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How to Build a Sense of Purpose in Your Remote Team with Jennifer Dowling

Jennifer Dowling is an organizational psychologist specializing in remote and flexible work, people development, psychometrics selection, and coaching. She has 10 years of management and project management experience and is an experienced trainer, facilitator, and coach. She’s the director of Train Remote, co-founder of The Box CoWork Killarney and a part-time lecturer at University College Cork.

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Jennifer Dowling

Luis:

Welcome ladies and gentlemen, to another episode of the DistantJob Podcast. I am your host as usual Luis. In this podcast, that’s all about building and leading awesome remote teams. Now my guest today is Jennifer Dowling. Jennifer is an organizational psychologist specializing in remote and flexible work, people development, psychometrics selection, and coaching. She has 10 years of management and project management experience and is an experienced trainer, facilitator and coach. She’s the director of Train Remote, co-founder of The Box CoWork Killarney and a part-time lecturer at University College Cork. Jennifer, thank you for being in the show.

Jennifer Dowling:

Luis, thanks for having me, it’s lovely to be here today.

Luis:

Yeah, it’s a pleasure having you. I think that I read a couple of your articles. I think that our listeners will be really eager to hear about your experience and your advice. But before I kind of want to ask about how did your relationship with remote work start? How has remote work made your business or businesses possible or helped you make them better?

Jennifer Dowling:

Okay. Great question. I suppose my journey with work and remote work starts with my original degree, which was in business and in studying business, I became really interested in why people do what they do. And I went on to study organizational and work psychology and that got me really thinking about individual differences in work in the ways that we work in how we can work better. At the time when I was doing my masters, I ended up having quite a lot on my plate. I had a baby, I had a master’s, I had a couple of jobs and I was interning and doing apprenticeships. And it made me think about remote and flexible working and how important it was for individuals and how many opportunities it presented. So I ended up doing my thesis around kind of individual differences in how we relate to time.

Jennifer Dowling:

And that obviously led me down a path of agile or flexible working. So following that, I worked as a consultant for a number of years, and I worked with lots of companies who were knocking on the door of remote and flexible working and talking about introducing more policies. And I think really this, my company Train Remote, came to fruition as a result of COVID. And as a result of this massive transition, almost overnight in this country to working from home and the challenges that people were trying to face within that. So having worked with companies around remote working for a number of years, I often joke I was knocking on the door of remote working for a long time and suddenly it was flung wide open, and people wanted to hear what we have to say. So that’s what’s brought me to remote working and to working with the clients I have right now.

Luis:

All right. Awesome. So many things to pick up with. I guess I want to start with the Train Remote and the COVID challenges. So COVID has been with us for a while now, right? We could scarcely believe that it would be this long, but apparently this is this what happens. Now, there are a lot of people that picked up remote work back in February, January some, if they were particularly quick to see what was coming, but they kind of treated it as a band-aid and it worked, it’s better than doing nothing, it’s better than having everyone in the office. But it ultimately it didn’t seem like it was the best choice. And then very few people had the foresight to figure that we were going to be bunkered down for almost a year. So you mentioned challenges, what are the main, let’s say the top three challenges, that people come to Train Remote with?

Jennifer Dowling:

It’s a really interesting question because I work with different cohorts. So I work with managers, I work with leaders and I also work with individuals. But if we’re going to look at maybe the individuals and I think before I say anything around that, I think it’s important to note, and it’s building on your point that what we’re doing now is in remote working, it’s working from home during a period of crisis. And that comes with it a whole new set of challenges that the people don’t have to deal with when they’re regularly pre-COVID transitioning to remote work. The research from Ireland, we’ve done a piece of research here where we have surveyed people working from home back at the beginning of this crisis. So in March and April, and we surveyed them again most recently in September and the three most common challenges for individuals were isolation and loneliness, motivation and then their physical workspace.

Jennifer Dowling:

I think what’s interesting in that is the way isolation and loneliness has increased as a challenge. So that wasn’t one of the challenges that was noted in the survey back in March and April. But definitely one that’s very felt now for people. And I think it represents that point that I’m making that we’re working from home now, we’re not remote working as we normally would be, when we would have the option to go and work in a coworking space or meet our friends for coffee, or engage in more social interactions. So there’s a whole new set of challenges for people around working remotely at home.

Luis:

Yeah. So those top three challenges, isolation, motivation and physical workspace. Now, we talk about motivation a lot. So let’s tackle, I guess, physical workspace first. Now this is an audio podcast listeners don’t look at it. But they actually have a setup where I work from my living room, sort of, right. I’ve set up my work desk. And then I kind of use the couch as a flimsy barrier between the TV space and the workspace, right. So it’s like the part, the little bit of square feet, that’s the limited between my couch and my living room’s wall is kind of my work office. And I actually did this deliberately because I have another room in the house where I have a desktop PC and it’s like my relaxation room, this is a bit off the family room.

Luis:

But I have a room where I have some video games and board games. And that’s where I can do my fiction writing, et cetera. And I wanted to silo that away from the work that I do so that I wouldn’t feel like, again, I work in a computer all day. I didn’t want to feel like when I was going to play my video games that that was going through the same motions as I go through work. Most people though, they don’t, I mean, especially people living in high rent places, they need to have smaller apartments. They don’t really have this luxury. So what does the next best thing that they can do? And also how can managers and leaders help them making sure that in the absence of the possibility of giving them a new apartment, a new larger apartment, how can we help make sure that people have a healthy balance between their workspace and their living and leisure spaces.

Jennifer Dowling:

It’s a great question Luis. I think that in psychology, we call this a boundary theory and it’s as human beings, we have this tendency to kind of create boundaries in our environment as a means of kind of simplifying and organizing our environment. And you talked about it perfectly there, you talked about siloing certain type of work and certain types of activities to a particular room. And what happens sometimes when we transitioned to remote and I’m sure you’ve heard this on the podcast before, people think it’s great. I’ll work from my kitchen in the morning. And my living room in the evening and maybe the garden, if it’s sunny or maybe my bedroom. What happens is work starts to infiltrate every part of our home then, and our home just feels like the office, our home just feels like work.

Jennifer Dowling:

And obviously when we’re going to work, we have that psychological and physical boundary between where we work and where we live. But when we’re living where we work, that becomes very muddied. And I think when you’re talking about doing there is creating that space that you work in. And I think that’s really important that we start to try and create psychological boundaries. And if we can, physical boundaries are in where we work. So if we have an office great, if we have a spare room, great. If we have even a fixed place that we work from every day. But where we don’t have that, it’s about recreating psychological boundaries using rituals and routines. And there’s people who take a walk before they start work in the morning and take a walk again in the evening when they’re finished work. Have a routine that they get on their working clothes before they start work and they take them off in the evening when they finish.

Jennifer Dowling:

And it all sounds a bit silly, but what it does is psychologically it triggers us in and out of work. So individuals and that’s really important. I think as managers, a lot of it is around modeling good behavior. A lot of it is around respecting people’s boundaries, respecting the working time, giving people the right to disconnect. And I know in Ireland, we’re looking at legislating this right to disconnect now, which is really important. And which we’ve all suffered, maybe not having in the past.

Luis:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jennifer Dowling:

But as managers, it’s about modeling how we work. It’s about talking about maybe the rituals and routines that we have pre and post-work. I think that we do so much as managers in terms of modeling good working practices when we’re working remotely.

Luis:

Okay. Yeah. That’s definitely a good way to talk about it, right? It’s not so much sometimes physical boundaries but actually not having your manager expecting you to spend that much time on Slack or to reply immediately outside of work hours or stuff like that. That’s actually something that I often recommend is that people have a team agreement, right. Where they say, “Hey, these are the hours that you’re supposed to be online and reply promptly when pinged. And then these are the hours where you can still be working, but you use it more for focusing on your tasks and stuff like that.” And then outside of those work hours, you’re done, you’re not expected to do. I mean, on some jobs, you kind of need to be on call, some of the time, but all of the time is a bit much, for at least for most of the people that I know, right. No one can be on call all of the time and expect to be able to withstand that kind of work life for long.

Jennifer Dowling:

Yeah. There’s some really interesting research done actually a couple of years ago, and they looked at two types of people, those who are integrators and those who were segmenters, I don’t know if you’ve ever come across this, this done by Cristina. And what they found is that those of us who are integrators, we’re really comfortable having that work-life blur. So our personality kind of suits having work and life a little bit more blurred. But there’s also a whole type of personality that likes to segment work and have those really rigid boundaries between work and life. So they give the example of the police officer who comes home and he changes his uniform and have a shower before he can engage with his kids. And for him, that’s really, really important, those rigid boundaries. And I think actually this whole experience of COVID and working from home has been really challenging for those of us who are segmenters. But even realizing that we have that preference, can sometimes give us a little bit of ease and maybe help us understand how much more we might need to replicate those boundaries.

Luis:

We talked about that… Wow, it seems like an eternity ago. I mean, we were like on DistantJob podcast 120 or something like that. And I remember all the way in the first episode, my guests explained that as a… Because he likes that, and he explained that as work-life fusion was the term they coined, I believe. So he didn’t care about work-life balance. He wanted work-life… He was okay with work-life fusion. So that’s definitely something. I guess he was an integrator, I guess he’s an integrator. So speaking of what we are, and we aren’t, I’ve been… And going back to your point about isolation, I want you to dig a bit deeper into that and how people are feeling it and why, because as an actual introver, I actually did thus the big five and on the big five personality traits theory, I’m like on the top 2% for extroversion.

Luis:

So I know that that meant actual, real, honest got extrovert. And to be honest, I don’t feel like disconnected at all. I feel like I talk to too many people on a daily basis. Sure, I do it on screen, my job demands it. I have a team, I need to manage the team. But I do feel exhausted than certainly not isolated at all, but in fact, at the end of the day, I have gone over my quota of being with people by the end of the day. So how come are all these people feeling isolated?

Jennifer Dowling:

Yeah, this is a really, really good question. And I suppose the very simple answer is that not everybody is as connected as I think those of us who are used to working remotely and as comfortable with that. And I think for a huge amount of people and I work with a lot of clients who maybe they’re just getting to grips with the communication technology that enables them to actually connect with people.

Luis:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jennifer Dowling:

But a significant proportion of their interactions with their colleagues and their coworkers, and a significant proportion of their informal connection is with their colleagues and their coworkers. And what I’m hearing from people now is that, yes, they’re still connecting, but it’s formal. So it’s around work, it’s around meetings. They’re not getting that informal connection, where we get to share what’s going on, or have a moan about the boss, or give out about COVID or whatever it might be. We don’t have the space to do that. And that’s, I think that’s the root of it. We forget how much of our social interaction is with our colleagues and coworkers.

Luis:

Yeah, I guess it makes sense. Let me bring it on a different angle. I used to, back in the day when World of Warcraft was the thing, I guess it still is, but when I had time to do that, I used to be a guild leader in World of Warcraft , not the guild, a raid leader. So that meant that I had to help 39 other people synchronize to beat the games bosses, usually over a couple of afternoons. And there was all the preparation involved, but basically it was leading a team of 40 people to kill, pretend monsters over the internet. And we didn’t even have video back then. We only had the audio chat. And somehow people actually developed a pretty strong bond, pretty strong team spirit around that.

Luis:

I mean, people were literally playing a video game, they should be able to leave at any time. And yet there they were putting in the equivalent of a part-time job, like sometimes 15, 20 hours a week to kill pretend monsters, right. And doing stuff like getting on schedule, showing up prepared, reading up on tactics, actually work, right. That game at times was actual work, especially at the top tier. But people were super happy to do it. Now we work online, but I don’t know, maybe the monsters aren’t so appealing to kill? Somehow that brings me to the motivation point that you mentioned, why is it so easy to motivate people, to kill pretend monsters and so hard to motivate them to do the thing that actually puts food on the table?

Jennifer Dowling:

My very simple answer is that when you’re killing pretend monster together, you’re connecting on a shared purpose, right? So you have a shared common goal that’s very clear and you’re connecting in a space that you enjoy and love, right? So you’re connecting over something you enjoy. And you also have a very clear purpose, and I’m not sure that that’s always so clear for people, particularly for organizations who aren’t familiar with remote or for whom this is all quite new. That would probably be my answer to that question.

Luis:

So how can organizations create that space, create that space where people connect and love, I guess, how do we… I mean, gamification theory is a whole other can of worms. I’m sure you’re familiar with it, but probably you don’t feel like these talking at length about it, but how do you make the workplace a bit more like an activity where people actually want to participate and are delighted to participate in?

Jennifer Dowling:

I think that’s a huge question, but I think if we bring it back to what I think people can do now around connecting people-

Luis:

I don’t expect you to solve the world’s problems, one hour interview, but I would love to have-

Jennifer Dowling:

You are as may be, right?

Luis:

-I would love to have the cliff notes.

Jennifer Dowling:

I think that what we can do now is try and create informal spaces for people to connect on and do it in a really intentional way.

Luis:

Yeah.

Jennifer Dowling:

We talk a lot about it remote about being intentional about our form of communication. I think we really need to imply that same intentionality to our informal communication, create spaces for people to have virtual coffees, meet after work, have channels that they can find common interests on, game together, if that’s what they’re interested in. But find common interests across the organization and try and facilitate spaces for people to connect in those common spaces. And I think, wherever you really connect and where trust is built is in the space where we feel a little bit vulnerable, where we’re sharing a little bit about ourselves. So that’s often where we’re sharing our hobbies, our personal interests, our own history. So creating space for people that can be a little bit vulnerable or kind of share their own interests and hobbies is how we start connecting and connecting informally. And I think as organizations, we need to be really intentional about how we create those spaces.

Luis:

Yeah. Well, okay. That’s definitely something to think about. We do try… I mean, a lot of companies have informal spaces in terms of Slack channels and stuff like that. But I would say that we probably need to go a bit further, right? The game-playing is an especially interesting idea. Something that we’ve experimented with is playing board games online, for example, that kind of creates a different bubble than in the office. But at the same time, people can tap into the things they know from each other, what each other is good at, right, from the office and maybe find out some new things. So that’s definitely a nice thing to explore. So I want to shift back to something that I flagged early on in the interview. And that’s about your work on the individual differences in how we relate to time.

Luis:

I have… This reminded me of a story when I was in my early days of working remotely, of building a team remotely, I hired, well, not every hire I got was exceptional. I was still learning and I was still finding people, figuring out how to find people that were fit. I hope that I can say that they’re much better now, but in any case, I had one employee in particular where I kind of felt scammed, right. I kind of felt that even though they were saying they were putting in the work, the actual work that showed up didn’t equate to the hours thy were putting into. And I felt a bit scammed. So I dig up a bit on it. Well, we had many conversations. We figured it out on a check-in system and ultimately I had to let that person go because it was clear that they weren’t a fit for what we were looking for. And I felt more than that. I felt that they weren’t the fit for remote work because it felt like I knew… I had good references.

Luis:

I know the person was very good when working at an office but when working remotely, it just felt that everything took forever and that time just slipped between their fingers. So tell me a bit more, how is this something that we can help people with, the tie as a manager, as a leader, if I identify someone that is having this problem, is there any way I can help them? And if you want to give us a primer on your work in individual differences in how we relate to time and what that means, please I’d love to hear it.

Jennifer Dowling:

Okay, great. I think I can definitely relate to what you’re saying in terms of kind of fit for remote working. I suppose where I would differ maybe is that I think there’s a huge amount of remote working that involves self-awareness and self-management.

Luis:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jennifer Dowling:

So I think for me, the lack of faith often comes from a lack of self-awareness and a lack of self-management. I don’t believe that anybody isn’t suited for remote working. I sometimes think people aren’t necessarily along the path of self-awareness enough to actually manage remote working. And then I’ll give an example. So when I started working remotely first, I was in a job I really liked. I was with a company I really liked, I would be working from home four or five days a week I’d be onsite with clients the other days. And it was great. I loved the flexibility, but after a couple of months, they had no motivation. Couldn’t get up the energy for the job. Didn’t know what was going on. Sometime with one of my colleagues who was also a psychologist, and she said to me, “Do you think that it’s the drop-off of interaction with other people?” And she was spot on.

Jennifer Dowling:

I’m on the extroverted side of the scale. And I hadn’t the self-awareness at the point, I hadn’t realized that this was what was impacting my motivation, affecting my energy and my motivation. But once I was aware of it, I could manage it. So I could go for a run. And during the day I could work in a coworking space, ended up opening my own coworking space. I could manage it, but what was key to me being able to manage it with self-awareness. And I think that’s true of a lot of the pitfalls of remote working is that area of self-awareness. And they’ve done research to show that effective remote working is strongly linked with autonomy. So people who have a high need for autonomy, they tend to work really well remotely. People who have a high need for relatedness, like me, can struggle with working remotely. People who really like structure can struggle with working remotely.

Jennifer Dowling:

But again, none of those things are things that mean that we can’t work remotely. We just need to become aware of them and manage them. And then I suppose, so I think my point around individual differences, and I think it’s so important in remote working, and I’m sure you can think of countless examples to this. But the key is understanding our own relationship with how we work and our preferences around that and managing those effectively so that we can get the most out of ourselves. In relation to time, I think it’s really interesting. I suppose my interest was how individual differences impact how we relate to time. So time is objective. There’s only so many days, weeks, hours, months, minutes, seconds. But our relationship with it is really subjective. So if I’m really optimistic, for example, I can tend to think I have more time than I do. I can always end up with a half done to-do list or I can have really busy days where I don’t have a break.

Jennifer Dowling:

So things like optimism, which is just one small part of our personality can really impact how we relate to time and also how we work then. So I think my interest is really in that relationship with time. And I won’t bore you by going too much into that, maybe unless you want me to.

Luis:

I don’t think that’s boring. I don’t think that’s boring at all. Actually, I think that is extremely interesting.

Jennifer Dowling:

One of the things that I think is really interesting around time, and this was what I would have kind of done a lot of my research around was this kind of perception of control of time. So the degree to which we feel like we’re in control of our time actually impacts how well we manage your time.

Luis:

Okay.

Jennifer Dowling:

And I often ask people particularly now when we’re so busy and we’re so connected, who’s in control of your time. And people say, “Oh, my boss, my kids, my organization, my team.” But really, there’s only one answer to that question, right.

Luis:

Yeah.

Jennifer Dowling:

There’s only one person who’s in control of our time. And when we feel like we’re out of control of our time-

Luis:

That’s true.

Jennifer Dowling:

That’s right.

Luis:

Well, I guess I usually like to… Let me challenge you a bit, if I may, you are in control of your time, yes. But I still need to show up for work, right?

Jennifer Dowling:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Luis:

So yes, I am in control for that, but the question is, what do I want to trade, right, in order to get that time. I distinctly remember after I graduated, after I graduated from college, I had the feeling that I never had again in my life where the day after everything was done and I had my diploma, I defended my master’s thesis, et cetera. I was still living with my parents. I was in my bed and I was looking at the ceiling and I remember thinking I don’t have anything to do. And that was the first time that I remember having that feeling. Ever since I started school, I don’t have memory of having that feeling that I have absolutely nothing to do. And then I found a job after three weeks and I still had some free time, but had started drinking, right. I drank by a considerable amount, but that was also okay, because I got a paycheck. And so I could buy stuff to fill my free time with. So there’s definitely this sense that yes, you do have a choice, but there’s also the question of you are trading your time for things that supposedly are valuable to you.

Luis:

And you really, you can just live with free time. If you decide I am going to have 24 hours of free time, you’ll probably die from hunger, starvation. So how do you usually help people? How do you usually advise people to take that control that they have, that they ultimately, you’re right, they have that control, but actually act upon that control in a way that lets them live the life and the career that they want to, that they would wish to.

Jennifer Dowling:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). I think it’s a really interesting point. And actually it gets the of what we see as so much of the problem when we’re working remotely. People working crazy hours, people just communicating on Zoom all day and doing their actual work at the end of the day. And all these things. And in that, there’s a huge handover of control of time And yes, you’re right. We make a choice that we give a certain amount of time to work, but we need to control that and not have that controlled by somebody else. So yes, that’s difficult in certain organizations. And I think as managers, what’s really important is that we encourage behaviors that allow people to feel like they’re in control of their time and that’s asynchronous communication, that’s really good. Team really good agreements around how we communicate. It’s good shared calendars. It’s communicating our boundaries. It’s all those things that support people to feel like they have control of their time, right?

Luis:

Yeah.

Jennifer Dowling:

There was some studies recently that said on average we respond to emails within two minutes, which is crazy if you think that we’re just constantly in this reactive mode, right. As a manager, we can, or as a team, we can change that by saying, “I’m going to communicate her agency to you.” When I communicate to you, I’m going to tell you, I don’t want a response until next week or until the end of the week, or until tomorrow. And then you can say, “Okay, I’m going to put half an hour aside tomorrow to get back to Jennifer or I’m going to put an hour aside next week because that’s when she wants a response.” And by doing that, I’m giving you control of your time. Just like asynchronous communication gives us a lot of control of that time.

Luis:

Yeah, exactly. That’s one of the things, the important things that I’ve said to my team, and I feel that relieved a bit of pressure is, look, if you’re not as green on Slack, it’s like, if you were in the office, I talk to you, I expect a response, right? I mean, don’t drop your coffee cup on the floor and immediately reply to me, but what makes sense, do that make sense? And if you need to focus on some work. Slack has this new do not disturb button, use it, right. If I see the little there. I know that you’re doing some work, you’re online, and I’ll wait until you’re not, for a reply. So that makes a lot of sense. The stat about email it’s just crazy. I cannot imagine a scenario where it would have made a difference if I reply to an email in two minutes or two hours, or even…

Luis:

The smartest thing that I find is just to batch them, right. To do an hour of email in the morning and one hour in the afternoon. And for most sane humans, that should leave your inbox empty.

Jennifer Dowling:

I think you’re right and I think taking back control. I know that, if I’m doing focus work, I block out the time and I have an email response that they’ll say, “I’ll be checking my emails again at 12 o’clock or one o’clock.” So people will know I’m getting back to them, but it gives me that freedom to actually do the work I need to get done, because they think that your point is really true when you talk about Slack and do not disturb sign that like our boundaries are only as good as how well we communicate them, right.

Luis:

Yeah.

Jennifer Dowling:

I think that’s been.

Luis:

And it helps to have an agreement with the team about it as well. So tell me a bit about your own control of your time. I mean, how do you organize your day? How do you advise people organize their days?

Jennifer Dowling:

Well, I can tell you how I organize my day. I start the day, I get up at half six and I train, and then I make a list of everything I need to do for the day. And then I’ll prioritize that one to five. And then the key question is if I get nothing else done today, what’s going to make the biggest impact and that’ll be the number one thing.

Luis:

Yeah, that’s –

Jennifer Dowling:

And I’ll try and make sure that gets done first in my morning if I can. And what I’ve learned to do that makes a really big difference for me is that I assign time to the tasks. So if I have a task to do like a proofreader report, I’ll estimate how much time I think that’s going to take. So if I think that’s going to take an hour, I do that when I’m making my list. And then I put it into my calendar. A tool that I use that I’m sure you’ve come across is the Pomodoro, 25 minutes on, five minute break. And I tend to break my tasks up into how many Pomodoros they’ll take me to do. And that’s that’s pretty effective. One thing that I used to do a lot when I started working remotely was create too many big tasks, like write a report on my list and I had to start getting better at chunking those things into smaller tasks that I could more accurately kind of assign time to.

Luis:

Yeah, definitely that’s still happens to me sometimes by the way, the start of the week, I say this week, I need to do this. And it’s a big task because it’s a week long task and especially if you get there again, you forget to chunk it and then it doesn’t get done because it’s a pretty big task and there’s never time enough for it. So the chunking is definitely key.

Jennifer Dowling:

Yeah. Actually –

Luis:

I want you to move on to a couple of rapid fire questions. The questions are rapid fire, but the answers don’t need to be, feel free to expand as much as you’d like. Tell me about your virtual office. What tools do you use to get your work done? What apps are automatically opened once you start your day on your computer?

Jennifer Dowling:

I used G Suite, to be honest, I use Google calendar, Gmail. I do a lot of training. So I’ll use Slides. I use Sheets a lot as well when I’m doing slides from retraining I use Loom quite a bit, so I’ll voice over my slides, maybe I’m doing with another trainer. I’ll share my slides with voiceover, with another trainer. So I use a Loom quite a lot. For my actual training, I use tools like Mentimeter, I use Padlet quite a lot. They’d probably be the tools that I interact with the most.

Luis:

Nice. If you add one of the a hundred dollars to give a gift to each of your trainees and you need to give the same thing to everyone, it can’t be a personalizable gift. What would you give them?

Jennifer Dowling:

I have a productivity planner that I use, I actually I make my lists on paper and funnily enough, and it forces me into prioritizing things. I then transfer them to

Luis:

And the best thing about paper. I like doing that as well, because paper, unlike a Google Doc paper is finite.

Jennifer Dowling:

Yeah, yeah.

Luis:

So yeah.

Jennifer Dowling:

Yeah, there’s a satisfaction of finishing in my planner and moving on.

Luis:

And you can’t put too much stuff in, actually I find that for my top things to do to the day, index cards are great because it only has like 10 lines where you can fit stuff in. So tell me about the planner that you would give people.

Jennifer Dowling:

It’s just a productivity planner that I use. I can share the link to it afterwards, but it’s a hard copy planner. I would buy them all, one of those. It has a lovely quote at the start of the day. It encourages the Pomodoro. It’s just it’s already useful tool.

Luis:

Great. It sounds really good. I love the quote. I love the quote. So besides that planner, what purchase has made your work life easier or more productive? Let’s say in the last year.

Jennifer Dowling:

Oh God, that’s a really good question. Can I say membership to, I own a coworking space, but definitely membership of that has made me significantly more productive because I have a very physical boundary now between my work and my home. So I would think that’s probably be my best investment.

Luis:

Sounds great. Sounds great. Okay. So let’s talk a bit about books. Do you gift books?

Jennifer Dowling:

I do.

Luis:

What books do you give the most?

Jennifer Dowling:

I really like Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss. I don’t know if you’ve come across.

Luis:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I love that one as well.

Jennifer Dowling:

Yeah. I give that quite a bit. I have a daily stoic book, so it gives me kind of

Luis:

And here, it looks like our shelves are similar. This was actually when, I guest put me on the spot and asked me my question back. This was my answer.

Jennifer Dowling:

Okay, great.

Luis:

Right.

Jennifer Dowling:

So that’s the first thing that come to my head, that I gift.

Luis:

Awesome. Awesome. So, okay. So final question, been longer set up. So bear with me. Let’s say that you are hosting a dinner. I know hard hosting dinners right now. Let’s imagine that we’re not in the middle of a pandemic or at the tail end or whatever, hopefully that it will be gone in a few months, but let’s say that it’s safe for us to gather together around the dinner table. And you are hosting a dinner with top execs from a technology companies, the people making the decisions about the future of work, CEO, CTOs, hiring managers, et cetera. Now the topic of the evening is remote work and the future of work. And these people are sitting at their own table. You as the host, get to make a very important decision because as it so happens, the dinner happens in a Chinese restaurant. So you get to pick the fortune cookie message, the message that goes inside the fortune cookie. All these people will be opening it during this dinner. So what is the message?

Jennifer Dowling:

I don’t you if I have a tidy quote for this, so it could be a long message on a fortune cookie, but or I could-

Luis:

Could be a fortune pie. Please go on.

Jennifer Dowling:

It just be one word and that’s trust. It’s all about trust. It’s about building, consciously being aware of being intentional about trust. As a manager, how do we give it who do we give it to and why? And as a manager also, who trusts us in way, so trust for me, that’s where the buck stops. And I’m thinking about that’s really important.

Luis:

Trust is a good one.

Jennifer Dowling:

Sorry

Luis:

It’s good. Look, you open the fortune cookie and there is one word there. Trust is pretty much one of the best, right? That’s a good answer, actually. I bet. Especially given the context. I like it. I dig it. Thank you very much.

Jennifer Dowling:

You’re welcome.

Luis:

So where can people continue the conversation with you? Where can people find you, find out more about your projects, your work, where can they reach out to you?

Jennifer Dowling:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well you find me on LinkedIn, Jennifer Dowling. My website is TrainRemote.ie. I’m on Twitter, which is our @TrainRemote. And our email address here is [email protected] So reach out, absolutely love to hear from people in the remote workspace.

Luis:

All right, I’ll add all those things to the show notes, Jennifer, it was a pleasure having you. Thank you so much for doing this.

Jennifer Dowling:

Great. It was really nice to talk to you too Luis. Thank you very much.

Luis:

The pleasure was mine, ladies and gentlemen, this was Jennifer Dowling with the DistantJob podcast. I am your host Luis and this 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. 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.

Luis:

By subscribing, you will get a notification whenever a new episode is up and whenever we get the transcripts of the episode up, so you can actually peruse the conversations in text form. And of course, if you need to find a great employee for your team as 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, it’s the job.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 a bid you [inaudible 00:41:07]. See you next week on the next episode of DistantJob podcast.

 

More ways to listen:

Communication has been one of the most common challenges remote teams have. When teams have strong communication strategies, they are able to connect and build a sense of purpose easier. However, how to make this possible when your team is spread all over the world?

In this podcast episode, our special guest, Jennifer Dowling, reveals how to build a sense of purpose in remote teams and why establishing connection among all team members impacts how they perform and feel in a company. She also shares why managers have a key role in helping remote employees keep a healthy balance between work and life.

''I think that what we can do as managers now is try and create informal spaces for people to connect on and do it in a really intentional way.'' Click To Tweet

Highlights:

  • Main challenges that people experienced working remotely during 2020
  • The importance of psychological boundaries in workspace and leisure space when WFH
  • How to build connection and sense of purpose in your remote team
  • Tips to improve workplace communication
  • Why self-awareness is crucial in remote workers

 

Book Recommendations:

 

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