Work-Life Strategies & Solutions

On the Evolution of Work Systems in the Digital Economy

Special Feature: Advanced Tactics for Highly Collaborative, Remote Teams by Breanden Beneschott – Co-founder / COO at TOPTAL

In a time where ideas and statements are often repeated over and over again, even as they relate to innovative ideas like remote work, I’m delighted to present Breanden Beneschott’s surprising and refreshing psychological insights on improving remote teams members’ communication. This exciting article will help you see obstacles and solutions differently as well as how possible remote work arrangements really are.

At Toptal, nothing about remote work is controversial. Over the last four years, we’ve lived and worked remotely in more than 30 countries. We’ve been running a 100% remote, 90-person strong, venture-funded company that grows hundreds of percent year over year—almost entirely from our laptops, phones, and tablets. Working remotely is a productive and efficient reality that we evangelize to our clients, while practicing what we preach. Hiring remotely removes the constraints of geolimiting and makes it possible to build the best team, regardless of whether members are across the Bay or around the world.

But it turns out some very smart people don’t agree with me. Recently, a post by Paul Graham and a subsequent response by Automattic’s Matt Mullenweg sparked a huge debate about remote work. I circulated Matt’s post to my team, because I think it simply and concisely says what we’ve been broadcasting for years: hire the world’s best talent, regardless of where they live, and everyone wins.

You’re probably already familiar with the textbook cases of successful remote teams such as 37Signals, Automattic, GitHub, and many more, but consider some not-so-obvious examples of times when office-dwellers work from afar:

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Announcement: Due to great alignment in interests, Irene Papuc from Toptal has been invited to feature articles on remote work, business, and other related topics on my blog. So I’d like to introduce her to my readers now and welcome her. By the way, I’ll be posting more in the near future as well. More on this later!

Political Discussions in Work Settings – My Pilot Study: Thoughts on Design & Results

I’ve returned with a couple of surprise posts for today. I’ve been tinkering with a survey I designed, and it turns out I’m insane enough to fund my own pilot study. Not cheap! I took a chance on myself though, to see if I’d asked interesting new questions as I can’t find my main question of interest, or related discussions, represented anywhere on the Internet. These questions relate to what OTHER social interaction patterns might coincide with increasing political polarization and Balkanization that’s reportedly been happening.

Political discussions in work settings can pose problems because participants are obligated to continue interacting unless someone is transferred to another position, finds another job, just quits, or is laid off. It’s more difficult to walk away from others than it is in the purely social realm. Thus, people are generally expected to exercise more restraint over potentially touchy subjects and avoid disruptive, emotional outbursts that impact others. Read more of this post

Thoughts on Hitting the Blogging Wall and this Blog’s Future

For those who’ve thought about blogging in a professional capacity but haven’t committed, this post may be relevant to your concerns.

Churning out content regularly and frequently is challenging if you’re not adept at creating something out of nothing. For me, content creation hinges on self-education – including engaging in experiences and time-consuming content consumption. It’s helpful to have information to reflect on and synthesize prior to forming and presenting my thoughts and ideas. Additionally, I prefer to front-load research (content consumption) because the problem with “winging it” is life happens, and you’re not guaranteed to have a consistent amount of free time to sufficiently read and research along the way. Read more of this post

Are Remote Workers Happier Than Office Employees? [Infographic]

TINYpulse’s survey research report, What Leaders Need to Know About Remote Workers: Surprising Differences in Workplace Happiness & Relationships, states:

Today’s workplace is a global one, with companies and even teams that stretch across geographical boundaries. Distance is no longer a barrier to collaboration, thanks to technologies that allow for instantaneous communication across state and country borders. The idea of supervising and working with employees you rarely meet in person — if at all — is more and more commonplace.

So what’re some benefits of having a remote workforce? This stunning infographic answers this question. It also summarizes 509 remote workers’ description of themselves and their work experience and, finally, shows how they stack up against office workers. Who are these remote workers and why do they work remotely? Find out below! Read more of this post

My Life with Animals: Loki’s recovery part two – the great poop watch of 2012

If this content seems odd and off-topic, bear with me as I tie this to my blog’s subject matter. Autumn always draws my attention to the fact that the year will soon end. When this year ends it’ll be 9 years since the Great Recession began. Can you think of many places that have scarcely recovered after all these years? Let me know. As for me, the still bleak economic condition of my hometown of Redding, California always sticks out.

Despite a prevalent impression that there’s nothing to see or do here however, Redding has notable points of interests. Turtle Bay is one of them. During tough times, Turtle Bay continued to adapt and improve operations, including the current transition to a more sustainable business model. If any of you plan to visit Northern California or just pass through, consider giving Turtle Bay, and Redding, your patronage. This story showcases the staff’s devotion to their non-human residents but they also stress that wild animals belong in the wild.

Turtle Bay Blog

I sat for eight hours on the floor with Loki, trying to make him comfortable enough for him to sleep and diligently watching his IV lines. By the end of the day, the vet said that Loki had had a sufficient amount of the IV antibiotics and pain meds that he could leave the clinic. But before we could go, the vet put a pain patch on Loki’s front leg that needed to stay on for three days and that meant that the cone-of-shame needed to stay on as well. Evidently, we weren’t out of the woods yet in many ways.  First, it was going to take a small miracle to stop Loki from getting to that pain patch and consuming it. Second, we still didn’t know if his intestines would heal well enough to hold.  We had to wait for him to successfully defecate to know he was okay. And so…

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Worked Over: Online Job Seekers Prey for Scammers [Infographic]

Last week I discovered an enthralling, viral post about an amazingly elaborate scam titled, “I Got Scammed By A Silicon Valley Startup.” To those who haven’t read it yet, it’s worth the estimated 23 minute read (and there’s a happy ending to this as well). Penny Kim’s story made me realize that I’ve yet to feature the topic of online job scams here. This infographic sums up relatively recent (2011-2013) job scam facts and figures. Although I regard the purported unemployment rate with skepticism because I don’t know if unemployed people who’ve given up looking for a job are accounted for (or even how they can be accounted for), the rest of the infographic illustrates the gist of job scams well. Precautionary recommendations follow too! Read more of this post

The Price of Attention & How Demand for it has Outpaced Supply

My previous post on the state of marketing doesn’t reflect random interest. Having put myself out there on the Internet as a professional for a few years, I know unsolicited sales pitches from business development and marketing “gurus” come with the territory. I’ve often thought it might be a good idea to take a cue from Richard Herman, call myself a professional quality attention giver, and set a price for my attention and time ($8.00/minute to read supposedly sly let’s-see-if-I-can-convert-this-friend-into-a-client messages, etc. – Hurry! This generous, promotional rate won’t last!). According to Matthew Gentzkow’s figures in Trading Dollars for Dollars: The Price of Attention Online and Offline however, here’s the actual monetary trend for attention across time and media: Read more of this post

Darwin at Work: The State of Marketing & Resistance to Marketers’ Influence

When it comes to organizational cost-cutting, I’ve often heard that the marketing budget is commonly among the first to be cut. Until now, I didn’t know why exactly. However, the preview section of Does Marketing Need Reform? Fresh Perspectives on the Future clarified the factors contributing to the current state of marketing. This book was authored by Jagdish N. Sheth and Rajendra S. Sisodia, and was published in 2006. So, it’s dated but the major themes are still relevant as they are echoed in the 2011 video below.

The following historical facts and figures, as cited by Sheth and Sisodia, put the past and present situation in perspective:

  • “In an age when the mantra of business has been ‘do more with less,’ the marketing function has for too long been ‘doing less with more.’ In most industries today, the marketing function consumes over 50 percent of corporate resources, up from less than 25 percent around 1950. At a macro level, marketing represents a tremendous waste of resources that could be better utilized elsewhere.” (p. 20)

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Working Remotely – Jack’s Journey Out of the Office [Infographic]

For those who’ve missed my posts on working remotely, this attractive infographic sums up the downsides of working in a traditional office and upsides of working in a location independent manner. Several interesting facts are strewn throughout this story. For instance, “80 million (50% of the workforce) U.S. employees hold a job that is compatible with working remotely at least part time” and “80-90% of U.S. workers say they would like to work from home at least part of the time.” Read more of this post

My Return to Blogging and Resolve to Use Time and Social Media Efficiently

During my hiatus, I reassessed my endeavors. One of the joys of maturing involves reconciling lofty dreams that drive you with life’s realities. Dreams keep life from seeming bleak and boring though awareness of time passing by compels you to estimate your chances of achieving them. For instance, I too wish to discover some way, within my own capabilities, to avoid trading time for money. However, realizing I might be wasting time thinking about this, I settled on hope that perhaps someday I’ll have an epiphany (and then I’d share it with you).

However, there are practical steps I can take to decrease wasted time. I thought about what good, realistically, could come of efforts to present myself as a professional online. Like many issues in life, potential results depend on many variables. Some tips follow. Read more of this post

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