Podcast 97: The Remote Work Decade?

In this episode of the Cherryleaf Podcast, we discuss a thread by Chris Herd on Twitter about working from home, and the future of work.

Chris Herd’s thread on Twitter.

 

Transcript

00:00:01
Hello and welcome to the Cherryleaf podcast. It’s November 2020 and I was planning to try a different type of podcast episode a little bit later.
00:00:20
Maybe towards the 100th episode that we do, where it seems to be an idea that some people are following through with of doing walking podcasts. So you walk and you talk at the same time.
00:00:34
However, on Thursday of this week, we’re going into lockdown, so I’ve got three days.
00:00:41
To do this, or take the opportunity to do this before we’re all locked down for four weeks.
00:00:49
So where I am is in Windsor Great Park just by the Bishopsgate entrance which is about.
00:00:58
15,20 minutes, about 10 miles from where I live, and So what I thought I’d do, I turn my back to the wind is.
00:01:08
Talk about the topic for this episode and perhaps talk about the park.
00:01:15
As well so.
00:01:19
Where I am is in a piece of village called Englefield Green and it’s one of the entrances to Windsor Great Park. The park is very big. You might get from the name.
00:01:31
And we walk towards.
00:01:34
Windsor so in front of me at the moment is a collection of pink buildings which is Cumberland Lodge, maybe not Cumberland Lodge, but apparently there are some minor Royals that live in those Grace and Favour houses anyway, so we’re turning right?
00:01:56
Hello.
00:01:59
Possibly some other people and going towards what’s called the copper horse.
00:02:06
So the topic is really a review of something or an update on something that we did back in.
00:02:14
April or March of this year, which was talking about the impact of the lockdown.
00:02:22
On businesses.
00:02:24
And at that time we talked about.
00:02:28
Mainly about technology and little bit about peoples.
00:02:31
Mental well-being, but I saw a long thread on Twitter.
00:02:37
By somebody called Chris Herd, where he said “I’ve spoken to around 1000 companies.
00:02:45
Over the last six months about their plans for remote working remote work going forward, here’s a few things that I’ve learned now.”
00:02:55
Before I do that, I have to get through these gates. There are deer in the park.
00:03:02
And.
00:03:03
To start with, you’re getting out. You have to go through some metal gates on that.
00:03:08
It is said.
00:03:10
That if you come early in the morning.
00:03:14
But you can bump into the Queen riding a horse. Although the bridleways tend to go.
00:03:21
Perpendicular to the.
00:03:24
Footpaths. But anyway, if we do, we’re probably a bit late for that today, but if we do bump into her we will ask her thoughts on this topic. She’s a keen listener to the podcast I believe. So what I thought I’d do is talk about.
00:03:42
Snow Hill sites of scientific interest.
00:03:46
Talk about the thread that Chris Herd wrote meant. Intersperse it with some additional thoughts. First thing he said was.
00:03:56
“3rd space.
00:03:58
Office and working from home will be joined by somewhere close by that a number of people will use supermarkets or local bank branches should emerge as a convenient, ubiquitous location option if they are smart.”
00:04:14
Now this is something that I thought of might happen when I was in my younger days, and I thought that perhaps libraries would change to serve another function that that would be a place where people could go to do work if they were working from home. And we’ve also seen the growth of coffee shops where people can work.
00:04:36
For just an hour or two, but there is, there seems to be a situation where people want to have a place they can work for a full day.
00:04:45
And I’ve also seen in think in the comments from this thread the idea that hotels may adapt and change to deal with the immediate situation of not having customers and offer their hotel rooms for people that want to use them for work that they would offer.
00:05:06
The use of a hotel room by the day or the half day and that could be a place where people can get ‘away from home and work there.
00:05:16
“Headquarters are finished.
00:05:19
Companies will cut their commercial office space by 40 to 60%.
00:05:25
They will allow every worker to work from home.
00:05:30
Two to four days a week and come into the office one to two days a week.”
00:05:36
Now it’s a fact of life at the moment that you have to work from home or where there are lockdowns. People have to work from home, and although during summer there were restrictions limited for many organizations, they stuck with the policy of letting people work from home.
00:05:57
Even though they could potentially go into the office just to keep everything safe.
00:06:04
Now, from the vacancies that we’ve got on our books at the moment. For technical authors, it does seem to be a split. We’ve got some companies that are offering work from home.
00:06:17
On a permanent basis.
00:06:20
And there are others where.
00:06:22
They want as soon as possible wherever possible their staff to come back into the office and work in London.
00:06:30
Now, even with that, they’re saying you could probably work one day a week, two days a week.
00:06:37
However, for a lot of candidates, that’s not particularly attractive. We’ll come back to that.
00:06:44
On another point that Chris Herd talked about.
00:06:48
You know the feedback is all those other people recruiting micro managers or just old-fashioned or out of date? Why? What do they want to do that we will talk anyway? We’ll talk about that, but a little bit later.
00:07:01
So next comment. “Fully distributed, approximately 30% of the companies we talk to are getting rid of the office entirely and going remote first. Companies doing this have seen their workers decentralized rapidly.
00:07:17
Leaving expensive cities to be closer to family.”
00:07:22
So from a technical writing perspective, if that’s your job.
00:07:28
Then in many ways, it’s perfectly possible to work anywhere to do the work you need to have the ability to talk to subject matter experts.
00:07:39
But that can be by.
00:07:42
Video call or a phone call.
00:07:44
If it’s software, if it’s hardware, it’s trickier, because if you’re documenting a physical piece of equipment.
00:07:53
Then often to understand how it works.
00:07:57
And taking it apart for the maintenance side of the documentation, then you need to be aware that equipment is and it may not be practical.
00:08:07
To take that piece of equipment home and do that there.
00:08:13
So again, possibly you might be able to get that by having somebody show you how you could do it using video or recording it. Walking around a certain item.
00:08:23
But it may be that that requirement means that you need to to go into the office for that situation.
00:08:30
“Asynchronous work offices are instantaneous gratification. Distraction factories where synchronous work makes it impossible to get stuff done. Tools that enable asynchronous work are the most important thing globally. Remote teams need a lot of startups will try to tackle this.”
00:08:52
And there seems to be within this thread two sides. One is this push towards asynchronous where people are working really to their own hours and time schedule and also a counter argument that there needs to be Even so if people are working from home, the ability for people to communicate.
00:09:13
To have meetings with people and are pushed towards people being roughly on the same time zone.
00:09:20
There is also this traditional thing within software that software tools can solve every problem when sometimes it does need some procedures or management or agreed ways of working to get around some of the challenges.
00:09:35
“Hobby renaissance.
00:09:38
Remote working will lead to a rise in people participating in hobbies.
00:09:43
And activities which link them to people in their local community.
00:09:47
This will lead to deeper, more meaningful relationships which overcome societal issues.
00:09:53
Of loneliness and isolation.”
00:09:58
Maybe.
00:10:00
“Rural Living. World class people will move to smaller cities, have a lower cost of living and a higher quality of life. These regions must innovate quickly to attract that wealth. Better schools, faster Internet connections are a must or certainly faster Internet connections.”
00:10:21
Or something that’s necessary. And I did see on Twitter on a thread that one person, Jen Lambourne, who we’ve interviewed, who works at Monzo, has relocated from London to Cornwall for the lock down and is enjoying the rural life down there.
00:10:40
So that it does have its attractions like I should imagine.
00:10:45
“Constant presence. Asynchronous work lets you have the isolation to do deep work, but it’s not always required. Communication Solutions which enable presence like an open mic while gaming.
00:11:00
Will become more compelling.”
00:11:04
And this goes back to the same time zone issue and also the question of companies wanting that ability to check in on people.
00:11:15
And see if they’re doing the work or how they’re getting on immediately. I suppose with tools like zoom and.
00:11:21
Microsoft Teams that capability is there.
00:11:28
By requesting a video call on the like or instant messaging.
00:11:32
And Slack as well.
00:11:35
OK, the next point.
00:11:37
“Access to talent. The first reason they’re going remote first is simple. It lets them hire more talented people rather than hiring the best person in a 30 mile radius of the office, they can hire the best person in the world that every role.”
00:12:00
Now, where that is difficult.
00:12:03
Is with new hires and junior hires.
00:12:08
Because if you got somebody who’s completely knew to working or to start the start of their career.
00:12:15
Then often what they want is mentoring and support and coaching.
00:12:21
As well as some formal training that they might get.
00:12:26
And.
00:12:27
That is harder to do when you’re not physically close to somebody.
00:12:36
Because what you want to do.
00:12:38
As well as the I guess the mechanical aspects of being able to do.
00:12:43
The task that you’re employed to do.
00:12:46
Is to understand the culture of the organization.
00:12:51
And for people to have a quiet word with you, something’s not quite right. If you’re not confident about something you might not want to commit something to paper.
00:13:00
Because it’s there forever, permanently, and you might want to do that.
00:13:05
Ah, right, are we there already?
00:13:09
So to my left.
00:13:12
I will go up to it.
00:13:14
There’s a great big.
00:13:15
Pile of rocks on top of those rocks.
00:13:19
Is a statue in copper, so it’s green.
00:13:23
Of somebody on horseback with their right hand pointing.
00:13:28
So with this guy I suppose so pointing forwards.
00:13:31
Dressed
00:13:33
As a Roman senator.
00:13:36
And that marks the end of what’s called the long walk, which is a pathway which goes down the Hill.
00:13:45
Down towards Windsor and at the bottom of the Hill at the bottom of the path at the bottom of the long walk is Windsor Castle and when they do or weddings or various things, they take the carriages up the long walk and into Windsor Great Park.
00:14:02
Maybe down from Windsor Great Park to Windsor Castle.
00:14:08
Since.
00:14:09
On another great day is.
00:14:15
Windsor Castle
00:14:18
OK back again. OK so I’m at the top of the Hill and it says, Georgio Tertio.
00:14:25
Partria optimo
00:14:27
Georgius Rex says Georgia 3rd and there are a few people.
00:14:32
Walking up and down the long walk, it’s a long walk actually getting to the Castle from here, OK?
00:14:41
So next thing. “Cut costs. The second reason they’re going remote first is because it let’s them be far more cost efficient.
00:14:50
Rather than spend $20,000 per worker per year on office space, they can provide the best remote setup on the planet.
00:15:00
For $2000 per worker per year.”
00:15:05
Not much to comment on that.
00:15:08
“Remote burnout, the productivity inside the companies we’ve spoken to has gone through the roof. Their biggest concern is that workers burnout because they’re working too hard. They are actively exploring ways to combat this.”
00:15:23
“Remote onsites. 60% of companies we talked to are already thinking about ways to use time together physically to improve culture.
00:15:33
The most popular we hear is flying the team into remote locations for a week.
00:15:39
Portugal, Spain, Puerto Rico seems to be the most popular, but of course that’s practical or doable. If there isn’t a lock down that prevents you going to certain places.”
00:15:52
And it does highlight the challenge that this lockdown is having.
00:15:56
Or maintaining a culture within a company, particularly within startup culture.
00:16:01
Within startup company I should say.
00:16:04
One thing we’ve done at Cherryleaf is to meet walking meetings so.
00:16:11
Will keep the distance, will walk around the park. Stanmer Park in Brighton for example and just chat. That’s one way of maintaining social distancing and culture. An opportunity for people physically to talk. Although we’ve not interspersed that with any sort of presentations or anything like that. But I suppose that would be.
00:16:33
In theory possible as well, personal choice.
00:16:37
The smartest people I know.
00:16:39
Personally, are all planning to work remotely this decade.
00:16:44
“The most exciting companies I know,” this is Chris Herd, “personally. Or plan to hire.
00:16:49
Remotely, this decade approximately 90% of the workforce is we spoken to never want to be in an office full time again.”
00:16:57
I think something is worth remembering is that.
00:17:01
The move of staff to factories or manufactorys in the past came before industrial.
00:17:09
Really, industrialization kicked off in a significant way and it used to be that there were.
00:17:15
Professions like weavers would work from home and be very highly paid, and there was a concerted effort to change that.
00:17:25
To move people from the countryside into towns into factories to get them all to work certain times together as a way to reduce staff costs.
00:17:39
And two.
00:17:41
Improve efficiencies and then obviously with industrialization that kicked off even more.
00:17:47
So that may be true.
00:17:50
For certain professions where people have that.
00:17:53
Level of demand to be able to dictate that, but there may be resistance from companies to do that that they feel that they’re losing control of their staff.
00:18:05
So they might need to be changing philosophy from one that’s been around for a number of years to accommodate that.
00:18:13
So another point she said was async by default.
00:18:17
This is the thing that organizations are struggling with the most. He says “the majority of companies have replicated the office remotely.
00:18:24
And it’s causing strains that are beginning to show.”
00:18:28
Over this goes back in some ways to this idea of everybody being on roughly the same time zone and being able to.
00:18:35
To have that face to face call.
00:18:38
Face to face, that’s real time live call when required to sort out things.
00:18:47
I think what I’ll do is I’ll start walking back to.
00:18:51
The gates to Bishopsgate let me do that.
00:18:55
So next point, he says, “personal injury. These are exploding companies, haven’t moved quickly enough to prevent them and back. Neck and repetitive strain injuries are becoming a huge problem.
00:19:11
Expect this to remedy this quickly by providing better economic equipment to workers.”
00:19:18
One of the things that happened when my wife started to work from home was that the company that she works for.
00:19:26
Shipped her office chair, which is a big fancy chair with.
00:19:31
different ways of setting and adjusting it. They shipped that to our house.
00:19:37
And that’s what she’s been working on. They also shipped a large monitor.
00:19:44
And an ergonomic mouse as well. Didn’t provide a desk, and to be quite honest, an office desk would probably be too big anyway.
00:19:55
But I don’t know if that’s typical of other large organisations.
00:20:02
But
00:20:03
It’s again, this goes back to the ability to equip somebody at home comparatively cheaply compared to having.
00:20:10
Paying for somebody to be in office.
00:20:13
But I suspect that’s true for others that office chairs.
00:20:17
Companies are prepared to provide.
00:20:20
And other equipment to reduce those type of injuries. Even if a company is not.
00:20:26
Subject to litigation as a consequence of that type of.
00:20:30
Events
00:20:31
If somebody’s hurt, then they may have to take time off to be to be as sick leave, or they may not be working as efficiently as if they are healthy.
00:20:42
And fine in that particular way.
00:20:45
“Universal problems.
00:20:48
Doesn’t matter the size of the organization, every company is dealing with the same thing.
00:20:55
We spoke to early stage companies, publicly listed tech companies through to legacy incumbents with hundreds of thousands of employees. Or will be more remote.”
00:21:09
Just get down this Hill.
00:21:12
And onto this path . “Pollution reduction. Many companies we’ve spoken to kept massively about the environmental impact that eradicating the office and the commute will have.
00:21:25
And then it’s got 180 million tons of carbon dioxide less every year.”
00:21:31
Well, that’s certainly the reduction in pollution caused by commuting is true. The other consideration, of course, is heating in the UK, houses are not as efficient.
00:21:43
As in the rest of Europe.
00:21:45
Potentially not as efficient as they are in an office either, so maybe a trade off in terms of CO2 from heating at home, but certainly the commute.
00:21:57
Pollution is definitely valid that will must have a big effect.
00:22:04
“Quality of life, even more importantly, companies are realizing that they don’t need to expect workers to waste.
00:22:12
2 hours a day commuting to sit in an office chair for 8 hours. Almost every company we talked to believes that their workers will be happier as a result of remote work.”
00:22:25
Well, again, I think that’s true if you have a happy home environment. If your child is at home due to school being shut.
00:22:34
Then that can create a huge burden if you have a home.
00:22:39
Without the space that can cause challenges. If you’re having to share it with somebody else is also working, the noise pollution might be difficult also.
00:22:49
“Remote pressure. A few companies we’ve spoken to have decided to be more remote than they initially intended because their competitors already did it.
00:23:00
There is a fear inside companies that if they don’t go remote, they will lose their best people to competitors.” But we haven’t seen that yet.
00:23:10
We have seen obviously the challenge with that when recruiting new staff.
00:23:17
“Remote sphere most companies aren’t scared about the quality of work that will be produced. They’re scared about intangible things. They can’t measure quality of communication and collaboration in person and what are called the chat. Many of realize these are excuses.”
00:23:35
I think one consequence of the lockdown is it’s a lot harder.
00:23:41
To get information.
00:23:44
From serendipitous information, let’s put it like that.
00:23:51
If you’re used to going to meetups or conferences and presentations.
00:23:56
Then you lose that sort of.
00:23:59
Opportunity to learn about gathering ideas from other people outside of the organization. You can do that to extent with LinkedIn and Twitter, and there are now the online conferences.
00:24:16
However.
00:24:18
The actual situation of having to go to a conference lockout that time.
00:24:26
Doesn’t mean that you.
00:24:28
More likely probably to attend.
00:24:31
If you’re committed to going to a physical conference to attend it, then if it’s online, it can be all too easy to think. Oh well, I can’t make it ’cause there’s a work pressure stopping which takes some doing that right now.
00:24:47
It’s raining, so let me just.
00:24:50
OK, starting again so I managed to hit the pause button by mistake.
00:24:55
Output overtime the measure of performance in the office is how much time you spend Saturday in your seat.
00:25:04
“The measure of performance while working remotely.
00:25:07
Has to become output.”
00:25:11
Tools that enable this to be tracked more accurately is something we are asked for.
00:25:16
For a lot.
00:25:18
And I have seen from.
00:25:21
Twitter and the like that’s there are some organizations that are wanting to be able to.
00:25:28
Check when people are actually at their desk.
00:25:31
Either through video cameras or camp viewing them through the video cameras.
00:25:36
Or checking how many keystrokes they’re doing.
00:25:39
My brother intrusive levels of monitoring.
00:25:45
And then we get to one that’s quite relevant too.
00:25:50
Technical communication.
00:25:52
And that is that Chris Herd says on the other major trends is written over spoken.
00:25:59
“Documentation is the unspoken superpower of remote teams. The most successful team members remotely will be great writers.
00:26:11
Companies are searching for ways to do this more effectively.
00:26:15
Tools that enable others to write better will explode.”
00:26:20
And this may be an opportunity for you, as the professional technical communicator in your organization to share your knowledge and advice and expertise.
00:26:30
Outside of technical writing, and to take the opportunity to help provide training or guides and so on, and we’ve certainly seen an uptake in the interest in training courses on how to write more effectively, be IT policies, procedures, or other types of communication.
00:26:49
A couple of people commented at the bottom of this thread.
00:26:54
Disagreeing with this and saying that a lot of companies will be moving to video and recording stuff through video.
00:27:03
They also mentioned the number of tools where it’s possible to transcribe.
00:27:08
The video into Text was one tool that was mentioned. I notice there’s Audiate launched by Techsmith.
00:27:18
As well, in the last month, that enables you to do that, we’ve talked before about the capability of taking an audio recording and doing it in Word.
00:27:27
The qualitie
00:27:29
If you know what somebody is talking about.
00:27:33
Then it’s quite good if you know that.
00:27:36
PNL letters P&L actually have been mistranslated and that they meant P&L, profit and loss accounts.
00:27:46
Let’s take an example from a project that we’ve been working on recently.
00:27:50
Then that’s fine.
00:27:52
But if you’re coming from a cold without like context.
00:27:56
Then those mistranslations those little slips.
00:28:00
Can cause problems.
00:28:03
Good praxis gates
00:28:06
Yeah.
00:28:07
“Middle management is in trouble and unnecessary bottlenecks.
00:28:13
Unnecessary bottleneck that should be that serves no tangible purpose inside asynchronous organisations.”
00:28:23
Well, again, that is the question of our organisations going a synchronous moving from.
00:28:29
Working live.
00:28:32
Or working in different time zones or having information sending it out.
00:28:37
And then it being responded to at the time that the person that’s being requested information is available to do that.
00:28:46
“Companies need coaching and facilitators to maximize organizational effectiveness.” Well, of course, wherever there’s.
00:28:55
A.
00:28:56
Challenge for organization. There’s an opportunity for people to.
00:29:00
Provide consultancy to fix that particular side of things.
00:29:05
So those were the comments from Chris Herd on that thread on Twitter and will provide a link to that in the show notes. Just some of the comments from other people in the thread.
00:29:19
“So one writing is not always cost effective for many too much time spent trying to get it right. Neuro to writing is marked practiced voice recordings that are well articulated. Therefore training on communication skills let worker designed best use for their style has been compressed to fit within.
00:29:40
Constraints of Twitter.”
00:29:43
And another comment “record and instantly share video messages of your screen Cam or both faster than typing an email or meeting live some more. Quinn’s a big part of hiring a new remote worker is getting them to communicate complex ideas via messages and emails. A unique skill for critical is nobody wants to be on a video call.”
00:30:04
“Great writers and our remote teams to work instead of explain on somebody else as a remote worker 15 years you can be the best writer in the company.
00:30:15
But also nothing if you don’t have people who read.’
00:30:19
“Note sharing is imperative building standardize implementation plans with architecture diagrams and definitions. Allow all team members to see the same thing and use the same words to improve writing.” Tools need to capture complex workflows in as few words as possible, and certainly we’ve seen.
00:30:39
Companies stick and prefer to use word and then have challenges with just a great big dump of documents and SharePoint.
00:30:49
Somebody else said “we use Archbee and I can only recommend it for documentation of basically everything worthy to note down. Super lightweight but flexible enough to satisfy even the most technical documentation needs for our developers.”
00:31:05
I’m one I think that isn’t mentioned here in this list. One that we did touch on.
00:31:11
In the previous episode back in April March.
00:31:14
Was mental wellness not go? Just reiterate some of that.
00:31:20
Disciplinary measures when somebody is remote, I think there will be challenges with that.
00:31:26
And that’s if you are trying to discipline somebody.
00:31:30
Remotely.
00:31:32
And they’ve got family members around, or children around that could be quite difficult and equally being as a horse going into the.
00:31:41
Deer Park, lovely horse, and blank anyway. Also being disciplined where you’ve got family members around to you can be quite tricky if you have no one to speak to. The sounds in the is it me or are they being unreasonable in disciplining me?
00:31:57
I think there’s going to be a lot of people dwelling on negative things and not having the opportunity necessarily to talk about those.
00:32:06
And that’s going to rely on other team members to take the initiative and.
00:32:10
Talk to them privately or in other ways to support them or give them advice.
00:32:16
It’s the informal channel side of things. In addition to the to the formal channel when things go wrong.
00:32:23
I guess this goes back to this situation of does everything need to be recorded and documented officially, or should there be channels that are undocumented within an organization?
00:32:36
And of course this also works well for those who self managing self starting happy to work alone. For some people, that’s not the way they like to be within a crowd to be within a group.
00:32:49
The family environment may not be appropriate for that, and then that the longer I look down, the more challenging it will be for people like that. Actually, now back at the gate.
00:33:00
For that spec in front of Sciences, welcome Windsor Great Park is in Royal Park. It’s 2020 hectares of Parkland which includes a Deer Park is a varied landscape of formal avenues, gardens, Woodlands and open grassland antiquity of the landscape is enhanced by scattering of great ancient Oaks for which the great.
00:33:21
Park in this Forester, renowned once part of a vast Norman hunting forest, which was enclosed in the late 13th century, the park is now managed by the Crown Estate.
00:33:31
So that’s it for this podcast. Well, thank you for listening. So if you’ve got thoughts on this topic, let me know. Info @ Cherryleaf.com If you are interested in training and getting people better at communicating and writing. Then again, contact us.
00:33:52
And we’ve got vacancies in our books at the moment looking companies or looking for technical authors working from home.
00:33:58
So that’s on our website to Cherryleaf.com.
00:34:02
And thank you for listening.

 

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