How to Build A Sense of Community in Your Remote Team with Ali Greene

With 10 years of startup experience and 4 leading remote teams, Ali Greene is a full-time digital nomad, remote work expert, and founder of cohana.io where she aims to support the employee experience in a remote work community by educating individuals and companies about the best practices for remote work.

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Ali Greene

Luis:

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the DistantJob Podcast. I am your host, Luis in this podcast that’s all about building and leading awesome remote teams. My guest today is Ali Greene. With 10 years of startup experience and four of leading remote teams, Ali is a full-time digital nomad, remote work expert and founder of cohana.io where she aims to support the employee experience in a remote work community by educating individuals and companies about the best practices for remote work.

Luis:

Ali, welcome to the show.

Ali Greene:

Hello. Thanks so much for having me.

Luis:

It’s a pleasure having you. So I just introduced you, but tell our listeners a little bit more about yourself and what you do.

Ali Greene:

Yes, definitely. So, my mission with Cohana is really after seeing the world of work continue to transform, figure out how do we make people at work more efficient, effective, engaged with not only their work but their work community, regardless of where their office is located. And for me it’s something that I feel is very close to my heart because I always had this love/hate relationship with the idea of work and the definition of what work meant. And for me, starting my career off in Manhattan, it really felt like I was part of that rat-race. I took that hour subway commute to get to this really fancy office, and while I thought my work itself was engaging, all of the other aspects of what was going on from the commute, to being stuck in the desk all day and not necessarily seeing the sunlight if it was winter. It just really made me start to feel uninspired about something I loved after so long.

Ali Greene:

And so in quite a cliché move looking back, I quit my job to travel. And so I always joke. I traded in Madison Avenue for Machu Picchu, and then I went, and I backpacked around South America, but I missed my work and there was an opportunity for me to still continue to support the work that I was doing from afar. And that was my first introduction to remote work before I even knew what remote work was or that there were companies that were actively trying to build a culture out of this. And then flash forward to 2020, everybody in the world is trying it more or less if they’re a knowledge worker. And it’s been interesting to see that evolution and what it means for me to live my best life. And so now looking at other people, whether it’s people dealing with disabilities or interesting family dynamics, or just purely wanting to spend more time at home or have their home not be where jobs traditionally are. I think this movement is really changing people’s relationship to work, and that’s really exciting.

Luis:

Yeah. I 100% agree, though I did enjoy my commute. I mean I had a nice commute. Most of it was highway. The scenery was nice. I listened to music, I enjoyed driving. Sometimes I got on some audio books and podcasts. So I can’t really complain about the commute, but it’s just so nice to have the flexibility to be able to just take a walk by the bay or something like that, by the sea, have a nice coffee, clearing my head between meetings facing the sea or catching some sunlight. It is definitely amazing.

Luis:

For digital nomads, I don’t consider myself a digital nomad. All respect to those who are, but I like staying at home. I like traveling on holidays, but I don’t consider myself a digital nomad, but this is kind of a bad year for digital nomads, right? Pretty much grounded.

Ali Greene:

It’s definitely been an interesting year for digital nomads.

Luis:

Yeah. So how are you doing and how do you feel your fellow digital nomads are doing, having to stay put? How has that impacted your remote work experience and what strategies, if any, have you used to adapt?

Ali Greene:

It’s been really interesting. One aspect of being a digital nomad is really being able to adapt easily to new surroundings. And so in a lot of ways, I feel like my experience traveling and working full-time and living in places where I don’t speak the language, or there’s a problem and I don’t know how to solve it, has prepared me really well for the pandemic. In some ways very little had changed for me. It happens that I was in France, and for our listeners, you might be able to tell by my accent that I am not French. I was there on a ski trip, and the lockdown happened. And I had 24 hours to find somewhere to stay for what was supposed to be a two-week lockdown.

Ali Greene:

And being a digital nomad prepared me for that. Like I’m an expert at finding Airbnbs. And so it was very easy to just say, “Okay, I need to find a place to live for two weeks.” Found a studio apartment with wifi, with an area to work. All of the things that people even who had homes didn’t really know what to do when they had to suddenly work from home, they didn’t think about having a home office. And for me, that’s second nature at this point. So there’s a whole bunch of things that I think made me really well-prepared for what was going on. I know how to work from home. I know how to communicate virtually. It was quite funny to see all of my friends in different places around the world want to do social things on Zoom, for example, and I was like, “Hey, we could have done this for the past four years.”

Ali Greene:

And it sort of made me laugh that people were dealing with isolation for the first time, and I forgot how hard those challenges were. And so in all of those ways it was a very humbling experience for me. And I think the two things that were the most challenging is one, trying to really prove this point and remind people and do it with empathy that working from home during 2020 is not working remotely. It’s such a different experience. So even for me, and I’m used to working from Airbnbs, I’m used to working from home, I’m used to working from different countries. I’m not used to being stuck inside 24 hours a day in a studio apartment, getting my work done. And so dealing with that anxiety and that lack of a variance in my surroundings throughout the day was really quite challenging for me.

Ali Greene:

And on a personal level, I always travel and choose my digital nomad locations around nature and opportunities to be outside. And there is a few weeks there during the pandemic where I was like, “I’m a caged lion. I need to go climb a mountain and be outside.” And I just felt this incredible urge to just climb a mountain and be outside. And I couldn’t, so personally that was very hard for me, thinking of creative ways to bring that intrinsic motivation of getting fresh air, going for walks and doing all of those habits in a healthy way while stuck at home.

Luis:

Wow. I feel for you. Me, I’m naturally a shut-in, so this was my year.

Ali Greene:

You’re killing it this year. I’m jealous.

Luis:

They’re telling me, “Good job, staying at home 99% of the time.” And I’m like, “Yeah. I’ve been preparing for this my whole life. This is the day.” Yeah. But definitely, kidding aside, there’s definitely the sense that remote work in 2020 is not remote work business as usual. Everyone has a lot of added stress on top of them, even people who are used to working remotely, not even talking about the people who suddenly find themselves working remotely without barely any notice. But even people used to working remotely, there’s kids that are usually at school, concerns about the elderly relatives, et cetera. All off that piles up, and it’s really a hard year for everyone. So that’s sad.

Luis:

Remote work has been performing surprisingly well. I mean, even though it’s a terrible year for everyone, most studies that I read and most reports that I see, say that productivity is up. Is remote work just this good? And I hate to feel like I’m on a podcast that’s all about remote work on a business that’s around remote work, talking to someone else from a business that revolves all around remote work. Obviously I try not to be… this conversation to be just, “Hey, remote work is so great. How great is remote work?” But still I expected it was going to go much worse this year. What happened?

Ali Greene:

Yes. I think that people have underestimated in some ways what remote work means. And so I think back to before I became a digital nomad, before I had a career where I was working with teammates all over the world, I was working for a startup in Washington, D.C. And within a 15 minute walk from each other, we at the peak of this company’s existence, must’ve had three or four brick and mortar offices. And so you think about that, you don’t think about remote work, until you strip away some of the details and you just think about how did people collaborating on a project communicate with each other? Where was the work being done and documented, and what were the processes and procedures that this company used in order to facilitate all of those things?

Ali Greene:

And if you strip away all of the other details and just focus on those three things, I was doing remote work before I knew it. I was communicating with people on virtual meetings and emails. I was documenting everything in a shared system, so everyone could access it regardless of which office in the city they were in. And so I was doing my work because of technology and because of software that was available to me. And so at the very core ever since we’ve had the internet and email and computers and work has been using these tools, we’ve had the ability to work remotely, we just didn’t as a society necessarily know it.

Ali Greene:

And so I think one thing that happened when we made the shift this time around is people might’ve had that feeling of like, “Oh, I could have been doing this all along.” And that’s not to say there are no challenges. And there are very serious challenges that come with shifting to a remote workforce, isolation probably being the most talked about one. But there’s also a lot of solutions out there that already exist, and there’s already a good amount of companies that have led the forefront of giving examples of what to do.

Ali Greene:

And so with all of that said, I think that’s what happened, is people wanted to make this world as normal as possible. And one sense of normality is the projects they’re excited about at work. And so doing that from the comfort of home, even when all of this crazy stuff is going on and it’s stressful and it’s anxious, I think people fell back on being able to feel confident that they could still get tasks done and complete projects and work on interesting things, and they were doing it remotely.

Luis:

Yeah. That’s a good point and it makes sense, right? If everything else is not great, if you can’t go out to the movies or you can’t take your family to a restaurant or something like that, eventually you’re just going to be tired of watching one more episode of a Netflix series, and you’re actually going to say, “Yeah, maybe I can really get into this work thing.” Assuming you enjoy your work, which obviously it doesn’t happen to everyone, but hopefully it will happen to more and more people. So if you enjoy your work and you can find that you can really create the mind space and the virtual and physical space in your home to really devote yourself to that, I can see how efficiency would be boosted. So that makes absolute sense.

Luis:

As far as isolation, we’ve talked a bunch about it in the podcast. Personally, my baseline recommendation is adopt a kitten. What about yourself? What have you been recommending to people who face that dilemma?

Ali Greene:

Yeah. So for me, I look at this issue as maybe three separate things. One is your level of comfort with isolation holistically in your life. How much do you feel comfortable spending time with yourself? I think that’s a really cool lesson for all humans to learn. And something that I got quite skilled at as a digital nomad, I traveled often by myself to countries where I didn’t know anybody. And so I had to spend time with myself, and it really made me explore my hobbies, my interests, what I liked and didn’t like. And I think pushing yourself to the verge of isolation, as long as there’s a healthy boundary and areas where you know if you’ve gone too far you know where to seek emotional support or mental health support, getting near that boundary can really open people’s eyes up to who they are and what they like and what they don’t like. And I think that’s incredibly powerful professionally as well as personally. So just a bit there is sort of like push your comfort zone a little bit, but with that feeling of isolation. And then once that’s -.

Luis:

That’s absolutely true. I absolutely have to agree with you. We as a society, and I’ve become kind of unable to even go into the bathroom without our mobile phone. You can’t even spend the amount of time you’re sitting in the toilet by yourself, with only yourself, you need to bring something, some social network of a sort with you. So that’s definitely great, great advice.

Ali Greene:

It’s true. And it’s advice I give, but also something that I’m constantly improving on as well early on in the lockdown, I did a screen-less Sunday. So no movies, no work no phone, nothing, not even music because we had only our computers to play the music. I got through post lunchtime. I was feeling really confident about it. And then I had this moment where I had a real physical book with which in today’s world never happened. So I was like, “Okay, I’m going to go read this book.” I go to read the book and it’s the third of a trilogy and I didn’t have one or two and I never read one or two. And that was just like a moment where I was like, “Oh, I’ve literally exhausted everything I wanted to do today. And I can’t rely on the other sources I have for entertainment, for social connection for doing anything else.”

Ali Greene:

So it’s still something, I give this advice, but I’m a constant student of life as well. With that said, I also then look at isolation in remote work in separate ways. So like remote work is different during the pandemic and in “normal times”, isolation and how I would recommend remote workers deal with that is different I think, based off of their abilities to integrate themselves to in real life experiences. And so during the pandemic, I think it’s been amazing how people have been able to come together virtually, companies doing things like different experiences or virtual retreats and spending time getting to know each other and having fun together. I did a paella cooking course online with a group of remote workers. And then we sat around and ate our paella together in our own separate homes and shared pictures of whose looked better.

Ali Greene:

So there are so many fun things like that. But I also think what’s really interesting with this shift to remote work is it really broadens your sense of co-worker or community. So yes, there’s ways to bond with the people you work with. That’s great for building trust. That’s great for engagement at work, but it’s also really great to diversify who you consider your co-worker. I live in a pretty small town, it’s an hour and a half south of Valencia. There is an incredible amount of small business owners here, people that work in tech, but also are reggae healers, or yoga instructors or graphic designers. And getting together and coworking with these people in person gives me an opportunity to share what I do for work, learn about them. And you realize people aren’t that different after all. And you can have a greater sense of community and work with people that are also your friends in real life and learn things from them.

Ali Greene:

And so I think to an experience of someone trying to figure out how to charge for one of their yoga classes. And we were sitting having coffee, taking a break from doing our independent work, and we were talking about it. And I took a step back and I’m like, “Wow, this feels very similar to lots of conversations I’ve had with potential candidates about remote salaries around the world and how to negotiate for a salary they believe is appropriate, and people being scared to negotiate and not having those skills in tech. And you realize there’s more similarities than differences. And it’s fun to learn from people outside of your industry, in your industry, outside of your company, in your company. And it really opens up the world of opportunities.

Luis:

Oh yeah, absolutely. So a couple of points that I want to plant a flag in it and talk a bit further. By the way, great job on the screen-less Sunday.

Ali Greene:

Thank you.

Luis:

Personally, I wouldn’t even try, just because most of the things that I enjoy involve screen and I just have… Let’s say that I want to cook, well, all my recipes are digitalized. Let’s say that that went to listen to music, as you said, well all my… I actually have a record player, but just plugging that in is such a hassle. So what I often do, and I really recommend, I can’t actually recommend it enough to remote workers are two things. Number one, internet-less Sunday, because you can still use your screens for stuff like music or books et cetera, but just don’t connect to the internet.

Luis:

I find that that takes me 90% of the way there. Between internet-less and screen-less, it’s like 10% difference, because obviously it’s nice to give your eyes at rest, but it’s not really the screen that distracts, it really is the having the world at the tip of your fingers. And, you know, basically being able to jump to anything that your brain might decide, “Ooh, look at this. Ooh, look at that.” So internet-less does most of the work for me. The other thing is like you said, in your community, using your community to fight isolation. That’s something that’s come up a bit in the podcast, and I generally tend to agree with. As much as I love my coworkers and as I am friends with some of the people in my company, you don’t really need that. You can have your social life be separate from your work life. You can have your relationships, your friendships, your hanging out. You don’t need to hang out with Bob from accounting. No one likes you, Bob. Okay.

Ali Greene:

Unless people really like Bob from accounting, and then you can have virtual paella.

Luis:

No. Sorry, Bob. But really, most people don’t need to. They can find someone in their community, even online communities. I was a player, serious player for the biggest amount of time, and I still have relationships with that community. It’s fun. So you don’t really need to do the whole workplace community thing. You can. It’s good if you can be friends with people from your job and have your social thing there, but you don’t really need to. You shouldn’t feel like that’s the thing that you really need to get right.

Ali Greene:

Yeah. And what I think is fascinating about this having come from a people operations background and perspective, is what can leadership teams at remote companies do where HR teams or people at teams do for their employees to help them be happier and more engaged in their life, so they can be happier and more engaged at work? And so I think about things around, it’s not social for being social at work, it’s how can we make sure people feel connected to each other in the sense that they feel like they trust each other and want to collaborate and can collaborate while understanding different people’s perspectives on a problem? Because you don’t want to get into a Zoom brainstorm and have people not know how to interact with each other, or have someone say something and it caused tension or conflict. Because that can be challenging to resolve remotely. Not impossible. If we have time, we can talk about that.

Ali Greene:

But I think having that baseline of how do we make sure people feel safe at work to be vulnerable so that people can trust each other and help each other, get the job done? That’s great. Anything social or fun is above and beyond that, but also an interesting question there becomes, what is leadership’s role or what is an organization’s role in supporting people, especially if they have that need for affiliation and that’s really motivating to them? Find that in their local communities. And so this hasn’t happened to any company that I know of yet, but it’s an idea that I want to have happen. A lot of remote companies will offer a co-working benefit or something of that nature to go work at a co-working space. That’s great one, if that coworking space is social. I’ve been to some where I’ve been afraid to drop a pen on the floor because it’s been so quiet, or there’s some places that don’t have coworking spaces available.

Ali Greene:

So what if that benefit instead is being used to have a company supported lunch and learn in your community or round of coffee and co-working at a local cafe. And what are the benefits of that not only to the company, because you’re motivating your employee to get their work done, there’s brand recognition there for the company by sponsoring these events locally? But there’s also a giving back to that person in their community and like building connection in that community and blurring those lines in a way that can help communities and societies develop. And if any company wants to try this out, you should get in touch and collaborate. I’d love to make it happen. But I do think there’s this idea of expanding the idea of perks and benefits to not just be about what’s happening virtually, but what’s happening for your virtual employees in their local communities as well.

Luis:

Absolutely. Like you so very well put, that it’s important to figure out how leadership can help. And what I found out is that in way too many companies, it looks like they’re a Dilworth comic. It’s like mandatory fun time, happy hour. Go now. For this hour you must interact with your coworkers and be happy. And it sounds ridiculous. Like I said, it sounds like a Dilworth comic, but actually in a lot of people it’s like this. So I would say first stop, don’t do that. Make things actually not mandatory and make it feel normal. Make people, as you put it, feel welcome, feel safe, feel safe to socialize and to participate. And that’s where I wanted to use as a jump off point to what you called curated retreats, because I feel that… So I’ve interviewed a lot of consultants and people who help businesses with remote work, but you are one of the few people that I’ve talked to, that part of what you do is curate retreats, doing end-to-end retreat planning.

Luis:

And I’d like to know a little bit about that then. First, I’d like you to tell me the story of how you came up with that differentiator for your company. Why did you decide that this was something that was worth niching into? I know from experience that the people that I connect the most with in my company are the ones that I need in real life, at least once a year or ideally once every six months. That seems to be the length of time that we can go without meeting each other in order to keep being not just professionals, but actually having a bit of a bond, team spirit bond. Right. So I definitely know that it’s super important for people to get together every once in a while. Obviously now that’s not so possible, but it will be soon. So yeah. Tell me the story about your foray into curated retreats.

Ali Greene:

Definitely. So this is another aspect of my business that really blends and blurs the lines of Ali personally and Allie at work. So as a digital nomad, communities and finding like-minded people to spend time with in foreign countries is always something that was very important to me. And so I had the opportunity over the past handful of years to participate in communities that already existed within the digital nomad ecosystem. And while there’s plenty of them that I recommend wholeheartedly, I met some of my closest friends through, I also felt like there was something missing in that space. And for me, that was connecting to one of my core values of really getting into it and having deep conversations on a somewhat regular basis, and asking questions to people that scare them a little bit because it’s just creating this vibe of self-awareness.

Ali Greene:

And so personally I created retreats around that with a couple of friends. We did a retreat in Belgrade and in Mexico City. And the goal of this was let’s come together and have these salon-style conversations once a week to really get into intellectual debates, to talk about problems that are facing the world, because this is a need that we all have that’s not being filled at work, and it’s not being filled by our normal social setting. Within that retreat, let’s get together and also work because now we’re living together and we can be in real life co-workers, even though we’re working for different businesses. And of course let’s have shared experiences that are just fun, because as you mentioned with your colleagues is a way to bond people.

Ali Greene:

And so I saw all of this happening, and then kind of shifting gears, my former role before founding Cohana was the director of people operations for DuckDuckGo. And as part of that role, my job was to not only create retreats for the company for teams, but also create frameworks for people to understand why and how to get together and how to use that time wisely. Through that, I started to have this strong belief that a lot of remote companies do retreats because they think they should. Maybe they don’t enjoy planning them, or it takes a lot of human energy to plan them. But there’s a lot of logistical work that goes into it. There’s a lot of thinking about how you want to curate the vibe, the experience, how people are going to get together. And it’s hard, and I love doing it. And so I, I really thought when I jumped into Cohana is what are the aspects of remote work that I enjoy, that I want to celebrate, that I want to help other people get really good at?

Ali Greene:

And thinking about my personal experiences, my professional experiences, I realized curated retreats are quite important. So some of the ways I encourage companies and/or just groups of people, I’m happy to help both sets as I’ve done in the past personally and professionally come together is, if there’s an experience in your life that’s missing, that relates to your core value set. Number one. So for me, that was these intellectual stimulation and conversation. Spending time cross-functionally with people you work with to build that sense of vulnerability-based trust, to sort of form a network in the organization where you feel tight-knit with people you don’t work with every day, and the more you repeat that, the more closely entangled your web at work becomes. I think that’s really important for skill sharing. I think that’s really important for making people feel connected to the company, for understanding that people have similar challenges and brainstorm around that.

Ali Greene:

So at DuckDuckGo, I planned a co-working retreat in Japan for five or six people in the company, totally different levels of the organization, totally different functional areas of expertise. We shared an Airbnb. We realized, “Oh, like half of us work in our pajamas till mid day and half of us don’t.” And like what kind of challenges does our most remote employee in some way face being located in Japan, when most other people are not in that time zone, and what does daily life look like there? And that was a really cool experience for just that organic getting to know each other and building trust. I think remote retreats are wonderful for going off on new brainstorming ventures and like feeding off that in-person energy that’s sometimes hard to do on Zoom. There are so many wonderful tools to brainstorm on Zoom or Google Hangs or whatever tool you use.

Ali Greene:

But sometimes that energy of in-person brainstorming and then taking a break and having dinner and a glass of wine, and then getting back to the hotel or the Airbnb and getting excited and going back to that whiteboard, I think is great for kicking off new projects for doing road mapping, for if a project is long-term and high impact for the business and not going well to have an in-person mid mortem on what’s going well, what’s not going well. Anytime there’s a leadership conflict or a new leadership team, getting together in person to reset expectations and build trust, I think are just incredibly valuable. And when travel opens up again for people like me, very fun, to get to experience people in a new perspective in a new place together.

Luis:

For sure. So you mentioned briefly brainstorming, and I want to go a bit into that. Personally, I hate brainstorming in the Zoom age, because when I’m in a Zoom call, I tend to really focus on the people on the call and not really in what goes inside my head. So I can’t come up with any good ideas. I’d much rather brainstorm even on a Slack channel, or anywhere with a synchronous communication. Having a Zoom call completely breaks, completely destroys creativity for me. So in a real life setting, it’s much easier of course. But how do you usually help coordinate, let’s say, a brainstorming session.

Ali Greene:

Yeah, for me, brainstorming is one of those things where you need to have multiple outlets at multiple times to take into account how different people process information. So in my mind, a perfect brainstorm will at different points in time appeal both to the introvert and to an extrovert of the group. And what that means very tactically is set up brainstorming questions that people can fill out independently on their own time in advance. This is great for people who are introverted, who might get overwhelmed by Zoom, who might get more energy being by themselves and also want to feel prepared for the meeting. Some things I like are sort of making lists of thematic words or questions, and then combining all of those questions before and making a heat map of areas that people are interested in doing great work.

Ali Greene:

And so one example of that is whatever the problem you’re trying to solve, have everybody do on a four by four grid of four perfect solutions, and it could be drawing pictures, writing a story in words, and then presenting that on Zoom and having the synchronous time be these presentations. And then have people take their own thoughts from those presentations and come back onto Slack or Asana or Notion and combine their followups to that. So I don’t think any perfect brainstorm in the virtual space is one meeting and you’re done. I think there needs to be pre-work. This will help people cultivate their ideas. It helps the introverts really be able to think alone and people that prefer that style of brainstorming, and in-person synchronous time to ask each other questions, to clarify things, to present, to build energy for where the people that get energy from interactions “face-to-face” via Zoom. And then a followup to really highlight what all the ideas are and combine and draw out trends and themes that have come up in those first two activities.

Luis:

No. That’s a nice set of ideas. Thanks. Definitely, I mean, as an introvert, you’re right. It’s important to have the time alone with myself, but on the other hand, I do want my non-introverted colleagues to feel welcome to the discussion and be able to contribute in the way that they see fit. So the suggestions that you make to combine the best of both worlds seem very, very reasonable and useful. So thank you for that.

Ali Greene:

Yeah, you’re welcome.

Luis:

I want to be respectful of your time. We’ve been going on for a while. What do you say we wind down a bit with some rapid fire questions? The questions are rapid fire, but the answers don’t need to be.

Ali Greene:

Sounds good to me. Shoot them at me.

Luis:

Let’s start off with your virtual office, what browser tabs do you have open right now?

Ali Greene:

My browser tabs right now are a Google Doc tab for a personal project I’m working on. I’m in the process of writing a book pitch with a close friend, if there’s any agents listening about our viewpoint of remote work and why it should be focused on the management level and not necessarily leadership or independent contributors. So it’s something that during my breaks throughout the day, or whenever I get inspired, I go and take notes. So usually that tab is always open. And other than that, not too many tabs open at this moment. My Medium page is open, my blog, so I could have been prepared to shoot any acronyms at you that I write about. But luckily I didn’t need that. I was feeling a little nervous and I wanted to make sure I was prepared.

Luis:

Nice. Okay. So what are your usual go-to tools for your daily setup, for your daily work? What apps… They aren’t open now, but what tabs do you usually have open? What tabs do you usually start your day with?

Ali Greene:

Of course. So definitely LinkedIn, for getting inspiration, reconnecting with people, sharing itself that I’m working on. I usually start and end my day checking in with my LinkedIn community. My Slack channels. And so I have a various amount of Slack channels, again, both personally and professionally, and I keep all of them open throughout the day. Luckily I tend to be quite self-motivated and so it’s nice to be able to jump in and out of different Slack channels without the alerts distracting me. I use a lot Notion as well as Asana for project management documentation and note taking, as well as Canva for more artistic presentations and preparing things for brainstorms and things of that nature.

Luis:

Okay, awesome. So let’s say that you have $100 or euros, you’re familiar with both currencies so why not?

Ali Greene:

Can I have both?

Luis:

Sure. Sure, whatever. It’s –

Ali Greene:

Imaginary.

Luis:

You have a set amount of money, not too much, not too few to spend with everyone working with you remotely. You need to buy the same thing for everyone. You can just give them money or a gift card or a bespoke gift. You need to buy in bulk, but you can do anything. You can do tool, you can do app, you can do experience, whatever. So what do you get everyone working with you?

Ali Greene:

That’s a really good question. I would say my heart wants to treat everyone to like massages, especially this time of year it’s been a hectic 2020, and people need to take care of themselves in order to be their best person at work. I don’t know if I can afford that many massages for that much money. So my backup would be some sort of like cooking experience online for everyone and their spouses, children, et cetera, to share time virtually with one another.

Luis:

All right. So what about yourself? What have you bought in the last year to six months that helped your work-life experience be better or more productive?

Ali Greene:

A massage. I treated myself to one yesterday. But in all seriousness, I do think that’s quite important to really find ways to treat yourself and take care of yourself. Other than that, as a nomad, I’m used to having very little amount of cool gear and tech. So actually I have a desk riser for my computer, which I quite like, but it’s made from insertable cooking shelf. So that’s something I bought myself. I probably should upgrade to something more fancy, but I think the simple things sometimes do the trick.

Luis:

Oh, absolutely. I’ve seen super fancy kick starter backs, the desktop risers, laptop risers, leave their owners completely insane. And me, I just bought a five bucks one from AliExpress and it works wonderfully for me. And it’s folds neatly into my backpack. It just is great. So sometimes more expensive isn’t necessarily better, right?

Ali Greene:

Yeah. And when I’m done working I can take it into the kitchen and use it to like set up all my props for cooking, which is one of my passions. So dual productivity.

Luis:

Exactly. There are 101 uses for your salad mixers. Anyway, so do you gift books?

Ali Greene:

Not so much in recent years, but I’ve been known to gift books and receive. I receive a lot of books as gifts, which I always love.

Luis:

What books have inspired you the most?

Ali Greene:

Yeah. So number one, and this might surprise people because it is not a business book, is a book I read when I was in elementary school. Maybe it was middle school, but it’s called The Giver. And it’s a book that I recommend everybody read every couple of years to see how their perception has shifted. Basically the book is about a utopian or dystopian, depending on your perspective view of the world, where people are assigned jobs, people are sort of really taken care of and told what to do and how to do it in a community where there’s a lot of sameness. And it’s one person’s role to hold all of the memories of the universe.

Ali Greene:

And I like reading this book from now and again to question things that are going on in the world today, and to question myself. Would I be happier if someone told me what to do for work, or am I happy making those choices on my own and why or why not? And some of those very introspective, intellectual, deep things come out every time I read it, and depending on where I am in my life, my decision changes. And so I recommend that to everybody for that reason. Sometimes it’s nice to read a novel and a story that can also help you question things within your own life.

Luis:

Oh yeah. Yeah. Definitely. A lot of people underrate novels as vehicles for learning, but there are some very good fiction that makes you think about things in a way that lets you learn and drives the points home better than a book that just tells you, “Hey, you should act or do or think like this, because it’s better for you.” So I definitely like the lived experience that you get through a novel. You get to vicariously live another person’s experience. And that’s something that’s worth a lot more than just reading a how-to book sometimes.

Ali Greene:

Exactly. And a few other quick shout outs. I do love The Five Dysfunctions of a Team which is a really great book for leaders to-

Luis:

Lencioni, Lencioni, I keep mashing his name, sorry, but…

Ali Greene:

I couldn’t pronounce his name either, which is why I let you do that. But I think that book’s incredible and a great read for leadership teams. I love Gallup’s Strengthfinders again to help people have that awareness for themselves, but also take that awareness to teams to figure out how to our strengths make each other stronger. And there’s another book that I love called Embrace Your Weird. And it’s just a good book to be a little silly, be a little creative, have some personal time to expand your mind regardless of what functional area of work that you’re in.

Luis:

Nice. Okay. Those are some really good recommendations. Thank you so much. Let’s move into the final question. So, let’s say that you are hosting a dinner where the dinner round-table is about remote work and the future of work. And in attendance are the top people at some of the biggest tech companies in the world, CTOs, CEOs, hiring managers, the people making the important decisions about the workforce and the future of work. The twist is that the dinner happens at a Chinese restaurant. So you, as the host, gets to pick the message that goes inside the fortune cookie.

Ali Greene:

I love this question. It’s so hard, but it’s so fun. The message in the fortune cookie for me would be redefine what you think of work and success.

Luis:

Redefine what you think of work and success.

Ali Greene:

Yes.

Luis:

Yeah. That’s pretty direct, that’s pretty direct. And I can see how it makes sense. So good quotes, thanks for that.

Ali Greene:

Thank you.

Luis:

So, Ali, it was a pleasure having you here with me on this podcast, an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much for doing this. Where can people continue the conversation with you? Where can the people find out more about you about the businesses you work with?

Ali Greene:

Yes. This is a great question. So there’s lots of ways to reach out to me. My personal website is cohana.io, and I know there’ll be links involved here. So listeners, please check out the link to get in touch with me there. I love connecting with people on LinkedIn. So I share a lot about opportunities that I’m working on with a company called Oyster on my LinkedIn, in addition to Cohana. I’m their Head of Culture and Community, and they’re really helping empower the global talent workforce. And so hiring pane, providing benefits to people around the world. So if that’s something that you’re challenged with or you’re interested in, that’s an awesome company and initiative that I believe in, and I share a lot about that on LinkedIn.

Ali Greene:

I also share a lot about my digital nomad struggles and silly things on my Instagram accounts. I’m seeing green. So if you care about what avocado toast I get at what coffee shops around the world while I’m co-working, that’s the place to look at that.

Luis:

Okay. So thank you so much Ali for being here. It was an absolute pleasure. And thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for listening to the DistantJob Podcast, a podcast about building and leaving 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 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 gets to more listeners.

Luis:

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. 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 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 adios. See you next week on the next episode of the DistantJob Podcast.

 

More ways to listen:

One of the keys to any business’s success (whether remote or not) is to build strong connections among the company. This helps employees feel motivated and more engaged with their work. But how to build strong relationships when your team is spread over the world? Is Zoom the only alternative? No!

In this podcast episode, Ali Greene shares her insights on the importance of leadership in building and nourishing connections in remote teams. She shares strategies on how remote companies can engage their employees and support them in a digital setting.

 

Highlights:

  • Insights of the impact of COVID on digital nomads.
  • Recommendations for people who still struggle working remotely.
  • How to separate work from life when working remotely.
  • How leadership can support employees to get more engaged at work.
  • Strategies to build a community in your company.
  • Insights of company retreats.

 

Book Recommendation:

 

Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE so you won’t miss all of the other interesting episodes that we have coming up in the next few weeks!