privileged position to pay more money to people.
I most certainly also expect skills cause training skills takes way too long to be honest. So now I don't care about your personality until I see that you can do the job. So like, you can be the best buddy and the like most likable person in the room and have like strong work ethic. But if you can't do the job, what, I'm only hiring people to do a job.
So I've had to let go multiple people over the years that I really liked. They were such nice people, such as friendly people like good buddies, a nice to have a beer with, but work. Mediocre. So now my process is really to start with an assignment, a real life assignment. If it's a content writer, write me an article and I, I pay for the test assignment.
So it's not like I'm leashing off of somebody's time and maybe I don't pay quite market rate. Cause it's also like, this is a test, but you know, but there's money involved, they couple hundred bucks and it's usually a time box. It also, you know, like how many hours, so don't spend more than eight hours on this or something like this, depending on what it is.
Same for designers design me something first. If it's developers, it's more tricky, you know? Uh, cause like all this development skill tests. They only show so much. So now with developers, all processes, we started with GitHub. We look at their kid hub profile. What have you done? If they're to have no GitHub profile, it's a no go need to be in to have an Git Hub profile.
And then. Bring somebody in for maybe a two week process, give them an actual bit to chew on that. We're working on, meet the team test to collaboration, communication skills. And after two weeks, if it seems good, you know, we can discuss full-time but something like this. So now I'm like task first, obviously interviews are also important components.
So I am a huge, huge fan of the hiring methodology described in the book, the who. By Jeff smart. So their thing is all about it's a three-step interview process. Step one, check the overall fit and motivation check. Step two detailed coverage of the last five years of work experience. You know, do you want to really understand how somebody makes decisions?
That's called a topgrading interview? If you Google it, there's tons of resources about it. So really, really valuable. And then. You know, everybody says that they're great at what they do. Oh yeah. At my last job, I was doing all these things that people often take credit for team effort and they say that it happens all the time.
So it's a great thing about the topgrading interview is you frame it all through the lens of your manager. So it's like, okay. So in your last job, you're who, who's your manager direct supervisor. Oh, it's Mary Johnson. Okay, great. So I'm going to call Mary. So what will Mary tell me? About your job performance.
How will Mary rate what you did? What will may realist as your top achievements? What will marry a highlight as your shortcomings? And now through this lens, knowing that I'm going to call Mary and check on this, people are going to be very honest. And then actually I do, um, I'm going to call it Mary. And then if there's a big discrepancy, like the person said, Oh, Mary is going to give me a 10 for this tender for that.
And then for that, and Mary said it's four, four, and three. It's like, Oh, this person has no self perception or like something's off there, you know? So I can see a red flag and it's a new goal.
Tyler Sellhorn: [00:06:22] 
What is the next version of remote work? So there's some amount of us that continue on and some of us that maybe don't, what do you think? 
Chris Herd: [00:06:30] Yeah, I think I, I think the wider expectation in is we're going to have some blended mode of hybrid working and what I think is unclear at this point is hybrid working actually is when you ask someone what's hybrid work, you're going to get a million different answers based on what their perspective is, and actually nobody's wrong. So someone will tell you, well, hybrid working is half the week in the office, half the week at home. Whereas someone else's hybrid work is once a month in the office or once a quarter in the office.
And I think it's kind of binary to describe it as hybrid. I think the deeper question is where is leadership and where is management? That's the thing that dictates culture. So if you're an organization where leadership is always in the office, it benefits you personally, if you want to progress rapidly to be where they are as frequently as possible.
So in that instance, if management and leadership is in the office, that is a office first culture. So discard hybrid entirely, the other side of that is where management and leadership are remote first. It's a remote first culture. So the news you've seen come out about Coinbase in the last few days.
They're a good example of that. The other side would be what Goldman are saying where they're like everyone's coming back into the office. 
Tyler Sellhorn: [00:07:51] 
Yeah, just, just, just a little context for everyone. Coinbase has declared that their headquarters is not going to house any of their upper level management people.
Their officer level folks are going to be working from a distributed environment that they may come in occasionally. But on the flip side, Goldman Sachs CEO had declared remote, working as an aberration and. As soon as possible, everyone's going back to the office.
Chris Herd: [00:08:15] 
Right. And it's funny because you think, well, what was the immediate yeah.
Response of Goldman employees? Like the stats are clear, right? 90% of people never want to work in an office again, full-time that doesn't mean they never want to go in. It means they don't want to go in nine to five, Monday to Friday, which is what the Goldman CEO basically said was going to happen. So I'm a Goldman employee.
My immediate reaction is. Who are our biggest competitors? Who can I leave and work remotely with as quickly as possible. So what we're generally talking about there is why I like to refer to as a remote work dilemma, which is any company who isn't as remote as their biggest competitor is dead. And that happens pretty quickly, right?
Like the way I like to phrase that and, and sort of provide a map for it is look at what happened with e-commerce right. E-commerce versus bricks and mortar retail go back to 1999. Amazon is just coming on the block international really just proliferating. We don't have super fast internet. So it's like dial up in this sort of nonsense.
And the initial response to e-commerce was like, Everyone's sniggering eyes, right? It's like, who's going to buy stuff on the internet. Who's going to trust putting their details in the internet within two or three years, it's like, okay, some people are going to buy some stuff on the internet. Like, yeah, I'm going to buy a book on the internet, but nobody's going to buy everything on the internet.
Whereas fast forward today, and you've got almost, everyone's buying almost everything online. Now stores have transformed from being this ubiquitous thing to an experience offering that people still go to occasionally. But for the most part, there's no benefit to it because they've got smaller invent res they're more expensive.
You need to travel to them and you say, well, that's the office like smaller event res will actually our access to talent, smaller it's inconvenient. We need to commute for two hours a day. So like the direct comparison is. E-commerce versus bricks and mortar. Retail is remote working versus the office.
And then you extend that and you say, okay, well, if Goldman isn't remote and HSBC is more remote, HSBC steals all their most talented people while simultaneously becoming more cost efficient because they're slashing office costs and Goldman van can't compete. So what you see happen is like office first companies die slowly and then all at once.
And they disappear like the same way as physical retail did. Well, I hope Apple rethinks. Who's going to back their credit. Okay. So Chris wanting to transition and say, okay, thank you very much for all the information that you've shared today. And I want to close with an opportunity for you to just kind of remind everyone where they can find you.
What are the most important things that you want people to leave with today? We're so grateful for you being out in front. As one of the leading lights, the leading voices, a really fine point. Um, the experience of remote workers and what's coming next for us in this space. Yeah. Tell us where we can find you and what you're up to.
Yeah. I'll start with the first part, which was like, what can we say is the key part? And I actually like. I know my public persona on remote working is super optimistic, but actually I think we're in this really precarious position where people think that remote work is normal is COVID and forced lockdown work from home.
And they think this is remote work as normal. And I think it's important to acknowledge that this is remote work in the most difficult, possible circumstances during a. Global pandemic, lockdown and homeschooling. So I think the way I like to speak about that is if you love remote working before COVID, you'll love after COVID.
If you like it now wait until you get all the intangible benefits after it, and you're going to love it. And if you dislike it now, Give it a chance because actually there's a real quality of life benefit that comes when your kids are back in school. You can go to coffee shops and work in the morning.
You can go a co-working space, you can travel, you can do all that other stuff. So I think that's the first important thing that I like to touch on the second is that there's a real danger and organizations reacting to this and doing the wrong thing. And I think it's easy to just replicate what we've got in the office remotely.
Continue the synchronous working and actually potentially that ends up in a worse situation than we've gotten now, because you end up with people in their homes who feel like they're living at work, and it's just a really bad situation. So I like to implore organizations to be more. I think generous in their trust for their people and really empower them to do the best work that they've ever done.
As everyone knows in the studies, I've seen, happier workers are better workers and that's ultimately the future we want to get to . 
Laurel Farrer: [00:13:00] 
Yeah. So my first remote role was 15 years ago, so we didn't really have the language of remote roles back then.
Uh, and ironically, it was actually just a couple of months ago that I realized that what I thought was my first remote role actually was my second
 I was on site, but we were in the workplace transition as well. And we were moving location from one to another. And for about nine months we were in a temporary location and it was so small, this little temp office that none of the designers and additional staff could be in the office.
Nobody had offices in the firm. So they would just come onsite to like get samples or maybe have a client meeting, but then the rest of the time they would work from home. And that was the first time that I managed a hybrid team. And I didn't even think about that until literally like two months ago, I was like, Oh, wait a second.
That was a hybrid team. I had remote workers. I was on site. We had a couple of other executives that would come and go, but there was me and the accountant that were in the office all the time. And that was it. So I really tried to dig deep into that experience as well. And just remember, okay, what were all of the transition pain points of that hybrid team back then?
Like what can I remember from that time? And, and how can I apply that knowledge when we had. No tools, no cloud collaboration, no video calls, anything like how can I really dig deep and remember the core principles that made us successful as a hybrid team then, and help use those to apply to now when so much of the world is going hybrid.
So that's my origin story. 
Tyler Sellhorn: [00:14:43] 
Okay, so that's awesome. Because the next question that I wanted to ask you about was how are you seeing, you know, cause we're talking to each other late March 20 21, there's a lot of talk in the remote space right now of, okay. There might be some office experiences or maybe not at all or three days a week or the hybrid, this, or we're going to go fully distributed.
How are you advising companies right now, as it relates to hybrid all remote, remote first, all different hyphenated phrases that we're using these days to describe how we're going to get to work. What are the things that are on your mind as you try to explain the best way to move forward in 2021?
Laurel Farrer: [00:15:29] 
Yeah. Well, what I will say is that the statistics are definitely leaning towards hybrid being the new normal, because of how this hyper-growth came about. We have an entire real estate industry that is relying on us to continue having offices for the foreseeable future. If everybody went remote, Overnight, all of the workers that are currently working remotely stayed remote.
Our economy would collapse. So that's not realistic. It's not an option. And any advocate that says the whole world's going remote right now is totally full of baloney. So we really need to stay focused on the realistic adaptation of what this really means. So it is looking like hybrid is the new normal.
This statistics continue to hover around about 35 to 40% projections of the United States workforce, continuing to work remotely, at least part-time post COVID. And we're nearing that, like you said, this is late March 20 21, and vaccinations are coming out and people are going back to the office. So we are about to watch this happen and say, Ooh, are these statistics actually going to come to fruition?
So it is anticipated that people will continue to have flexible work options, but continue to go back into the office as well for that team camaraderie that they've been missing and just accessibility to certain equipment. And to really. Fulfill the ROI requirements for having real estate investments.
So that's what we're moving towards, but that 35 to 40% statistic will not decrease. It will only increase because remote work has always been for at least the past five years. The number one employment benefit request of job seekers and previously employers didn't really want to offer it nor did they have to because nobody else was.
But now when you have 40% of the workforce working this way, then it really opens up the opportunity for incoming talent to say, Well, if you're not going to allow workplace flexibility, I'll go somewhere else. That will. And then it becomes a very different conversation. So we do also anticipate that that 35 to 40% will only continue to increase as more employers that previously were committed to staying in the office.
Now feel the pressure to offer more workplace flexibility options as they are losing talent to competing companies. 
Tyler Sellhorn: [00:17:59] 
Let's imagine it's 2019 and here's Laurel for our remote work advocate. And now it's 2021 Laurel Ferrara promote work advocate. Tell us the story of thinking that through of like how you present yourself as, I mean, you're, you're not necessarily a job seeker, but you are virtually, you know, selling your surfaces.
So tell us the transition of how you think about that today versus what you did before. 
Laurel Farrer: [00:18:29] 
Do you want the nice version or the not nice, right? The real and raw  
Tyler Sellhorn: [00:18:33] 
All of the above we're here to meet you. 
Laurel Farrer: [00:18:36] 
Uh, so 2019, I really considered most of my role to be an advocate and a strategist. Yes. The consultant was, you know, my job title.
It was my business model, but it was. So much of just convincing people to understand that this is a reality that this is a credible option. It was my entire day to day. Life was based on awareness. So the events that I would go speak out was. Just advocacy saying like, think about these statistics and look at these brands and like, think about how this is a case for change.
Right? Like, think about the viability of this and, and the potential of this. And yeah. Yes, I did some change management and yes, I did, uh, some research here and there, but nobody. Took remote work seriously. And because of that, they didn't take me seriously. And so, you know, it was hard to be an entrepreneur, small business owner, woman owned business, and to really be taken seriously and then fast forward to.
Now in 2021, where it is a very different conversation. I am absolutely thrilled that the business world now sees remote work as a viable credible business model that we understand that yes, executives can be remote and fortune five hundreds can be remote. Like that's been my mission all along. It's like, let's get.
Virtual operations out of the tech bubble out of small businesses and get it into the corporate world where people need flexibility. This is how we're going to meet scale demand. So I'm really, really glad that it's there. Um, ironically, now my messaging is Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa. Slow down, right? Like, hang on.
You're not doing as well as you think you are, because now the world is saying, Oh, we've been doing this for a year. We're pros. And I'm going to start speaking about how I'm a remote work expert. And it's like, Oh my gosh, hang on. You're not to the hard part yet. Like, that's the big message that nobody wants to hear, um, is that anybody can go remote.
Literally anybody can go remote, which is what we saw for the past year. Anybody can go remote. It's staying. Remote. That is a challenge and it is so hard, especially in hybrid teams. It is so, so difficult that there's this tidal wave of stress and chaos that is coming up in our future that nobody knows about.
And they're so busy celebrating how incredible they've been for the past year, that they are unwilling to really listen and think about what this. Could mean for our economy and for their businesses after this sustainability conversation comes about. So that's how my personal message Jean has, has shifted and come across and, you know, has evolved over the past year is, you know, trying to push, push, push, push, push people to consider this as an option.
And then now pulling back on the reins and saying, hang on, slow down. There's a lot of changes that you need to make in order for this to be successful that you haven't made yet. And if you don't, you're going to be in trouble. And there's so much hypergrowth in this industry that we're just not prepared for.
So a lot of the things that we need, like laws and tools and infrastructural funding support just don't exist yet. And so we're in for a rough ride for the next, at least three to five years. . 
Tyler Sellhorn: [00:22:24] 
Let's zoom in on those real estate decisions. I know that you spend a lot of time analyzing and working with employers on how do we optimize our workplace for our employees and what are the trends that you're seeing?
What are the questions that employers are asking of themselves that you're helping to answer what's on their mind? What are we going to expect? Coming forward. 
Kate Lister: [00:22:47] 
Yeah. Well, I think it's, uh, they're facing the music workplaces have not been built for people for a very long time, in spite of what they say that, you know, we care about our people and the architects are designing places that are good for people.
Excuse me. If somebody has to wear a headset so that they can concentrate. Hello, not good for people. You know, the big open offices, they didn't work, they were distracting. Uh, they were horrible for introverts. We kind of got past that, but that kind of came out of the last recession where it was all about saving money.
So let's just chop and chop and chop and make their spaces and places smaller and smaller. And I think part of the reason that people are so eager to work from home now is because. The places that they worked were so crappy. Now employers are saying, well, wait a minute. If we've got this groundswell of people that want to continue to work from home.
And by the way, they wanted to work from home before the numbers have not changed 80 to 85% of people, historically over the last 15 years have said they would like to work from home at least some of the time. And everybody likes to make this conversation polar, like it's either all in or all out, but.
Reality is that, you know, we're not going to move the Titanic and make this sort of wholesale change. If it does happen that they get to all remote someday is going to happen slowly. So I think the reality that they're now facing is that if they want their people to come back, they have to make it a place that people want to come.
And that is the question they're asking themselves. And to answer that, you have to ask the question, what is the work they're going to be doing there? So we kind of acknowledge, I mean, in terms of the statistics, it looks like we're going to wind up with something like 15 to 20% of people working remotely.
Full-time. Up from 5%, less than 5% before the pandemic work from home half time or more. So huge change there, about 10% wanting to go into the office. Full-time and then the rest in this hybrid mode, the managers want to make it work from home one to two days a week. The employees want to make it work from home three to four days a week, but.
They're all acknowledging that that place of work is going to have to be more, we space and less me space because what we do best remotely is focused work and people talk about we're doing so much more collaboration now. We're not, I mean, the numbers are somewhere in the 60, 40, 50, 50 a range of focus, work versus teamwork and collaborative work.
So those places and spaces are going to flip. Instead of having 80% private, they're going to be. 80% collaborative. And I hope that we've learned our lessons from those open offices with no choice and that we do build in the private spaces, the places that people can go for focus, uh, the introverts who don't have space at home who don't want to work at home, but need a place to get away when they're at the office in so many ways, the pandemic has not created nutrients.
It has just accelerated the trends that were already going. And one of those trends was activity-based working. So in that office, you've got place for small teams, large teams, small meetings, large meetings, social areas, caffeination areas. I mean, really only thing company has to get right. Is heating.
Sound clean bathrooms and good coffee. And most of them have not made that work before this one thing I'm truly looking forward to in these new places and spaces of work is that we will be able to get out of the bathroom without touching the handle. I mean, I think that is just an incredible silver lining to this pandemic.
So in doing that activity-based work companies are also making the wholesale change to go to on assigned desk. Again, something that has been happening for years in the U S more so in Europe. So you come in and you've either reserved a space or you go to a drop in space and you move throughout the building during the day to work in the places and spaces that suit the kind of work that you're doing at that moment.
So they're going this way. Wholesale before the pandemic, we were working with a company that was either going to go a all in assigned was going to go to activity-based working, was going to ask people to give up their office, or it was going to incorporate remote working. We would have spent a year to a year and a half.
Getting the practices and the protocols, right. Doing the change management. Because when you take something away from people, it's like, where am I going to put my children's photos? I mean, those spaces are important to people. It's why we have homes. You know, we want something that's ours. And so we really need to be cognizant of that.
I'm nervous. Quite frankly. I never thought I would say this, the companies are moving too quickly in this because. They feel that they've been pretty successful. Right. You know, it's Hey, 80% of people are saying that they're more productive or less productive. Okay. We got this remote work thing, you know, let's move on from here.
Let's let them work at home, but they haven't done the change management. They didn't grow up all virtual. They don't have the practices and the processes. And the reason that people are so exhausted with zoom for example, is because they haven't put new practices in place for when do you use zoom? Right?
And asynchronous communication versus synchronous communication. And just thinking through all of the things that we have done analog and making new ways to do them in the digital world. And so. I'm not seeing companies put a lot of tension to going back and fixing those things. I'm not even seeing a lot of attention to doing the change management of, Hey, okay.
It's time to come back. And where's my desk, you know, they heard it coming because their stuff got shipped home, but that's a heck of a way to introduce. People to a new way of working. 
Tyler Sellhorn: [00:28:35] 
One of the things that I am interested to learn from you is like, what is a story or a narrative of a previously in-person co located organization that really implemented the opportunity to work remotely in a really positive way. What's a story that you could tell around that 
Kate Lister: [00:28:55]
I really admire Dell.
They have had a robust remote work program for over a decade. I mean, think about that. We were still using pagers. Think about the technology that they did that with. And they had a goal of having more than, I think 50% of their staff work remotely one or more days a week by the end of. 2020, but by 2020, and by March of that year, they had well exceeded that I was just talking to their red director of remote yesterday and she said, you know, 95%, we have working remotely and they got into it very early on because they saw the benefits.
They saw that they'd be able to hire better talent, that they'd be able to retain people, that they would be able to save money. It's funny companies often get into this with the strategy of. Oh good. We're going to save money. We'll get over that real estate. But the benefits they find from it are what keeps them in it.
And I think that has happened in the pandemic. Early on. It's like, boy, maybe we don't need all this space, but then very quickly it became, wow. Think about what this could do to our talent pool and look at how engagement has gone up and look at how productivity has gone up. So Adele is one that I really admire.
They were very intentional about it. They were very structured about it. They trusted their employees. And you asked the question earlier about what can we learn from all remote companies? Trust trust, trust goals, goals, goals, give people the goals, work with them to develop the goals, give them the tools they need to be successful and then get out of their way.
We've known since the fifties, HR experts have been telling us since the fifties, that that is the way people work best, but we've largely ignored it. 
Tyler Sellhorn: [00:30:37] 
Thanks so much again for listening to the show and be sure to check out we work remotely.com for the latest remote jobs. If you're looking to hire a remote worker, we work remotely is the fastest, easiest way to do so as always, you have someone we should talk to any advice or. If you'd like to advertise on the podcast, please reach out to [email protected] that's [email protected].
Thanks again for listening. And we'll talk to you next time.

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