Work-Life Strategies & Solutions

On the Evolution of Work Systems in the Digital Economy

You Need a Hero: The Project Manager [Abridged]

Submitted by Irene Papuc at Toptal

Authored by Ethan James, Freelance Software Engineer at Toptal

This abridged version was edited by Lynn Patra

This article is for you, the plucky entrepreneur with an app idea in your heart and cash in the bank. Diagrams you’ve scribbled on cocktail napkins will disrupt the world, and dump trucks full of money have been dispatched to your house. To ensure timely arrival, here’s advice for making your production cycle run smoothly.

Why You Need A Project Manager In The First Place

“Computer programs are the most complex things that humans make,” says Douglas Crockford, a senior software architect at Paypal who has pioneered various cool technology. He is someone with expertise about working on large projects. Read more of this post

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How the Skills Gap Affects the Global Economy [Infographic]

Thus far, this blog has focused on issues as they pertain to the United States. As a departure, this infographic compares the existing skills gap in various nations. I’m sharing this as a natural lead-in to an upcoming post on work-related trends and challenges in other countries (with a focus on Asia). The future post will consider the interaction of government policies’ impact on the local economy and demographic trends, and how this impacts innovation and entrepreneurship. I find that examining circumstances in other parts of the world can benefit one’s thinking about issues within one’s own country.
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The following information was published in 2012 (which is still considered recent according to the world of social science research – the last time I checked anyway). Let me know your thoughts and if there’s information you would add to or change here.

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Things To Watch Out For While Working Remotely: Addressing Burnout with Nermin Hajdarbegovic [Abridged]

Submitted by Irene Papuc of Toptal

Authored by Nermin Hajdarbegovic, Technical Editor at Toptal

This abridged version was edited by Lynn Patra

TopTal has published numerous lifestyle posts encouraging people to give working remotely, or even the nomadic lifestyle, a try. We are a distributed team whose day-to-day operations involve much online communication between people in different time zones, working from home offices, co-working spaces, or holiday spots. We’re proof that remote work, for lack of a better word, works.

Researchers find that most remote workers are more productive than their office counterparts. Remote workers have fewer distractions, more flexible working hours, and less time commuting and preparing for work. No traffic jams, no office drama, and at face value, less stress. However, they are prone to burnout. Read more of this post

What a Financially Comfortable, Successful, Laid-Back Professional Looks Like

Over the years I’ve noticed personality psychology related posts are visited most frequently. So, I’ll expand on a popular, though cryptic, post on particular facets of the Big Five’s Conscientiousness scale and success in various professional contexts. Whereas that post explains in abstract terms, this one provides a concrete (and personal) example. With the lazy days of summer ahead, I’ll discuss that which seems impossible, or at least improbable, for those who live life in the slow lane – laid-back, Type B people with high achievements and financial comfort.

It stands to reason, as popular culture tells us, that hard-driving folks enjoy more fruit from their labor than their counterparts do. It might be hard to believe financial comfort is achievable for the latter if I didn’t have a source of inspiration, a family member that I’m nearly a carbon copy of personality-wise.

Revisiting Posts on General Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord’s Wisdom & Lessons from Gaming Read more of this post

A Personal Note & Sober View of Online Business Headaches: Reputation Management & Cybersecurity

The benefits of online businesses have always been clear to me (e.g., the freedom and flexibility, the broad reach to potential faraway customers, etc.). However, recently I noted some massive issues online business owners face – reputation management and cybersecurity.

Internet mobs can destroy someone’s livelihood for years, and an unpopular or misconstrued Tweet (along with bad luck perhaps) can spark their wrath. Such missteps are related to innumerable topics – too many to list. So, I’ll visit the issue of bringing up politics in professional communications for business owners (but much applies to job seekers and employees alike) as I’ve previously discussed it from another angle.

Reputation management: Politics

Business owners must be wary of expressing political views in ways that don’t mesh with their customer base. I don’t know how often cases like this happen but one of my survey respondents wrote that merely unveiling your political affiliation can alienate customers: Read more of this post

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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