Some people talk about what they get 'for free' when the team comes to the office: social interaction, deeper collaboration, team bonding, serendipitous encounters. Those are some great benefits, but they’re not free.
I’ve worked remotely for most of the last twelve years and I value it. I also know it can be hard unless companies and teams dedicate effort to making it work. Thanks to the pandemic many traditional office workers — including much of the tech industry — got sent home for months. A lot more people got to try remote work. And their employers had to make it work. While the impacts are complicated, research tends to show productivity and job satisfaction rose as a result.
But now many employers are calling for a return to the office for at least some days, citing that there is no substitute for in-person time. That approach is not free; it passes the costs back to the employee. These costs include commute time and money, distraction, and a loss of flexibility.
Instead of jamming people in the same place and hoping for serendipitous collaboration, be more intentional in creating connections. Focus on bringing the benefits of sharing a space into our remote work. Some ideas you might consider:
Use the first five minutes of every meeting as arrival time. Let people be a little late as they roll from video chat to video chat, or take a bio break. Spend that time chatting, getting people's voices in the room, checking on mood and vibes.
There is no deeper collaboration than jointly authoring and editing a well-written document. Then taking feedback on it.
Team bonding can be a deliberate action. Schedule an online meeting in work time whose purpose is social. Lots of companies do that in their offices anyway. Have a Thursday or Friday afternoon call, or gaming session, or trivia contest.
You can achieve serendipity by organising adhoc one:one catchups. Choose people who don't normally work together. Or use software to randomise it.
These are just a few examples of how we as leaders can help our team connect in a more meaningful way. What do you take away from these ideas? What do you find works for you?
Let us know.
Highly effective leaders and managers learn to perform better by delegating work to other team members. Elle is speaking about effective delegation at the YOW! Tech Leaders Summit in Sydney on September 8th.
Come along to hear her talk about trust and control, enabling autonomy, and how delegation does not equal abdication. There'll be plenty of practical tips and a script you can use. Use the promo code "meredith15" to get 15% off your regular ticket.
Do you find it hard to find peers at work that you can turn to? What about having appropriate professional development at your career level?
Our Community of Practice program is structured around your busy work schedule to provide you maximum learning with very little investment. You will address actual challenges at work, reduce your risk by reducing your blind spots, gain perspectives from others, and build a support network of trusted peers.
For our next cohorts, we're looking for experienced product engineering leaders. If that is you, or someone you know, you can check out to apply at https://blackmill.co/do/community-of-practice or book a chat with us to learn more at https://meet.blackmill.co/blackmill/30min
I'm the CTO at modo, who are a very early stage startup. Most of my days are spent hands on coding. I also look after some product and people stuff, and a bit of the bookkeeping, which bizarrely is really nice and relaxing after a day of thinking about things. So I’m doing lots of things, but primarily building the app.
I love coding and I love solving problems. I hadn't done hands on coding for a few years before this so this is going back into it and it's been so fun. I like making things at heart — I'm not excited by new tech frameworks as much as I am by creating something. I like to collaborate with people, I love small teams, and I love being able to go really fast in a startup. I get very frustrated by slow progress!
Right now, our challenge is finding product market fit. We know we’re solving an important problem, but finding the right solution is hard! We’re running ongoing experiments and the feedback we’re getting from real users is very enlightening, but also telling us that we haven’t quite got there yet. Sometimes that weighs me down and it can be hard to keep going, but it’s also exciting and I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.
I love making things. I spend most weekends sewing, mostly making quilts. I love the beach. I walk along the beach everyday and am often outdoors and I love how it always looks different every day. I live in such a beautiful place. Also my family are really important to me and apart from my husband, they're all in the UK. I miss them heaps. Not sure if family is my passion, so to speak, but they are an important part of my life!
I've been at modo for a year now and I'm just so proud of how far we've come. Jumping back in to tech, having not done it for a while was like "Oh god, can I do this?" and now I’ve learned React Native and built a mobile app I'm pretty happy about. We still have a long way to go. We are just kicking off our PR for last year’s fundraise, which is pretty exciting.
Also, I won 2nd prize at the Red Hill Quilt Competition. It was my first time ever entering a quilting competition, and I am quite proud about winning a prize.
Following my head over my heart. After I left my job at Culture Amp, I knew that I was burned out and needed time off, but I didn’t take long enough to recover. I made a decision to take what was an amazing opportunity as VP Engineering at Forage, because I thought it was the right thing for my career — and because I was scared to be out of work — but sadly ended up leaving after less than a year because I was exhausted. I’m so grateful for that opportunity though, because it got me back into Engineering, and helped me realise how much I love it, and that it’s part of my identity.
Reflecting back, the decisions I made where I trusted my gut were the best ones I ever made. Joining modo was a big risk for lots of reasons, but it felt so right, and I have no regrets.
I use modo (the app we are building)! It has helped me so much, especially when I’m ruminating over something. We have built a feature called “Abstraction Laddering”. It helps me to unpack why something matters, and figure out what I can do about it, and I find I can then let go of things much more easily.
I also try and avoid working weekends or evenings — once I’m done for the day, I’m done. I work out regularly, walk on the beach every day, and I’m strict about making space for those things.
I think managing stress is about self-awareness, recognising when you are feeling stressed, knowing what habits exacerbate it, and avoiding them, and doing more of the things that help.
But it’s hard to be in a startup and not feel stressed a lot of the time. I don't think I would be happy with no pressure or stress though, I’m no good at sitting still. My husband always says that "you take on too much" and I'm like "well that's why I'm happy". I like having a long to do list.
Following your gut, trust yourself, and just do it if you are curious.
I'm going to go for more kindness. I think if more people are more kind to each other, the world will solve its own problems. I'm not a big idealist, I'm more about how can I make a difference today.
My goal right now is for modo to reach the next stage, which would be seed funding, so that we can keep building this app and make the impact we hope to.
P.S. if you’re interested in helping us to beta test modo, please join the waitlist on our website and we’ll be in touch!
We started making this soup on Jo's recommendation.
Thank you for showing an interest in our newsletter and we hope that you enjoyed the read. Feel free to contact us if you have any feedback, a burning question, or just a recipe that you would like to share.
Until next time, keep learning!
Everyone at Blackmill