Rose Barrett is the owner of Folio Digital and a co-founder of Grow Remote – the people behind Ireland’s first remote work conference, and devoted to helping remote workers from all the world connect and grow together.
Luis Magalhaes: Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the DistantJob Podcast. This is your host, Luis, and today I am joined by Rose Barrett.
Luis Magalhaes: So Rose Barrett has been a remote worker for a long time, but she has also been a remote leader because she has her own companies where she manages remote employees. She’s been helping people with that and is a co-founder of Grow Remote. Did I get that right, Rose?
Rose Barrett: Well, almost there, Luis. So I have that interesting situation when I’m speaking to people about remote work where I work remotely, I have my own business, but I am aren’t actually a remote worker. As far as Grow Remote goes, I suppose we would describe ourselves as a movement that started in Ireland and has kind of gone international. That might be the stipend of where we’re at.
Luis Magalhaes: So you actually are located, but you work with people. Your people work remotely, is that it?
Rose Barrett: Me, myself, my operation’s quite small, so I work with some other consultants and freelancers. So my actual experience on the management of people, I have done some but it wouldn’t be to the scale or other people. Really, my big involvement has been in Grow Remote. Will I give a little background of where we came from, Luis?
Luis Magalhaes: Sure. Sure. Please do. Let’s start there.
Rose Barrett: You’ve got in contact with us through Tracy and she really, she’s our lynch pin. She’s one of these people that in the job that she does, she was very much involved in community development, so she has a position with one of the banks here in Ireland. But outside of that, she’s doing a huge amount to support over the years the start up sector in Ireland, to really kind of promote collaboration and join dot’s and I find a lot of the time it’s dot joining that really gets huge successes.
Rose Barrett: So she was looking along with other people at how we could help local, smaller economies in Ireland, the local communities, and rural regeneration has been a big conversation. I know it has been in Portugal as well and plenty of other places. So in one area that was really kind of starting to come out was the co-working space. So co-working spaces are starting to pop up all over Ireland and some of them are just absolutely straightaway great amount of numbers of businesses and hot desks being used. But some of the others, they’re a bit slower, and Tracy started talking to these co-working spaces saying what do you need? How can we help you increase the numbers? And we started to realize that basically there was a certain amount of people out there remote working but they didn’t necessarily know about each other. Businesses didn’t. So there was just generally a lack of knowledge around remote working that it was a possibility, and that’s where the idea for Grow Remote came out.
Rose Barrett: So a couple of different people were brought in, Tracy took the phone to me and said hey, would you like to do something crazy? I don’t think she quite put it that way, but I was just thinking of course. This is Tracy. This is what she does. And we started out as a group of us in WhatsApp, all volunteering from various different backgrounds. Corporate backgrounds, community backgrounds, and it was like what are we gonna do? And the very first thing that we decided we would do is to have a conference and that happened September of last year.
Luis Magalhaes: All right. So how did that go? How did that remote conference go?
Rose Barrett: Oh, Luis, it was amazing. No, I won’t lie, we were all a bit nervous because-
Luis Magalhaes: Was it just a lot of people sitting in a room all looking at their laptops?
Rose Barrett: Lord, no. Not at all. But the nerves, okay, so first of all, we like a challenge.
Luis Magalhaes: Yeah.
Rose Barrett: What happened was the idea was come upon that we would ask communities in Ireland to basically pitch to host this because the whole idea being we don’t want everything happening in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick, the major urban centers where things are already happening. We wanted to show people that it’s possible to do big business stuff all over, obviously once you have a decent internet connection and whatever other resources you need. So we had, I think in around 40 pitches come in. Through the team, we whittled them down, came down to three. Tracy visited the three locations and Tralee just came out on top. So that’s a town down in Kerry. They gave us the hotel to use. They just gave us so much support.
Rose Barrett: And then on top of that, we had people like John Riordan come in from Shopify and he spoke at it. We’ve just had an amazing amount of speakers. One of the guys from Microsoft conference called in, and then one of our own team, Owen, couldn’t actually make it on the day, but he was represented in the form of a robot, so he was able to go around and interact with the people.
Luis Magalhaes: Oh, that’s really nice. I actually want to talk about that because we’ve tried doing that several times and there were always network issues. Do you know how any details of how they solved that? Was that the problem ever?
Rose Barrett: I’m going to have to put you in contact with Shawn as far as the technical end of things goes there because he was our tech whiz as far as getting the robot up and running, and I know he had a bit of work to do on the day.
Luis Magalhaes: Yeah, so I seriously wonder because we’ve been trying to do that for a couple of times and so far the best thing we’ve been able to do is just have the robot sit at our booth really close to our WiFi dongle. It’s like he’s tethered. The poor robot can’t go around the show properly.
Rose Barrett: Well now I will say it was our first year. We were never the intention to be this huge conference and on the day, I think we were at 150 people there, which we were just delighted as well.
Luis Magalhaes: Oh, wow. That’s great.
Rose Barrett: It was people running co-working spaces coming in from communities. It was business already doing remote working looking to connect with others. It was ones that were considering it and there was one particular moment for me that I went yes, this is what it’s about. A guy stood up towards the end of the day, we opened out the floor, what questions did you have? What would you like to see come from this? And he said, “We have a company currently based in Dublin.” Small enough company. In and around, I think it was about 12 employees. Young families. “We’re actually interested in actually looking at moving everything to somewhere else in Ireland. We want a better quality of life for our employees and for their families.” And a chap who had just started up a co-working space stood up and went, “We need to talk.”
Luis Magalhaes: Great.
Rose Barrett: In that moment, we thought, yes. This is part of what we wanted to do.
Luis Magalhaes: So I actually want to talk a bit about that. Going a bit back, I know that the lynch pin was Tracy, but I want to get a bit back to, well, so I call this, it’s not a term made up by me. I believe I borrowed it from him first, but this is more or less called geoarbitrage, meaning that people work in places that are less expensive and have better quality of life while working for companies that are based in places where the money is more concentrate. So they get the better salary, but they can make the best out of it.
Luis Magalhaes: So it’s like if I work in Lisbon with the bad salary from New York, I can live pretty well in Lisbon because salaries in New York are just, even the lowest New York salary is really, it gives you access to a lot in Lisbon and stuff like that. Obviously Lisbon is a big city. We’re even talking about rural towns, right? To me, this is one of the most important pieces on how remote work helps the world, because it allows you to redistribute the richness, the capital, redistribute the capital in a very friendly way. A way that’s good for both companies because they’re getting great at best talent, better talent at obviously cheaper, and for the talent because the talent is able to make their money stretch because they live in places where they have a higher quality of life for less.
Luis Magalhaes: So I feel that this is a big part of your motivation, isn’t it?
Rose Barrett: It is, but it’s really interesting. So I come from a science background. So I started, the variables all start to intertwine quite a lot here. We are definitely coming at it very much from a community development end of things. We all, pretty much most of us, I would say in the 14 of Grow Remote would be from smaller communities in Ireland and now saying that, actually Grow Remote has kind of taken on a life itself and we have a couple of chapters in Portugal and Spain and the US, so it really is starting to take hold. But one of the biggest issues were crisis we are facing in Ireland at the moment is the housing crisis.
Luis Magalhaes: Yeah.
Rose Barrett: And I’m sure you’ve heard tail of this. To try and rent something, even fairly basic up in Dublin is just such a huge chunk of people’s wages.
Luis Magalhaes: Oh yeah, absolutely.
Rose Barrett: That’s now increased where it’s spread to Cork, Limerick, and Galway. Where in the past, somewhere like Limerick would have been more of an option for people because it was more affordable. People are being priced out.
Luis Magalhaes: I actually have a friend that has that same problem because she works for Google, but she works for Google in Dublin and she’s from Portugal. I’m like if the only let her work from, she works at the computer, so there’s no reason she needs to be there. But if they only let her be in Portugal, how much would her wage stretch? How much more would their stretch?
Rose Barrett: And how much more content would she be with her job, and her quality of life would improve, so therefore her productivity would improve.
Luis Magalhaes: Exactly.
Rose Barrett: Yeah.
Luis Magalhaes: Exactly.
Rose Barrett: It’s funny, I’ve just been reading the book from the 13 Seven Signals guys. Remote: Office Not Required.
Luis Magalhaes: Oh yeah.
Rose Barrett: And I kind of had to laugh because one of the big conversation pieces that keep coming up for us is we hear these stories of people being told that they can’t work remotely, and going back then a few months later where there’s been a change of management and all of a sudden there’s no problem. I understand there’s definitely businesses out there and positions that it doesn’t suit, but there are businesses out there and organizations, it’s being stopped because of the individual biases of a particular manager or maybe CEO, and that’s such a pity.
Luis Magalhaes: Look, I think from the moment that your job is done from a computer, there really is no reason you can’t be remote.
Rose Barrett: Or even remote flexible working, that there’s some option to work from home or a co-working space a certain amount of the time. I know for us as well, we know that we’re very focused on family people because they’re people who are generally further out in their careers, they’re looking for a little bit of something more stable. They will tend to be the kind of people that are suitable for remote working as well because they’re at that point in their career that they have the experience and if those people want to be able to drop the kids to school in the morning, pick them up in the evening, have time for hobbies and that, be able to live somewhere they can either afford to rent or buy at a more reasonable rate, and then for us, that feeds into getting communities to be more sustainable in themselves as well. I mean, really, I find it hard sometimes to pull these individual variables apart because they all interplay some.
Luis Magalhaes: Yeah, but no, there are definitely better arguments and it’s important because, look, this is a podcast pointed at the audience, the audience of the Distant Job Podcast, all those lovely people that are listening are mostly people in managerial positions and leadership positions, and sometimes they are interested in remote, but they haven’t made the jump yet.
Rose Barrett: Yes.
Luis Magalhaes: But I really want to go through, because you’ve been in the trenches so to say, I really wanted to get some actionable advice for them, and I want to start into how to make people feel that they have a safe career because I think that the big gap for people that are considering moving, as you say, moving to more rural area is that they feel that okay, so I have a job now, but if suddenly I’m out of this job, what will happen to me? What are the resources that they have at my disposal? Something that I really liked, that I saw on the Growth Remote website that I’ll link in the show notes, was that you created a whole chart that shows how people can actually make their remote work be a career choice and not fear that if they’re off a job, there’s plenty more fish in the sea, so to say.
Luis Magalhaes: But I wanted to bring this back to, what is some specific advice that you would give to people hiring remote employees that they can take to make their employees feel secure enough to leave a big city and move to a rural area?
Rose Barrett: I’m gonna just, even before I get into that Luis, just mention if any businesses out there are wondering if remote is right for them, you can reach out to us for sure because one of the things we’ve been doing is we’ve been matching businesses who are already doing remote, ones who are wondering about it and want to ask all the difficult questions. How do their handle HR, the legal side of things, all of that, and we’re working on more. We’re very young. We’re really [inaudible 00:14:02] summer last year. So that’s one of the things we’re working on.
Rose Barrett: As far as them making their own employees or future remote workers feel secure, I think it’s about having very solid processes in place, making sure all of those things are answered and are very transparent about it. I’m sure I am repeating what others have said. I know I am.
Luis Magalhaes: No, but that’s good. It bears repeating. Look, that’s part of the whole offering of, let’s say Distant Job, because it really fits. So we are a recruitment company, but the thing that we do differently from other recruitment companies is that we actually handle the whole HR and legal part.
Rose Barrett: Yes.
Luis Magalhaes: Because that’s one of the big blockers. Because look, for a company that only has offices in the US, let’s say, it’s a lot of work to figure out how to make a proper legally binding contract, how to end up payments in a way that conforms to [inaudible 00:15:00] US law when the person working, the law of the country where the person is working, all of that, it’s a bit of a headache for a small or medium sized business fully based in the US if they wanted to get someone from let’s say, Ukraine or Ireland or Portugal. Part of what we at Distant Job do is we handle all of that. So it’s definitely worth pointing out that that is a barrier. So how do you [crosstalk 00:15:26].
Rose Barrett: The thing of it is having the conversation at least and really sketching out, and give you a very good sense of what the difficulties might be, the challenges, but the potential as well, I think leading on from this is going to be question of culture and with culture comes the question of trust.
Luis Magalhaes: Yeah.
Rose Barrett: And for me, again and again, I keep thinking, you know what? Most companies are ahead of the curve on this because they have to get culture right. They have to get trust right. Because it’s not going to work otherwise. Whereas other businesses talk the talk, but they don’t necessarily walk the walk. And just going through those processes will make things so much more solid in your business and you know them and you have to be able to clearly communicate all of that with your time. It’s constantly evolving.
Luis Magalhaes: So how would you define that kind of trust? What would you measure when you get to the company and you are trying to figure out if they’re ready for remote or not?
Rose Barrett: Probably, I couldn’t speak to my own experience, but I can speak to ideas I have, because again, I don’t come from a corporate background. But as far as, I would say that being able to understand that it should be about the value and the work out push and not the ability to constantly see what your employee is doing. So then, I guess, really, you’re going to be talking to businesses about being clear on what their KPI’s are. What are they actually trying to work towards? Do their managers care more about being able to know where their employees are at all times? I know there’s a lot of stuff happening as far as companies coming up where people can track their remote employees and watch them, I really think that’s counterintuitive.
Rose Barrett: If you can’t trust that person to work themselves and be self motivated, then you’ve made a bad hire. They need to be talking to you guys and make sure they get that hire right before they even go any further. But yeah, the business needs to be very clear on what kind of outputs they’re looking for, and they should know that already. That should be in place, if it’s in an office setting already, and then just be able to bring that out. To me, then, it’s more about the communication, the general remote processes being in place, and making sure that there’s trust there and that you are communicating that trust.
Luis Magalhaes: Yeah. Absolutely. So that sounds good. That makes a lot of sense to me. So you talked before about blockers. So apart from this HR and legal part that we’ve already discussed, what are the biggest blockers of the companies that you talk to when it comes to the possibility of them hiring remote people?
Rose Barrett: They don’t understand what remote work is. It’s that simple for a lot of them. They just don’t understand it. I had a bit of a conversation with a chap on Twitter yesterday and I happened to spot a thread that was going on already, and he was jumping in saying, someone had made a bit of a sweeping generalization about remote work, that it was going to be the answer to the future of work. I read that, and I’m pretty sure what the original poster meant was basically it’s going to be great for anybody that can do that job remotely, it answers a lot of societal issues. This guy obviously took it very much at face value and then jumped in saying, barbers and chefs can’t work remotely.
Luis Magalhaes: No, but they will be replaced by robots in 20 years.
Rose Barrett: I know, right? He’s particular, but I was trying to read into that tweet saying what’s this guy, where’s his confusion? He was equating remote working with digital nomads.
Luis Magalhaes: Yeah.
Rose Barrett: And there’s a whole association around that and I know we have a chapter in Spain now and she said that one of her issues is she wants to make sure that she’s supporting remote workers. They want to get a more sustainable economy happening there, so they want more remote workers. They let the digital nomads do what the digital nomads are going to do.
Luis Magalhaes: Yeah.
Rose Barrett: And we had a thing where one of the organizations we’re looking to, we’ve had a huge amount of support and partnership with various gold medal organizations, community organizations all around Ireland and as it is, it’s going more toward the European end of things as well.
Luis Magalhaes: Yep.
Rose Barrett: A person in a very high position at one point said, “Oh, but that’s going to be no good for our community. The jobs won’t be here.” Just not even understanding the basics of the economics. So people who own businesses are very smart people, but they don’t know what they don’t know, and if they don’t understand the potential economic impact to their own business and the quality of life impact and economic, potential impact for their employees, they can’t really think about it and how it might or might not work for their own businesses.
Rose Barrett: And then even, I think, I know myself, you come to new challenges in your business, a new point to grow. It all seems like there’s so much out there, that there’s still too much to handle and too much to wrap your head around. That’s why I like the idea of being able to match a business that’s already gone remote, or has an element of remote to what they do with one that’s considering it and they can have a proper conversation and obviously great if they’re in the same industry ’cause they can really speak to particular things that they come across.
Luis Magalhaes: Of course. Absolutely, and I see the point. So would you say, just to check if I got this right, would you say that for our purposes, the difference between the digital nomads, remote work for digital nomads is great because they get their freedom and they get to travel, et cetera, but our point here, at this point, what I’m trying to achieve and I feel that’s what you’re trying to achieve as well is really enriching. Enriching rural communities, enriching parts of the world that don’t necessarily are getting decent buy off the value that’s being created elsewhere.
Rose Barrett: And it goes back through the way because the thing of what we see, there’s one particular area that I think of in Ireland is Sligo. Sligo has really shown itself as a tech hub. The IDA has really put investment up there. So there’s firms and organizations coming in there, investing on the ground, and putting in offices and manufacturing and whatnot, but there are also Hot Jar have employees up there, Shopify, Wayfair, there’s all these different companies who are, now actually I’ll have to get into the whole chapter end of things, Luis, and tell you about that, but we have chapter [inaudible 00:22:15] since last November.
Rose Barrett: Our largest chapter is in Castlebar, which is over in northwest Mayo and there’s over 80 people in that chapter. So the reason they want to live there is the quality of life stuff. It’s the going surfing and hiking and they don’t need to live in Dublin. The internet is just as good there and the company knows that they’re gonna get the value from those people even more so because they have the quality of life there. So again, it just starts to circle back. The guys, I’m smiling here, is the guys are saying in the Remote: No Office Required, they say win-win. I think it’s win-win-win-win-win-win.
Luis Magalhaes: Yeah, I agree with you. I agree with you. It’s better all around. It’s better because it really is, again, it comes back to that concept of geoarbitrage. Something that’s not a great value in a very rich location is a really good value in a rural location for both ends.
Rose Barrett: Totally. Totally.
Luis Magalhaes: And at the same time it’s great for that locality as well because if the people are living there, they’re spending that money there and they’re being part of the community, places that were empty before are now being filled, et cetera. It really is good. I personally think that remote work, it is really one of the best things that we can do for the future of economy and quality of life all around.
Rose Barrett: I couldn’t agree more and there’s a reason why a bunch of us came together. We believe so strongly in that. It’s funny, I’ve been thinking over the last few weeks, how did I kind of find myself there? And I’ve been doing bits of community stuff for years. Do you know, I like to get involved. There’s the whole feel good factor and just working with people on projects. I haven’t liked commutes ever. I grew up in a family business and we owned a bar in west Ireland, so there was no commuting. We lived above the bar, and since then, I just don’t like the idea of commutes and we haven’t even mentioned that. I hear stories every few days in Ireland of people taking on three to four hour commutes daily.
Rose Barrett: There’s one particular county in Ireland, in the middle of the country called Longford, and Longford would have been known as one of the most economically depressed counties in the country for a long time. But rental and property prices have shot through the roof there in the last couple years because people are commuting from Dublin. It’s scary. Then there was a politician there about a month ago that lives down in the Wicklow end of things, so it will be south of Dublin, showing a small video in the morning of people commuting to Dublin. It was basically a car park of cars on the motorway.
Luis Magalhaes: Yeah.
Rose Barrett: That just turns my stomach and you’re thinking, how many people in those cars need to be there? There’s a co-working space in a place called Gorey that have just done amazing things, the hatch lab there, and they’ve put a billboard saying if you’re commuting and you could be sitting at home, come talk to us. The whole idea of we will help you broach the conversation.
Luis Magalhaes: Yeah, that’s a great place to put that out there.
Rose Barrett: Yeah.
Luis Magalhaes: So I would add, however, that if you’re stuck in a commute, I would recommend The Distant Job podcast.
Rose Barrett: I have to say, it was through commuting that I really got into podcasts initially. So there’s silver linings.
Luis Magalhaes: Yeah, exactly. There are silver linings, but I do want to circle back because we kind of got talking about culture and we kind of got side tracked in a good way. But what would your advice be to people in leadership and management positions to make their remote workers feel that this is a safe career move, basically? Being remote doesn’t really mean that they are more expendable, because this is a feeling they get a lot.
Rose Barrett: Again, communication. Making sure that people are included and that it’s very transparent. I think also helping people to understand that there’s a commitment within the company to remote work because I know, let’s be very honest, here in Ireland at the moment, unemployment is at a very low level. So it’s an ideal time for us to do what we’re doing because we’re pushing, the employers have a need for the talent. So if they want to get to a bigger talent pool, remote working is a great way to do that. But then, say, if things take a dip again, and they suddenly decide that they don’t need people. I can obviously see why a remote worker would feel insecure, but if companies can re-communicate the fact that they have invested in their remote workers, having the solid processes, but communicating the fact that the processes are there as well, I think is essential.
Rose Barrett: Just having that general conversation with people and making sure in contracts, your contract is written up solidly. I think there’s gonna be really interesting conversations around HR and contracting for remote work in the coming years. I was gonna say we’re lucky. Yeah, we’re lucky, but the work’s been done.
Rose Barrett: The Irish government have been hugely supportive, so as Grow Remote has been growing, we’ve been meeting people along the way and various politicians, and there’s one particular politician in the [inaudible 00:27:52] there and he invited Tracy to speak in front of a government committee in their office and we’ve had representatives up there since. But they have actually put in place to drop report and remote working. So having stuff in at government level as well, it is properly [inaudible 00:28:14] and I know that’s not community, I’m sorry, that’s not company based, but I think having your government actually supporting remote work, and then have companies working alongside government, that employees can see there’s a level of security there.
Rose Barrett: But I think initially it’s communication and it’s keeping things very, very transparent.
Luis Magalhaes: Yeah, okay. So obviously that’s great. I would say that government support is really important because when it comes to enforcing a contract, at the end of the day, that’s the government. That’s a governmental institution, right?
Rose Barrett: Yeah.
Luis Magalhaes: So hopefully you don’t need to have a pin. A governmental institution help you enforce your contract. We don’t want things to get to that level but it’s nice to know that it’s there.
Rose Barrett: Absolutely. Then as well, the governments, all governments will attempt to support different initiatives at different times.
Luis Magalhaes: Yeah.
Rose Barrett: There are some supports out there with the Irish government for remote working, but what we’re hearing from companies on the ground is they’re very hard to access. The paperwork is very tough and it seems to be a little bit arbitrary whether you’re successful or not. So again, working with the government to make sure their support and companies in turn if they want because from the Irish economies point of view, remote working makes so much sense. It’s gonna take pressure off housing stocks in urban areas. There’s plenty of housing in more rural areas that are sitting idle and then it means, again, that those communities become more sustainable and the government isn’t having to subsidize them so much.
Luis Magalhaes: Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. So I want to go back a bit to the beginning of our conversation when you were talking about your own set up and obviously by now I understood that you don’t work fully remote, but I’m curious about as a leader, as an owner of a company, what kind of split is there between your work remote and your on location remote?
Rose Barrett: Vast majority remote.
Luis Magalhaes: Yeah. What is your work there like?
Rose Barrett: This is funny, actually. I’m currently starting to buy a lot of boxes because I’m moving this week, but I’ll come down to, I’m gonna miss this and laugh ’cause I have to say the office I’m in at the moment is in the house. So I’ll come down, I’ll get my coffee on, I’ll start up the computer and in the last few weeks, I’ve started doing the American morning, [inaudible 00:30:53]. So I’ve been doing a bit of meditation and just trying to get the morning started, but that’s been excellent, building my own American morning has been brilliant and it includes some exercise. Then into the workday, I use Pomodoro and I’ve found that that’s just been game changing in the last couple of years as far as keeping my focus, and also-
Luis Magalhaes: You use an actual, physical Pomodoro?
Rose Barrett: I’m using a Chrome extension.
Luis Magalhaes: Oh, cool.
Rose Barrett: I like to do 35 minutes on, five minutes off. But as part of the American morning, I’ll have sketched out what part, what tasks I’m going to be focusing on for the day.
Luis Magalhaes: When is it that you come into contact with the people that work for you or with you?
Rose Barrett: It depends, really, on the, so certain days I’m more inclined to be doing project work versus, it kind of depends. I generally try to keep say Monday and Tuesday for client work, Wednesdays for project, that kind of an idea, but it will depend on what my particular goals and priorities are for that month or that quarter. And as far as getting in contact, we tend to do mainly over Slack, but we will schedule a call. So I have a web team call on a Tuesday. We do fort nightly stuff from remote and again if there’s more urgent stuff, we’ll hop on a video call on Zoom when required. So there’s kind of stuff scheduled in there throughout the week, then if we feel the need to, when we’re talking to each other across Slack, we’ll schedule a Zoom call then.
Luis Magalhaes: Okay. So that brings me an interesting, to something that I read. I’m not sure, actually, if it was an interview or if it was something that you actually wrote, but I believe it was an interview where you were saying that more and more of your work right now, especially when it comes to dealing with clients, delivering clients, is true video. Now I love video conversation, but it does bring some overhead because it requires some commitment. So how much overhead does video communication bring into your management and how do you strike a balance there? How would you advise people to use video communication without sacrificing their day to the Zoom Gods?
Rose Barrett: I think again it’s knowing that it’s needed. I can hop on the conversation with people in general of, and then of course we’ve got to take into the whole we need human connection beyond just work, so there’s that as well.
Luis Magalhaes: Yeah, of course.
Rose Barrett: I talk with people I’m working with and in Grow Remote ourselves, we have the conversation about do we need to have this call today? There’s that general reminder of can we get a little bit more succinct about what we want to say here? It’s something I’m working on constantly myself.
Luis Magalhaes: All right. That makes sense. So tell me, if you were to hire someone to work with you remotely, what would you look for?
Rose Barrett: Oh, there’s a great question. This is the thing, I think I’m gonna be coming to you guys when hiring new [crosstalk 00:34:26].
Luis Magalhaes: You know, it is our craft and we are experts, but I’m always looking to find out new things.
Rose Barrett: I think a big one for me is somebody who’s very focused on self development and very self aware. For me there needs to be a certain level of self awareness there because I feel if they’re not self aware, they’re not gonna catch something that could be improved upon and then somebody who’s keen to learn as well who has an appetite and understand that learning is a constant. It’s not finished and done when we leave school.
Luis Magalhaes: Interesting, interesting. I can definitely support that. So let’s say you hire this person. How would you onboard them?
Rose Barrett: How I would like to onboard them and how I would actually do it right now would be two different things.
Luis Magalhaes: Give me both. Give me both. We can compare notes. Look, onboarding is something I’m always keen to learn from my guests because I’ve changed my onboarding process several times over the years and again, this is a place where I feel it’s always good to learn what other people do. You never know when you’re coming across really something you haven’t talked about before.
Rose Barrett: Well I’m gonna have to give a shout out to Work Place. I know you had Tammy on recently.
Luis Magalhaes: Yeah, I did, and Laura as well.
Rose Barrett: Yeah, so Laura, they both have been absolutely fantastic for us at Grow Remote. The Work Place’s program for remote workers is just such a great tool to use to help people get those skills in place. It’s great for anybody that’s looking for remote work and wants to be able to show capabilities. But to actually work on it with somebody, I think that was something I would like to do is to work through that program with somebody.
Luis Magalhaes: Yeah, that’s a great recommendation, actually. I’m sure that Tammy will be thrilled to hear that.
Rose Barrett: But it makes a lot of sense because for me then going through a program like that with somebody, it’s giving them confidence, it’s making sure that they kind of have a set idea of expectations on both sides. Another thing that I came across a very long time ago, actually, I trained as an equine scientist, I see you were a dentist in a former life.
Luis Magalhaes: Yeah, it’s weird, isn’t it? How this thing goes.
Rose Barrett: But I did some workshops when I used to work down in the lab in college and one of the workshops we did one day was about drawing up, this was when we were doing our research work, about drawing up a contract between you and your supervisor. And I’ve always thought, I’ve come across this for employers with employees, that the contract isn’t just about the actual work required. It’s communication style. It’s I’m not gonna e-mail you after a certain time in the evening as an employer because I’m not gonna eat into your personal time. I also expect you to leave down your work by a certain time or make sure you get a start. All of those things that maybe are a little more soft cultural stuff that might necessarily be written into an actual legal contract, but to draw up more sort of a culture, expectation contract between me as an employer and an employee.
Luis Magalhaes: Oh yeah. That’s actually a very good idea.
Rose Barrett: There’s a term for that particular kind of [inaudible 00:37:52] but I can’t for the life of me think of it.
Luis Magalhaes: Yeah, well certainly if you’re reminded, just send me a message if you remember it and I’ll be happy to include it. But so saying that and talking about setting up relationship and culture expectations, that’s actually a question I wanted to make [inaudible 00:38:11]. So what are your expectations for deliverables? When you’re at the end, I don’t know when you do your review. If it’s daily, if it’s at the end of the week, but when you’re looking at what was delivered by your team, how do you decide if, I think that this person did great this week or I think that this person could have done better? What kind of criteria do you use there essentially to measure KPIs?
Rose Barrett: So I studied some SCRUM framework and I’ve run a few projects through SCRUM. I tend to use a certain element of that within my own projects. But something that I’ve been doing in projects in general has been drawing up the, so coming into the [inaudible 00:38:58] required say in the next week, and then doing a breakdown of good, better, and best as far as the deliverables go. So if it’s a certain amount of hours being put in a website, or how many pages are turned out or whatever it is, having three sort of potential goals, because a friend of mine, there’s a lady I’m involved, and a mastermind with, this is a few years back, noticed that if she set a set goal for herself, she either got it or she didn’t get it and if she didn’t get it, she was disappointed in herself, and if she did get it, she was just saying yeah, whatever. Onto the next thing. There was no stopping to recognize what was good or wasn’t good about how she’d succeeded. So she started doing this good, better, and best goal, and doing that now-
Luis Magalhaes: That’s super interesting, actually.
Rose Barrett: Yeah, from a psychological point of view, it’s amazing because if you don’t succeed, you don’t succeed and you’ve gotta have a conversation about how and why that happened. Obviously your good is a very achievable goal. Better, slightly more of a stretch, and best is amazing, and if somebody is consistently getting the best, are you going to have to have a conversation about maybe increasing their wages because you want to hold onto them? Or if somebody is consistently, or yourself, not hitting it at all, either are you being not realistic about the goals you’re setting or do you need to have a general conversation about time management?
Luis Magalhaes: So how do you feel about tracking these results, tracking where people land on these targets versus tracking their daily workflow and seeing what they’re doing on a daily basis and helping them improve and course correct it?
Rose Barrett: I think that some people could struggle with it because it can feel like you’re being critical. So you’ve got to come at it to ensure, because for me, the best managers I worked for in my time in university, my supervisor, the thing I found is I always understood that it was to develop me as well as a person or a researcher or employee. It wasn’t just to get something out of me. And I think if you can communicate the fact that you’re there to also help the person develop, because for me, if you can help a human being develop and improve themselves, they’re gonna deliver more value. That’s my outlook on things. So if you can communicate early on that the tracking is about, and make sure they have an input in this and that they’re comfortable. You can ask how more specifically that gets tracked, whether it’s in calls. Obviously certain work is gonna be very clear. This is done, it is of, the [inaudible 00:41:52] of being required or not, or things are a little bit more-
Luis Magalhaes: Oh, yeah, yeah. Not meaning, I wasn’t thinking about a big brother-like system surveillance. I was more like so for example in Distant Jobs, it’s something that we’ve been trying for a while and actually I feel that works out really well is SCRUM-like daily stand ups. So it’s really nice to see, and the key part of that is when we confront, well confront is a very tough word, I don’t mean to be so combative, but when we compare the things that people said, today I’m going to do this and then onto the next day when they said yesterday I did this and we compare what was their plan yesterday to what they actually got done, I think that is a very useful metric.
Rose Barrett: Also just generally accountability is great. That’s why when you want to really scare yourself, you say I’m going to do this to the world, or you might make the circle smile if you don’t want to be as scared about the whole thing.
Luis Magalhaes: Yeah.
Rose Barrett: But yeah, definitely. That, actually, it’s funny you say that. I was involved in some sports clubs in university and I learned very quickly that if you didn’t write anything besides an action item, it probably wasn’t going to happen.
Luis Magalhaes: Oh, I would add that you should actually add a deadline beside an action item because I see that for myself. If I have tasks in Base Camp without a set date, those tasks aren’t going to be done. I might dip into them if I have no tasks with deadlines, but whenever does it happen that I have no tasks with deadlines? That doesn’t happen.
Rose Barrett: Yeah. I find, you know the way you’ve got those few goals floating around, they’re kind of more personal goals or they’re more sort of long-term career goals? So I have lists of what I want to achieve this year. I actually used to do this [inaudible 00:43:52] but I found Trello just because it’s more visual.
Luis Magalhaes: Oh yeah. I’m a fan of Trello as well. We end up using Base Camp on Distant Job just because we have several teams and it’s a bit hard to cross information between teams and projects in Trello, but personally, I use Trello, I find it wonderful.
Rose Barrett: Yeah. It’s personally used mainly for me, but again, working with a smaller team, Trello is working fine. I totally get a tool like Base Camp would make sense for a larger team. But I do notice those goals that I keep, have in the back of my head, they’re gonna happen at some stage, but they never get a date, they don’t happen.
Luis Magalhaes: Yep, they don’t. That’s just true. Okay, so it’s been, wow, it’s been 45 minutes already. So I don’t want to keep you much longer, but thank you. I want to be respectful of your time. I do have a couple of last questions, a couple of last questions.
Rose Barrett: Can you rewind, Luis, actually, if I can just give you a little bit on our chapters for Grow Remote.
Luis Magalhaes: Yeah. I usually reserve a part at the end of the show for that, but if you wanted to do it right now before I ask my final question, go ahead.
Rose Barrett: So as I was saying, Grow Remote started out with we had the conference last September, but after the conference, the idea came up about how do we bring this to be more grassroots and scalable? And one of the guys on the team had the idea of, have you ever heard of a platform called Change X?
Luis Magalhaes: Yeah. I’m not completely familiar with it, but I’ve definitely seen it. I’ve definitely been to that website, yes.
Rose Barrett: I’ll very proudly say they’re an Irish organization and what they do is community programs that have the potential of being scaled out, they host the project on Change X and there’s a process put in place and if you come around and want to fill up one of those, you use Change X to do that. When we approached Change X in November to ask if we could set a Grow Remote of one of their projects and they were just delighted. Tracy has done the majority of the heavy lifting there and there’s a whole onboarding process for anyone that wants to set up a chapter.
Rose Barrett: But we have 56 locations there at the moment. Now majority of those are still in Ireland, but as I said, we have a couple already in Portugal, and in Spain and the US and whatever happens there. And each of the chapter leads themselves takes ownership of what’s happening there, but we do have certain amount of the price of these are the kind of things that you may want to achieve. They might have more specific local goals that they want to achieve and then we know ourselves overall what the mission and vision of Grow Remote is, and I have to smile, actually. There is an amazing lady, June in Lisbon, I must put you in contact with her.
Luis Magalhaes: Sure, I’d love to.
Rose Barrett: I was going to a web summit last November, but I didn’t actually make it. I had reached out looking for somebody that could loan me a laptop for a couple of days ’cause I was looking to travel as lightly as possible and June offered to loan me a laptop. Well, I couldn’t make it to web summit in the end, but we got to talk about remote working ’cause I could see that that was what her company was about. And she has now set up a chapter in Lisbon and she is just a powerhouse of a woman. So that’s-
Luis Magalhaes: Great. So actually tell me a bit about the chapter. So, again, from a leadership standpoint, which is most of my audience, why would you recommend people attend, I guess, participate in those chapters?
Rose Barrett: What is one of the biggest issues that remote workers suffer from? Isolation.
Luis Magalhaes: Yeah.
Rose Barrett: So just that one question alone, people are meeting. Castlebar is currently our golden child because Bernadette has worked on setting it up there, is just amazing, and they’re meeting once a month. But they’re also organizing. So they had one of the guys from Shopify come in and ran a virtual workshop on Shopify. There are people working for Shopify specifically who didn’t know each other in the locale and now they know each other. So if they want to go for coffee, they can go for a coffee. As far as the company, any of the CEOs and owners, if you want to go along to a meet up, you can meet other company owners who are already doing what you’re doing, or meeting people who are working in remote positions and get a sense of what their needs and wants are, their challenges. So I think it really, it adds and awful lot on so many different levels.
Luis Magalhaes: Okay, and I suppose that would also be very good for motivation and performance and all that if leaders of remote companies would incentivize people to join. So there you have it. You know how to find it. I will include the link to all of that in the show notes, of course. But I have a couple of questions before we finish off if you don’t mind.
Luis Magalhaes: So first of all for people interested in increasing their remote work leadership and management skills, are there any books, programs, workshops that you would particularly like to recommend?
Rose Barrett: I’m gonna have to say Work Place again, won’t I?
Luis Magalhaes: We’ve covered that before, but I’m always happy to send people their way.
Rose Barrett: I think talking to people who’ve already done it is beneficial as well. For me, I think there’s nothing like speaking to somebody else who’s on the forefront of what you’re hoping to do and they’ll be able to answer a lot of questions. I would say definitely check in with us. If anybody is interested in getting a introduction to a company who are already doing it, reach out to us and we will find somebody for you. We’re working on stuff in the background where we’re gonna have resources for companies specifically, so all I want to say is watch the space on that. And after that, get listening to podcasts like this. Pick up books. Of course there’s all the information out there about general leadership skills. I think culture and trust improve that. Improve and communicate about what other companies have done. It’s fantastic, I think, when you’re washing the dishes and listen to a podcast like this.
Luis Magalhaes: Yes, that’s beautiful. That is indeed beautiful. Okay, so another question. If you could, let’s say with $100 or less, buy something for everyone who works remotely with you, what would that something be?
Rose Barrett: I heard you asking Tammy this question. I was like what would I do? Then I’m like I’m not gonna overthink it because I wanna-
Luis Magalhaes: Yeah.
Rose Barrett: I would say go and do something together. Have a day of figuring things out. I think, I love remote work. I love having my own time, not having to give time up to meetings and all of that. Not needing to hop in the car so much. But I think there’s gonna be times when meeting face to face is useful still.
Luis Magalhaes: Oh, yeah, absolutely.
Rose Barrett: So I think put that money towards going and actually don’t make it about the work. Make it about the human connection because the human connection is so important and if you can connect as human beings, people will understand each other better and you’re going to work through your issues and your [inaudible 00:51:11] a lot better.
Luis Magalhaes: Oh yeah, so we’ve done that at Distant Job. Not with the whole team because we were smaller then but we intend to do it with the whole team eventually, but I do have to say it’s one of the best things you can do. Sadly it’s a little bit over $100.
Rose Barrett: Maybe a little bit.
Luis Magalhaes: A little bit, but it’s definitely a great idea. Okay, so my last question really has to be, if you were planning a dinner, where attended by all the big Silicon Valley execs, and they are going to be talking about remote work and the future of work, you’re doing this at a Chinese restaurant. So you have to figure out what’s the message inside the fortune cookies? What is that message going to be?
Rose Barrett: Oh, Luis. Seriously. Embrace uncertainty.
Luis Magalhaes: Okay. That’s a good message. It sounds appropriately cryptic, yet it’s useful. Thank you very much. Again, thank you very much for your time, Rose. It’s been a pleasure and since you already talked about chapters, I would like you to take this chance to tell people where can they find you, where can they look you up, where can they have a conversation with you. Continue this conversation.
Rose Barrett: Well, the main hub for us is on growremote.ie and we’re on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Slack. So if you get involved in Grow Remote, you will be added into our Slack workspace. We can chat even more here. Do reach out. Even if you don’t feel like you’re going to join a chapter, you’re just interested in what we’re about, send us an e-mail or whatever else. Pop onto the website there and we thank you so much. It’s been wonderful. I could talk about this stuff for hours.
Luis Magalhaes: Yeah, me too, and it was my pleasure, Rose. Thank you very much. See you around.
Luis Magalhaes: And that’s another episode of the Distant Job Podcast, ladies and gentlemen. I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Rose Barrett, and of course check the show notes to see where else you can continue the conversation with Rose. And if you enjoyed the podcast, I would appreciate it and everyone in the Distant Job team would appreciate it if you would share it on your social media and, hey, leave a review on iTunes or your podcast listening service of choice. Reviews help a lot more than most people think and as a listener of podcasts, I know that it’s not always the easiest experience to leave a review, but it really helps us out.
Luis Magalhaes: And we can also help you out if you’re building a team and you need a superstar. Well, you should think globally. Think differently. Think remote. Think Distant Job. Just head over to distantjob.com and send your requirements. There’s a form for that. A very simple form takes two minutes to fill and we’ll get back to you and we’ll figure out what is the best fit for you and we’ll find them and handle everything else. So don’t be afraid to build that team. Let’s do it.
Luis Magalhaes: See you next week.
While a lot of the problems with not having an office are myth, there are some challenges. How do you prevent your employees from becoming isolated? And can they really feel secure in their jobs when working from home? We talk to Rose Barrett from Grow Remote about this, and much more.
Welcome to the DistantJob Podcast, a show where we interview the top remote leaders, picking their brains on how to build and lead remote teams who win.
In this episode, we talk about what businesses can do to make remote employees feel secure in their jobs; the benefits of building a remote peer group and why bosses should incentivise their employees to be part of one; how the key to building value is to focus on helping others develop, and much more.
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