Why Some Companies Fail at Building a Healthy Remote Culture, with Joe Giglio

Gabriela Molina

Joe Giglio is an engineering manager at Nomad Health and the creator of Goal Puppy, Remote Scorecard, and The Remote Work Masterclass. He is also the author of the book Making Remote Work Work For You.

Joe Giglio

Read the transcript

Luis:

Welcome ladies and gentlemen, to another episode of the DistantJob Podcast. I am your host as usual, Luis, in this podcast that’s all about building and leading awesome remote teams. My guest today is Joe Giglio. Joe is an engineering manager at Nomad Health, and the creator of Goal Puppy, Remote Scorecard and The Remote Work Masterclass. He is also the author of the book, Making Remote Work Work For You. Joe, welcome to the show.

Joe Giglio:

Thank you Luis. I’m excited. And thanks for the invitation. I appreciate it.

Luis:

It’s a pleasure having you. This is episodes over 150, 150 something, right? I’ve lost track. I do. It’s like that. And the reality is it’s seldom that I get to speak with someone that has devoted so much time to creating an infrastructure, right? A body of work that tries to help remote work from so many different angles. So I guess the place to start, right? And then we’ll follow the threads where they take us. But I guess the place to start is, how did you come to remote work? Tell me the story of when you transitioned to remote work and how that impacted your career.

Joe Giglio:

Sure. I’ve been in the internet space since the mid 90s. And I started out doing phone support for dial-up ISP. From there, I worked for several startup companies in New York, mostly around ticketing software, call center software, CRM. And we had small offices. And we went through a bunch of acquisitions. And the companies that acquired us obviously would have headquarters in their city. And we would be a small satellite office, remote to headquarters. And I had worked remotely in some respect for most of my career because of that setup.

What I tried to teach in my book and my video series is that remote work is really a spectrum. And if you work from a satellite office, you have a lot of the same challenges as working from home. For example, your manager might be in another office, your team might be in another office. It feels like a constant battle to be recognized. You might not always feel like you’re part of the company culture. You’re not included in some celebrations and some company meetups. So if you’re in a satellite office or home, or working even more remotely, you have some of those same challenges. And I have worked, like I said, in a remote office. I’ve worked from home for the majority of my career. And they have a lot of the same challenges. You could work through them, but it really needs to come from leadership and your management team for remote workers to feel like part of the company. And that’s what I tried to teach in my book and my video series.

Luis:

So that’s a very important thing, right? Making people feel that they’re not … Remote doesn’t mean that they’re unseen. When did you realize that this is a problem, right? I mean, you told me that you had that experience working in the satellite, et cetera. But can you illustrate, right? Obviously protecting the innocent. But can you illustrate what kind of episode made you realize that?

Joe Giglio:

Well, in my last role, I was the first hire of a company named [Assistly]. And we were one of Zendesk’s main competitors. We were acquired by Salesforce. And it was actually a pretty good acquisition for several years. We were left to run autonomously, and everything was fine. And then over time, the company was asked to roll more into what they call Salesforce Core. The founders had moved on. You get more leadership that comes in from Salesforce Core. And then you realize that you’re really part of a much, much larger company. And it’s a bit of a challenge to build relationships with people that you may have never really met. Maybe you met them for a half hour over lunch. And I was managing a team of cross-functional engineers that were scattered around the country, mostly through acquisitions.

And Salesforce culture was really built on the West Coast. A huge company, a really big name out in San Francisco. And they had remote workers. But a lot of the remote workers were feeling some frustration about feeling left behind, not feeling recognized by the company. These were teams and products that were productive. But they never really felt like they were part of Salesforce. And that was a theme that I was hearing for several years when I was there. And even though I had worked for them remotely for a while, it was clear that they really wanted leadership out on the West Coast. So that was really the main reason why I ended up leaving in the end of 2019, we parted ways.

And from there, I went into creating a book on remote work. And then a video series on remote work. And yeah, so what I was seeing was people were not feeling like they were really part of the company, and they were being overlooked for, for different roles. An example I could give you is, it’s not uncommon for people in a company the size of Salesforce to switch jobs, to move departments, move to another part of the company. And if you were remote, it was difficult to be recognized. And for managers to take a chance on you, because they never met you. You’re in another part of the country, another part of the world. And there was a lot of frustration about being recognized, and moving up and moving around the company. And that’s something that we battled for several years.

Luis:

What do you think was missing there?

Joe Giglio:

Well, what I think was missing was, what you’re seeing from Salesforce and a lot of the other tech Titans is these are very successful companies.

Luis:

Yeah.

Joe Giglio:

When you look at their market share, their product penetration, their market cap. They’ve been successful doing things the old way. Some of them have these beautiful campuses that they’ve built, with all these nice perks like swimming pools and subsidized meals. Some of them have healthcare and meditation gardens. These were all built to keep people at work for longer. And they were very successful at that. But now the game has changed. And you find a lot of people that are willing to do the work, and they are productive. They’re just not as willing to go to work and stay there as long. So I think a lot of these older titans have baggage that they’re going to be resistant to shed obviously. So you’re seeing some of the best remote culture come out of smaller startups that have remote work in their DNA.

Luis:

So you think that the bigger companies, it’s not that they don’t know how to engage the remote employees or how to evaluate the performance. But it’s just that they’d really rather have people on site, because that’s what they’re used to. So they just kind of shove the remote people aside or keep them at their entry levels. I mean, I’m not saying that it comes from any bad will toward the remote employees. It’s just that, “Let’s incentivize more the people that are here, because that’s what we’re comfortable with.” Something like that?

Joe Giglio:

Yeah. I think that is fair to say. I think these companies look at the success they’ve had, and they say, “Oh, if it’s not broke, why try to fix it?” But I think that a lot of them are really struggling now with, they keep pushing back their return to work dates because COVID keeps hanging on. And the longer this goes on, you have more people saying they never want to return to work. So again, they have these beautiful offices, these expensive campuses, and they don’t want to let them sit there empty forever. I understand that. But I think the world has changed. And the pandemic has helped people to change what it means to go to work. And I think a lot of these bigger companies are really, really struggling with, how do they become more remote friendly, but continue to be the titans that they are?

Luis:

So when I was going through your portfolio in preparation for this interview, I really got the engineer sense from you. Much more than I often do. Because it really feels that your portfolio reads as a bunch of problems you identified, and then decided to create a solution for them. Right? So take me through the timeline. So you left Salesforce, right? So what was the first thing? Was it the book? Was it the master class? What was the decision point? I mean, I understand that you saw that something was wrong. But what made you decide that the book was going to be your first step towards solving the problem? Or maybe it was the master class, right? What came first, I guess?

Joe Giglio:

Well, we’re going back to the end of 2019 when I left Salesforce. They were not remote friendly. But I was starting to see online on Twitter and on LinkedIn, there were some small pockets of people that were really into remote work. People like Chris [Hurd] and Darren [Murph]. People that were really pushing not just remote work, but remote-first cultures. And there were a handful of companies out there that were doing it and doing it well. And these are companies that I consider the grandparents of the remote work movement. Companies like Automatic and Basecamp, Zapier, Help Scout, and TaxJar, Doist, GitLab.

Luis:

Yeah.

Joe Giglio:

So I decided at the end of 2019, I was going to publish a book that was basically a brainstorm of my experience working remotely at companies that didn’t necessarily like it, but we had to make it work. In addition into the best practices that I have learned from what I call the grandparents of the remote work movement.

After I published the book, I decided to supplement it with the Remote Work Masterclass video series. And then COVID hit. So now you had a bunch of companies trying to figure out, “Well, how do we become more remote friendly?” I think companies were forced into some type of a remote work situation just to survive. Not that they wanted to, but they needed to. So then I decided to try to roll that into remote work consulting. So then I registered chiefremoteofficer.com, which when I was at Salesforce, people would always say, “Oh, maybe you should try to become chief remote officer of the company.” And that name kind of stuck with me. And I looked it up one day, and lo and behold it was available. I figured, “Well, let me jump on this.”

Luis:

Yeah. That was a good move.

Joe Giglio:

That was a good one, right? Maybe I could retire on that one day.

Luis:

Yeah.

Joe Giglio:

So I registered that name, and tried to turn that into remote work consulting. And then from there I moved into applications that I think would be helpful in trying to help people find great remote roles, try to improve your remote work culture. And try to improve the relationships between remote managers and their employees. And then recently, like you mentioned before, I just accepted a role with Nomad Health. And I start there in January as engineering manager. And that’s a company that did not start out as remote-first. But they are now. They’re now a very remote friendly company. And I hope to bring some of this knowledge to them.

Luis:

So the Chief Remote Officer. I only started seeing this being floated around last year. Right? Let’s say from August 2020, to the present day. This wasn’t something that most people considered. I know that Darren Murph did take the title on. But I also believe it was recently, no?

Joe Giglio:

I believe he took on the Head of Remote. I prefer Chief Remote Officer for –

Luis:

Chief Remote Officer.

Joe Giglio:

Yeah.

Luis:

Yeah. Exactly. So what would you say entails this? So also addition to what does a chief remote officer do, what are the responsibilities, right? What kind of company do you think would benefit the most? Because I mean, we all know how these things work. I mean, we’ve all been on small companies, right? In a seven person startup, everyone can have a dozen titles. But really, everyone does everything. Right? So there’s not a lot of differentiation there. When is the moment in a company’s trajectory that you think it’s the most useful to get the chief Remote Officer position, right? As really a set position with set goals and functionality?

Joe Giglio:

Well, I think that with smaller startups that are starting now as remote, where you don’t have any offices. And everybody works remotely out of the gate. You probably don’t really need a chief remote officer I don’t think. I think this is a role that’s better suited again for the titans or for companies that were well established prior to the pandemic, prior to remote work catching on. Companies that realize that, “Hey, we need to become more remote friendly in some way. How do we get there?” So I think the role of the chief remote officers is to come in and work with leadership to define how far on the remote spectrum are they willing to push it. And how do we get there? Again, talking about those expensive campuses and real estate costs. And potential impact on company culture. And the very complex case of fair salaries.

Do you pay people based on where they live? Do you pay people based on their role, and not worry about geography? And have these honest conversations about how far are you willing to go. To give you an example, I always say that remote work is really a spectrum. Now, some companies might let you work from home one day a week. Maybe that’s enough. Some companies might let you work from home and every day. But you are actually plugged in, you can’t use wifi, and you are tied to your desk. That’s also remote work. If you push that further down the spectrum, you have people that are … I read about these people all the time that are living in RVs. They don’t have a set address.

They don’t know where they’re going to lay their head tonight, but they’re productive and they’re working. And you have people that kind of travel the world, and they work. And they’re asynchronous first. So where they work and when they work doesn’t matter. But I think for these larger companies to get to that full spectrum of asynchronous work, they’re probably going to take baby steps to get to that point. And I think a chief remote officer can help a company identify how far are they willing to go, and how can they get there. There is no magic switch. And I think a lot of companies will face that. So a lot of them are going to try a hybrid approach. That has real challenges, especially if leadership just wants people back in the office like it used to be. If you can’t get over that mental hurdle, then this is just a frustrating challenge that might not end well.

Luis:

Well, that’s definitely a broad spectrum. I want to pick your brain about that. So some people that are kind of remote extremists to say. I mean, you’ve probably met them, you’ve likely broke bread with them. I know I have. So I call them extremists in the nicest sort of way. There are some people that say that remote work is … It’s not you have office days and you have remote days. It’s you work from outside of the office. Period. If you have one day in the office, you can’t call that remote work. I can understand where they coming from, right? Because the benefits, it really is a bit of an all or nothing situation. Once you’re tied to the office one day, there are some certain things that you can counteract. For example, the management. Not being so visible to the management, at least you’re visible one day out of the week. But I do see the limitations of that in that the whole dynamics that make remote work so great are kind of broke as soon as you have to check-in one day a week. What are your thoughts about that?

Joe Giglio:

Well, I think not having any office and working from wherever you want is an idealistic view. I think a lot of us would like to get there. I just think that it’s not a realistic view, again, for these well-established companies that have a lot of baggage. So I think you’re probably going to see a lot of these companies try out a hybrid approach, which comes with several challenges, like you mentioned.

Luis:

Yeah.

Joe Giglio:

For example, you are still tied to a certain geography as a worker. You have to be within a reasonable commuting distance to some type of office to show your face.

Luis:

Yeah.

Joe Giglio:

So that right there, that knocks out one of the advantages of working truly remote. But like I mentioned before, there is no magic switch to become a remote company. I think that’s how companies are going to tiptoe into remote work, not fully committed to it. But trying these different things to show a little progress on the issue. And if leadership is willing to push it further and further, when they see that people can be productive, then we might see more true remote work take off. But just being realistic, I just think these companies have a lot of baggage. And I’d be surprised if they close all their offices and you could work from wherever, whenever. I just don’t see that happening right now.

Luis:

So, let’s say that you arrive on a consulting gig at one of those companies, a hypothetical company that is actually pretty flexible. Right? They’d like to see their employees in the office every now and then. But overall they’re okay with them working out of the office. Right? What kind of assessment do you make? What are the things that you look for? What are the questions that you ask?

Joe Giglio:

Well, the first assessment is honest discussion with leadership. I want to know, are you willing to really support remote work? And are you happy about the remote work movement? If not, and you just really want people back in the office, and you’re hoping that on the other side of COVID that people will come back and things will go back to normal. Then I feel like you’re not really going to put the effort in the workflows, into making remote work really work for people on your team. I think you’ll find a lot of companies are looking for tools and technology to help them improve remote work. And that’s part of it. Obviously those are ingredients. But it really has to come with the right attitude and beliefs from the executives and leadership.

If you don’t that as step one, then you’ll dabble in hybrid and letting people work from home every now and then. But you’re not going to get to full remote work. So it all has to start with an honest assessment of leadership and how far they’re willing to take it. If they are really willing to take it, if they are really willing to take it to an extreme level, then we could look at things closing any offices that they do have, or maybe keeping offices open. I mean, there are some people that want to work from an office. And that’s fine.

People that want to work with their team. There’s definitely value in that. But I think we’ve learned that it doesn’t have to be every day. So then you get into, we are a remote-first company where the communication protocols are more asynchronous, and everybody works as if they are remote, even if they’re not. And that helps to level the playing field for everybody. And it stops the remote workers from feeling second class citizens, because everybody has the same challenges. If you can get to that point where leadership really wants to get to that level, then I think you have a company that’s really willing to invest in a remote work future.

Luis:

Yeah. So to your point about tools, I do like that point. And that’s something that I like to bang the drum on a little bit. I have occasional arguments with a good friend of mine, because he is a very tool centric guy. He loves finding the best … Looking and finding for the best tools and optimizing. And there’s real value in that. Right? But at the end of the day, I think that it’s management first, right? You should use the baseline, the most basic tools, right? And whatever challenges you come, you try to manage around them. And not only if you feel that you have really good management in place, right? And really good processes in place. And the tools are really the main blocker, then that’s when you should look for a new shiny tool.

I mean, I started working semi-remotely, right? Not on my job per se, but on projects in the internet where the way I communicated with the teams was through IRC and PHP bulletin board. Right? That was the situation that we had. We didn’t have any of the sophistication. And you know what? That works. Right? If the team coordinated properly. It was more, we could deal with stone age tools, as long as the team was properly managed and properly led, and properly coordinated. So I really like to tell people to not stress the software. And that whatever problems you have, it’s very likely that the software is not the source of those problems. And as such, upgrading software will be of limited help.

Joe Giglio:

Yeah. I’d say that is accurate. I think Slack and Zoom have become the defacto standard that everybody is using.

Luis:

Yeah.

Joe Giglio:

They’re very real-time though. And you always hear of Zoom fatigue. And you hear that from a lot of companies that are letting people work remote. But they’re, as they say, just trying to duplicate the office environment. So everything is still real-time. It’s a lot of meetings. You feel like you can’t get anything done, because you can’t get out of meetings. And you’re trying to get to Slack inbox zero, and there’s all these notifications. And you don’t know what’s important. Same with email inbox zero, is the same thing. There’s just, there’s a lot of communication. And you have to try to filter out what really needs to be real-time.

“What is just some banter on Slack that I could ignore for now?” So a lot of these tools are really about real-time communication, and are not letting people get in the zone to do deep work. And I’m starting to see more tools pop up for asynchronous work. Tools like Twist, tools like Yak, which is audio. Audio asynchronous. and then Loom and Voodle. Those are video asynchronous tools. So there’s more tools that are popping up out there to allow people to communicate asynchronously, and not feeling like they’re always being disrupted or always sitting in meetings. But again, the company has to want to make that change, and realize that, “Hey, not everything has to be solved right now. Not everything has to be done in real-time.” And if you could get to that point, then I think you get a much more relaxing environment where people can really get in the zone, and really do their work.

Luis:

Yeah. So my colleague, the president of DistantJob, Sharon Koifman, he actually likes to cite some research that I’m going to completely blunder now, because I don’t know it by heart. But it takes something like 21 minutes to recover from a distraction. Right? So really, if you have something like a one hour meeting or a 45 minute meeting in the middle of your day, you’re actually losing twice as much time. Because you’re losing some minutes in anticipation, 20 minutes in anticipation, let’s say. And then 20 minutes after call. So there’s no question that the tools that are the defacto most used for remote work, Slack and especially Zoom or Google Hangouts, Google Meetings, whatever you use, right? I think they’re great tools, but I believe we may be misusing. Because we’re trying to use them to replicate the office environment instead of coming up with a new way of doing work. Right? That’s kind of my feeling. And again, we go back to management versus tools. Zoom doesn’t create fatigue. It’s the way you use Zoom that creates fatigue.

Joe Giglio:

Yes. Yes. Very true.

Luis:

Right? So that’s something that I think people could do. And again, it goes to time management, right? If there are policies in place or suggestions, right? I usually suggest my team on how to best use their time. For example, something that I try to advise everyone and I try to stick to myself, is to have one day that’s the day where I have all my meetings. And obviously if I need to meet someone outside of that, I’m going to be a good sport about it, right? The whole world doesn’t turn around my schedule. But I try to incentivize people to pick a day for meetings and stick to that. And then you can, of course go and get something, a meeting done if you really need to, et cetera. But it just seems that that kind of time management is one of the core principles of doing remote work in a way that’s healthy. Wouldn’t you say?

Joe Giglio:

Yeah, I agree with that. And you had mentioned before, there are some people with these idealistic views of remote work. I would want to add in that they also have idealistic views of meetings. They say, “Oh, we can do everything asynchronously and never have a meeting.” And I just don’t think that’s realistic. You can try to be asynchronous first, which I’m a big advocate of. But there are some things that you are sometimes going to have a meeting. But you can have more intelligently constructed meetings. For example, never send out a meeting invite without a clear agenda doc. Make sure there’s space in the doc for Q&A at the end of the meeting. Make sure there’s action items. Make sure you’re only inviting the people that really need to be there. And then open up the doc to more people to get their comments and questions.

And then of course, to try to wrap it up with action items that have deadlines. That’s opposed to typical meetings that most of us have been a part of where somebody sends a meeting invite. Maybe it has a subject, but you have no context. Maybe the whole department is invited. And maybe you only need a couple of key people that can then disseminate the information through this document. So there will be times where you still need a meeting. You might need a video call. Or you might need to meet somebody in person. I mean, we still need to do of those things. You might be surprised how few things really need to be done in real-time.

Luis:

Yeah. I absolutely agree. I do think that async is the way to go. But at the same time, there’s real benefit on getting on a call with someone, especially for one-on-one purposes. Right? And though you mentioned Yak before. And it’s interesting. I tried Yak. I’ve interviewed someone from Yak. I think they’re great guys and girls.

I do think it’s a bit worrisome to me this kind of push to asynchronous audio and video, just because I think it consumes a lot more bandwidth, right? Not only is it … I mean, environmental concerns aside, right? I just think that texts I can read at my own pace. Audio I can not … Well, I can. I guess I can do a fast forward. Right? But it’s not this same thing.

I feel that there’s some loss. Either there’s some loss of information, or there’s some loss of optimization. If I’m doing video or audio, I usually like to be live, right? That makes the most sense to me, because I’m getting the person. Right? I’m getting the person real-time. There’s also something very interesting. I don’t know if you’ve looked into it. I think it’s Project Star something from Google. That’s the 3D screen that has zero millisecond lag video. That could be a game changer for synchronous communication. Have you looked into this in any way?

Joe Giglio:

No, I’ve not even heard of that until now.

Luis:

Okay. So I know Starlink is Elon Musk’s thing, right? Internet. It’s very similar names. Everyone is doing a Star something. But definitely we’ve discussed it in the podcast before. And it’s worth a look. It really sounds like something different in terms of synchronous communication. So in any case, I wanted to ask you for your thoughts. And since we’ve been discussing this, right? This situation about synchronous and asynchronous, and et cetera. Where do you see us moving? Right? Where do you think, based on your knowledge, your experience consulting for these companies, and getting these courses out there. And of course, the feedback that you probably received from your book, right? A lot of people, they call it the Great Resignation. A lot of people are saying, “Enough is enough. We don’t want to work at the company that doesn’t support remote work.” Right? “We’re leaving these big players.” How prevalent do you think this is? I feel that even though we hear a lot about it. I don’t think that the big players need to be worried about having a loss of talent anytime soon.

Joe Giglio:

Well, interesting that you bring up the Great Resignation, because I’ve been reading about this quite a bit over the last few months. And it was interesting, again to go back to the example from titans like Google and Microsoft. These are companies that are household names that pay at the very top of the scale, that are very generous with their stocks. The stocks have real value. And even people working for these companies, they’re pushing back and they don’t want to go back to work. So if companies like that can’t keep people settled and getting them to come to work, then I think those companies should be pretty concerned.

On the other side of that though, I’ve been predicting that we might start to see what I call outsourcing 2.0. I think if people start pushing back too hard, and we do have … If we do have our protocols and tools in place, and we’re able to build remote teams, who says it needs to be in expensive cities? One of the whole advantages of remote work for companies is to maybe find people in cheaper parts of the world that can do a good enough job. And some of them are highly skilled and definitely a lot cheaper.

Luis:

But that’s remote again, right? That is still remote. Right? I mean-

Joe Giglio:

That’s flavor of remote. So if somebody is living in the U.S. making a nice salary, and they’re not happy about going to work. Well, they might be replaced by somebody that’s remote in a far away land, that’s highly skilled, making a lot less. So I think you have to be careful how far you push it. Hopefully it doesn’t get to that point. But I think for a lot of companies, the bottom line is what they’re still most concerned about. And I think we’ll start to see that at some companies.

Luis:

Well, the economic implications are fascinating, right? Because I do see remote as a bit of an equalizer. Right? It makes less and less sense that a job that pays, let’s say 100,000 per year in the U.S. right? Pays only 20,000 per year in Spain, let’s say. That makes less and less sense, right? Now obviously that’s a problem. But I do think that what will … What will acclimatize things a bit more is that I do think that salaries outside of the U.S. and Canada, and essentially outside the G7 countries, right? Salaries outside the G7 countries, I think they will rise more steadily to meet the G7 standards. And yes, maybe things will be a little bit more competitive on the G7 … At the high end of the G7 countries. But I mean, I really can’t see the impact being so big that it will be a curse, let’s say, to the technical people in those countries. But let’s see.

Luis:

Let’s see, I guess. Yes?

Joe Giglio:

Sorry, just going to say that one of the things I’m starting to see some traction on is what they call a stay interview. Similar to an exit interview after you leave a company, they’ll ask you some questions basically, “Why did you leave? What can we improve?” A stay interview is an attempt to retain your current employees. Have an honest discussion, honest assessment of this person’s skills, where they fit into the company, are they looking to leave? And if so, why? When want to work maybe for another manager, maybe on another team on a different product. So that way a lot of companies, they have a big budget for hiring new people. But they seem to not always be … They seem to not put as much effort into retaining their people. So now with a stay interview, all this time and money that you have invested in this person, “Well, maybe we can retain them for a little bit longer, figure out why they’re not happy, why they’re looking to leave. And maybe we can rekindle our relationship.” So I’m starting to see that pop up more.

Luis:

It’s like counseling for corporations.

Joe Giglio:

Yes.

Luis:

Right? Yeah. No, but it’s interesting. It’s also worth pointing out that even if the result, right? If people … Again, I want to go back to this concept of outsourcing 2.0. Because I think it’s a real concern. And I’m not sure yet how big of a concern it should be. But you’re that onto something. It’s also the case that a lot of the higher end salaries that we’re used to in G7 countries come from the fact that people are obliged to go to expensive cities to find the work they want. Right? And maybe if that stops being the case, right? Maybe if they don’t need to go to those super expensive cities, maybe if it’s a choice. Maybe a lot of people will actually choose to go to less populated places where lower salaries can actually give them better quality of life.

Joe Giglio:

Yeah. I agree. That makes the assumption though that it’s easy for people to pick up and leave. And

Luis:

Oh, of course. Of course.

Joe Giglio:

There are –

Luis:

Never is.

Joe Giglio:

Yeah, it never is. And there are people that still prefer the advantages that a big that a big city will give you. So I think there’s a lot of people that have popped up that are looking to move to a more rural location. But along with that typically comes a lower salary to start off with. So that gets into another discussion about, do we pay people based on their role or where they live? And if you move to a cheaper part of the country and you get your salary cut, then that’s going to upset you also. So that’s another can of worms there that doesn’t have an easy answer.

Luis:

Yeah, definitely. I mean, for many of these companies, right? Maybe even for all the companies that were forced to transition to remote work. It’s not an easy task, right? You do have to have some sympathy for them. Because change is always really hard. So no matter how good your intentions are or how forward looking you are. I want to tie this into something that you created, which is Remote Scorecard, right? Why did you feel the need for remotescorecard.com?

Joe Giglio:

Well, like I mentioned earlier, remote work is a spectrum. And I don’t think it’s enough to say your company supports remote work. Just like it’s not enough to say that you’re hoping to find a remote job. There’s a whole spectrum there. And you need to really be clear about what you’re offering and what you’re looking for. And in my research, I’ve found that companies with the best remote culture utilize about a dozen key concepts and workflows. In our Remote Scorecard, you could create an entry for your company. And we use an algorithm to give your company a remote score. Job seekers or anybody doing research on your company can see the answers to these questions and your score. And think of it as kind of a Glassdoor for remote companies.

So like I mentioned earlier about the remote work spectrum. If you’re letting me work from home one day a week, maybe that’s good enough. Or I’m somebody who’s on the other end of the spectrum, and I’m looking to backpack across Europe, and work on my time. So where is your company on that spectrum? And how do you rank against top remote cultures? That’s the point of Remote Scorecard.

Luis:

All right. So you built it for yourself for other people, for … What’s the response been? I think it’s a great idea. What has the response been?

Joe Giglio:

I built it and launched it last year. I had a few people sign up. The response has not been that great so far. But I recently relaunched it about a week ago, and I’m starting to advertise it again. So hopefully I’ll start to get some more traction on it. I think there’s a real value there, because I just think that people really need to understand, how remote are you. If you can use, “Remote,” that way. “How remote are you? How remote is the role? How remote is the company?” And I think a resource like this can be helpful in getting those answers.

Luis:

Absolutely. I would actually encourage listeners of the podcast to go there and submit your businesses. Because it’s a cool concept.

Joe Giglio:

You can do it anonymously just in case you don’t want to put your name on it. You don’t have to register, you can do it anonymously if you want. Or if you want to own your company, then you can register and put your name on it too.

Luis:

Nice. All right. So let’s circle back to management and to the challenges of remote managers. You also created a tool for that. You call it Goal Puppy. Would you like to talk a bit about that and what brought to its … What led to its creation?

Joe Giglio:

Sure. One of the other things I experienced as somebody who worked remotely for companies that were not remote-first, is that it can be very challenging for remote managers to build trust and alignment with their team members. And this can lead to regretted attrition, frustration, people not feeling like their manager has their backs. People feeling like their career has stalled. Feeling like their goals are not being recognized, because they have not really built any type of relationship with their manager. And with Goal Puppy, managers can work with their team to define, refine and understand date driven goals. And it takes combined features from a goal tracker, a ticketing system, agile development. And it has iteration and retrospectives. And in recent times, you might have heard the phrase, “The output is more important than input.”

Luis:

Yeah.

Joe Giglio:

Since productivity is what really matters. And at remote-first companies, it’s really not as important to be at your desk for set hours and look busy. Your productivity is going to be based on date driven goals, milestones, deliverables. And Goal Puppy can help you define that with your manager. So when it comes time for employee reviews and recognition, and hopefully merit increases, “Well, here’s my list of goals that we worked on during the year. This is what we agreed to. And this was the outcome.” And that’s the point of Goal Puppy.

Luis:

Right. So how does it … So one big thing that I feel that remote companies, even remote-first and fully remote companies struggle, maybe even more so is the situation of documentation, right? What you’re talking a bit with Goal Puppy is actually documenting productivity in a way. But there’s a whole lot of, I guess, knowledge formalization usually in written, but sometimes in audio or video, right? That seems that remote companies can’t escape, right? Because basically every process, every system, everything needs to be recorded, registered, maintained, and updated. Sometimes they get the feeling at above a chief remote officer, right? What remote companies really need is a chief archivist or a chief wiki updater, or something like that. Because I really can’t feel that there’s a good … That anyone has solved the documentation problem yet. It’s feels that everything really needs to be documented to a much higher degree in a remote company than a no remote company. So what would your thoughts be about that?

Joe Giglio:

Yeah. The best example I could give of that is probably GitLab and Basecamp. And GitLab recently went public. And I don’t know if they’re the largest remote-first public company out there. But this is a company that has preached about their … Their handbook is online. It’s an incredible amount of reading. Very thorough.

Luis:

It’s biblical. It’s quite biblical.

Joe Giglio:

That’s a good word. But that’s what they preach is documentation. If anybody asks you a question, you’re supposed to always answer with a doc. Why? Because somebody else probably has the same question. So as a matter of efficiency, instead of answering it verbally, or in addition to verbally, maybe add it to a document. And now it could live there, so the next time somebody asks that question, we could refer them to documentation.

Luis:

Except it does feel that that really creates the need to … I don’t know. Maybe I’m being a bit too in transition with this. But it does feel that then your work, a big chunk of your work is spent documenting your work and documenting your systems, and not actually doing so much your work.

Joe Giglio:

Well, they say that one of the most important superpowers is going to be reading and writing in these great remote cultures. You spend a lot of time in documentation and keeping documentation updated. There’ll be some people that say, “Oh, that just slows us down.” And it is slower, but it’s more deliberate. And think of it as an investment. It’s slower upfront. But when the next person needs to answer this question, then it’s written down and hopefully been updated by somebody. Every place I’ve ever worked, we’ve had documentation. But it was really nobody’s job to keep it all updated. So you end up then with multiple repos of documentation. They’re all outdated. Nobody knows what’s true. So you start another repo.

Luis:

Yeah.

Joe Giglio:

So if you’re really going to push it to the GitLab level, then reading, writing, and keeping not just documentation, but updated documentation is going to be critical. But this is a company that again has been very successful. They figured it out. And it’s all out there to read if you’re willing to push it that far.

Luis:

Right. Okay.

Joe Giglio:

You hear the phrase, “A manager of one.” That’s a phrase I’ve heard from Basecamp. And I think from GitLab where when they make hires, they’re looking for people that can be heads down in documentation, and read and digest all of this. And hopefully be able to contribute to it without a lot of handholding.

Luis:

Got it. Got it. Okay. So Joe, let’s talk a bit … Let’s shift gears and talk a bit about tools now. Now that we’ve talked a bit generically about tools before. But I’m curious about your process, right? What are the tools that make up your virtual office? What are the tabs and apps that are open as soon as you open your laptop or boot up your desktop when you begin a day of work?

Joe Giglio:

Well, it’s typically going to be going to be Chrome with all my different Gmails. It’ll be a check-in on Remote Scorecard and Goal Puppy. See if I had any sign ups, see if anybody needs any support. I’ve recently moved move to VS Code, which is a text editor for software development. I have a Safari browser and a Firefox browser that I use for testing alternate browsers. I’ll check in on Twist. I have some documentary on there that I’ve been using. I’ve not used Slack in a while. And I use Zoom for real-time calls as needed. Also very big on Google Docs. You have all these different competitors that are coming out, but I think Google Docs is so embedded. I doubt they’re going anywhere soon. But I typically have a Google Doc open working on something. Another company I’d like to mention is called Almanac. And when you talk about-

Luis:

Almanac.

Joe Giglio:

… documentation, they call themselves the GitHub of documentation. So instead of always having to start from scratch to create a handbook, or to create a policy, you log into Almanac where somebody has already created this doc. And then you make a copy of it, and adapt it for your needs. That’s also a very interesting and helpful application when you get into these remote-first, documentation-first environment.

Luis:

I mean, that’s a bit like a GitHub, right? Or GitLab implementation. You kind of do a fork of a document. Right?

Joe Giglio:

Exactly. Yep.

Luis:

Yeah. All right. So let’s talk a bit about teams, and managing teams. And there’s this question that I like to ask, right? If you add 100 bucks to spend with each person on your team, and you can’t cheat by giving them money or gift cards, you need to buy the same thing for everyone, what would you give them? And your goal would be to improve their remote work experience, let’s say.

Joe Giglio:

Okay. That’s a good question. I would probably … I’d have to look at my library, but I would probably to get them a copy of The Rework Book by the team from Basecamp. I admire the remote culture that they’ve documented over the years. That’s one of my favorites. On the equipment side, I think it’s important to have proper lighting and to have an external microphone. So I’m stretching my $100 budget a bit. But I think-

Luis:

Sure.

Joe Giglio:

… lighting, microphone and a book to get your mindset right around remote work. And being able to go on camera, and have a decent setup, and look and sound good, I think is important.

Luis:

All right. Those are good recommendations. What about yourself? What have you bought for yourself in the past one year or six months even that has considerably improved your remote work situation, your work life balance? Whatever metric you value?

Joe Giglio:

Well, I have a Blue Yeti external microphone that I thought was good. But I’ve heard some people say it doesn’t sound that good. So maybe that was not a great investment afterwards.

Luis:

I don’t know. I have one. I stand by mine. I don’t know what happened that we needed to stop using yours. But yeah, I was getting a lot of – So I don’t know what. It’s probably a setup thing. Right? But I can definitely recommend it. So please give it another shot.

Joe Giglio:

Yeah. It’s interesting. I’ve learned that it’s … It has pretty good reviews out there. But I’ve learned in using it that it’s, let’s say, too sensitive. It picks up any bird that’s outside, any noise in the house. So it’s almost like it picks up too much.

Luis:

Really?

Joe Giglio:

I bought on Amazon, again a cheap lighting rig I’ll call it, that lights from the opposite side of the desk. Because if you have light coming from behind you, you get that black light effect.

Luis:

Yeah.

Joe Giglio:

You look very silhouetted, I guess is the term.

Luis:

Yes.

Joe Giglio:

So having a light in front and above me I think again, helps present me a little bit better on video calls.

Luis:

Okay. All right. So you already kind of answered my next question. But let’s see where it takes us, right? What books would you gift to someone wanting to improve their remote work situation, remote work career? Either as an individual or as a leader at their company. What books would you give them? And you already lit the candle for Rework, right? By the Basecamp guys. A book that I wholly recommend. Would you think about something else?

Joe Giglio:

Let’s see. I think one of the first remote books that I read is called The Year Without Pants. I have you ever read that one?

Luis:

No, I do want to. It’s got a great title. I’m afraid that I’m going to be disappointed by the content after that title.

Joe Giglio:

Well, it has a great title and a picture of red underwear on the cover. So that was an eye catcher. So that was again, before remote work was hot and in. This documented somebody’s travels through remote work at Automatic. And Automatic is the company behind WordPress that were again, one of the grandparents of remote work. And this was a book that I don’t know if they put it out, or somebody working with them put it out. But that’s a good one. Another book, Remote, Office Not Required. And that’s going to be by … I think that’s by the Basecamp crew as well.

Luis:

Yep.

Joe Giglio:

My own book of course, Making Remote Work, Work for you. That’s a Kindle book. It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work. That’s another Basecamp book. Zapier also had a book. I’m trying to find the name of it now. And we could find it on Amazon … It’s a Kindle book.

I mean, it might even be free. It’s a few years old. And I think some of the applications they mentioned might be a little dated at this point. But again, they were a young company that started with no office, had remote work in their DNA. And they document how they work. And I think that’s an interesting read. Another one called Remote Work Revolution, Succeeding From Anywhere. I thought that was pretty good.

Luis:

Yeah.

Joe Giglio:

And see if we got one more for you here. Yeah. Another one called Remote Work, Redesign Processes, Practices and Strategies. That’s by Chris Dyer. That’s another pretty good one. So you can have a nice library of remote workbooks for sure.

Luis:

Got it. Well, it’s always nice reading, right? It’s always nice reading. And I do think that the Basecamp ones, right? They really are the starting point. But it does seem that there are more and more books out there that let you level up. Right? So I’m definitely going to … We’re have these on the show notes, by the way. So anyone can easily grab them. And I’m going to give them a go as well. Because for example, The Year Without Pants is certainly … You’ve pumped me again for trying to read that book.

Joe Giglio:

Yeah.

Luis:

All right.

Joe Giglio:

If you go to Remote Scorecard, on the upper right, there’s other resources there. There’s a list of those books on there.

Luis:

Got it. Got it. Okay. So let’s move on to the final question. This one has a bit of a longer setup, right? So please bear with me. It assumes that we are back in a situation where we can happily get together, and have a good dinner with many, many people. Which I know is not the case in some parts of the world yet. But hope remains. Hope springs eternal. So let’s say that that’s the case. And that you are hosting a dinner where in attendance are going to be all those big companies that you mentioned, that we’ve had on in our minds while we were talking during this podcast. You’re inviting the decision makers to the dinner.

Joe Giglio:

Oh, I lost you.

Luis:

And the topic of the night is remote work and the future of work. Now, the twist is that the dinner is happening at the Chinese restaurant. So you as the host get to pick the message that comes inside the fortune cookie. What would your fortune cookie message be?

Joe Giglio:

That’s a good one. I would probably go with, and have to work on the wording a little bit. But I’d probably say remote work is here, and it’s not going anywhere. How will you adapt?

Luis:

“How will you adapt?”

Joe Giglio:

Yep.

Luis:

Okay.

Joe Giglio:

You’re talking about company leadership, right? They’re at this –

Luis:

Yes. Exactly.

Joe Giglio:

Yeah. So I think that ties back to what we spoke about before that a lot of companies realize they need to adapt. And they’re not quite sure how, and they’re not quite sure how far they’re willing to push it. So I think that topic, you could talk for days on that. And try to do some soul searching and really figure out, where do you stand on remote work? How will you include it in your company culture? And how far will you go? I think that you could talk about that forever.

Luis:

All right. Sounds fantastic. And a great conversation starter. Though now it is time to close our own conversation. It was a pleasure having you, Joe. An absolute pleasure. I had a lot of fun. And I would ask you before you leave, please tell our listeners, how can they follow up with you? How can they continue the conversation? And where can they find you and your product?

Joe Giglio:

Sure. Well, I want to thank you again for inviting me. I appreciated our time together. The easiest way to probably find me, we mentioned the website a couple of times. You could find me on chiefremoteofficer.com. That has a list of all my projects. That has a way to email me. You could also find me on Twitter as Chief Remote. And I’m on LinkedIn as Joe Giglio out of Raleigh, North Carolina. I’m happy to connect with everybody. I’m always looking to connect with quality people. And I always like to learn about the new projects that you’re working on. So please reach out.

Luis:

All right. Please do, ladies and gentlemen. It was again, Joe, a pleasure having you. And yeah, I think we’re closing here. Ladies and gentlemen, this was the DistantJob Podcast. Your podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. I was your host, Luis. And my guest was Joe Giglio. You see you next week.

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.

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 you 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. Se you see you next week on the next episode of DistantJob Podcast

Since the pandemic began, thousands of companies have been forced to implement a remote work model to survive. And while some have thrived, others have failed at managing their teams remotely.

During this podcast episode, Chief Remote Office, Joe Giglio, shares why big companies usually struggle most in building healthy remote cultures. He also reveals interesting tips and insights to help managers lead their remote teams more efficiently.

Highlights:

  • Why do some big companies fail at building a remote culture?
  • The importance of recognizing remote employees in hybrid teams
  • Why many startups are better at creating a remote-friendly environment?
  • How he became Chief Remote Officer
  • Why do some companies fail at implementing a remote model?

Book Recommendations:

 

Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE so you won’t miss all of the other interesting episodes that we have coming up every Monday!

Are you our next superstar remote developer?

You live, breathe and eat code, and have fun figuring out how to solve problems. And you love living in South America or Eastern Europe. But you don’t feel as fulfilled as your friends in North America.

I NEED A JOB