Work-Life Strategies & Solutions

On the Evolution of Work Systems in the Digital Economy

Tag Archives: Communication

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!

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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

How Technology Has Changed the Meeting [Infographic]

It is a rare occasion that I broadcast back-to-back infographic-centered posts however, upon encountering this infographic, I knew this must be shared. If you’re like me, an image-based timeline makes historical information easier to digest and retain. Behold the technological evolution from 1958 to the present and, from here, to what’s on the horizon.

Advancements in technology have changed the world of business in terms of communication, presentation, and project management. With these technological developments came a great change in the dynamics of the meeting room. Cloud based presentations and video conferencing have blurred the lines between the office space, the home office, and the meeting room. Brandeis University concludes that ultimately, the meeting room, as we know it, may disappear completely.

Brandeis University designed a compelling infographic that looks into the past and future of the meeting room to see how technology changes the way we do business. Read more of this post

Remote Work – Challenges and Best Practices

Better CollaborationIntroducing the next Better Collaboration video conferencing event! The information that will be presented is specifically geared towards organization leaders who’re interested in learning about the best practices for virtual collaboration. This event will take place on Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 2:00pm-3:00pm Eastern Standard Time/11:00am-12:00pm Pacific Standard Time. To register, please visit the Better Collaboration Meetup site. Details follow: Read more of this post

Social Bonding Over Distance: Sociomental Activity Trumps Face-to-Face Interaction

During a time of concern over technologically-mediated interaction supplanting face-to-face interaction and how technologically-mediated interaction might negatively impact social connections, Connecting: How We Form Social Bonds and Communities in the Internet Age by Mary Chayko, Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Chair of Sociology at the College of St. Elizabeth, is heresy… and I like it! Having only mentioned her work in this post, I’ll now expound upon the following conclusions drawn from interviews with “low-tech” and “high-tech” participants: Read more of this post

Social Bonding Over Distance & a Look at the Lives of Digital Natives

Do we really need to commute back and forth every workday in order to foster and maintain relationships with a given group of people? Let’s consider this question. During my exploration of how dispersed teams function, I’ve encountered people (such as described in this post) who meet in person as infrequently as once a quarter. It surprises most people that this can work. Speaking from my own experience as a team member of Better Collaboration, I’m happy to report that there are other factors (aside from opportunities for in-person interaction) contributing to a sense of cohesion.

Upon comparing my experiences with in-person versus technologically-mediated meetings, I’ve observed that having a strong shared sense of purpose and common interests helps transcend the physical distance factor. So when I hear people say they would rather have others drive from one city to another just for the sake of getting everyone in one room for every meeting rather than have occasional virtual meetings, I wince. Read more of this post

Virtual Teams and the Challenge of Cross-Cultural Differences

Cover of "The Handbook of Culture and Psy...

Cover of The Handbook of Culture and Psychology

From David Matsumoto’s The Handbook of Culture and Psychology:

The next two decades promise to be even more exciting for research on culture and emotion. Interesting programs have sprung up all around the world and in all disciplines of psychology. New technologies for mapping culture as a psychological construct on the individual level are being developed, as well as ways to measure precisely moment-to-moment changes in our brains and bodies when we feel or judge emotion. Collectively, these endeavors will tell us more in the future about the relationship between culture and the physiology of emotion, the representation of display and decoding rules, emotion perception, and culture itself in the brain (p. 161) Read more of this post

When Email is Better than Skype and Face-to-Face Communication

As mentioned in a previous post, I’m going to share my own personal experience with a cross-cultural communication problem that only reared its ugly head when visual cues were available. Thus, this post may substantially depart from my usual writing style. Read more of this post

Manager’s Guide to Virtual Teams

Having finished some books on managing virtual workers, I’ve come to realize that there is some content overlap. All thoroughly address the leaders’ and managers’ roles and responsibilities as well as the process through which they can develop and maintain an organizational culture that supports a telework arrangement – i.e., one built upon trust, frequent and effective communication, clear expectations, and accountability. For the sake of avoiding repetition, I’ve decided not to go into heavy detail here as all authors appear to agree about the important components of such an organizational culture. Read more of this post

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