I had the privilege to interview Angelique Slob, HR professional turned “Future of Work” Consultant. Angelique has a human resources background, working in multinationals and large corporations.
Whilst working in HR she identified a trend where people in different positions wanted to become more free, in order to be more successful. She observed a change happening and realised we are all part of a new movement. She founded Hello Monday to address this need and now consults with startups, as well as larger companies helping them move into 21st Century ways of working.
Whether you are an individual working within a company or looking for the next career move, an HR Manager, a manager of a team or a CEO wanting to transition to a new way of working or build a remote team, this blog will provide some valuable insights.
In this interview you will learn:
- The difference between startups and corporates when it comes to remote work
- What are the advantages of remote teams
- What company culture needs to be in place for a company to become remote successfully?
- What is the relationship between Connection and Freedom?
- What are the things that individuals can do to start to see if the organization is ready to make certain changes?
- How are remote companies structured?
- How can larger organizations adapt to these remote working styles and what does the transition look like?
- Is there a process that companies can follow or is it really custom built for each organization?
- What is the best outcome that companies can achieve by opening up to more of these new values and remote culture?
- How is work evolving moving into the next 5-10 years?
- How can remote work have a global social impact?
The difference between startups and corporates when it comes to remote work
Corporates find adapting to change more difficult. They are slower to become remote, although there is more awareness of the trend.
It is easier to be remote as a start- up, as they are building the company from scratch. There are many more start-ups that have awesome remote working cultures.
An example of a successful startup who is embracing this remote culture is Buffer (the company that sells the social media scheduling software). They have a very transparent culture, sharing how they are building their culture on their blog. They have around 70 people working at the company, they are distributed all over the world, they have an annual company retreat and the people are free to travel anywhere. I think the founder lives between New York and Hawaii where he goes surfing.
Another company, a little bit bigger is Automattic that is the company behind WordPress. They have over 400 people that live all over the world.
What are the advantages of remote teams?
One of the biggest advantages that people say about having a remote team around the world, is that it is like “a ball that keeps on rolling”. So by the time that you wake up in the morning, your colleague who has been on the other side of the world working, has been solving your problem so you don’t have to wait a day.
Another advantage is that as soon as you start finding people remotely, you have access to a much larger pool of talent, as you don’t need to look within say a 50 mile radius.
You get people that are very motivated, people will be very happy with the opportunity to work remotely, so you're more attractive as an employer and you can be winning the war of talent acquisition. Especially for companies that are looking for developers and programmers where there is scarcity or if you are looking for the best sales talents out there, it’s a very good way to attract the best talent
What the company remote culture needs to be in place for a company to become remote successfully?
It’s not a case of “let’s go remotely tomorrow”. You have to make sure you have certain conditions in place in a company.
Trust in Remote Organisations
You need to have a culture where you trust the people. Because if the manager or the founder doesn’t really trust the employees to be productive or to be loyal to the company, it does not work.
Trust works both ways. Employees need to take a mature approach, take responsibility and be accountable for their results.
Results Driven Remote Culture
Management style needs to be more results-driven. People need to look at the actual results and the value that people add.
It is not about the hours worked and the working presence because it’s difficult to measure when people are working remotely. It doesn’t make sense to do so anyway.
It’s very much about working together and adding value.
As a manager, you are more a coach than a manager of people. It’s important that you are coaching people to be successful in their remote job.
It requires a different approach. For example, Buffer has only unlimited holiday policies and the management is now stimulating people to get enough vacation, to go on vacation often enough!
Communication in Remote Teams
As an employer this is especially important if you start to implement changes with one or two of your team members going remote, but most other people are in the office. It’s important that the remote members are still in the loop and that they are not feeling left out or that they create some kind of exclusion.
All communication by default should be virtual. So a meeting should be on Google Hangouts or Skype where people can video call, where everybody can actually be on the screen and not just some people sitting in the room talking together.
Technology tools like Slack are very important too, for example, to act like a virtual water cooler such like you have in the office. People can still exchange information and maybe do a little bit of gossiping to create a strong culture.
And it’s also about the language. So the words that you use
The way that you communicate on email. Be very much aware of how you communicate with people, so it’s more friendly.
What is the relationship between Connection and Freedom?
I did two workshops on the topic of connection and working remotely. The first one was on The Nomad Cruise. I was wondering why does everybody want to be free and want to travel?
But I found out we are looking to connect with peers to talk about work or business.
I created a focussed discussion group of eight managers of remote teams and we talked about connection. I thought freedom and connection were contradictory but I actually found, by speaking to managers in those workshops (it was just like a very open discussion), that the connection is built because of the freedom. If you have the freedom to be yourself, then that also opens up the connections with your colleagues and with your peers, way more than you would do in an office building where you are hiding behind the suits. So it does require people to make more authentic connections.
It is the freedom to express yourself which is very important.
Working together to solving matters really builds the connection.
Having a common set of core values that people can connect to, is important to bond people together.
“It’s way more than a matter of connection, it’s about trust, and you always assume that the other person has the intention to do well and to actually contribute”
How are remote companies structured?
Remote companies usually have something like a high self-managing way of working. Some people might be familiar with the concept of “Holacracy”. In general, the more self-managing, the more successful a company can be because it’s micromanaging or even trying to coordinate that is the problem. People are able to contribute add value as the design of the organisation is different. You can still work on functional teams, cross-functional teams or geographical teams but just think about it because you do need to translate your strategy and what you want to achieve to your organizational design.
How can larger organizations adapt to these remote working styles and what does the transition look like?
I would really recommend to more corporate environments is to bring it to a team level, of course, the higher management should be supporting but the most important thing is it not to offer a telecommute It’s not just about somebody working on Monday or another day of the week from home and not changing anything else. A company should really have a look at the culture, and mainly the management style. If you have enough trust and accountability within your team you can start doing this, to become successful.
Is there a process that companies can follow or is it really custom built for each organization?
I think it is quite custom built. You can look at Holacracy, for example, and find information on the Internet on how to implement it in your own organization.
Adopting a Different Remote Culture Mindset
The interesting part is that it’s also a mindset thing that needs to be changed. I am now working with an organization that has 60 employees and they are implementing unlimited holiday policies they are a very good employer, it is a great place to work, they understand the concepts and implementing them.
But, you still see that people sometimes switch to the old way of thinking, like what does it mean and how about the targets?
So you have to be in continuous awareness that it’s no longer about the target, it is about the value that the people add and equal relationships and trust. So, it is something that is a process, and it requires almost a paradigm shift between the 20th Century and the 21st Century way of thinking.
Some startups have transitioned quickly where they have started from scratch and they are like, okay we just have to be build this. Transitioning is more difficult.
What are the things that individuals can do to start to see if the organization is ready to make certain changes?
For individuals, the best way to bring change in the corporate environment is actually to address the pain points.
So if you see there is trouble of finding the best candidate for a certain position, you could just maybe talk and say hey would that be a possible role that we could fill in remotely or semi remotely because they have like access to a product group of candidates for that role.
Another example is just say that you have to work on something that you need a lot of focus and concentration and you’re going to be working from home, this one morning or this one little day, to finish this actual thing especially if it is something at the beginning and at the end, you could say hey it’s delivery role, I really want to deliver it like on this day. To make sure that I can, just say, you are working from home so no one can disturb me otherwise it may not be finished.
So it may be little things, that you can start to implement, and be aware from your own paradigm and also try to always come back with talking about results to your manager and show them that you are accountable and you are worth to take responsibility.
What is the best outcome that companies can achieve by opening up to more of these new values and remote culture?
In general, I think remote working culture is also like a reflection of a culture where it is high trust, high responsibility, where people will be very happy and productive. You can create it an office, but people can also work remotely if you would create a culture that is like this in the organization where remote employees would be very successful.
People can reach their full potential, people would be more happy and more healthy lifestyle. I was independent myself, I love the fact that people make connections to other people, so you are more open in the organization, you are more like a learning organization.
People can create and develop different skill sets that are probably you would never be able to develop in a 9-5 style environment in your office. People can have more time for exercising They just do what they need to do to be happy and healthy. And I think that’s the biggest game for all companies.
How is The Future of Work evolving moving into the next 5-10 years?
People are getting are more assessing their own needs, so instead of being in the same 9-5 routines, people will look at what they actually need and how they want to connect with family or friends. Some people would choose to travel, some people for example, will start a little farm in Bulgaria, and live there, have their goats and chickens, while being connected to the job which could be a startup in San Francisco.
How can remote work have a global social impact?
I also think that it opens a lot of possibilities for education and work for people in the developing world. For example, I spoke to two people last week from Brazil, who are using the remote work idea which is fairly new in Brazil. We can look to create different communities within Brazil, because now everybody flocks to San Paulo and the big cities, but we need to create more development in other parts of Brazil. So I think this technology and this way of working is actually very important for the sustainability and the happiness of the world as well as general education and wellbeing.