There has been a significant increase in remote work since the pandemic. However, most of us fail to realize the power, accessibility, and opportunities remote work provides– for us, our colleagues or employees, and the business.
Tamara Sanderson is the co-founder of Remote Works, an organizational design and consulting firm with a mission to liberate teams from the nine-to-five and teach them how to do their best work anytime, anywhere. Along with Ali Greene, Sanderson has spent a combined two decades in distributed workplaces: Greene as the former director of people operations at DuckDuckGo and Sanderson as the director of strategic partnerships and corporate development at Automattic. Throughout their joint career history, they’ve worked in varied environments, including big tech (Google), startups (Oyster, LivingSocial), creative agencies (IDEO, Undertone), and management consulting and private equity (Oliver Wyman, Audax Group). Their new book, Remote Works: Managing for Freedom, Flexibility, and Focus (Berrett-Koehler Publishers; February 7, 2023), is the ultimate playbook for managing remote teams.
In this episode, Tamara talks with us about the benefits or advantages remote work has both for the business and the employees. She also shares her three nonnegotiables when it comes to remote work to ensure the best work with less burnout. Along with this, she also explains what are the 5 Ws and 1 H of remote work that can make remote work better for you and your employees.
What you will learn from this episode:
- Discover how to maximize the remote work trend and feel more included in your work
- Learn what are the 5 Ws and 1 H of remote work and how can you apply it to your work or business
- Understand how rituals and having a transitional space are important in avoiding burnout in remote work
“Managers should be more thoughtful with how they’re structuring work and what they want their team to accomplish.”
– Tamara Sanderson
Valuable Free Resource:
Grab a copy of Tamara and Ali’s book and change how you work in your daily life: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1523003316?ref_=cm_sw_r_cp_ud_dp_EMRAFH621S3ZGSDQBWXN
04:15 – How was the remote work setup working for Automattic before
05:25 – How was Tamara’s remote work experience in DuckDuckGo
06:05 – Tamara shares how she and her co-author, Ali Greene, meet
07:03 – What made Tamara and Ali write Remote Works: Managing for Freedom, Flexibility, and Focus
08:19 – Tamara explains what is the overall advantage of the remote work trend
12:41 – Why knowing yourself more in remote work is important?
17:09 – Tamara talks about what are the three non negotiables in remote work
20:49 – Is it more possible to get burnout in remote work?
23:31 – Tamara’s life-changing tips on how to avoid burnout from remote work: You don’t always have to be on. Have digital wellness apps and rituals
27:28 – How can you develop confidence, trust, and autonomy in your employees in the remote work setting
31:14 – Tamara expounds on what are the 5 Ws and 1 H of remote work
32:10 – Connect with Tamara: https://www.remoteworksbook.com/
“Managers must lead with intentionality.” – Tamara Sanderson
“When remote work is done well, an employee can have so much more information on how the insides of the company are working and you can feel really connected to actually like, knowing what is going on.” – Tamara Sanderson
“Now that we have the technology, it kind of breaks apart the previous paradigms. Managers have to respect employees’ autonomy and allow them to act more and take more agency in the organization.” – Tamara Sanderson
“There is potential for burnout if you’re not clear on boundaries.” – Tamara Sanderson
Ways to Connect with Tamara Sanderson:
- Website: https://www.remoteworksbook.com/
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tamara-sanderson-943a051/
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/remoteworksbook/
- Book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1523003316?ref_=cm_sw_r_cp_ud_dp_EMRAFH621S3ZGSDQBWXN
Ways to Connect with Sarah E. Brown:
- Website: https://www.sarahebrown.com
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/knowguides
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahebrownphd
- To speak with her: bookachatwithsarahebrown.com
Full Episode Transcript:
Tamara Sanderson 00:00
When you’re doing remote, you’re working across time zones, especially when you’re giving people flexibility and they’re choosing their schedule– they’re working nonlinearly. Managers should be more thoughtful with how they’re structuring work and what they want their team to accomplish.
Sarah E. Brown 00:22
Hello, everyone! Welcome to the KTS Success Factor Podcast for Women, where we talk about the challenges senior female leaders face in being happy and successful at work. I’m your host, Dr. Sarah E. Brown.
Sarah E. Brown 00:37
So we’re going to continue the discussion today of remote working. And by way of background, I just have to say, this is a topic that has always been of interest to me. In the early 1990s, I did my dissertation on how technology was changing the way corporations were making decisions because everybody was remote from each other. We weren’t so much working remotely, but everybody was at a distance. And so it has since become a real interest to me around how technology is bringing people together or not, as the case may be, to perform work. And in the late 1990s, when I was working for Accenture, we were all management consultants, we were kind of at the forefront of this remote working concept because we were always on the road, working with clients. And when we weren’t on the road, we worked out of our home office. And that saved a lot of costs for office space for Accenture. So I’ve been about this whole process of working remotely for over 25 years. And I’m fascinated. I’m fascinated by the whole dynamics of it. I’m fascinated by how people learn to do it. And with the global pandemic that we’re just coming out of, there’s been a real resurgence of interest and thought about what remote work means, how to do it better, what we can learn from it, and the like. And that’s what we’re going to be talking about this morning. My guest is Tamara Sanderson. She is the co-founder of Remote Works, an organizational design and consulting firm that has a mission to liberate teams from the nine-to-five and teach them how to do their best work anytime, anywhere. Along with Ali Greene, Sanderson has spent a combined two decades in distributed workplaces. Her co-author, and we’re going to talk about their book today, Greene is the former director of People Operations at DuckDuckGo. And Sanderson, who we’re talking to today, is the director of strategic partnerships and corporate development at Automattic. Throughout their joint career history, they’ve worked in varied environments, including big techs like Google, startups, like Oyster and LivingSocial, creative agencies like IDEO and Undertone, and management, consulting, and private equity, like Oliver Wyman and Audax Group. And they have a new book, which we’re going to talk about today called, Remote Works: Managing for Freedom, Flexibility, and Focus. Welcome, Tamara!
Tamara Sanderson 03:44
Thanks for having me, Sarah. I appreciate it! And I’m so excited that you were so early on the remote work trend. And I think management consultants were often doing remote work before they even know it had a name or that it would necessarily be a big trend now in 2023.
Sarah E. Brown 04:02
Got it! Well, you are also at the forefront too. So tell us a little bit about Automattic, which you worked for, and DuckDuckGo, and why these organizations were at the forefront of remote work.
Tamara Sanderson 04:15
Yeah, so I no longer work at Automattic but I did before the pandemic and it was an all-remote company. It is the parent company of WordPress and WooCommerce and Tumblr. So it has all these different companies underneath its purview. But essentially Automattic started as a part of the WordPress community, and that’s an open source community. So people were very naturally contributing to the WordPress ecosystem from all different places. And so from its origins in 2004, it was always a remote company. And when I joined there, I felt a whole new sense of freedom and autonomy that I had never felt before and the insides of Automattic work very differently than any company I had been at before. And so when I saw that I really saw how remote could completely change an organization and give people just a lot more freedom and flexibility. And so when I had that experience, and then the pandemic hit, and I saw people, you know, testing remote work, I was like, “Oh, it could be so much better than what we’re doing!” And so that’s kind of what interested me in participating now and advocating for remote work and how we can continue to improve the skill set and do it better.
Sarah E. Brown 05:23
Yeah, so tell us about DuckDuckGo as well, what it is, and their experience on the remote work journey.
Tamara Sanderson 05:29
Yeah, so DuckDuckGo is a privacy-oriented search engine. So sometimes Ali and I laugh, we come from different sides of the search. I come from Google. She comes from DuckDuckGo. They’re also an all-remote company. And Ali was the head of people ops for them. But it’s really interesting that both of them were prominent companies before the pandemic, but they have different ways of operating. So sometimes, Ali and I will be like, “Oh, huh? I did it so differently at my own company”, which shows that there are so many different flavors of how to do remote work.
Sarah E. Brown 06:00
So how did you two meet and where did the idea for this book come from?
Tamara Sanderson 06:05
Yeah, so we were both digital nomads. And it’s actually, we have very fun, cute, meet-cute stories. So we had colleagues at both of our companies that were married to each other, and they lived in Uruguay. And they knew we were going to go to Cape Town. So they were like, “You two have to meet.” And so, yeah, in 2017, I met Ali. In her picture before, she had like green hair, but when she showed up, she had just I think, maybe, she had blonde hair at that time. But we just immediately hit it off. We had a lot of thought, Organizational Psychology, remote work and travel, and how to challenge the status quo. So that’s how we bonded and we’ve been friends since then. And we used to lead digital nomad groups. So we would get people together in a certain city and have salons and co-working sessions and things of that sort. So we’re really interested in how to continue to have those connections and bonds, even if you’re not necessarily working in an office every day.
Sarah E. Brown 07:00
And where did the idea for the book come from?
Tamara Sanderson 07:03
Yeah, so we were talking during the pandemic, as most people do. She was living in Spain at the time. I live here in Boston. And we were just discussing our experiences during the pandemic. And somehow, we got into remote work and how this is kind of the big prototype, everybody’s finally trying this thing that we were very passionate about. But people are getting burned out. And also, they’re not necessarily taking advantage of the full flexibility. And also remote work during a pandemic is very different than remote work in general. And so we felt like we had a lot of things that we wanted to say and to encourage. And I think we just ended that call with like, I told Ali, I was like, “Hey, we should just write a book about this.” And then two years later, it is out on the market. And so that’s how the origin story is, but much easier to propose writing a book, as you probably know, Sarah than the actual writing and the marketing, but we went through the whole process!
Sarah E. Brown 07:57
You find out that the business of being an author is as big as being the author, you know?
Tamara Sanderson 08:03
Yeah, definitely, for sure!
Sarah E. Brown 08:06
So you mentioned when you work for Automattic that you had a sense of freedom that you didn’t have before. But what do you see, in general, as the overall advantages of this remote work trend?
Tamara Sanderson 08:19
Yeah, so I guess I can bucket those into two different categories. So as an individual, I think you can start working around your own energy rhythms. So Sarah, as I mentioned, it’s 10 am here in Boston, I am a hardcore night owl. And so I definitely have shifted my schedule to remote work. I’m able to work in sprints which I work on much better when I do a lot of work at one point, and then take a break, and then kind of relax versus a marathon way of working of eight or 10 hours a day. But I think it allows, like I mentioned, to start kind of working around your natural rhythms and your life patterns. I think that’s a huge advantage. I also think you can get rid of a lot of work around work. And so when you do remote work well, you create essentially what we call a “digital house”. And so you have this whole architecture, and you use systems to do a lot of the administrative activities of an organization– so the documentation, the communicating, the sharing messages, the herding the cats, and reminding people to do different things. And so I think when you do remote work, you can reduce a lot of that activity. And when you reduce that activity, you’re actually just more productive, and you’re not spending time on things that are not value-added. I think location flexibility is huge. And so I think one example of this is there used to be this thing called the “two-body problem”. And I remember this very specifically when I was an expat in Singapore with Google. And often people would have to choose, if people were in a partnership, they had to choose one person’s career if they were going to move. So as an example, my boyfriend at the time moved to Singapore, and I ended up moving to Singapore as well. I wanted to move to Singapore, so it’s not exactly that case, but it does show the example of somebody moving and then the other person moving as well. And what’s nice is with remote work, you don’t suffer necessarily from that “two-body problem” in the same way because people can continue their jobs regardless of their location. So those are some personal advantages that I see. There’s a lot more, I also just think being able to stay in your community and still have a job and not having to transplant yourself to somewhere else is really advantageous, and choosing where you live versus living near a corporation. I think on a corporate side, I think remote work, I think you can really tap into talent across the world. And as somebody that spent nine years living abroad, I find that really important to be able to have a diversity of thought across the world. And so I think that’s a huge advantage as an organization. People seem to want to work remotely. Buffer just had a survey that said, 98% of people want to work remotely across time, at least part of the time. And so just offering employees what they want, which I think is really important. There’s potential cost savings with like, you don’t have to have as much capital investment– so those are all advantages. But another thing is, I think I mentioned this before, but you’re going to have a digital footprint of all the intellectual capital within your organization. And so when you have that, located online, and not just in people’s minds, you’re going to be able to save that intellectual capital in a different way when you’re remote. And so as an example, I remember leaving a company, and people pinging me two years later asking where my, “Hey, I knew you were on that project. Do you have that Excel file still on like a USB cord?” And I was like, “First of all, no, I don’t work at this company anymore.” And it just means, that was just common practice. People would just not have handovers. They would lose information. You know, you go to a meeting and you forget everything the next day. Somebody goes on maternity leave or paternity leave. There’s just so much leakage of intellectual capital in organizations. And I think remote work can keep it inside by having really good documentation practices.
Sarah E. Brown 11:57
So you taught- you gave an example at the beginning of answering this question around, you’re a night owl. And so you’re able to work more now in line with your natural rhythms. And you, obviously, know that about you. And that particular one is pretty obvious to most people, as you know when they work best whether they’re a morning dove or a night owl. But you guys also talk about the power of knowing yourself and self-awareness in your book, tell us a little bit about how you see that relating to remote work. Do you think it’s more important when you’re working remotely than before? Or just tell us a little bit about why that concept shows up so much in your book.
Tamara Sanderson 12:41
Yeah. So I think the reason why knowing yourself is even more important in remote work is because you have more autonomy. So when you have more autonomy, you have to make more decisions. With more decisions– how you like to work, the way to get things done, you become your own project manager. And so as you’re given more of that responsibility, people are not going to tell you, “Come in 8 to 5. This is how we work. Just follow along and mimic what everybody else does.” You’re starting to have a lot more individuation with that, and so I think knowing yourself helps a lot. And the ways that we do that in our book, we have a fun thing that we added mad libs in there. So you can go through and, I don’t know if you’ve ever played this as a kid, but you got adjectives and nouns. And you can start kind of reflecting on the ways that you really enjoy working and also reflecting on managers that you’ve really vibed with, managers that you’ve had a hard time with, how you want to show up as a manager, how you like to get feedback, what are your strengths, and I think that reflection activity is just really important because then you can share that with your team. And that transparency can create a different way of working.
Sarah E. Brown 13:52
Hi, this is Sarah Brown, again, the host of the KTS Success Factor Podcast for Women. I hope you are enjoying this episode, and gaining some tips and inspiration on how you can be happier, more successful, and experience less stress at work. If you would like to learn more about how you can empower the women in your organization to do the same, simply click on the show notes to see how you can connect with me. As an added bonus for my podcast guests, you will see how you can book 30 minutes with me to explore how you can implement a scalable self-coaching program for the women in your organization. Simply visit bookachatwithsarahebrown.com. Now back to this informative episode!
Sarah E. Brown 14:49
And that’s a good lead into my next question because you talk about the concept of management archetypes in the book and the implications of that for effective remote working. So, tell us what the archetypes are, how you discover them for yourself, and how that relates to effective remote work.
Tamara Sanderson 15:07
Yeah. So in general, I think a lot of times we think of like manager types is like your role of manager. Are you a people manager or are you a project manager? But instead, we want to talk a lot about management styles because everybody can show up as a very different type of manager. So the ones we ended up doing kind of a band music theme focus, but really, we have- it’s a two-by-two. And so Sarah, I’m sure you’re like familiar with two-by-twos from your time in consulting. Those are very popular. But within kind of the y-axis we have, are you more team focused or are you more organization focused? So do you- when you’re thinking about your day-to-day, are you with your team? Are you looking at you, like looking at your team, or more like looking at their work, working with them, thinking about the project at hand? Or are you looking at the organization? Are you talking to other leaders? Are you talking to other departments? Which way are you facing in an organization? And then we also had, are you really hands-on or are you hands-off? And so a hands-on manager, it could be somebody that’s more micromanaging, which we don’t completely recommend unless it’s like very specific situations. But it could be hands-on that you’re like, you’re in it with people. And then you can be a hands-off manager where you’re more promoting. And so our four types are the composer, the bandleader, the agent, and the promoter. And we have different people that go along with those. So you can kind of see who you are, how to flex, and how that shows up in remote. And we don’t think there’s only one of those that you are, but it can be really helpful to see which leadership style you gravitate towards. And then knowing when you can flex it at different points. And so I assume, you know, with your book, The Book of You, you probably do a lot of things on people’s personalities and what they gravitate towards and like learning about yourself. And so I just find that really important to be a thoughtful contributor to any organization.
Sarah E. Brown 16:54
So this is another way people can begin to know themselves and how they show up in the world. So yeah, so you talk about three non-negotiables in remote work, what are they? And why are they non-negotiable?
Tamara Sanderson 17:09
Yeah, so the first one, managers must lead with intentionality. And so when you are in an office, I don’t think managers have to be particularly intentional. You will just have people around. So you don’t have to be thoughtful about, how you structure deliverables when you ask people to work. You can just be like, “Hey, come here. Hey, I have a question for you. Hey,” and you can just round people up for a meeting because they’re just there. Their bodies are just there. Though, when you’re doing remote, you’re working across time zones. You’re working across, especially when you’re giving people flexibility, and they’re choosing their schedule. They’re working nonlinearly. Managers should be more thoughtful with how they’re structuring work, and what they want their team to accomplish. So they go from this kind of inputs method of just like making, almost like babysitting people and making sure that they’re around, to this output orientation of like, what are we accomplishing? Why have I collected all these team members to be here? And so there’s, you just have to be incredibly intentional to do that well. Next is managers must build trust. And so I think remote work, when people- I think underneath, they are underlying all the pushback about remote work. I think a lot of it comes down to a lack of control. And that is such a human thing. And so it is really hard if you have been working one way for most of your life to shift to another way. And also the feeling of if the way that you monitored how people were working before was by like seeing them every day and through a kind of like the laws of proximity, if all of a sudden you have to trust that people are going to get their work done, and you can’t see them, you are losing a bit of control, because you’re giving that control back to the employee. And so like there is just a shift of control going on. With autonomy, you’re giving people more control over their workflows. And that is very hard, but you have to learn trust. And I think that’s just really important to treat each other like adults at work and trust them if they are hired by this organization, they are qualified and that they are going to get really good work done. And then third is managers must respect employees’ autonomy. And so I don’t think remote, you can do remote work and have it just be a copy and paste from the office if you want to. I just don’t think you’re taking advantage of the technology and the freedom of working in a different way. The reason why that traditional structure of work existed was that people had to commute from an office and back. And so it didn’t make sense to commute at all different times, and there wasn’t technology to communicate. You had to communicate by letter or you had to communicate verbally. And so now that we have the technology, it kind of breaks apart the previous paradigms. And so I think, yeah, managers have to respect employees’ autonomy and allow them to act more and take more agency in the organization.
Sarah E. Brown 19:59
So let me summarize. Its intentionality, trust, and respect for autonomy. Did I get it right?
Tamara Sanderson 20:06
Sarah E. Brown 20:07
Well, it’s interesting that the intentionality keeps coming up. In fact, I had on my show a couple of weeks ago, an acting coach who talked about the importance of actually, before you even get on a Zoom or a team’s call, getting intentional about what you’re going to do. And that’s a theme that just keeps coming up, over and over again. I want to switch a minute to another to, kind of, one of the potential risks of remote working, which is another thing that I’ve been exploring a lot on this podcast, and that is burnout. Do you believe that the potential for burnout is greater with remote work? And how do you spot it in yourself?
Tamara Sanderson 20:49
Hmm, I don’t know if it’s necessarily greater with remote work, but I do know that that is a hot topic. So I can’t tell if in general, mental health has become a bigger issue in society. And so people are talking about things more. And so also, burnout is coming up more. But I think there is more potential in remote work or any company that’s using technology. I remember I was a management consultant in 2006 when I graduated from university, and after like three months, they gave me a Blackberry. And I just noticed all of a sudden, my life changed very— like changed overnight. I had kind of a digital leash. And so I was always on with the organization. So that’s when I started first experiencing burnout. It wasn’t with remote work, it was the second that I was given technology that could come home with me. But with remote work you do almost by nature, for most people, you have technology that comes home with you. So that’s been your first experience with that. I can imagine burnout being hard, because all of a sudden, you don’t have those clear boundaries of when work starts, when work ends, you don’t have the visual cues of like, “I go from office. Now I’m at home, I have this commute, this transitional space.” And so I think there is potential for burnout if you’re not clear on boundaries. And if employees don’t know when they can, like turn off and take breaks. And so I think that is very true. I think burnout, there’s probably a lot of signals. From what I’ve noticed you can, within remote work, you can still tell if people’s- texts have changed. So like the way that they’re texting in Slack, if that has- if they’re not using emojis or they’re not responding in the same way, they may be burned out. You can probably notice on the visual screen, how are their facial expressions. How’s their voice? You can also I think, just- yeah, with burnout, it’s like a human thing. You can see when people are not as engaged. It’s usually a kind of apathy that comes through. It’s just like too much. Stress is too much that small tasks have built up and are just too much. And so I think, yeah, it’s being able to read those signals, and they come in in a different way because you won’t be able to see people as much in person, even though I do recommend remote companies, like a lot of people are doing hybrid, which means they’re not always remote. And if you are an all-remote company, I still recommend people meet up in person at least once a year, if not more, just to have that in-person time and create those bonds.
Sarah E. Brown 23:14
So you mentioned this when you were given your BlackBerry example, that you found that your work time was no longer bounded by the time you were in the office. So do you have any tips on how you can shed working 24/7?
Tamara Sanderson 23:31
Yeah, so I think first is within your teams create a norm that you don’t have to always be on. And so and also use signals for it. So you can turn off Slack messages and recommend people don’t have Slack or their work email on their phone, that can be one method. You can use digital timers on your phone as well. So I have an Android because I used to work at Google, still very loyal to the Google Suite. But I use like digital wellness apps, so I’m only on certain apps for certain amounts of time. I also recommend having rituals. And so there’s been some lamenting of people missing the commute. And as somebody that gets very carsick and does not drive and does not like commuting, I don’t totally understand that. But I do understand the desire to have some type of transitional space. And so I know people do different things. But people sometimes go for walks. That’s a very common thing in the remote world like when your day is ended, go for a walk, put on your favorite podcast, listen to a song, and then use that as your commute kind of like your space between. There’s also a woman that we interviewed and I thought this was a really lovely ritual. She basically puts her children to sleep. And then she plays piano for an hour. And then after she’s played piano, she’s in a completely different space, no longer thinking about her roles and responsibilities as a mother or as a CEO. And so I think having those rituals are really important and also just like putting things away so can you like to move your phone outside of the space that you’re in? Can you move your computer outside of the space you’re in so that you’re not tempted to continually work because it is an addictive quality? The reason that we’re continuing to work is because you get a dopamine rush. You feel the adrenaline like you need to answer different things. And so, you have to put specific measures in place in order to start having that separation.
Sarah E. Brown 25:26
Mm-hmm. I get that. So I find that I feel angst if I have a whole long list of things on my to-do list and I get a rush from having things on the to-done list. And so when it is potentially building up, I feel a bit of angst. So I have to guard against all of that. It’s a similar thing.
Tamara Sanderson 25:48
Yeah. May I add one thing to that? I think with that, we also recommend that just because somebody else is working at their best times, does not mean that impacts everybody else in the ecosystem. So as an example, I’m a night owl. I love working in sprints. My co-writer is not a night owl and works in a very different time zone. And so sometimes she’ll wake up and she’ll have a ton of messages for me because I like got really excited. I wrote a lot of stuff. I put a lot of stuff in the sauna. But that does not mean that she has to answer on my schedule. And I think that also is like working with each other so I think it’s great that you get a rush out of the to-do list. That shows how you get energy. That is exciting. But just because that’s how you like to operate doesn’t mean whoever’s receiving all those messages has to respond in the same way.
Sarah E. Brown 26:34
And what I’ve had to train myself to do is I don’t do emails after a certain time at night, and I just discipline myself not to pick it back up until the next morning, but it’s hard to get into that habit. I get it. So what are your tips for giving remote employees the autonomy they need? So if you are a accustomed, and I know this was a big transition in the 1990s, for us. If you accustomed to having constant contact with employees, because you can see them, and you know what they’re doing? How do you develop the confidence and give the trust that you were talking about? And the other thing you said, the respect for autonomy? How do you get yourself into the mode to do that?
Tamara Sanderson 27:27
Yeah. And so, it is a really big shift, and it depends on how you were working before, but I usually like to use a metaphor of high school versus college. And so if you think about how high school operates, you have everybody that comes in from like eight to five. You go from one class to the next class. In the next class, a teacher is watching you the whole entire time. It’s incredibly structured. You don’t have that much autonomy in high school. You are at the will of how the system works. For people that end up going to university, it’s completely different. Like a professor gives you a syllabus on day one. You do specific readings. You know you’re going to have tests or quizzes or essays. You might have a final project, but your professor’s not calling you every day and saying, “Hey. How are you doing? What are you doing?” Like, they’re not micromanaging you. They’ve given you that freedom. And so when you are in university, you get to choose how you get assignments done. Where you’re working at. Are you in the library? Are you at Denny’s? When you’re going to work. Do you like, how is your- you get to choose your class schedule. You get to choose when you’re doing your work. And so I think remote work, in a lot of ways, is like transitioning into more of a university model, which means that if you are a manager, you have to be very clear about the deliverables and you have to have that intentionality of like, what are people supposed to create? So rather than a syllabus, what is the direction that you’re giving for your team? But once you’ve given that direction, It’s really important to allow them to accomplish it in the way that they want. And so some easy things that you can do is just, you can give employees autonomy of their environment. So some people like novelty, which means they want to go out to cafes and work at libraries and work in different places. Maybe at a friend’s house, maybe they want to travel. And I think allowing people to choose their environment and encouraging that is important. I know some companies give, so for example, when I was at Automattic, I would get $250 a month as a budget to either spend on a coworking center or a cafe, which was very generous. And I would often go to a cafe, get a coffee and a bagel, and expense it. And that was my place for the day and I really loved that because it allowed me to experiment. Another thing is just schedule, and we were talking about kind of like biorhythms, but you know, when you do asynchronous communication, you can allow people to work at different times. I think control is like, giving employees more information is really valuable, and so a lot of times there’s this thing of like, nobody feels connected anymore. That is a big kind of meme right now about remote work, but I think when remote work is done well, an employee can have so much more information on how the insides of the company are working and you can feel really connected to actually like knowing what is going on. And so I think when an organization can give employees more support and information to do their job, they can feel empowered to do it. And allowing people to have different learning styles. So, you know, some people prefer written or video or audio, but giving people the freedom to choose and also like allowing people to socialize in how they want to. So giving people options if they want to do donut buddies on Slack, where they have, you know, people that they meet once a week, allowing people to socialize externally. So when I was at Automattic, I would often go to big events. So I would go to F8 for Facebook. I would go to Google I/O. I would go to WordPress camps. And it was really fun cause I got to socialize with all these different people from different organizations as a part of my job. And so giving people that opportunity to still have social contacts within their network, I think, can be really important. And it gives people autonomy to make those connections themselves.
Sarah E. Brown 31:03
Hmm. So Tamara, for the benefit of my audience that is looking to make the most of remote work now, what question should I have asked you that I haven’t?
Tamara Sanderson 31:14
Ooh. So I think with remote work, people, so there’s a million ways to do remote work. There’s not one method. In the book that we have, there are a lot of activities and reflection questions, and examples so that people can choose and design their best way of working. But at the very beginning, we used this concept called, “The five Ws and one H” and that actually comes from journalism. So it’s like the who, what, when, where, why, and how. And so we allow people to go through this framework and think through what has changed with the way that they’re working now compared to how they worked before. And for remote work to work, you have to really have one thing that you’re really getting that’s different than if you have to come into the office every single day. And once you have that thing, then I think people are more incentivized to start creating, designing their work around their lives, essentially.
Sarah E. Brown 32:06
Interesting. Hmm. So Tamara, where can listeners find you?
Tamara Sanderson 32:10
Yeah, so our book is distributed everywhere through Penguin Random House and we are also on Amazon, so you can check us out there. I am very active on LinkedIn, so feel free to follow me or connect with me. And we also have a website, remote works book, remote works, plural, book .com. And so feel free to check us out there and join our newsletter, but we love talking to people about remote work and just seeing how they’re exploring and how they’re making it actually work for them.
Sarah E. Brown 32:41
Well, Tamara, thank you so much for your time today. This has been a really interesting conversation.
Tamara Sanderson 32:47
Thanks, Sarah. I appreciate it.
Sarah E. Brown 32:49
Thanks for listening to the KTS Success Factor Podcast for Women. If you like what you are hearing, please go to iTunes to subscribe, rate us, and leave a review. And if you would like more information on how we can help women in your organization to thrive, then go to www.sarahebrown.com. You can sign up for our newsletter, read show notes, and learn more about our podcast guests, read my blog, browse through the books, or contact us for a chat. Goodbye for now.