The Three Key Motivators to Succeed While Working Remotely Sarah Aviram

Sarah Aviram is a remote work top leader, speaker, consultant, and author of the Amazon number one bestseller, Remotivation: The Remote Workers Ultimate Guide to Life-Changing Fulfillment. She’s among the top 25 remote innovators of 2021, as listed by remote.com. And her work helps remote workers go from feeling uninspired and disengaged at work to feel energized and proud of themselves.

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Remote author and speaker

Luis:

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to another episode of the DistantJob Podcast. I am your host, Luis, in this podcast, that’s all about building and leading awesome remote teams.

Luis:

My guest today is Sarah Aviram. Sarah is a remote work top leader, speaker, consultant, and author of the Amazon number one bestseller, Remotivation: The Remote Workers Ultimate Guide to Life-Changing Fulfillment. She’s among the top 25 remote innovators of 2021 as listed by remote.com. And her work helps remote workers go from feeling uninspired and disengaged at work, to feeling energized and proud of themselves. So Sarah, welcome to the show.

Sarah Aviram:

Thank you, Luis. Thanks for having me.

Luis:

It’s a pleasure. I’m hoping that I’m going to leave this conversation energized and proud of myself.

Sarah Aviram:

That’d be great.

Luis:

I would definitely love that. Now, I just came out away from a nice two week long vacation. So, obviously there’s limitations on what we can do, given the lockdown and restrictions, but it was very restful and I do feel energized.

Sarah Aviram:

That’s excellent.

Luis:

We have a nice starting point. So obviously, because I love books, I want to talk a bit about your book, but I want to do my usual disclaimer at the top of the show, that ladies and gentlemen don’t think that just because you’ve heard to this podcast, you don’t need to go and read the book, because that’s not my purpose here. I’m going to talk to Sarah about her career, what brought her to this place, et cetera, what she usually does to help promote workers. And obviously, we’re going to touch on the book. But this conversation will not definitely serve as a replacement as cliff notes, if you will, for reading the book. I’ve I’ve read it. She provided it to me. And it’s actually a very nice book and a very easy to read. I believe I got through it in a couple of afternoons. So, it’s definitely worth your time, and I’ll have a link to it on the show notes.

Luis:

So, after this slightly larger than it needed to be disclaimer, Sarah, it’s a pleasure having you. Why don’t we start by you telling me, what’s your relationship with remote work? How has remote work influenced your career, allowed you to have the career that you have?

Sarah Aviram:

Sure. So, at the end of 2018, I was serving as the director of talent development for a tech company based in New York. So, I was in charge of creating all the leadership management trainings, workshops, programs, processes, et cetera. And the CEO came to me and said, “I want to know what are the talent trends of 2019? What should we be thinking about? How could we become competitive versus our peers as far as finding and keeping the best talent?”

Sarah Aviram:

So, I did my research, and of the four main themes I came up with, one of course, was remote work. Now, this was obviously way before COVID happened. Remote work was a fast growing trend. Not only were companies already setting themselves up as virtual first or distributed teams, whatever we called it back then, there’s many names for it, but essentially no offices anywhere, top teams located all over the world.

Sarah Aviram:

So, that was a growing trend. As well as more and more people just being okay, working for several companies as a freelancer or small business owner consultant, and not needing to work in one principal office for years and years. So, a lot of people wanting the freedom and flexibility. And I really identified as one of those people. I had loved my job in career, but I also really appreciated freedom and flexibility that I didn’t necessarily have.

Sarah Aviram:

And my research took me to a couple of these work travel programs in which, they don’t provide the job. You have a job, but they help you identify an itinerary. They provide the logistics, housing, coworking spaces in different countries, that allow you to work from different places around the world and just do your job remotely, but they take care of the details.

Sarah Aviram:

And I really thought that that was going to be the future of work and what would end up happening. And I somehow convinced my CEO to let me participate on one of these programs, backed up my case with data and trends, and facts. And we said, “How about I be the guinea pig for one of these programs and give it a shot, and see what are the opportunities and challenges of remote workers? Is this the perk that we would offer to employees at our own organization to be competitive, to show that, wow, we’re offering a benefit that no other companies are doing?”

Sarah Aviram:

And he even said, “You know what? And even if it’s not successful, that’s okay. Let’s figure it out.” So, next thing I knew, two months later, I was on a one way flight to Lima, Peru to start the first of my 12 month program. And that’s where the journey started.

Luis:

Okay. So, one to 10 or maybe one to 11, how much struggle did you have securing good, reliable internet?

Sarah Aviram:

Oh, none really-

Luis:

Really?

Sarah Aviram:

… because this company prides itself on is, they secure all of your living accommodations and your coworking spaces in every city. And you’re traveling with a cohort of people. So, their primary or their priority is making sure you have good internet.

Luis:

Nice. What’s the company name, if you don’t mind?

Sarah Aviram:

It’s called Remote Year.

Luis:

Oh, I’ve had the founder in the program.

Sarah Aviram:

Oh, there you go.

Luis:

There you go.

Sarah Aviram:

So yeah, so that’s their priority. So, it was very rare that there would be an issue. Of course, once in a while something goes down, but overall, no, it was fairly flawless, which was really encouraging. Yeah.

Luis:

Yeah. That’s the number one thing that I caution people with. As someone who has tried working while traveling, and has specifically booked hotels that advertise themselves as having exceptional internet, and then I couldn’t even get the 4G signal there. I definitely caution people to have a plan B. Right? Always have a plan B for your internet.

Luis:

But yeah, you’re right, if you go with someone like Remote Year, obviously they have tested, they have actually vetted the places. So, they don’t really need to rely on whatever the people actually selling you the places, the Airbnbs, or the hotel rooms, or whatever have to say.

Luis:

So, that was your initial 12 month journey. What were the main challenges and maybe the main surprises? What things were you expecting that didn’t happen or unexpected things that did happen?

Sarah Aviram:

Yeah. Well, it was really interesting getting to know the type of people that would do a program like this and what their intentions were in general. And for some of them, they already had their own businesses. They were freelancers, and they just thought, “Well, I can do my work from anywhere. So, I might as well do it in beautiful locations.”

Sarah Aviram:

And for other people that were corporate employees of organizations, they were given an exception that they could travel and do something like this. It wasn’t so common. So similar to me, they were allowed to go on a program like this, even though they typically didn’t even really work remotely.

Sarah Aviram:

And what I found that was really interesting is that a lot of those people thought, “Oh, if I just have the freedom and flexibility to work from anywhere, I’m going to be super happy in my job. Even though I don’t love my job in New York or Chicago,” whatever city they were from, they thought, “Oh, but if I could do it from anywhere, and if I have the choice of where I do it from, then I’ll be happier.” And that maybe it was a short term solution.

Sarah Aviram:

The first few months, you’re like, “Oh, okay, I’m in a new environment, meeting new people, so work feels more tolerable.” And then after a few months, it wore off. And these people were like thinking, “How could I be sitting in the beach in Bali, working, with a drink in my hand and still feel unfulfilled.”

Luis:

Interesting.

Sarah Aviram:

And a light bulb went off in my head. And my career has been in HR 14 years, creating programs, helping people find their own motivations and what helps them perform at their best, and it made me realize there’s an opportunity here, that I think there’s a lot of resources and books, and courses, and things that help people figure out how to become a remote employee or remote worker. But there weren’t a lot of things that helped people now that they are remote. How do they find their motivation and feel fulfilled, and get back to the basics?

Sarah Aviram:

So, I felt like, “Okay, how can I take all my years of HR combined with my own experience of being remote and help people tap into what’s really going to motivate them to feel fulfilled and engaged, regardless of where they’re working?”

Sarah Aviram:

So, I started to interview these people, surveys, focus groups. I started to write a blog, monthly, about what I was learning. And that eventually is what turned into the book. But essentially it was like, what is the common thread here and the people that are getting it right, the people that are most fulfilled and performing at their best? And I noticed it was these three steps, typically in this order.

Sarah Aviram:

So, first, they had to minimize obstacles related to their money, their identity and their routines. Second, they had to optimize opportunities for growth and impact. And then third, they had to realize the benefits of joy in their career. And I’m happy to dig into each of those if you like.

Luis:

Oh, yeah.

Sarah Aviram:

That is the thread that I saw in people that were getting it right.

Luis:

Yeah. Those are clearly important things to think about. And I think that the main takeaway from here is that, remote work isn’t going to make the job you don’t love any better, right?

Sarah Aviram:

Exactly.

Luis:

It will be a Band-Aid right, a short term solution. I had an acquaintance of mine, he used to work… maybe he still works, security for the president of a given country. And because they need to be always on edge and it’s a very demanding job, they have really nice shifts. He basically works two days out of the week. And when I asked, “What you liked the most about your job?” Because it was an interesting job, got to travel, got to meet a lot of important people, et cetera, he said, “Well, I only do it for two days out of the week.” So, that tells me that he didn’t really love the job, but it was a nice setup. Right?

Sarah Aviram:

Right.

Luis:

But long-term, that’s not great for your personal growth, right? Because eventually it will just leave you feeling empty.

Sarah Aviram:

Exactly.

Luis:

Now, talking about all those things that you need to keep in mind in order to enjoy your work life, I want to talk about the first thing that I noticed about your book, it’s that it really has a really great, a really awesome table of contents. I was having just today actually, nice coincidence, just today, I was mentoring someone about a good writing structure, how to give a good structure structure to the writing day. And what I said is that if you do a good table of contents, you have half of the work done for you. So, start with the table of contents.

Luis:

And when I looked at the table of contents of your book, it just gave me joy because it’s the kind of table of contents that you can know exactly how to go and how to structure your reading, and your learning. I actually looked at the table of contents of your book, and I felt like I was looking at the textual representation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, right? But adaptive to remote work.

Luis:

So, it was a really good first impression with the book. And I was impressed that you grabbed the bull by the horns and started off talking about money, which is a big taboo when you actually acknowledge that in the book. So, how do you get this? How did you came to the conclusion, to the decision of starting the book off talking about money?

Sarah Aviram:

That’s a great question. And I love that you, of course, pinpoint of the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, because in my head that visual kept popping up when I was interviewing people. And I actually end up showing the visual in an opposite way, as you could have almost, the upside down pyramid, which ended up being a Wi-Fi signal.

Sarah Aviram:

But why do I start with money? When I interviewed people and did surveys, it was the number one thing that came up, for the people that were the least satisfied in their jobs, they were also, it was correlated to the sentence, I said, “How likely do you agree or disagree with this statement?” And it was about, “I do my job because without this job, I wouldn’t have the money I need to meet my financial needs or live my quality of life, or et cetera.”

Sarah Aviram:

So, it really came out as almost our number one driver in our decisions around our career. And there’s two sides to it. There’s either, “If I quit my job or try something different, or lose my job, I won’t have enough money to pay rent in two months time.” So, that’s a big stressor for people.

Luis:

Oh sure.

Sarah Aviram:

And it’s a big reason why people stay in jobs they don’t like or make decisions that aren’t intrinsically motivated because they’re afraid of the financial pressure.

Sarah Aviram:

The other side of it, I had people that I’ve met that said, “I make so much money…” I’ve met lawyers. “I make so much money, that even though I hate my job, how could I leave? What else could I do in which I could earn the same amount and have the same quality of life?” So, they couldn’t even imagine it. So, they had what they call the golden handcuffs. They were chained to their job because of this high salary that they made.

Sarah Aviram:

And so, it stopped so many people from even just exploring, “What is it that I actually want to be doing? What would make me happy?” This financial thing was in the way. So, that’s why I started with that. And as you said, it’s like the sensitive topic. We don’t like to talk about it. But because we don’t talk about it, we don’t always make the best decisions for ourselves in our career and in our lives.

Luis:

For sure. One of the things for the longest time that prevented me from earning what I was worth, was that my peers wouldn’t say how much they were earning. So, I had to spitball it, right? Because I didn’t know. It was like, “Oh, no one is telling me, so let me come up with a number.”

Sarah Aviram:

Exactly. And I give this example in the book, how for one woman, she was able to increase her salary by 40%, just by asking her peers how much money they made. And to not make it awkward, she did what they call the over-under method, instead of saying, just flat out, “How much money do you make?” To her peers, she said, “Do you make over this or under this?” And so, she got it out of them and realized how much less she was being paid for the same job, and doing the same quality of work. And so, she was able to have that conversation with her company and get a bump in her salary.

Luis:

Yeah. You are starting the book probably by one of the hardest things to talk about, what has led to this approach? When in talking to people in your interviews, how have you felt that you can help them define the right decisions, the right way to approach this topic, so that they can then move ahead and plan the rest of their priorities when it comes to their work life?

Sarah Aviram:

Yeah. Well, when I was talking to people, one-on-one, I tried to make the conversation about money more comfortable by talking about my personal experience with it. Because if I don’t practice what I preach, right? If I say, “Let’s talk about your money, not about my money, but about your money.” So, for me, I also felt similarly like, “Oh, well, I always want to start my own business and do my own thing.” Or I even wanted to travel the world, but I always had this block of, “Well, have I saved enough money to do that? Well, what if my business doesn’t work out? Do I have enough in my emergency fund that I could last for a few months?” And so, I couldn’t take the risk of doing what I really wanted to do because I didn’t have the financial safety net.

Sarah Aviram:

And so, I would start the conversation by explaining to them how I navigated it. And in the book, I mean, the first story I tell is this famous international financial advisor, Suze Orman calling me out at a meeting in front of my colleagues about how much money I made. And I was so embarrassed by it.

Luis:

Yeah. I felt that was a great writing, because you really put yourself, you really illustrated a situation where most people would feel really awkward. So, you get the readers to keep on reading, right? Because they want to know how you got out of that. And then you’d never do tell us how you got out of here, which was kind of a bummer, but it served the purpose.

Sarah Aviram:

No, I mean, she made an example out of me and then she moved on.

Luis:

Good for you.

Sarah Aviram:

I think I just sat down. But yeah, I think that’s what helps the conversation, is just sharing my personal story.

Luis:

How does this relate to remote though? Right? I mean, obviously I know, because I read the book, but to the listener, I want the listeners to go read the book.

Sarah Aviram:

Yeah. Well, like I was saying before, a lot of people that went remote, again, they thought they would be happier, if they went remote, if they could work from anywhere. And what concerns me now, is that a lot of people and organizations are now being given the same choice. They’re saying at post pandemic, “You can either choose to come back to the office or stay working remote. We’re giving you the option.” So, many people are going to think, “Well, even though I don’t love my job, it pays me well. If I don’t know what else I would do right now, so why don’t I just go remote? And even though I don’t like my job, maybe it’ll make me happier.” Or whatever. So, I think that this is a similar challenge people are going to have.

Sarah Aviram:

And the truth is, is that a lot of companies are letting their employees go remote. And there’s so many more options to find work that you love and that pay well, that you don’t have to necessarily sacrifice one for the other right now. I thought like, “Oh, I’d have to sacrifice my career, if I want to have this flexible lifestyle.” But there’s more options now than ever. And so, I want to encourage people to really think about what options are out there and finding work that they really want to do that’s also remote, if that’s what they want.

Luis:

Yeah. I also think for me, one of the biggest game changers in location independence is how it allows you to get good quality of life, better quality of life with the same salary. I mean, for example, I choose to live in Portugal. And Portugal is not the cheap country. I mean, no country in the EU is really cheap anymore. But let’s say if you have a normal livable New York salary and you move to Portugal with the same salary, you’re going to live a very rich lifestyle. Right?

Sarah Aviram:

And look, that’s a lot of how I was able to save money in my year on remote year. And I talk about geographic arbitrage in the book, so you’re earning-

Luis:

That’s a great term. I wish people would use it more.

Sarah Aviram:

… a certain level of money and you’re able to spend it in a country that is lower cost of living. Now, companies that were not set up as remote in the past two years, now that they’re doing it for the first time, they’re getting very worried. When I talk to organizations they’re like, “But what are the tax implications of having an employee live here, here?” And I’m not a tax expert, so I don’t assume to give advice.

Luis:

None of us are. My lives won’t allow me to pretend otherwise.

Sarah Aviram:

But it’s certainly, and it’s one of the big things I talk about in the book, without earning any additional income, I was able to save significantly more money than I ever could have if I kept living in New York.

Luis:

Exactly. And for the companies worried about that, I mean, a serendipity, we didn’t plan this ahead. But there are companies such as DistantJob that handled that for you, right? So, that doesn’t need to be DistantJob, but taxes shouldn’t be the concern that the thing avoiding you, preventing you from letting your people go remote. There are at least a dozen companies, from recruitment companies to HR companies that can handle that for you. So, maybe five years ago, it could be any excuse. No one really knew how to do it. Now, we’re in 2021. It’s absolutely, you can get someone to handle it for you.

Sarah Aviram:

Yeah.

Luis:

Which is not me. Right? My company does it, but I personally don’t. Don’t take anything in his podcast regarding to tax as advice, because I just have the professionals in DistantJob handle it for me.

Sarah Aviram:

Exactly.

Luis:

Yeah. Okay. So, let’s move a bit on the other remotivators, because you point out to, like I said, it reminded me of Maslow’s pyramid, hierarchy of needs. You start with three baseline remotivators, and then you go to level two remotivators, which are two. And then you finish up with the last remotivator, the level three remotivator. That’s joy.

Luis:

I want to know how you got to joy, because again, I don’t want to go through every part of the book. But before, I’d be remiss, if I didn’t talk about one of the remotivator, that’s more at the bottom of the pyramid, that’s identity. I found that chapter very interesting, because one of the things that I struggled a lot when I started and I still struggle every now and then, is with guilt. Right? You teach people how to remove guilt.

Luis:

And I have to say sometimes, especially when I look at my friends who don’t have remote work, maybe they have remote jobs temporarily because of the pandemic, but some of them don’t at all. One of my school friends is a cashier at the local supermarket. And I feel guilty because sometimes, even though I work a lot, sometimes I work more than I should. Right? I had to take a vacation because I worked more than I should for a couple of weeks, but still, I just feel that sometimes it feels a bit too good to be true. Sometimes you feel guilty. What kind of guilt did you yourself face and did you find the people that you interviewed facing? Because I think there are different, I mean, there’s guilt, but then there’s also imposter syndrome. It happens a lot. So, how did you untangle the material that you needed to build this specific section of the book?

Sarah Aviram:

Yeah. I certainly felt a bit of guilt because I was an employee that was working from around the world for the year that I did it, while all my other teammates were in the office in New York, didn’t have that opportunity. And I did feel this level of guilt, but then I also was like, “You know what? I worked really hard. I made a business case. I asked for it.” Who’s to say that if they had asked that they might’ve been given this opportunity as well? So, I had to remember what I put into it and this was my dream.

Sarah Aviram:

And also to remember, I might feel guilty because my assumption is that people want what I have, but that might not be true either. We feel guilt because we’re like, “Oh, I get to do this. This is amazing.” And other people don’t get to do that. But they might be like, “Good for Sarah. That’s not for me, but good for her.”

Luis:

Yeah.

Sarah Aviram:

So, sometimes because we might actually be feeling good about certain things in our lives, we assume that other people want the same thing, but that might not actually be their dream. So, we have to remember that component is part of it too.

Luis:

Yeah. Yeah. Fair enough. So, what about imposter syndrome? Have you dealt with it? Have you met people who were dealing with it? What’s the situation there?

Sarah Aviram:

I think that happens to so many people. And what I’ve been learning is that, especially as I’m starting my own business, is that I feel it all the time. And what I’m learning is that, and I heard a great other podcast by someone named Adam Grant, and he said that actually the people that seek more knowledge and that are constantly trying to improve themselves, tend to have more imposter syndrome, because the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know.

Luis:

Yeah.

Sarah Aviram:

And if you don’t have imposter syndrome, you’re probably not as smart as you think you are, because you think you know everything and you probably don’t. And so, it’s just fascinating to hear experts in their fields still think that they have imposter syndrome, because they’re constantly reading and learning, and trying to open their mind to other ideas. And then they realize, “Oh, there’s so much more to learn. I don’t know as much as I thought I did.” So, I get that quite often. And I’ve of course have noticed that in different people around me at different times in my career.

Luis:

Nice. How would you define what you do? I mean, I introduced you at the beginning of the show, but when someone asks you, “Sarah, what do you do?” Right? What do you say? You’re not going to say, “Oh, I’m a bestselling writer and speaker, and thought leader.” What do you do?

Sarah Aviram:

I say, I help organizations motivate and engage their remote employees.

Luis:

So, what does that look like when you’re doing that? I’m sure, I mean, sure, a nice first step would say, “Here’s my book, read it.” But obviously, I doubt you do that. I doubt that is your day job, just handing out books. So, what does that look like?

Sarah Aviram:

Yeah. The book tends to just be a conversation piece, a door opener sometimes. But yeah, it’s almost like a business card, but it’s not really the business.

Luis:

It’s a really good business card.

Sarah Aviram:

Thanks. Yeah. I put a lot of thought into that business card.

Luis:

Yes, exactly. It’s got a little bit more texts than they usually do, but it’s good. It’s good.

Sarah Aviram:

Yeah, exactly. But no. So, I go into organizations and I do two things. So one, I do talks and workshops. So, my book and my business is actually very targeted to speaking to the individual remote worker versus coaching the organization on how to help their teams or create a remote organization. So, while I could certainly help with that, having worked in HR for many years and having to manage teams all over the world, I was very intentional about focusing my message on what the employee can do for themselves. Because what I found working in HR is that, we could have all the best programs and train management to be the best managers they can be, but there’s always inconsistencies between, some managers are really good at coaching and motivating their teams, and some not so good, or some that don’t take it seriously.

Sarah Aviram:

So, I wanted to create a resource and a business that was like, regardless of what your company’s doing to support you, here’s what you can do for yourself, here’s how you can get a better understanding of what’s important to you, what you want, what kind of impact do you want to have, what kind of experiences you want to have and skills you want to develop, what brings you joy and energy? And then you can have much better conversations with your manager, with other people in your life, or find their opportunities for you.

Sarah Aviram:

So, why would a company hire me then? Because they want me to empower their employees. They want their employees, not to just wait around for management to give them a chance and figure out what they want. So, they want me to empower their employees to figure that out, so that there’s better career discussions, there’s better development opportunities that are created because the employee is much clearer on what it is that they want to get out of their job and their company organization. So, it’s workshops. Some of them are super interactive. We do virtual breakout rooms and polling, and use using the chat box, and all the things.

Sarah Aviram:

And some companies are like, just want me to do a straight talk to their employees, the more formal. This year they’ve been virtual. So, when you have 500 people on a Zoom call, it’s a little bit more focused.

Luis:

There’s a limit to the interaction.

Sarah Aviram:

Exactly.

Luis:

No interaction we can make it, of course. So, I’m wondering, you do have that past experience with HR. Where do you see HR struggling these days, now that a decent, a very large chunk of the workforce became remote and a decent chunk of that hopes to remain remote? What do you think are HR’s main pain points and challenges?

Sarah Aviram:

Yeah. Well, it’s slowly changing. So, when this pandemic started and everyone went remote, HR was mainly involved in the logistical part of making sure everyone had what they needed to work from home. Then it’s slowly after time went on and people got comfortable, it became actually a mental health thing. People were getting burned out and lonely, and all these things. So, HR started pulling together these mental health and wellness programs and things for their employees.

Sarah Aviram:

And now, we’re entering the third phase, is now where HR is getting very involved in what are we going to look like, now that people were thinking people can come back to the office? What choices are we giving people? What policies do we need to implement?

Sarah Aviram:

And the biggest concern HR is having right now is, how do we ensure that we don’t create this first and second class citizen problem, where the people that come back to the office because they’re visible and they’re in that meeting room with you, and it feels like we’re back in the office, that these people that you gave the option to work from home and they chose it, but they’re forgotten about because they’re not visible anymore.

Luis:

Yeah.

Sarah Aviram:

Why did this remote experiment works so well last year? Is because everyone was on a level playing field. Everyone was remote. And before that, everyone was in the office. Of course, there’s exceptions. So, it was even. But now we’re going to have this uneven territory. And HR really needs to think about the implications of how is performance evaluated. It still has to be evaluated just like when they were remote on the quality of the deliverables, not the time you spend in your seat at the desk. Right? Just because you’re sitting at your desk, doesn’t mean you’re working.

Sarah Aviram:

So again, so making sure that performance is evaluated equally among people who are in the office or not in the office. Perks and benefits that are given to people in the office, the free snacks and the, whatever, the happy hours and stuff like that, what about the people that are remote? So, these are all these things that HR has to figure out. And there’s no perfect way to do it. And they’re going to have to figure out what’s working. And they’re going to iterate as they go. They need to keep on checking in with their people, what’s working and not working. So, it’s going to be a really interesting time the next year.

Luis:

Yeah. And some things don’t matter that much. I mean, if I’m working from home, I can understand not getting free snacks on the company. I can live with that. Right? It would be nice to get something every now and then, but it’s not going to make me feel unwanted or underappreciated. But there’s a really real risk for people to be, say passed up for promotions, just because out of sight, out of mind. Right? And definitely there should be, there are strategies that can be applied, right? It’s not like it’s an impossible problem to solve, but it will require changes in processes and systems all around.

Sarah Aviram:

Yeah.

Luis:

So, that brings us to growth, which is another one of your remotivators. Right? Usually, I’m very interested in your approach, because like you said, it’s employee centered, where I usually talk to growth in employee centered ways. Right? Usually the concern that we discussed in the podcast is precisely, how do we ensure that people who work remotely feel that they have a career track, feel like they can go up the corporate ladder, if that’s what they want to call it, right? When they are remote and some other people aren’t. Would you like to speak a bit about that?

Sarah Aviram:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, again, companies need to support this too, in ensuring that just because someone’s not visible, they still get those opportunities, but this is why I speak to employees on how they need to be sharing what they’re working on and their achievements on a regular basis. If your manager postpones your one-to-one meeting, email them what you’ve been working on for that week anyway. Make sure that they’re aware and visible of what you’re doing and your achievements along the way. That’s one step. But also what skills do you want to develop? What experiences do you want to have? And your manager might have to help you identify the opportunities to develop those skills, but you should be really thinking about those things and sharing them consistently.

Sarah Aviram:

I talk about this 70, 20, 10 model of development, where 70% of the way you acquire knowledge and develop skills is through action, is through practice, it’s through doing. What are the experiences or initiatives or projects at your company that could help you develop those skills?

Sarah Aviram:

Then the 20% of how you acquire knowledge is through learning from others. Who in your company could you learn from, could you shadow, could be your mentor that could help you develop skills?

Sarah Aviram:

And then the 10% is learning through formal training. So, are there online courses, degrees, certifications, things that you could also focus on. So, really thinking holistically about how to develop those skills. And again, bringing a plan to your manager. You don’t have to wait for them to identify these things for you. You can bring your first draft of ideas and they can add onto it, and it can be a great conversation. So, I really encourage people to take their career into their own hands.

Luis:

Yeah. That’s that sounds great. So, obviously I don’t want to spoil the book, right? Like I said, several times now, but you end up on an unusual note, right? You talk about, when you talk about the remotivators, and you put them in the pyramid, you come up with with a lot of things that make sense, right? Money, obviously, it’s not often talked about, but it makes sense to anyone. Right? But then at the top of the pyramid, you put joy. So, I don’t want you to discuss it at length because I do think that it becomes clearer, and it’s actually interesting once you read the book, but why did you decide to put this at the top?

Sarah Aviram:

So, as I said, it’s like this inverted pyramid, where almost I see joy as the most important part, but I find that you have to minimize the obstacles in the way in order to get to joy. My thought on joy is like, why do we do anything in our life? It’s because we think if we do it, we’ll feel better, emotionally, physically, mentally. Whatever it is that we want, we usually want it because we think doing it will make us feel good, whether it’s earning money or whatever it is. Right? And so, joy is the goal, the ultimate goal. It’s a critical part of the journey as well.

Sarah Aviram:

I’m very driven by joy. And sometimes it’s hard for me to imagine, like only doing something for a paycheck or only doing it because I’m developing a specific skill. Like for me, the more I enjoy the process, the more innovative and creative I am in coming up with solutions that I didn’t think of before, the more kind of strategic I can be about things, and the more resourceful I am, even if I don’t know the answers.

Sarah Aviram:

So for me, I think, and from talking to people, that did make the money. And we’re developing skills, and why were they still feeling unhappy? It’s because they didn’t feel joyful in what they were doing. Right? It wasn’t bringing them joy. So, it is a such a strong driver. And I think we often believe that, “Oh, it’s unattainable. It’s for other people. It’s called work for a reason. You’re not really supposed to enjoy it.” And I don’t believe that. And I don’t think people in their heart of hearts really want to believe that either. They just think like, they don’t know what other options they have to them, or they haven’t even let themselves believe that feeling that way is possible. So, that’s why I enforce that.

Luis:

Yeah. I literally, I usually say, look, sometimes works, it’s work. It’s not like it’s reasonable to think that your work day will be the equivalent of 10 minutes, snorting cocaine, but at the end of the day, right? At the end of the day, you should feel good about it. Right? You should be happy with what you achieve, with what you’re there at, et cetera. Right?

Luis:

I don’t feel joy filling up spreadsheets, but I feel joy from the overall thing that my work allows me to achieve. So, that’s definitely, and I think that you give it a good treatment at the end of the book. But again, just to wet the listeners’ appetite to bit, how does this relate to remote?

Sarah Aviram:

Yeah. I mean, it’s very similar to being not remote, to be honest in this component. It’s like the more we enjoy what we’re doing, the more we can unlock the rewards of the benefits. And the benefits of loving our work, the more working from anywhere, will be like the cherry on top to this amazing life.

Sarah Aviram:

So, I see it, first, find work you enjoy doing, and then do it from wherever you do your best work. And for some people that might be remote, for some that might be in the office. But I think, how do I see it back to remote is, just working remotely, again, isn’t the solve all for any challenges you’re having at work, right? It’s not going to make you feel joyful just because you can do it from anywhere. And I think, I experienced myself and observed the extreme situations where like, if working from the beach in Bali, didn’t make people happy, then there’s something we’re missing. It’s the work itself. Right?

Luis:

For sure.

Sarah Aviram:

And so, that’s why I keep coming back to it. It’s like, people are going to be given this choice now of where to work, but I don’t want them to fall into this misconception that that’s the answer, right? That working from anywhere is the answer.

Luis:

Yeah. It doesn’t matter how your pizza is delivered, could be by a drunk, could be by truck, but if it’s a bad pizza, it’s a bad pizza.

Sarah Aviram:

Yeah.

Luis:

Right. So, okay. Let’s move on because I want to be respectful of your time. Let’s move on to some rapid fire questions. The questions are rapid fire, but you can take as long in answering as you’d like. Right? So, start off your workday, what browser tabs do you have open? What does your virtual on-screen office look like?

Sarah Aviram:

Oh boy, I always have LinkedIn open. That’s my social media of choice. So, I’m always posting content there. So, LinkedIn, my Gmail. I use a customer management software called Pipedrive to keep track of my clients. So, that’s also always open. I’ll stop there since it’s rapid fire.

Luis:

Yeah, sure. Sure. So, let’s say you’re working with the big team, right? Maybe in an HR department, maybe somewhere you have a big team, right? And you have 100 US dollars to spend with each person working with you. You need to buy in bulk, could be software, could be hardware, anything you want, but you need to buy in bulk. You can’t give them the money. What do you buy?

Sarah Aviram:

Oh, I think Slack. I would purchase Slack, a communication tool, so we can stay connected in an asynchronous way that seems to be working best for teams.

Luis:

Yeah. It’s pretty good. I’m surprised, there are no more Slack alternatives out there. But yeah, I like it as well. So, what about yourself? What purchase has made your work life easier or more productive in the past year? Previous answers, have included anything from a house to a dog. So, there are no boundaries here. Go for it.

Sarah Aviram:

I just alluded to it before, but Pipedrive, this customer management software has been really helpful. I’m not someone who can remember who I contacted three weeks ago, and they told me to follow up this week, and I don’t keep track of it all. And starting a new business, it’s important to do that. It’s so simple reminders. I just put in what I spoke about with the client when they said to follow up, I put the reminder in, and it gives me a notification on that day. Super simple. And it’s really helpful.

Luis:

Nice. Okay. So, let’s talk about the books. Do you gift books? Is that something that you enjoy doing? Apart from your own, I mean.

Sarah Aviram:

I don’t gift books often, but I recommend books often. And you’re making me think I should be gifting them to people.

Luis:

I like gifting books, but that’s just me, right?

Sarah Aviram:

Yeah.

Luis:

Okay. So, what books do you recommend the most?

Sarah Aviram:

I have an old favorite that I tend to reference a lot when I talk to people, it’s Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, and it’s about what makes successful people successful. And I just find it fascinating. And he gives you data in such a storytelling way that it doesn’t feel data heavy. And I find myself pulling these stories out a lot of times in conversations with friends.

Luis:

Nice. Any other recommendations?

Sarah Aviram:

Primed to Perform, it’s about how to build high-performing organizations, and was very influential in the writing of my book. So, I would highly recommend that book.

Luis:

Okay, awesome. So, final question. Let’s say that we’re done with the pandemic and we can all have a big, nice dinner again. You are hosting that dinner, and in attendance are the CEOs, the hiring managers, the decision makers for the top tech companies from all around the world. Now, the twist is that you are hosting the dinner at the Chinese restaurant. So, as the host, you get to choose what goes inside the fortune cookie. The only rule is that it needs to be remote work-related, because this is a show about building and leading remote teams. So, what is the message that you put inside the fortune cookie?

Sarah Aviram:

The message is, evaluate performance on deliverables, not visibility.

Luis:

Sounds like sound advice. It sounded like a fortune cookie. Who would know? Well, Sarah, it’s been an incredible pleasure having you. I had a lot of fun. Please, tell our listeners, how can they reach out to you? How can they continue the conversation with you? Where can they find you?

Sarah Aviram:

Yeah. So, they can find me on sarahaviram.com, S-A-R-A-H-A-V-I-R-A-M.com. There you can learn a little bit more about what I do. You can learn about my book. You can actually get a free workbook that goes along with the book. So, I recommend, it has all these exercises and questions, you can be asking yourself to find more motivation and fulfillment in your life. So, I recommend that they do that. And then they can find my book, Remotivation on Amazon.

Luis:

Okay. This was a really nice conversation. Thank you so much for it. And thank you for the book. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and I recommend everyone to get it. They can obviously find it at Amazon, and we will provide the link. Sarah, thank you so much for being a guest.

Sarah Aviram:

Thanks, Luis. Thanks for having me. It was great. I had a good time.

Luis:

It was a pleasure to have you here. This was DistantJob Podcast, the podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. And I was your host, Luis. See you next week.

Luis:

And so, we close another episode of the DistantJob Podcast. And if you enjoyed the episode, please, you can help us out by sharing it on social media. That would be great. It’s how we reach more listeners. And the more listeners we have, the more awesome guests I can get in touch and convince to participate in these conversations that are a joy to have for me. And I hope they’re a joy for you to listen to as well.

Luis:

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 have more listeners.

Luis:

Now, another thing that you might want to do is go to distantjob.com/blog/podcast, click on the, your favorite episode, any episode, really, and subscribe. By subscribing, you will get a notification whenever a new episode is up and whenever we get the transcripts of the episode up, so you can actually peruse the conversations in text form.

Luis:

And of course, if you need to find a great employee for your team, a great remote employee, you should take the whole world into consideration and not just look to hire locally, not just look to hire in your country, look around the whole world because that’s the talent pool that contains the best talent. And to help you with that, again, distantJob.com is the perfect place to start. You will tell us who 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. See you next week on the next episode of the DistantJob Podcast.

 

More ways to listen:

Does working remotely equals instant happiness? For some people having the flexibility to work whenever and wherever they want is the best benefit of working remotely. But is having flexibility the only factor that will make you succeed at remote work? Or is it just a short-term benefit?

Sarah Aviram is an expert in understanding what makes employees, whether remote or not, thrive at their jobs. After extensive research and one year traveling as a digital nomad, she understood that it’s not necessarily about working remotely or working at an office. One of the most important factors is to do a job you love. During this podcast episode, she shares insights on her research, and she also reveals the three key motivators to succeed while working remotely.

 

Highlights:

  • Her experience being a digital nomad during 12 months
  • The challenges of finding motivation while working remotely
  • Insights in the ‘Doing a job I loved or earning a lot of money in the job I hate’ dilemma
  • The three steps to be a successful, motivated remote worker
  • How to deal with imposter syndrome
  • HR main challenges because of the pandemic

 

Book Recommendations:

 

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