Imagine that you are about to go on stage to perform some amazing thing that you know how to do. You're waiting in the wings for your moment to shine, and you want to bring your very best to the experience.
But then also imagine that you spent the last several hours or even days in isolation. You haven't really talked to anyone or had much human interaction at all. No one has given you encouraging words or expressed excitement about what you're going to perform.
And then you find out that the time of your performance has not really been set or advertised. There will be an audience but they will be coming and going from the auditorium where you're performing, and they may or may not be paying attention to you. When you do the thing you're best at, someone may or may not notice. Oh and the stage is actually going to be a small, dark closet.
Now go out there and be awesome? Umm....
It's a silly scenario, but for some people who work in a distributed environment, especially one where a lot of collaboration happens asynchronously across individual schedules and time zones, this is what the beginning of our work day can feel like: quiet, slow, isolated.
In a traditional office setting where workers tend to arrive, collaborate and leave on roughly the same schedule, the energy and pace of work can come from the environment itself. But for distributed workers, even when there is actually a lot going on in the organization we're working with, it can be a challenge to build momentum at the start of our days. Sometimes the work itself is enough to generate that energy, but sometimes we need help getting into the right mental space for high productivity.
So how can you build that momentum if it's not coming from your physical work environment? Here are a couple of things that I've seen work well:
Continue reading Building momentum for your distributed work day
It's striking to see the differences in where power gathers in a distributed organization, compared to where that happens in a more traditional office setting.
When people come together in a physical space there is a lot of time and energy spent on appearance. The work isn't just about "what are we doing" but also "how do we look and how do people perceive us while we're doing what we do."
When people come together to work in a virtual/online space, the focus shifts.
In an office setting, I see power and influence gather around...
- The person with the newest, coolest and/or most expensive clothing
- The person with the larger corner office
- The person with the most assistants
- The person with the most impressive sounding title
- The person with the closest parking space
- The oldest, richest, whitest males
- The person who's allowed to create or interrupt meetings
- The person with the most impressive social and public-speaking skills
- The person who uses their power to get what they want
In a distributed organization, I see power and influence gather around...
Continue reading Power in a distributed org
One of the questions I get most since joining Automattic is about what it's like to go from working with a company where we were mostly collaborating in one office space in Indiana, to working with a fully distributed company, where everyone works from home, coffee shops, co-working spaces or similar spots around the world.
(The other main question I get is about what it's like to go from being "the boss" to working for someone else - a post for another time.)
The short answer: I'm appreciating and enjoying it, and I think it is the future of many kinds of work.
The longer answer follows.
The question of a distributed versus in-person setup for a team or company is discussed often in tech circles, perhaps even more so right now as tech companies face hiring challenges and consider related immigration policy issues. I feel like I've experienced both sides in some form now, having built and managed a web development firm for close to 17 years with a strong focus on working together in the same physical space (experimenting with remote workers along the way) and now having worked almost 8 months in a fully distributed configuration.
Going in to my new job, I was initially skeptical that I would find a distributed setup to be better than what I'd experienced working with my team in an office together. I thought it would be exciting, interesting and different, and despite all of the enthusiasm I'd built up for it (especially after reading The Year Without Pants: WordPress.com and the Future of Work) at some gut level I still suspected it would be a kind of nominally acceptable, second-best alternative to working with people in person. Continue reading Distributed vs. In-Person Teams