The Importance of Adopting a New Leadership Style for Remote Work, with Iwo Szapar

Gabriela Molina

Iwo Szapar is a remote work advocate and the co-founder of Remote-how, the world’s leading platform for remote professionals, powered by and for the community of 25,000 plus people from 128 countries. He is also the author of the book Remote Work Is The Way: A guide to making the most of our office-optional future.

remote work leader

Read the transcript

Luis:

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to another episode of the DistantJob Podcast, your podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. I am your host as usual, Luis, and my guest today is Iwo Szapar. Iwo is a remote work advocate and the co-founder of Remote-how, the world’s leading platform for remote professionals, powered by and for the community of 25,000 plus people from 128 countries. Now, Iwo is going to talk about his career highlights in a bit, but I wanted to highlight that he’s also the author of the book called, Remote Work Is The Way: A guide to making the most of our office-optional future. And of course, you’ll find the link to the book in the show notes.

Luis:

I want to start by giving my usual caveat that I do whenever I read a guest’s book, is that the conversation is no means a replacement for the book, right? This is not the CliffsNotes version. We’ll touch the book where appropriate, but the reality is that if you enjoy the concepts that Iwo is talking about, you should go and buy it and then peruse the book at your leisure, don’t expect a podcast to do your homework for you. With that said, welcome, Iwo.

Iwo Szapar:

It’s great to be here. Thanks so much for having me.

Luis:

It’s an absolute pleasure having you. I usually start these conversations by asking people how they came to remote work and how remote work has impacted their careers. In your case it’s a bit awkward to ask you that, because I know because I read it in the book, right? So, and I hope that people will too, but just for the sake of us having starting point, can you give me the five minutes, the two minutes and the half version?

Iwo Szapar:

Will do, will do, yes. So it actually all started ages ago because they were first time working remotely in 2011. And then was on and off and mainly office work. And then things have changed in late 2017 when we lived in Austin and in Texas. And then we started to see that there is a big shift happening in the workforce when it comes to the expectations versus reality. So people want more experience over possession. People want more freedom. And I also wanted this myself. I had an opportunity to work remotely a bit, but that was not the full-on version where we can combine it with travel. And I saw that I’m not alone and there are more folks who would like to combine it with full-time work, right? So they don’t want to become freelancers.

Iwo Szapar:

So there was that, like an immediate story behind why I ended up at Remote-how and for four years, and now we are helping companies all over the world make remote and now hybrid work. So it was kind of a personal dream that turned into a business that’s before pandemic was helping a very small niche of companies that understand that this is the future and they need to get ready. Now it’s really whole world. So it’s very exciting, but at the same time pretty overwhelming.

Luis:

Yeah, I bet. So I’ve been in the educational space for about three years with the podcast, though I don’t focus so much on how to do remote. Well, I do, I do focus a bit on how to do remote work, but it’s more targeted toward leaders. Now, Remote-how is very broad. You have programs for leaders, programs for employees, for everything, but at the heart it’s educational, correct?

Iwo Szapar:

Yes, it’s like right now we have two angles. So we have a marketplace that offers professional services of experts that we have on the platform. And it’s either virtual training like you mentioned, like learning for leaders, for HR, for individuals, for teams, workshops, mentoring circles, webinars, et cetera. And then there is another part, consulting piece where companies need very hands-on support to have creating their policies, handbooks, and anything that requires more involvement and they’re looking for an expert to help and come. But overall, everything is about changing the legacy, changing habits. This is a process that involves a lot of blood, tears, pain. And we see how companies are transforming right now. This is exceptional because it really goes beyond just the fact that you’re working outside of the office. This is just simply finally making work, work, whatever it happens, because so many companies were doing this wrong. And right now there’s no way around it to go into the future and still have that legacy.

Luis:

So that’s one thing. That’s one point that I read in the book that I’ve actually said it a couple of times in the podcast. So I think that we are in sync there is that one thing that remote work does is it exposes problems that weren’t easily detectable when the company wasn’t remote. Problems in management, in processes, et cetera. So, I wanted to, since you mentioned, I wanted to get at the core of that. Why do you think that remote work is being a net gain in efficiency and productivity, et cetera, versus just more or less neutral? Some people, I mean, some people would say that it has a negative, that it’s a loss over the traditional way of doing things, but we don’t talk to those people around here. So, why is it better? I mean, instead of just neutral, just the same?

Iwo Szapar:

Yeah. So maybe, actually just one comment to what you said about the productivity loss. This is the argument that we’ve been hearing before pandemic, that was like one of the most comments. People won’t be actually working. People will be not as productive as possible. And what 2020 showed is that people stepped up and they did their work amazingly, like leaders were shocked. Of course, in some cases-

Luis:

Well, the world was burning around them.

Iwo Szapar:

Yeah, of course. Yeah. But still like, it’s no longer, in 2021 the same and this year the same, it’s like no longer people are afraid that the work won’t be done. This is off the table. And of course it came at an expense of overworking, burnout and that led to a positive aspect that world started to talk more and more open about it and companies start to be proactive in this area. So productivity is off the table as argument. But when you’re thinking about the game, I think you can give millions of arguments. But I think it really boils down to actually something that is our mission from the day one as Remote-how, it’s to give people a freedom of choice, where, when and how they work. And by giving the people freedom of choice, you are impacting so many business metrics and life metrics, because you’re simply giving people what they want. But of course, it’s not just, “Oh, I want the Ferrari.” “Yes, this is a Ferrari for you.”

Luis:

Yeah, everyone gets a Ferrari.

Iwo Szapar:

Everyone gets a Ferrari and remote work. No, that’s not the case. But if we are looking right now at the talent attraction, the talent retention and the employee happiness. So from the business perspective, right? And on the other side, from the individual perspective, satisfaction of what you’re doing between Monday to Friday. And also finding time to do other stuff. This is a pure win-win that at the end of the day the company has an employee that is simply happy and enjoys what they’re doing. I’m not saying that right now because of remote work everyone will love their jobs, et cetera. That’s not the case, but we are looking for this middle ground. And then on the other side for businesses, it’s like a pure net gain, because A, it’s a math for talent attraction. Right now employers are not offering remote work or are still in the limbo.

Iwo Szapar:

What it would mean, they’re simply getting crashed on the market. Then talent retention, you are giving your existing companies what they really, really want, and you’re keeping them. And then of course there are a lot of aspects on the pure optimization of your processes. Because as you know, remote work requires you to write less, document stuff, plan better, have clear goals, et cetera, et cetera. So besides the, I would say, must have HR gains, you gain a lot in how the work gets done. So, when looking at the future-

Luis:

And the processes get improved, right?

Iwo Szapar:

Yeah, process get improved. And speaking about the processes, when I’m thinking about the future of work, it’s becoming more and more about productizing your work. So, someone is expecting an outcome from you and an outcome is a product. So there are already companies, and this is all also a way in how we work with some of our employees/freelancers, that we have very clear products of their work on a monthly basis, on a quarterly basis. And this is what we care. I don’t care where you are, what hours you work, et cetera, this is the stuff that we are expecting, and we are collaborating on making this happen. So the nine to five office thing is completely out of this picture, right?

Luis:

Yeah, I do try to manage some of the people in my team like that, where, here is the value, here is their value, and here is what I expect from their value. And as long as they meet deadlines and deliver that value, do whatever you want. Now, we do like to, and I think you’d agree with this. I mean, I know you’d agree with this because I read the book. It is, when you’re trying to create a consistent company, a company where people feel like they belong, that has a real culture, it is good to have some overlap so that people can be online and talk and et cetera. To feel that responsiveness. Because if not, what I see happens if you don’t have that, is that it becomes very transactional. It’s a bit like characters in the video game. You stop thinking of that person that’s delivering that thing as a person, and you see them more like a character in a video game. So there’s the double-edged approach to that really focusing on the productizing piece.

Iwo Szapar:

Yes, absolutely. And that’s why also in my book I’m mentioning so much and putting the emphasis on company culture, because that’s one of the wake-up calls that companies had in 2020, 2021, that their culture is blurring, their culture is in danger, et cetera. And they were coming to us and asking for help. In most cases their culture was broken before. It was just a time when they saw that this is the reality. Or there was no way of looking back at this. So the way how fully distributed or hybrid companies like HubSpot, for example, or more remote companies like GitHub were really nailing the culture. And it didn’t matter for them what’s the company set up. If you go to their pages on Glassdoor, et cetera, people love working there.

Iwo Szapar:

But the one thing that is very different from other companies, how they build the culture is very intentional. It’s not only on HR, leaders are the ones that are contributing to building the culture on a daily basis through actions. So I completely agree with you that productizing is something that needs to come together with creating the sense of belonging. But right now the sense of belonging is no longer only on HR, leaders need to step up and they need to basically invest X hours a week, a month in certain activities that are building this culture, building that belonging to have engaged their employees.

Luis:

Yeah, and I would like to add to that, sometimes it’s not only action, it’s inaction. There was this thing that I used to do, because I am part of the leadership group of a company of distant job in this case. And even though I ask of my marketing team that you don’t need to be online all the time, you need to have like two to four hours of overlap with the team so you can hang out together for a while, and do our standups and all of that. But other than that, just do your own thing. But then I was online all the time. Because I’m a bit of a couch potato. I like working from home. I like have reading a book, having my video games.

Luis:

So it really is not hard for me to have my laptop open and be on my own Slack and check every now and then. And then the problem was that people were modeling that. Because I was online all the time, the people in my team, even though I told them they didn’t need to, they felt like they did. So we had people in India staying up on Slack until midnight or past midnight, and that wasn’t cool. So I just started turning off Slack for a bit. Okay, I’m going to stay here these two to four hours. Then I’ll turn off Slack. I actually am more productive when I turn off Slack because I don’t have distractions. And the culture was impacted really positively.

Luis:

And guess what? I mean, apart from a couple of my leadership colleagues saying, “Hey, you’re not online so much. are you okay? Is everything okay?” And literally in terms of work, nothing was lost. I get the same messages. Guess what, it’s a marketing team. There are no emergencies. So when I get to Slack after six hours offline or on the next day, I get the messages and I talk, I reply to them in the order that feels most important. And that’s it. I do think that sometimes it’s not about what you do, it’s about what you don’t do, what you stop doing.

Iwo Szapar:

Yes. Yeah. But you started to do something and then you started to not do something. And actually, this is something what my co-founder Marek is doing, he’s never online on Slack. He’s always offline. I mean, he is online, but he’s not showing this to others. And this is one of, the invisible yeah, yeah, exactly. But this is kind of like one of many aspects how we embrace asynchronous communication, which is another humongous topic that especially large corporates need to figure out with all their ad hoc meetings and meetings that last hours and have bazillions of people on them. So, that’s just a comment on communication in the remote world.

Luis:

Yeah. It sounds, I mean, I’m looking forward to seeing how workspaces from Facebook will impact that with virtual reality, but we’re not there, we’re a bit far away. We need to, before it’s comfortable to use a virtual reality headset for work they need to be reduced up to the point that where they’re as comfortable as swimmers glasses or something like that. So it’s a long way off. But I’m interested in seeing how that develops, because with now with video, I feel that people are subtractive, right? The more people you add to a Zoom call, the less interesting and productive it is.

Iwo Szapar:

No, I agree. I agree. But actually what you said about virtual reality, et cetera, you can still set up an enormous number of meetings that doesn’t make any sense, just in a different setup, or you can still have a lot of meetings that are badly prepared or badly facilitated. So, no matter the technology, we still need to help teams, companies first ask a question. “Do we really need this meeting?” This famous meme with like, “This meeting could have been an Email.” And the dog screaming in the conference room.

Iwo Szapar:

So this is kind of like, technology aside, “Do we really need it? Okay, we need it, so now we let prepare.” Agenda, share it async, share or the material, blah, blah, blah, blah. So all the things that we both know, but this is still lacking. We’re not even at the call when we still have a lot of legacy to be fixed.

Luis:

Yeah, you’re right. But there’s a second prism to that, which is really the people think that Zoom meetings are the same thing as in-person meetings, only on the screen, but it’s completely different. Because on a Zoom call you need permission. One person is talk, let’s say we have five people. One person is talking, the other need to shut up. If you have people in the room or in a virtual reality room, you can argue that the meeting is necessary or unnecessary, that’s a different situation. But the reality is that the four person meeting in either virtual reality or reality allows for parallel streams of communication, right. It’s easier to interrupt. It’s easier to add. You can have side conversations with an ease that you can’t, in Zoom, if you want to have a site conversation, you need to click, you need to create a separate room. Everyone sees that you’re going away, that you’re not paying attention. Some people can even be offended by that. “Oh, I was talking and they left to talk on their own.”

Luis:

This goes away in a real setting, and I think that virtual reality is what’s bridging that. Obviously, I’m not saying that every meeting is necessary when you do it in real life. God knows, I’ve been part of some real-life meetings that did need to happen. But there is something to create, to improve here, because Zoom is much worse than people think it is. That’s my point.

Iwo Szapar:

Yeah. Yeah, I think like, there is, not many people like meetings. Let’s just start with that in general. So then, when you add obstacles, like the place where we are meeting, Zoom is not perfect. You already have minus, and then you add another minus to the way how you spend time. So I think there’s a lot of disruption that will happen. That’s one thing. The other thing is that we see that most companies are moving towards hybrid. And although this is way more complex way of managing the company, I don’t see a way of, I don’t see a near future where we are getting rid of offices. Not just because companies invested a lot of money in leases, et cetera, but also because some people would like to meet in-person from time to time. Some people would like to go to the office every day, small part, looking at studies all over the world. Of course, it varies. But in general, it’s a fairly small part. But people still would like to meet each other in-person.

Iwo Szapar:

And right now, when we are talking about the world where you can go out of your house because it’s not pandemic and you’re strapped in your bedroom, people would socialize. And one thing that some companies don’t understand, especially like C-levels is that there are people that have their own circles outside of work, and they don’t need to come in person socialize, spend time, et cetera. They can still love your company, but this is not the place where they get their social time, or where they get their energy outside of just work. So this is kind of this interesting shift that people are going to embrace more and more time with their friends outside of work. And that means that the company culture is not just created by the time that you’re spending with someone, but with really bigger things. And that is also a very interesting opportunity for us as humans to explore other areas, like others’ ways of spending time. So, the disruption is really happening for many places and we need to just embrace it and see where it goes.

Luis:

Yeah. Of course, that’s true. And it’s worth pointing out. Then I completely believe that some people do better work at the office, right?

Iwo Szapar:

I agree. I agree.

Luis:

It’s like, the gain really is, you’re really getting the gain by optimizing the people that were not doing great at the office, and now they can do much better at home. But it really is. It really is something that varies from person to person. Now, I want to, because we’ve been doing this for almost 30 minutes and we almost didn’t talk about education and you have a company that’s very centered toward education. In the book you actually talk about how, you basically started by creating workations for people, for companies. That was how you started.

Iwo Szapar:

First one was in Lisbon.

Luis:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s right. That’s right. And they did the typical Portuguese thing-

Iwo Szapar:

Of course.

Luis:

… of when you’re back, right when you had everything ready, they told you that half the people wouldn’t be able to stay at the place you had planned. So that’s very, I understand that thing.

Iwo Szapar:

I forgot about that challenge.

Luis:

I understand that thing, but anyway, but then you pivoted to education, to training. So I have a double question, right? Since we started the COVID situation, what is the most popular training that you provide and that people have engaged with, and what is the one that you think should be the most popular, but people, for some reason didn’t really gravitate to it?

Iwo Szapar:

Yeah. So most popular is everything around leadership. Companies understand that this is the main area that has on one side most legacy. And then the other side, this is the area that has the biggest impact. So if leaders know how to lead remote and hybrid teams, then a lot of pains are gone. So, this is the first question about the one that has the biggest demand. Then what I think is really needed, and companies, because this is such a new concept, not always understand they need it, is asynchronous communication and even going beyond asynchronous management.

Iwo Szapar:

So those are the things that would help them in the short term, midterm, long term, but because it’s a new concept, some of them even don’t know what asynchronous means. They’re still going with the general leadership that of course covers some aspects of this, but they’re not embracing this as much as needed, also looking at individuals and also looking at the pure change management that needs to happen around these topics. But we do have clients that are coming to us, especially large corporates that understand it needs to go hand in hand. And they’re working with our experts on creating playbooks. So basically rules, they’re helping to put the asynchronous communication how to into daily operations, they’re supporting both leaders as well as individual contributors. So it’s like a very complex area and one training won’t solve all your issues. But yeah, those are the two that I would mention.

Luis:

Okay. So, what was surprising to you? Let’s go back to when COVID hit. When COVID hit, you thought, “Okay, this is tough, because there’s a pandemic,” And that means all kinds of troubles to people. But I guess that on the plus side remote work will start booming. So what surprised you about the months following 20, the months, the years even, now, it’s like we’re in 2022. As of the time of this recording, the world has had two years of away from the office. It’s pretty good. I never expected it to last so long, but still. We are kind of going slow slowly back to the status quo. So, what about this period surprise you the most in terms of adoption of remote work and the way that people did it?

Iwo Szapar:

What do you mean in this case status quo, that we’re going back to how the work was done in February 2020?

Luis:

Well, not entirely, right? There’s things that have been changed forever. But there’s a lot of companies pushing to go back to how it was then, yes. And obviously the employees are doing, most of the employees are pushing back, but it’s still a bit of an open question. At the beginning of COVID I made a bet that it would be 20%, 20% the world would stay remote forever. And now I’m more optimistic. Now I’m thinking that it’s going to be something like 40%, but I’d like your take on that?

Iwo Szapar:

Honestly, after two years and having such clear business signs that this is the future and the only way forward, I’m still surprised how many people don’t get it. I’m honestly, it’s mind blowing, it’s mind blowing. And this is probably the biggest question in my head, “What would really need to happen?” And honestly, I think it’s just time. People on executive positions that don’t get it, they will see it in numbers. They will see in the financial reports that they’re getting, they will see this in their performance and engagement reports, but these reports just time to show the trend. And because we are still in early days of going back to normal-ish and the data is still flawed, and still not all companies that claim that people need to go back to the office really push it on the operational level.

Iwo Szapar:

So I think upcoming quarter three, quarter four, this will be where executives can start to see the trend. In between there will be a lot of backlash that is already happening. You can see the articles left and right where employees of this company and the other company like Google recently, for example, is getting another backlash. I think it’s already like a third backlash on Google in the last year or something because they changed decisions so many times. So, if a company-

Luis:

They really want to get people back onto the office.

Iwo Szapar:

Yeah.

Luis:

They need to offer them better phone guns. I think that’s going to do it.

Iwo Szapar:

Yeah. But you see, if a company that is so forward thinking, progressive and was preached for so many years, they really don’t know what to do and they just go back and forth, back and forth. Google even also reached out to us, and we had some conversations with them. Internally still figuring this out. And now you have millions of other companies that don’t have such resources, knowledge, tech, et cetera, that need to figure that out. So even the “role models,” are still figuring this out. So the whole world is figuring this out. Without of course the dinosaurs of remote that we’re doing this before, that are looking at this. And in some cases getting engaged in helping other companies. Majority of experts that we work with on our marketplace are actually, have successfully built and led distributed teams. They’ve done it. This is not the theory. They did it, and now it’s the case about helping others and make it work as well.

Luis:

Yeah. But so, it’s a problem of, I mean, I wonder, so you talked about Google specifically. What do you think it’s the major challenges there? I feel that it has to do something with scale. It’s much harder, the bigger you are, the harder it is to shift and to change and to scale and to change. I mean, and even you’re talking about the professionals. I mean, let’s say I could teach someone how to lead a team of 20. I’m not sure I would. I mean, I could try, certainly, but I’m not sure how successful I would be at teaching something about how to lead the division of 200.

Iwo Szapar:

Yeah. So, I would say that it really starts in our head with the statements that I think you would agree that people are afraid of change or afraid of something new. In the world where we are, it already happened, this change that we were afraid of. And that’s why companies were not doing this before because they were afraid. So, it already happened. But people still dream about this old world where they knew how to do stuff. I mean, new in theory, in many cases. So you have this tendency of going back to scenarios that you know. That’s one thing. Then the other thing, to your point, leading a 200-people team versus 20 requires way more work, way more prep. I mean, by work, I mean prep and adjustments and basically resources that needs to be invested, but not only in reskilling, but potentially adding more resources for management, like you see companies hiring people for head of remote, head of hybrid, et cetera. So you’re getting more resources to help you structure these things.

Iwo Szapar:

So it’s both psychological how we think about it, but also those are additional costs for companies and resources and time. And also experts that they need to bring on board and make sure that the way how these experts set it up is the right way and would fit their culture and how they work, et cetera, et cetera. And so it’s like, okay, the new future is interesting, but it would require a lot of work, versus we might just switch back to what was working before. And of course the second option is easier, but looking at the talent market, there’s no way of going back, period. Especially for tech companies.

Luis:

Okay. So I want to switch gears a bit to another part of your story, and you talk about this in the book, but usually you talk about it as a background for the lessons that you want to teach. More general lessons in the book, which is your own journey as an entrepreneur. And I’m asking, because I know a lot of people that have remote companies, that fully remote companies, but they feel a bit stuck. They feel a bit stuck in the sense that, okay, everyone in the company is remote, but they feel that they won’t be able to travel efficiently. They still need to have an office, only the office is their home. Now, I personally prefer that.

Luis:

But I know that there are people that would rather follow a bit of what you’re doing, which is, you’re an entrepreneur. You you’re a founder, you built your own company, apparently successful. I don’t know you’re financials, but everything I saw looks great, so congratulations. And you travel quite a lot. I mean, before started recording you were already talking about your next destination. So, how do you organize that in a way that you’re not constantly missing calls or dealing with and working technology, or all of the bad stuff that we associate with traveling while working, which is okay if you are an employee with flexibility, but things get more strict once you are managing an entire business?

Iwo Szapar:

So in the last four years we lived and traveled throughout 17 different countries. Yes. In the last one and a half year we lived in Vietnam. The fun part, there are a couple of fun parts there. We initially planned just four months and we stayed up a little bit longer, but 2020 plans have been changing. But that was kind of like one place where we stayed. And then we will travel around if needed. Then there was a second scenario, which we’ve been doing before, like hopping in different places. So for example, in four months we’ve been in five different countries, right? So we kind of tried different styles. And honestly, I really prefer that slow travel. So I’m calling myself a slow mat. So I’m traveling slowly and living slowly in different places, rather than just jumping and being three days here, one week here, two weeks, three, etcetera, et cetera.

Iwo Szapar:

So this is kind of my lesson learned that you can still meet new cultures, enjoy new places, meet people, but you don’t need to hop all the time. So, that’s just like an introduction. Then about the challenges that you mentioned, I didn’t find tech to be an issue. You need to just have your good stuff with you that works, you to know where’s the internet, how fast is it, check it before you come there, et cetera. Bigger challenges come with time zones, for example. So being in Asia and majority of our customers are U.S.-based. So for me it’s an early morning, 6:00 a.m. And for some people it’s the end of their previous day. So that’s number one challenge for people to consider.

Iwo Szapar:

So for example, if we have some listeners that are looking into going into Asia, but they’re based in Europe, this is perfect. This is amazing because you have first part of your day for deep work, where you’re focused and you’re getting stuff done. And then you can talk in sync with some others or have meetings. So, but working with North America or South America being in Asia is challenging, so I would look into that. And then the other challenge that in my case I fixed with these headphones. So quiet comfort, totally, I cannot hear anything around. And then I can focus anywhere I am. It can be a busy coffee shop in Hanoi. It can be a beach in Thailand, wherever, it doesn’t matter. Of course, it doesn’t work for everyone. So what I strongly advise is to test different options. And like you said, you rather prefer to work from home. And it’s amazing because you figure it out.

Iwo Szapar:

You ask a question and you know where you enjoy being. Some people will be co-working. Perfect. Some will be with coffee shops. And some will be like, “I don’t care.” I’m in the I don’t care group. I can work on the airport. I’ve worked in so many different places, in some weird places, but it’s just me. So I don’t see this being an issue. But you need to try, because for some people that we also met throughout the journey, because we work with many different working spaces and met people really from different countries, is that, you see the dream on Instagram, you see the dream of someone working from the beach with their laptop. And you’re like, “Oh, maybe I can do it one day.” And there was more of a word pre-pandemic, but-

Luis:

I hate working from the beach. It’s terrible.

Iwo Szapar:

You see, you see, you see, you see.

Luis:

Terrible, there’s always a glare on the screen. Sand comes on to you.

Iwo Szapar:

Of course, of course. It just looks good on the picture.

Luis:

Exactly, it’s tearable.

Iwo Szapar:

But you need to try it yourself, so you’re not following this fake dream. And some people talking to me like, “I tried this remote working thing with the travel. I like it, but I don’t like it as much as I thought.” So I think there will be a big group that will be like, “Oh, that’s fine. Maybe I will do it for a couple of weeks a year.” But at least they have this option in mind that I can do it. It doesn’t mean that you will do it every day or you will become a digital Nomad. So just try.

Luis:

Yeah, fair enough. So I wanted to circle back for a simple, but the listeners enjoy these questions. You mentioned that your headphones are vital. What headphones do you prefer? What’s your favorite brand and model?

Iwo Szapar:

It’s Bose QuietComfort 35 I, something like this, Bose QuietComfort 35, yeah. And honestly, four years, five years. It’ll be five years this summer. Mind blowing, yes.

Luis:

Nice, nice. That’s great. I finally broke down and got something that people advised me a lot, which is the AirPods Pro. And I have to say they work okay, but I’m used to better microphones.

Iwo Szapar:

Oh yeah.

Luis:

I’m used to carry my Yeti around and putting the Yeti that what I’m using right there. So they’re great for listening. And the noise canceling isn’t half bad. Though it’s not as good as just earphones over your ears. That’s the best isolation.

Iwo Szapar:

Yeah. It actually reminded me of another productivity hack when you’re traveling, is your laptop stand. So, before my first trip I bought it’s called Nexstand, and it’s very portable. And it’s also another way of like ergonomics when you’re traveling. And to be fair, I’m not an ambassador of either of them, they’re not paying me. Maybe they should, maybe they should. Let’s check it out later on.

Luis:

No, no, no, no. We’re not, if they want to sponsor the show, I’m open to it. Exactly. Exactly. So, tying into this, I mean, I like to end with a few rapid fire questions, but you don’t need to answer them rapid fire, you can answer them as take as long as you like. But I think it kind of relates to this. We’re talking about gear and tools. If you could buy one thing for your entire team, for everyone working with you, but you needed to buy the same thing for everyone and you can’t give them money or a crash equivalent, like a gift card, what would you buy? What is a thing that you would buy for everyone working for you?

Iwo Szapar:

VR.

Luis:

It’s interesting. Can you care to expand on that?

Iwo Szapar:

Yeah. I think there is quite a lot of stuff for team building activities and games and they usually like hanging around, that I think that would be a good investment. So it’s a gadget that brings us closer together. So I think it’s cool.

Luis:

Yeah, I can’t wait until they make the Oculus Quest the quarter of the size and the weight. That will be amazing.

Iwo Szapar:

Yeah. Yeah. Me too. Me too. So I’m waiting.

Luis:

That would be amazing. That would be amazing. So what is the thing that you’ve bought, let’s say in the last year. What is the purchase that you’ve bought that has improved the quality of your work life?

Iwo Szapar:

So something that I got from my wife, but those are the sunglasses with the headphones and the microphone. It’s again Bose.

Luis:

I didn’t know that thing existed. What’s the brand, let’s-

Iwo Szapar:

It’s still Bose, yeah.

Luis:

Wow. Someone should sponsor the show.

Iwo Szapar:

It’s absolutely amazing.

Luis:

Yeah, exactly.

Iwo Szapar:

So they should, yeah, we’ll reach out to them. So these sunglasses are amazing, because one, I love sunglasses. I love wearing sunglasses at night or anytime, big win. Second of all, you can do calls in them because you have everything. Three, it’s amazing. And you can of course listen to music as well [crosstalk 00:43:54]-

Luis:

I’m kind of disappointed that you didn’t consider this podcast important enough to show up with them.

Iwo Szapar:

I know, I didn’t want to look stupid.

Luis:

It’s like the pop music idols that they, you don’t see them without the sunglasses. It’s like, it could be you.

Iwo Szapar:

I know, I know, I know, I know. I used to have a photo in sunglasses on my LinkedIn for two years, but then someone told me like, “Ah, maybe you should change it. You’re going more into corporates, so you should change it.” And then there’s a third aspect really quickly about these sunglasses. Because you don’t put anything inside of your ear, everything is going through your bone. You can still hear sounds around. So it’s very safe, for example, when you’re driving on your bike, because you can still hear stuff that is happening around you, so totally recommend, that was a game changer.

Luis:

So totally not expecting that. Thank you so much. That’s a great recommendation. All right. So let’s talk a bit about books. I have a couple of questions about books. First of all, apart from your book, which I’m sure you’ve given out a lot, what are the books that you’ve given away the most? And they don’t necessarily need to be about remote work?

Iwo Szapar:

Yes, essentialism as a concept is something that became closer to my heart. So the book Essentialism is one of them. Then, because right now I’m in I read the book about. So that’s the last one. And maybe not very remote work related, but just an amazing book. The Daisy Jones and The Six, it’s about the rock band in the ’70s in the U.S. Amazing story and very well written. So those are just a couple of books that I read in the last two months or so that came to my mind. Yeah, they were all –

Luis:

And the second question is, when writing your book, your own book, what books influenced you the most? I’m asking, this is a bit of a lazy question, because I read your book on Kindle and getting to bibliography on Kindle is just such a hassle. It’s just horrible going through foot notes on Kindle that I’m totally just topping out and asking you directly. You wrote a very thorough book. We are going to talk about it again at the end of the show, but I wonder what were your main companion books, right? The books that you used to research the most and to get the most inspiration when writing your own?

Iwo Szapar:

Yeah, honestly, because I didn’t have any access to any books. And also because I was in my home country, I was in Vietnam and also it was not easy to get books at that time, even to ship them. I was mainly using www.google.com as my main source. And of course, throughout these years I bookmark lot of articles, lot of blogs, a lot of communities, a lot of newsletters with great content. So that’s where I was looking for knowledge, for numbers, for studies, rather than books, there are not that many books about remote. I mean, like probably in 2022 it’s already changed. But when I started in 2020, and actually the whole concept of me writing the book started in November 2019. So there was not much stuff to look after.

Luis:

Got it. Got it. All right. Okay, so final question, you probably deal with a lot of these people. You probably deal with a lot of people in important hiring positions and policy-making positions in tech companies from all over the world. You have a lot of clients in those spheres who probably know a lot of people in those positions, right? So let’s say that you’re gathering all of them for a dinner. Obviously because it’s you, the round table, the conversation topic during the dinner was going to be the future of work and remote work. And here is a twist, you’re hosting the dinner in a Chinese restaurant. So as the host, you get to choose what comes inside the fortune cookie. So what is the fortune cookie message that these decision makers are going to read on that dinner?

Iwo Szapar:

Oh, whoa, you got me. I don’t know. The first thing that came to my mind is, embrace the disruption.

Luis:

Embrace the disruption. That fits nicely inside a fortune cookie. Well done. All right, so I’d like you of course, to tell our listeners, where can they find you? Where can they continue the conversation? And, of course, how can they find your book? What can they find? What can they try to do? How can they try to use remote-how.com, all of that.

Iwo Szapar:

Yes. Sure. So, first of all, I’m always happy to connect on LinkedIn. So look up Iwo Szapar on LinkedIn, if either you are in the leadership position or on the HR team and you are looking to improve your remote or hybrid work setup, this is where we can help, remote-how.com. And then of course, when it comes to my book, if you’re looking for end-to-end best practices, but build around story that is not just a business book, but there is some other stories as well, and it’s not just me, but I’ve managed to get really amazing contributors with experience. There is a head of remote at. There are people who build success of remote companies, like Envision, Doist, et cetera. So it’s like a pretty comprehensive overview, not just from my perspective. And then if you have any questions related also to working and traveling, I’m also happy to share some of our own experiences.

Luis:

All right. That sounds great. So the book is, Remote Work Is The Way: A guide to making the most of our office-optional future by Iwo Szapar, and the website is remote-how.com and that’s it. Iwo, it was a pleasure having you. Thank you so much for being here.

Iwo Szapar:

Thank you so much for having me. It was a great pleasure, sending you a lot of positive vibes to Portugal from Spain.

Luis:

Yeah. The pleasure was all mine. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for being with us for one more episode of the DistantJob Podcast, your podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. See you next week.

Luis:

And so we close another episode of the DistantJob Podcast. And if you enjoyed the episode, please, you can help us out by sharing it on social media. That would be great. It’s how we reach more listeners. And the more listeners we have, the more awesome guests I can get in touch and convince to participate in these conversations that are a joy to have for me. And I hope they’re a joy for you to listen to as well. You can also help a lot leaving reviews on iTunes or your podcast syndication service of choice. Reviews are surprisingly helpful in helping the podcast get to more listeners. Now, another thing that you might want to do is go to distantjob.com/blog/podcast. Click on your favorite episode, any episode, really, and subscribe. By subscribing, you will get a notification whenever a new episode is up and whenever we get the transcripts of the episode up, so you can actually peruse the conversations in text form.

Luis:

And of course, if you need to find a great employee for your team, a great remote employee, you should take the whole world into consideration and not just look to hire locally, not just look to hire in your country. Look around the whole world, because that’s the talent pool that contains the best talent. And to help you with that, again, distantjob.com is the perfect place to start. You will tell us who we need, and we will make sure that you get the best possible candidate. 40% faster than the industry standard. And with that, I bid you adieu. See you next week on the next episode of the DistantJob Podcast.

One of the biggest mistakes many leaders made when shifting to a remote work model was to think that they didn’t have to adapt their leadership style. Remote teams can’t be managed the same way as an onsite teams.

During this episode, Iwo Szapar shares why it’s fundamental for leaders to change their leadership style and adapt it to a remote work environment. He also provides tips for digital nomad entrepreneurs leading teams while traveling the world.

Highlights:

  • The importance of giving employees the freedom of choice on how they want to work
  • Building a sense of belonging in a remote team
  • How to lead remote and hybrid teams successfully
  • Why it’s necessary for managers to change their management style when leading remote teams
  • How to lead a remote team while being a digital nomad
  • Challenges of constantly traveling while working
  • Benefits of slow travel

Book Recommendations:

 

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