How to Prevent Proximity Bias in a Hybrid Workplace, with Nola Simon

Gabriela Molina

Nola Simon is the founder of Nola Simon Advisory, a company that works with organizations seeking to embed hybrid and remote structures. She is also the host of the Janus Oasis Podcast.

Nola Simon

Read the transcript

Luis:

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to another episode of the DistanJob Podcast, your podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. I’m your host Luis, and my guest today is Nola Simon. So Nola is the host of the Janus Oasis Podcast, which is also about hybrid and remote work, and she is a hybrid/remote work futurist at nolasimon.com. Nola, thank you so much for being here.

Nola Simon:

Oh, I appreciate it. Thank you.

Luis:

It’s an absolute pleasure having you, and I do want to get into the weeds of remote work, which is what this podcast is all about, and I especially want to talk about hybrid work, because that’s not something that I get a lot of guests that are familiar with. My guests tend to be more full remote, and I do think that there’s a huge demand out there for people wanting to know how to do hybrid better, because that’s just the way the situation has turned for many, many people and many companies. But before we get into that, I want to know what kind of relationship you had with remote work. How did you first start with remote work, and how did that shape your career?

Nola Simon:

Okay. Of course. Yeah. That’s a good topic. So I’ve actually worked some version of hybrid or remote for 10 years. So I started back in 2012, because I live north of Toronto, and although I’ve lived here forever, my commute just extended. So geographically it’s 45 minutes, but towards the end of my time with that company, it ended up being closer to two hours, and I had little kids. Yeah. I know. Just the volume of traffic, right? And I had little kids, and so it became an issue where I couldn’t actually get all my work done and see my kids in the same day. And that wasn’t the kind of parent I wanted to be, right? So I wanted to be actively involved in my girls’ lives.

Nola Simon:

And so in 2011, I actually switched jobs so that I could get VPN access, so that at least I could kind of come home and do little extra things. I was angling for a promotion at the time, and then I started advocating for hybrid work, right? So it’s like, okay, well at least if I could have some flexibility, I would have a better ability to accommodate my family life and my work. And if I wanted to do anything extra, at least I’d have that flexibility and that autonomy really to make that choice, right? Without actually having to commute in and go in at like 5:00 in the morning.

Nola Simon:

So we started with a pilot in 2012, and then we lost access to that. I actually broke my foot, so I was the only person in that division who was working five days remotely. And at that time, we didn’t have really great technology. I mean, 2012, it was really, really super early days for VPN access, and understanding how all of that worked. And so I was the Guinea pig for a lot of the tech issues, and that’s how I built up a lot of the best practices, because I had no choice. I couldn’t actually walk, and it was either I worked from home or I had to go on leave, and there was nothing wrong with my brain. There was nothing wrong with my mouth. I was physically capable of doing the job if I was able to do it remotely, right?

Nola Simon:

And then because of all the technology issues, once I healed, they actually pulled the pilot to rectify that, so I know what it feels like to get really, really close to having that flexibility, and then lose it completely. And then it gradually came back, and eventually we got up to four days a week, and I had a massive car accident, and I actually hit a concrete hauler on my way to work. I was only working in the city one day a week, and that one day-

Luis:

That was the day.

Nola Simon:

Yeah. That was the day. But it was honestly related to burnout. I had pneumonia and I didn’t know it. I had been really, really super ill, and I passed out. My lung collapsed in the car, and I passed out. And yeah. So that, I had to go on leave for, and when I came back, I didn’t want to commute anymore. And so when I talked to them, they wouldn’t make any exceptions for me, even with that kind of history. And so my only option was really to switch jobs, and I wanted to stay with the company, so I switched to a sales job, because it was 100% remote, which meant that I didn’t actually commute.

Nola Simon:

I got the only job in all of Canada that was based where I live, which took some doing. Actually turned me down once, and I pursued it again, then I worked actually 100% remote. And I actually found that it was interesting, because I lost access to the building I had worked in for 16 years. So I had done a lot of volunteer work with employee resource groups, and in women’s leadership, and I literally could not walk back into that building without having special approval.

Nola Simon:

So it’s interesting to understand the policies that impact the different ways that people work and interact with companies, and that’s where I think a lot of people who are actually embracing hybrid right now, they haven’t necessarily thought through all the processes and procedures. And that’s where there’s an opportunity to do better, if you’re going to look at adopting it on a long term basis.

Nola Simon:

So I’m glad you’re looking at talking about hybrid, because not everybody wants to pick up and leave and move across country, or sit on a beach around the world and do 100% remote. I mean, a lot of people do, but a lot of people, they want to have the choice, and flexibility, and autonomy to work from home the majority of the time, because they’ve got kids in school, or they’ve got caregiving responsibilities as parents, and so it would be nice to be able to go into the office for a couple of times a month, for example. I don’t see the need to actually be weekly, although I think most employers want to see at least somebody weekly. And as you said, there’s a huge demand to talk about what that hybrid solution looks like.

Luis:

Okay. So there’s a lot to unpack there. Maybe I want to go on a little tangent, because I do want to know, what did this business do to you, for you to have that loyalty that you looked for a job in the same company? Because after you had a near-death experience, and they denied you remote work, even with that, right? It does feel that you probably really liked working there for a lot of other reasons, because clearly at least some people making the policies in that company did not particularly care for your wellbeing.

Nola Simon:

So that’s an interesting point.

Luis:

Yeah.

Nola Simon:

I would say that this is an example of sunk cost fallacy. So I had worked, by the time I left, I had been there for 17 and a half years, and so it’s hard to walk away, because if you voluntarily choose to walk away, you’re not getting severance. You’re not getting any kind of benefit, and then you’re youre losing … I had a pension. I had insurance coverage. You leave your employee benefit insurance coverage, and my husband is self-employed, right? So sunk cost fallacy is the easiest way for me to explain that, right? I don’t –

Luis:

Well, that definitely makes sense. Just the way you framed it, it made me look that you really wanted to keep working there, but that makes a lot of sense. And yeah. I have to say, as someone who, I was nearly there, right? Coming back from work, I fell asleep at the wheel two times, right?

Nola Simon:

Oh, wow.

Luis:

Once in a forest, and another one almost into incoming traffic. So I definitely, I could have had a very similar experience to yours. Maybe even more fatal, because incoming traffic is no joke.

Nola Simon:

No.

Luis:

So yeah, I definitely … That was also part of why I decided that even though I really loved what I was doing, that I was due for a change. So I can certainly see the point there.

Nola Simon:

Yeah. Exactly. And that’s actually something that a lot of people don’t necessarily understand, I didn’t even understand, because when you pass out at the wheel like that, they actually pull your license, and you have to pass all kinds of medical things to make sure that there’s nothing wrong with your heart or your brain, right? And so when you shut down the major artery into a major city, you also get charged with careless driving. I mean, who knew? I found out the hard way.

Nola Simon:

So I thought my defense was actually being ill, and having pneumonia, and passing out. That’s not the defense. I didn’t have a lawyer. I didn’t think that I needed a lawyer. At lunchtime, I called my husband, and I said, “My lawyer’s an idiot,” because I was my lawyer. And so thank goodness for the judge that day, because she’s like, “You took every precaution possible, but the law states, the Ontario law that governs driving and transportation, actually states that you have to be 100% healthy before you get behind the wheel.” And so my going into court and admitting that I wasn’t 100% healthy was an admission of guilt, and that’s something that most, I think, employees and employers don’t understand, is if you actually choose to get behind the wheel and you’re ill, you don’t have a defense.

Luis:

Yeah. I actually didn’t know that. I don’t know how prevalent that is, if this is a Canada thing or if it happens in other countries, but I definitely … I mean, I have colleagues in Canada, and it’s the first time I’m hearing about that. So that’s something that I think I’m going to … Well, though, I don’t need to warn them because they work remotely, and we have a very flexible work hours policy. So actually-

Nola Simon:

Yeah. But that goes to the whole autonomy and the choice, right? So if I had had the autonomy to work from home that day-

Luis:

Yeah.

Nola Simon:

… because I was going to say that medically, it’s safer for me to be able to do that, then that would have been a better choice, and that’s where I think a lot of employers and employees don’t necessarily understand that, right? I mean, I drove for 40 years, and I never understood that until it happened to me.

Luis:

Yeah. And look, even if you’re unaware, obviously if you know it’s illegal, probably most people won’t do it, right?

Nola Simon:

Yeah.

Luis:

But if they were unaware that they’re illegal, if they feel bad, right, and they have the option of not getting behind the wheel, most people will not get behind the wheel, because they feel bad. But if you don’t have that option because you have to go and work, well, then that’s a different thing, right?

Nola Simon:

Right. Yeah. Exactly. And that’s where it’s a whole interesting aspect that really speaks in favor of being able to work from home, right?

Luis:

Yeah.

Nola Simon:

And having, again, it comes back to the authority and the autonomy, is to literally say to your boss, “It’s not a good choice for me to do that.”

Luis:

Yeah. I think that makes perfect sense. So one of the reasons I was excited to talk with you is because you’re very hybrid-positive, right? I don’t even know if this is the term. I just made it right now, right? And I don’t know a lot of people like that, right? I know that, look, it’s 2022. People like having extreme options, extreme opinions, and among the circles that I move, the extreme opinion is that remote work needs to be 100% remote or it’s no good. And I have a hard time with extreme opinions. I tend to be a more moderate person, right? But just from a practical sense, I look at so many companies that had a huge, 180 degree change with COVID. And they have this, in some cases, decades of processes that are based around people being in the office, and I just don’t think they have the capacity to exist in a prolonged amount of time as fully remote entities. That’s just not in their DNA, and I do think that it’s perfectly reasonable for those companies to think very hard about hybrid.

Luis:

Because again, we’ve also figured out that for some people, some people really want, really like being in the office five days a week, but I think that most people fall somewhere in between, in the spectrum of, “I actually like to hang out with my colleagues every now and then, but not too often.” Right? I think that’s where most people fall, and I think that companies do need to adapt, especially if they want to retain quality talent, but I get very defensive-

Luis:

… retain quality talent, but I get very defensive when I hear someone say it’s either full remote or it doesn’t work. So I was looking forward to this conversation, because I think that you have good arguments to do for hybrid.

Nola Simon:

Yeah. No, exactly. And it was interesting because before we started recording, I was telling you that I went from a hybrid solution to fully remote. And fully remote was actually a lot more challenging for me because it was almost like my role was only my role, and all the relationships that I had built over the 16 years previous, I kind of had to forego because I didn’t have access to the building.

Nola Simon:

And that’s where people have to look at the policies that surround the different ways that people interact with their company. Are your remote peoples expected and welcome to come into the building? Because I wasn’t feeling welcomed. Because I had to get special permission. My boss couldn’t give it to me. His boss couldn’t give it to me. I had to actually work my network to even get access to go back into a building that I’d been at every day for 16 years. So it was actually kind of off putting.

Nola Simon:

I’m very much in favor of autonomy and flexibility and choice. So to your point about process, I think that process, if it’s been in place for decades, it probably needs to be updated to begin with. So I think that companies who are using their processes as the excuse, they’re hiding, because they need to do digital transformation, they need to transform to be competitive in the marketplace. And so, I don’t know that using hybrid or remote as an excuse to keep your processes the same is probably a good idea to begin with.

Nola Simon:

But I think that you have a bigger challenge with behavior change. So along with those processes, you probably also have people who’ve been at the company for decades too. So even if you’ve been only at a company for five or 10 years, you’re set in your ways, in how things go, and it really comes down to mindset.

Nola Simon:

So I’ve worked for legacy companies that have been in Canada and operating for over 100 years. And so, a lot of the mindsets that come with that type of traditional conservative industry, which is insurance and financial services, it comes with people who don’t necessarily embrace change. And that’s where I think that there’s more of a challenge.

Nola Simon:

So I’ve always been an early adopter of technology, different ways of working, different mindsets, sometimes it’s helpful to have the access to go into the office, to work with the people the way that they work best. So if you can adapt yourself to adapt to them, then you’re going to be able to smooth things over and facilitate that, and be able to achieve more than you would if you’re just going to force them to adapt to fully remote. That’s where I think it comes down to the people, how do you best manage the people.

Luis:

That makes a lot of sense. And to be fair, I think about it from my own perspective. I’m going to try to play devil’s advocate a little bit, because I personally, once I started working remotely, I figured out that, “Oh, this is what I wanted all my life.” And I just didn’t know it was a possibility. So that was a very easy transition for me to make. Not to say that there’s not challenges. I have the same challenges that every other remote worker has to any other degree. And there’s strategies and tactics that you can take to take care of that. But by and large, I can see myself ever setting foot in an office ever again, unless my livelihood really depends on it and I can’t find another job. Obviously, I won’t starve my myself or my family to that, for my point. But that’s it.

Luis:

But I have to imagine that there are people out there that are the opposite of me. That there are people that the lockdown and the forced remote work was the worst experience of their lives, and they need to be in that office to thrive. Because they’ve never known anyone else and they were happy like that. They were actually miserable doing remote work. So I do want there to be companies in the world that will cater to those people.

Nola Simon:

Yep. And there will be, because there are going to be industries, there’s going to be specific types of work where the work itself demands in person. So something mechanical, where you actually have to hold a piece of product, that actually needs to be physically touched.

Luis:

Well, we’ll have drones, right?

Nola Simon:

Right. Exactly. But I don’t think we’re quite there yet, right?

Luis:

Yeah. Well, back when I was falling asleep at the wheel, I was working as a dentist actually. I was a dental surgeon and I-

Nola Simon:

Oh, wow.

Luis:

Fast forward a couple of years and I’m looking at my colleagues and I’m saying, “I think that in 10 years I’ll be able to do that through my computer. I feel that in 10 years I’ll have a drone or an automated robotic dentist chair.” Of course, that comes with its own set of challenges, which is the person wanting to be treated by a machine. We already have robot surgery. There’s some very fine surgery that’s made with robots. And there are like five feet between the patient and the doctor. So some people need to stand at, but most people don’t enjoy it. Most people like to be treated by a doctor using his own hands. Which is kind of funny when we think about it, because our hands are much less precise than robot hands. But hey, what can you do?

Nola Simon:

Right. Well, I think it comes down to their feeling of care. So what the experience come… And honestly, I think that it relates to employee experience as well too. There are people who feel that in person just is more personal. And I personally don’t agree with that.

Nola Simon:

Honestly, the way that I worked, I worked in account management for years and years and years, my clients were not in the same country. So I met some of them because I also had that opportunity to travel for work as well too. But I wouldn’t say that the people that I never met didn’t feel cared for. So it comes down to values. It comes down to your understanding of the way the world works and what you truly want your experience to be.

Nola Simon:

And so, I think you’re right, there’s always going to be companies that are going to be in person, just because that’s the way that they want to operate. I think that those companies are probably going to have a harder time retaining people. And I think that people that they do retain are going to demand a premium for being in person. So I think that’s going to eventually become the more expensive option, because you’re paying for presence. And you also are limiting yourself geographically to skills based. So if you can work remotely or you can work some version of hybrid, even if you’re only coming into an office maybe once or twice a month, you can live several hours away from that office. So all of a sudden, your talent pool expands. And if you’re working remotely, it’s global. So you’re choosing a limited talent pool. So I think that the people who are going to demand in person are going to be the companies who are in those major urban centers that have that diversity of talent that they need. So like New York, Atlanta.

Luis:

And the reverse is true. If you are someone working in the remote space versus the limited physical space, you can actually take your skills to better paying markets. I’ve seen many Portuguese software developers get triple their pay by moving from the Portuguese market to the North American market, for example.

Nola Simon:

Oh, yeah. Absolutely. That’s right.

Luis:

That’s where the-

Nola Simon:

And does that have unintended consequences for different economies? There’s a lot of downstream things that we don’t even know the full impacts of, right?

Luis:

Yeah. Again, I’m no economist and I don’t play at being an economist, I just know. But just the intuition is that on a global marketplace, there will be more equality. Opportunities will be leveled to a point where there’s not so much income inequality worldwide, because the top talent will be able to access the top positions all over the world, and vice versa. So I do think that makes a lot of sense.

Nola Simon:

And it’s really hopeful really from a diversity and inclusion perspective, but also even just for climate change as well too. Because we have to consider the impact of what the future is going to be too. So are there areas where a lot of companies are located that won’t necessarily be able to support because of the climate changes. So if there’s forest fires and flooding and long term impacts that way too, are people going to have to move? Are they going to have to migrate? And what’s more sustainable?

Nola Simon:

Well, a remote solution, a hybrid solution that isn’t necessarily dependent on the office, especially if you’re coastal, or any type of area that has significant risk from a climate impact, it’s going to be more sustainable five, 10 years from now. And you want that impact-

Luis:

Yeah, that’s one of my hobby horses.

Nola Simon:

… but how do you plan for that?

Luis:

Yeah, that’s one of my hobby horses actually, because the average person keeps being bombarded every week with how can you stop climate change. When in reality, 80% or more is due to business, and not due to the individual living their lives, not to say that… Obviously, I agree that we should try to do our part to be better to the environment. I just think that’s low hanging fruit. That’s not where the big gains are, exist, to be made.

Luis:

So definitely, I was depressed a couple of weeks ago. Where I was watching Euronews and I saw that the pollution levels are back to pre-pandemic levels. And I’m like, “Oh, well, there goes the silver lining on that.”

Nola Simon:

I know. It’s disheartening. Exactly. That’s right. And it’s just like, how can we make more choices that are going have better outcomes?

Luis:

Got it. I still want to talk a little bit about hybrid. Usually, at the end of the show, I give a space for the guests to talk about their products and what they do and how they can help people. And we’ll get to that eventually.

Luis:

But I actually wanted to touch into something that I noticed when I was doing my research for this podcast, that you have a course specifically about being visible in hybrid world. I didn’t check the course out, besides the description, but I assume the course is for remote workers, such as I, in order to become more visible when working in a hybrid company. To the remote workers that listen to this podcast, I do want at the end of the show to call people’s attention to that. But because by main audience is people in leadership positions, I actually wanted you to talk a bit about how the people in the leadership and managerial positions can work against that bias that tends to be more beneficial to people that spend more time in the office, to the detriment of people that do more remote.

Nola Simon:

Yeah, exactly. And honestly, bias is definitely something that needs to be addressed by all companies. Proximity bias really is what you’re talking about, where…

Nola Simon:

Proximity bias really is what you’re talking about, where the idea that solutions or projects or promotions are going to go to the people that you’ve talked to most recently, that’s recency bias, and the people that you see most often, which is proximity bias, right? Leaders really have to consider their thought processes when they’re assessing those opportunities and make sure that they’re talking to everyone equally. I mean, they can use software really to kind of monitor that and make sure, almost like a CRM kind of database for employees. Are you talking to everybody equally? Are you logging all of their concerns and making sure that you’re aware of that?

Nola Simon:

AI really is another functionality as well, too, for visibility. For example, the course that I’m creating is not necessarily just how you use like social media to be more visible, but it’s about how you’re intentional about people knowing your name, because what visibility really is, is if people are having discussions or they’re looking for people with skills and abilities, your name is going to come up because people are thinking of you. That’s the type of visibility that I’m talking about.

Nola Simon:

It’s not being popular, it’s not being an influencer. That’s not the type of visibility that I’m trying to teach in that course. It’s like, how do you plan with intention that when opportunities come up, people are going to think of you, right? It’s not the magical, mystical water cooler that nothing has ever happened to me in my personal life at a water cooler, but it’s how do you take advantage of volunteer opportunities? How do you take advantage of change management opportunities? I once signed up to support, they renovated an office, and they were having difficulty getting adoption. Really people didn’t like the new layout, they didn’t like the booking system. They didn’t like a whole bunch of stuff. I volunteered to be in change management videos to make that process real to people.

Nola Simon:

The whole company had access to that, so I go from being somebody who’s invisible, nobody even knew what I looked like to an audience of 40,000. Again, it wasn’t necessarily a big time investment. It took me half a day to go down and actually film that. I did it strategically. I went on grade nine days. I took my daughter with me. She had the best grade nine day ever because nobody else in her school got to do a video shoot. I got to meet a whole bunch of people who had actually facilitated other things that I was working on as well, too. I think that both parties actually own the responsibility to avoid that bias. People have to be intentional with what they want, how they want to be visible, where they’re going, ask for what you need advocate for themselves.

Nola Simon:

Managers also have to be aware that it’s just human nature to think of the people that you most frequently interact with. There’s actually been a whole bunch of studies that’s saying that silos became more common during the pandemic, because people were talking to the people that they were comfortable with. The networks were shrinking and I think that most people don’t necessarily understand network science. I think as an organization, you want to make sure that you are creating opportunities for ideas to cross pollinate, because you’re just going to create group think if you’re only talking to the people that you work with all the time. How do you plan events? How do you encourage people from different aspects of the organization that have different job functions? How do you get them to talk to each other? Why is that important? Because that’s what fuels innovation, right? You have ideas that you’re going to take pieces of other specialties to advance. That’s where it can be really magical, and you don’t have to be in person to do that.

Luis:

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. 100% agree. I like your take that it really is a two-way street, right? Again, I try to steer this podcast towards serving my audience, which are mostly managers and leaders, but the reality is that I … Look, we’ve all been in a place where we want to be a good manager. We want to be a good leader. We want to help an employee grow, but that they just don’t play along, right? That’s not something you usually talk about, but it’s true. Career progression needs to be a two-way street. You need to create a setting where you provide opportunities, equal opportunities to all your people, but your people need to be ready to take them, right, to take you up on that.

Nola Simon:

Not everybody wants career progression either. I think it’s important to personalize that goal. I worked with a woman, she started the job, she was in her 60s. It was really just kind of like a stop fill gap, I guess. She just wanted to come in every day, do what was expected of her and go home. She didn’t want drama. She didn’t want to be doing extra work. She didn’t want to be networking. That’s what made her happy. She just wanted to check the box. It’s about making those agreements between the manager and the employee really to say, “This is what I’m after. What can you do to kind of help me, guide me? What opportunities do you see if I’m not seeing it? Tell me about it,” and have that be kind of like a two-way discussion so that you’re getting closer to what it is you want, because I’m a big fan of building pathways, right?

Nola Simon:

If the employee cannot imagine being somewhere else in that organization, then the only path that they see is out the door. I was there. I mean, honestly, after I had that big accident, I wanted to stay with the organization. The only way that I could stay with the organization was to actually go into sales, which is the only position that was 100% remote. If I hadn’t gotten that job, my choice would’ve been to leave because I just didn’t want to commute anymore. Now in 2019, when I made that choice, I had less options. It’s hard to walk away at that point, it was hard to walk away when you had that much flexibility, because it was rare that the organization would offer four days a week, especially if you’re brand new. Now, I think you can achieve that, but before the pandemic, that was a challenge. That was part of that sun cost fallacy is like, you want more flexibility? How do you walk away from what you already have when there’s no you can get that level of trust? Because it’s about trust.

Luis:

Yeah, and it’s a big leap, right? As you pointed out before, believing something you know for something that you don’t know, don’t know if it’s going to work, right? There’s a million things going through someone’s head in that situation, but yeah. You’re absolutely … Thank you for the story. It’s a very interesting story, so for sure. Okay. I do want to move on to a bit more rapid fire questions. The questions are rapid fire. At least I try to make them rapid fire, but you can take to reply. I want to start by asking you about your virtual office. Maybe the answer is that you don’t have one, but I’d like to ask, what is the setup of your computer, your apps, your browser that’s there when you start your day in the morning? I assume you start your day in the morning. Maybe you’re at night, I don’t know, but yeah.

Nola Simon:

I know. I’m a morning person.

Luis:

Exactly, so what’s the first thing you see once you open up your laptop or desktop, right? What are the tabs that are opened by default on your browser?

Nola Simon:

LinkedIn.

Luis:

Yeah.

Nola Simon:

Twitter. Twitter is really how I’ve gotten a lot of media interviews and podcast interviews about the consulting work that I do, so definitely those two.

Luis:

I need you to teach me to do that. That’s a great marketing skill.

Nola Simon:

Oh yeah, yeah, no, it was funny because I had Twitter for years. 2013 is when I created it and I didn’t really … I started using it when I moved into the sales position, but I was scared of it. It wasn’t really until last year that I really started actively posting it. As soon I got really blunt and specific, that’s when it sort of blew up and took off. That’s where I’ve been approached most often, even though I do much, much more work on LinkedIn, I get the media opportunities from Twitter.

Luis:

That’s really interesting because your LinkedIn is really well-crafted and rich. We were commenting before how I was impressed with what you did with your LinkedIn before we started. I guess the conversation came full circle, but yeah, I do have a bit of a handicap on Twitter because I was one of the early adopters. I think it was 2009. Was that when Twitter started? I was definitely year one, and because my surname is , my Twitter was just – Maga, M-A-G-A, and it turns out these days, not such a hot username.

Nola Simon:

Well, you can change that, you know?

Luis:

Oh, I can? I actually didn’t know that. I thought that the username was yours for life, unless you delete your account.

Nola Simon:

No, you can edit it because I had a different username before I created my podcast. On Twitter, I’m NolaSimonTJO, which is The Jans Oasis. Yeah, you can definitely edit that, but yeah, I can understand why you might want to.

Luis:

– the people who had your link before and you need to update the link then I guess, I suppose you need to update the link because the Twitter link is basically last username.

Nola Simon:

Yeah, but I mean, I don’t know how active you are in that, and whether that’s that big of a task. Personally, people are really current with what’s on. They’ll look at your profile. Most people don’t go back to archives. They find you for your recent stuff. People don’t remember an awful lot of stuff. That’s why it needs to be in front and center and you need to be posting fairly actively. I wouldn’t worry too much about the people who might have had your link from 2009.

Luis:

Maybe, maybe not.

Nola Simon:

Personally.

Luis:

Yeah. Yeah. All right, so this was a big sidetrack, but so you were telling me about your workspace. What does your workspace look like? Your digital workspace, your digital office. You have Twitter, you have LinkedIn, that’s how you start your day, and anything else?

Nola Simon:

Yeah. I mean, for my podcast, I use a script, I host it on Libsyn and I also use Descript headliner as related to that. Headliner seems to pick up fairly easily with Descript. I use that to create audiograms. I use Canva for a lot of graphics and whatnot that I create for social media and for the podcast. I’ve used Otter.ai for transcripts, but I actually find that Descript is actually better with my voice. I like the functionality of Otter.ai. Yak is actually interesting too. I did a podcast for the remote show and we were talking about Yak and I got introduced with that. That’s actually really good for synchronous work, and it’s interesting because I think a lot of where hybrid has to go is really understanding that a lot of the work that we do can be done as synchronously.

Nola Simon:

There are too many meetings, like we need to eliminate the meetings. During the pandemic, the meetings just got out of hand and that increased the workload and the burnout. Using tools like Loom and Yak, where you can actually update people and then everybody does what they have to do, and then they come back for the meetings. That will eliminate the meetings in half. Embracing those sorts of tools are tools that get me excited, because I can’t handle being on those types of meetings where you’re really just there to check a box. Nothing really is getting completed or processed. I’m not a big fan of co-working meetings where you’re actually doing work within the meetings, so not like.

Luis:

, I did have the Yak guys on the podcast that … Very interesting.

Nola Simon:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. He’s not there anymore, but he’s moved positions, but yeah.

Luis:

Yeah. All right, so next question is, what is the purchase that as …

Luis:

Next question is what is the purchase that has improved your work-life balance or productivity or whatever metric you care for the most in the last six months? Could be any purchase, could be physical, could be digital, whatever you choose.

Nola Simon:

It’s not necessarily that I purchased it. It’s more that I started doing it more often. So it was listening to like audio books more and podcast when I was actually doing things around the house. So instead of sitting down and reading, I would actually listen to audio books. And it has to be a certain type of book. It can’t be something that’s really detailed and fine. It needs to be an imaginatory book that captures the imagination, rich ideas, not that fine detail. But I find that that actually just puts me in a different mindset because I’m moving around and I’m more receptive to the ideas. So I listen with a headset and I do housework. So that helps me with my work-life balance because I get my house cleaner, but I’m also not bored while I’m doing, I hate cleaning.

Luis:

Yeah. That’s actually what I always tell my wife is that I actually don’t mind housework. I just listen to a book or to a podcast. To me it’s leisure time. It’s quite good. Then I’m wearing the headset and she gets annoyed because she talks to me and I don’t hear her. So that’s another problem, right?

Nola Simon:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, no, I get that as well too, but it’s just like, okay, your choice is that I’m actually not cleaning when my head goes down with an actual book. So, which do you prefer more?

Luis:

Exactly. Exactly. So anyway. So you mentioned audio books. I want to know if you gift any books and if so, what books do you usually gift the most?

Nola Simon:

So I did a giveaway recently actually, because I was on sabbatical. So I think I mentioned that I got restructured. So I was off work from December of 2020 until March of this year. And so I did a giveaway to celebrate the end of sabbatical. And so I gave away the Career Stories, which is Kerri Twigg. She’s the coach that I work with. And so her modus operandi for her coaching business is really just get to know the stories that really sell the skills, like your primary skills, that are going to set you up well. And it’s not like the normal stories that you tell just off the cuff. It’s the stories that tie together your whole career, basically, who you really are, what your real values are.

Nola Simon:

So for example, when I was creating my consulting business, the work that I really enjoy to do really is reading and research and consulting is right up there. And I realized that my big impact was not necessarily all the individual work that I did as an account manager in sales, but the work that I did in advocating for better employee experience in hybrid. So how do I tell the stories of being on that pilot and training 60-odd people how to use webinars when nobody really was interested in doing webinars. I’m sure they were grateful last year when the pandemic started that I taught them how to do that. But that happened in 2014. I did not know where that was going. So how do you tell stories that tie together 10 years of experience that really on the surface seem unrelated?

Luis:

Yeah. That’s a great point. And I actually never heard about that book. I’m curious to check it out.

Nola Simon:

Yeah, it’s a good book.

Luis:

So Career Stories, by?

Nola Simon:

Kerri Twigg.

Luis:

Got it. Got it. We’ll add it.

Nola Simon:

K-E-R-R-I T-W-I-G-G.

Luis:

We’ll add it on the show notes.

Nola Simon:

It’s Canadian too.

Luis:

Oh, cool. So final question. This one has a bit of a longer setup. So please bear with me. But let’s say that we’re in a position where big dinners are okay again. I know that many of us are, many of us aren’t. Let’s hope that it’s a reality again soon. And you’re hosting a dinner. In attendance are going to be the executives, the decision makers of top tech companies from all around the world. And the topic for the evening is remote work and the future of work, during the dinner. So the twist is that the dinner is happening in a Chinese restaurant. So you, as the host, get to pick the message that comes inside the fortune cookie. What is that message?

Nola Simon:

These are tech leaders?

Luis:

Yeah.

Nola Simon:

Okay. The message would be you’re selling products to facilitate remote work. Why won’t you let your employees work remotely?

Luis:

That’s very, very topical. I like it.

Nola Simon:

I’m thinking specifically of like Apple and Google. Like they have these massive campuses they’ve invested billions and billions of dollars into, and they’re creating all the products that everybody else in the world is using to work remotely and hybrid. And they’re not flexible and there’s a whole bunch of silos. And why is that? That’s basically the big question for them.

Luis:

Yeah. And ultimately, I think they’ll lose a lot of talent due to that. At least we’re seeing that movement. I think that the only reason there wasn’t a major exodus is because the times economically are a bit wishy-washy, so people are a bit afraid of looking for new career opportunities. But as soon as the economy stabilize, I have to guess they’ll lose a massive amount of quality talent.

Nola Simon:

Well, you have to think that it’s undermining the employer brand too. So as a consumer, I mean, I have all kinds of Apple products and I’ve always loved Apple. I mean, Apple is what helped me imagine working remotely and working from home. And so it makes me very sad because the lack of flexibility makes me think that you are not really committed to making the best products out there that can facilitate the future that I see. So it’s impacting their employees, but I actually think that it’s impacting their brand as a whole. And that’s what I think that their leadership is not necessarily seeing right now.

Luis:

Absolutely. I absolutely agree. That’s a great point. All right. So Nola, it’s been a pleasure having you. Now, how can the listeners continue the conversation with you and figure out what you’re doing and where they can find you, how can they learn more about the stuff that you put out there?

Nola Simon:

Okay. Definitely. So LinkedIn is honestly the best place to find me. That’s where I do the majority of the writing that I do. So I’m Nola Simon, and I’m a hybrid/remote work futurist. I consult with organizations anywhere from like 200 employees to like 40,000 employees. And the idea is how do you embed hybrid or remote into your organization in a method that helps you now but also is sustainable. Like what does this look like five, 10 years from now? So most of the work that I do is with organizations, but I do have a community that I’m building around my podcast, The Janus Oasis, which I’m calling The Janus Oasis Community, and that’s designed really to help anybody who’s really interested in what the future of this is going to be. The tagline is let’s co-create the future of work.

Nola Simon:

And so the idea is I can’t necessarily work as an individual consultant with every company in the world, but if you listen to the podcast, I can help more people. If you join the community as like an HR consultant, as like a change manager, a leader, a manager, and you’re interested in facilitating those ideas and talking about things that are not necessarily things that you feel comfortable talking about at your company, how can you build out those ideas and get access to different perspectives and different instincts, that’s what the community is for. And that’s also where I’m hosting that course, as you mentioned, the Visibility in the Hybrid World. So those are really the two places I would start.

Luis:

All right. Well, thank you so much. It was an absolute pleasure having you.

Nola Simon:

Okay. Thank you.

Luis:

And thank you for listening, ladies and gentlemen, to the DistantJob Podcast, your podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. See you next week.

Luis:

And so we close another episode of the DistantJob Podcast. And if you enjoyed the episode, please, you can help us out by sharing it on social media. That would be great. It’s how we reach more listeners. And the more listeners we have, the more awesome guests I can get in touch and convince to participate in these conversations that are a joy to have for me. And I hope they’re a joy for you to listen to as well. You can also help a lot leaving reviews on iTunes or your podcast syndication service of choice. Reviews are surprisingly helpful in helping the podcast get to more listeners.

Luis:

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

The pandemic brought a set of changes in most organizations. From fully remote to hybrid structures, companies are still figuring out which model benefits them and their employees the most.

However, during this podcast episode, Nola gives powerful insights into what it truly means to work in a hybrid environment and why companies should consider it. Hybrid policies are not just for people who want to avoid commuting or working from the beach, traveling 24/7. These policies matter because it gives people a choice, especially when they have other responsibilities and situations in their lives.

Highlights:

  • Insights about managing and working in hybrid teams
  • Building policies that adapt to your company’s culture
  • Hybrid vs. remote
  • Why do companies need to adapt their internal processes continually
  • How leaders can work against proximity bias when working with hybrid teams
  • Creating equal opportunities for both remote and onsite employees

Book Recommendations:

 

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