A Sneak Peek Into the Surviving Remote Work Audiobook, with Sharon Koifman

Gabriela Molina

Sharon Koifman is the founder and president of DistantJob. He believes every company, regardless of its size, should have access to the world’s top talent. That’s why with his 15+ years of experience in the tech, recruitment, and HR industries, he created a unique remote recruitment model that allows clients to get high quality IT remote experts at a fraction of the usual cost.

Sharon is also the author of Surviving Remote Work, a book perfect for those seeking to thrive as leaders and entrepreneurs in the remote age.

Sharon Koifman

Read the transcript

Luis:

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the DistantJob Podcast, your podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. I am your host Luis, and I usually interview an authority in the field of remote work and remote leadership. But today, we have a special episode for you. This is an excerpt of a book that’s very near and dear to my heart. It’s a book by my friend and the President of DistantJob, Sharon Koifman, the man who taught me most of what I learned about managing, leading remote teams. So I’m very excited to share this audio book with you. I personally, I was one of the first readers of the original book. I loved it. I think that it’s a very, very simple, very down-to-earth, very actionable guide about how to do remote work well for leaders, but not only for leaders. A section of the book is also dedicated to employees and how to kickstart an excellent remote career.

Luis:

But definitely, Sharon wrote it from a leadership perspective first, and there’s a lot of great tools, tips, tricks, and strategies to basically be great at remote work, building remote culture, et cetera, all the things that we usually talk about in the podcast. So what I’ve done for you in this episode is I’ve talked to Sharon and we’re offering the first chapter, the first 30 minutes of the audio book for you, the listeners. So, hey, without further ado, I present to you Surviving Remote Work by Sharon Koifman.

Sharon Koifman:

Introduction. This book is by no means all about the global pandemic currently raging around the world. Rather, it was created mainly because of the migration to remote work that has been happening across the world because of this pandemic. But while COVID-19 might be the hook that gets us moving towards widespread adoption of remote work, this book is a culmination of decades of progress for both the remote work movement and my own journey into the world of remote work.

Sharon Koifman:

When I first heard the news about COVID-19, it still seemed like something that was happening far away, not something that was likely to affect my own daily life. If there was any fear among my friends and colleagues, it was a prospect of being quarantined, not any fear of actually catching the virus. I remember that first COVID-19 discussion with my brother like it was yesterday. He travels a lot for work, so I knew he would have strong opinions on the subject.

Sharon Koifman:

As it was with the rest of my inner circle, my brother had only one question on his mind. What would he do if he got quarantined? It’s not that he was feeling invincible, although sometimes I do feel like my bro is some kind of a superhero. It’s that idea of quarantine brings scary images of being stuck in some room, secluded like you are in an insane asylum, without the ability to hang with your family and friends or manage your company.

Sharon Koifman:

One week after that discussion, things got real. The pandemic was no longer spreading in some remote country you had never heard of. It had made it to Italy, and it hit hard. Yet, for some strange reason, my wife and I decided to book a last-minute vacation to the Dominican Republic anyway. Our thought process went like this. “Let’s go to a place that is not being hit by the virus yet before things just get really bad.”

Sharon Koifman:

Well, turns out that was a bad plan. Literally, one day after we got on the plane, March 11, 2020, everything changed. We started getting messages from everywhere about corona. Schools were closing, people were being sent home, and the biggest news was that everyone, no matter where they were and no matter how exposed the country they were coming from was or wasn’t, would be quarantined. And this included me.

Sharon Koifman:

While sitting on the beach, having a pina colada, I was still processing, “Is this real?” I kept reading about how supermarkets were getting cleaned out and now everything was closing. Apparently, a package of toilet paper had a street value of a small diamond. It felt like I was sitting on a desert island, secluded from a world infested by zombies. And in a few days, I will be forced to fly back and encounter the zombies head on. Suddenly, the pinata did not taste so good anymore and the waves of the ocean sounded more like my world is crumbling than the usual relaxing sound of the surf. I was thinking, “I won’t be able to go out. I am going to be stuck at home for two weeks. I won’t be able to go to events. My children will get bored and antsy. I will drive my wife crazy, and I will have to work from home.”

Sharon Koifman:

That’s when the current line of thinking came to a halt. “Wait a minute. I’m going to work from home. While I do enjoy walking one block to my man cave, working at home is what I’ve been doing for years. My entire world is based on being able to work from home. Work from home is what I do. I am the remote guy. What am I getting so stressed about?” Suddenly, the waves started sounding relaxing again, and a sense of thankfulness started flowing in. Even the pina colada started tasting better. Man, that was a great pina colada.

Sharon Koifman:

Well, for some people, being quarantined might be a life-changing experience, for me, working under quarantine is what I was built to do. Yes, there have been times where I felt like I’m living inside a natural disaster movie, but once I accepted things, what quarantine meant was that I would continue to do exactly what I was already doing, working remotely. And my entire team and my company, DistantJob, is also doing just that. So there’s no sending anyone home, and no real change in the way we are doing things.

Sharon Koifman:

Saying that, I do realize that for many workers and managers, any circumstance that forces people to stay home can completely alter the way they work. For some, this is their first experience as remote employees, and it might turn out to be a complete pain in the ass, yet it could also be the experience you have always needed and never knew about. You get to explore a whole new way of working. Once you dip your toes in, you might never want to come out.

Sharon Koifman:

And this is not just for employees. It is also for management. You might feel less in control and less aware of your team. Hopefully, this book will help you deal with that. But you might also be surprised to find that there will be a surge of productivity, not because your team members feel guilty or concerned for their jobs and therefore, work harder. But because remote workers are more productive, period. It’s tough to find a silver lining in these chaotic times, but this might be it. You might be forced into this uncomfortable world of remote work, and end up finding a new deep appreciation for it. My hope for this book is to speed up the learning curve on how to do it right, so you can truly make the best of your remote work experience.

Sharon Koifman:

How does this book work? While this book has been inspired by what is happening in the world today, it is not just for the current forced migration from office to home. The reality is, once you experience the remote work effect, even when the world comes back to normal, you might still want to invest in working from home more often. You might start hiring remote people across the world, and that means completely new strategies of onboarding. If you are an employee, you might decide to continue as a remote worker forever, and it will change many of your habits, hopefully in a positive way.

Sharon Koifman:

What I’m trying to say is, this book was made for this new world in its entirety, and not just for people who are adjusting from their pre-coronavirus office life. My advice will benefit remote work at any stage for any company, whether you are hiring a new remote employee, starting a job, choosing a fully remote operation or a hybrid system, whether you are open to international hiring, or sticking to just your region, we’ve got you covered.

Sharon Koifman:

As you can see, we divided this book into three parts: remote management, remote work, and everyone. I thought about creating two separate books, but I realized that it is way too important that the manager and employee understand each other’s perspective. On top of that, the manager is also an employee, and many employees do aspire to be managers. But of course, if you have limited time, there’s nothing wrong with skipping to the section that’s most relevant to you right now.

Sharon Koifman:

This book was put together by a combination of some research, a lot of experimenting, and real-time navigation with DistantJob. I hope this will help you understand and get inspired by this new world you have been forced into. For those of you who made this choice on your own, I will show you how you made the best decision of your life.

Sharon Koifman:

Why you should be listening to me. Hi, everyone. My name is Sharon Koifman, and I’m obsessed with remote management. I came to this obsession about 18 years ago in my first operation, where I was running a web hosting and outsourcing company called Empire Host. We had two offices in India, and that gave me an amazing opportunity to learn about hiring and managing people internationally. The experience also opened my eyes to everything that works and doesn’t work with the offshoring and outsourcing world. I later sold that business, and like most businessmen who sell their company too early, I then opened a consulting company and took on several international marketing, sales, and recruitment gigs.

Sharon Koifman:

All these experiences have brought me to the conclusion that the key to succeeding when working internationally is dealing with a focused, fully integrated team. That is why I started DistantJob, a recruitment agency that uniquely specializes in finding full-time remote employees. We go all over the world to find exceptional people who work from their home or personal office.

Sharon Koifman:

The one unifying factor across all my businesses is that I was continuously working for my computer. At most, I’ve had three people working with me in the same office. My world for the last 18 years has been sitting somewhere by myself, managing people from India to all over Eastern Europe and Latin America. For the last decade, none of my employees have even worked from a centralized office, and most of them have lived in completely different countries. Getting people to work from home and understanding how to manage and motivate them has become a true passion.

Sharon Koifman:

In the past few years, DistantJob has become a research lab for remote management. Our team continuously tests new processes and new technology, and invests in new ways to create a better culture in a distributed environment. With this horrible pandemic going on, I want to share this incredible experience with the rest of the world. Truth be told, I have to admit that I don’t have much experience doing all this with no daycare and no help. I do currently have one kid jumping on my lap and another one pulling on my ear, but hopefully, by the time we’re done with this book, I’ll have more to say about that element of remote work as well.

Sharon Koifman:

Why do some people fear remote work? When the industrial revolution started, we were exposed to new ways of living from all across the world. People moved from the farms into the factories. This was an amazing upgrade in life. It provided a steady paycheck and a consistent way to take care of the family. It also enabled people to purchase products beyond their previous means. This stability protected families from bad luck, natural disasters, and events beyond their control.

Sharon Koifman:

In the beginning, simply having a secure job was the dream, and many would put up with poor working conditions for it. But slowly, through the decades, things changed and workers were no longer seen as just commodities. They became people on whom you depended to get creative, great products, and take on independent actions. Companies need to attract top candidates, and that often means they need to focus on employees’ happiness and comfort. And an environment that fosters happiness and comfort not only attracts better employees, it also motivates them to be more productive.

Sharon Koifman:

In the past several decades, human resources implementations have becomes so sophisticated, that people often see the office as their second home. Hey, give them their first home. The reality is that we actually do spend more awake time in the office than we do at home, so why not go work the second home? If you feed them, caffeinate them, take care of all their benefits, and of course, provide social experiences and friendships, you’ll be able to keep them in the office and in their seat for longer.

Sharon Koifman:

Don’t get me wrong. The idea of trying to make your work a more pleasant place is great. And I don’t want to claim that HR directors are some manipulative masterminds, but these sophisticated HR strategies get our brain to associate the office with both productivity and social connection. Unless you have a deep connection and social experience outside your office, your office colleagues do become your friends.

Sharon Koifman:

For many of us, the golden rule of keeping work/life balance is leaving the office at the office. When home, we don’t want to be bothered by work stuff. That’s why the idea of working from home seems so counterproductive to some. For many of us, it is truly against everything we know and understand. With remote work, it can feel like there are many unknowns. As a boss, how would I know if people are working? How would I make sure that people are being productive? How will we evaluate their work? How will I check if they’re coming on time? How can we have proper meetings?

Sharon Koifman:

Bosses and managers have spent years defining their processes and culture, and for many of us, it revolves around the office. When those processes and that culture are established, and a company is doing well, there’s a resistance to change. We all know the cliche, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But often, things are broken, and we try to ignore it, which doesn’t work.

Sharon Koifman:

What if remote work options increase productivity and improve communication? What if there were tools available for creating a better work environment for your staff? Consider the possibilities. Don’t be afraid, be prepared. Change isn’t always voluntary. Sometimes change is needed for survival. But in the right hands, change can result in great things. Take away. We’ve been programmed for years to feel that work is done in the office. Anything else seems unnatural, but it really shouldn’t feel that way.

Sharon Koifman:

Why people shouldn’t fear remote work. If your boss or employees are concerned about working remotely, nothing does a better job of laying out the pluses and minuses of remote work than dissecting the facts. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, here’s how an average work day is spent. Reading news websites, one hour and five minutes, checking social media, 44 minutes, discussing personal matters with coworkers, 40 minutes, searching for a new job, 26 minutes, making calls to partners or friends, 18 minutes, making beverages, 17 minutes, texting or instant messaging, 14 minutes, eating snacks, eight minutes, making food, seven minutes. For those without a calculator handy, these numbers means that after adding time for lunch and a coffee break, the average work day includes just two hours and 53 minutes of productive work. How do you like them apples?

Sharon Koifman:

There’s more. According to a survey done by COCOA CLOUD, remote workers are 77% more productive, 52% are willing to take less time off, and 23% are willing to work more hours in a return for working from home. Working from home means no commute, less money spent on gas, vehicle maintenance, and unpaid time. People who work from home are not pressed to make it home at the end of the workday. They take less sick time, and are willing to work more hours.

Sharon Koifman:

Think about it. The main cure for not feeling well is to rest. When you’re tired of sleeping, the computer will call, and work will be done. This is not possible when working in an office with other people. For fear of infecting others, people stay at home the entire day, sometimes several days, and work productivity comes to a screeching halt. You can argue that working remotely has some of the same elements as taking a vacation, or at least less of the everyday grind of commuting that necessitates vacations. So you need less of it. Many employees do spend a bit more time working, and more important than that, they don’t leave small projects in the middle because they’re in a rush to get back home.

Sharon Koifman:

Here’s another piece of relevant research. According to the MIT Sloan School of Management, remote employees are happier and more independent. This means you actually need to manage them less and they will be more productive.

Sharon Koifman:

Did you have enough? Because I have more. When you choose to go remote, you can suddenly go international, then your recruitment process will get easier because the world is just big, and you will no longer limit yourself by geography. When people think internationally, often they think about the fact that people work in countries where the cost of living is lower. But that’s not the only advantage. When you choose to expand beyond your limited region, you can find people who are a better fit for your requirements.

Sharon Koifman:

I know this might sound discouraging for people who work within your region, but once you think globally, an entire world of possibility opens. Western employees who are threatened by international competition within the job market can also find international opportunities that fit better and make them happier. Suddenly, an American can find a better fit in a British company, which was not a real option in the past.

Sharon Koifman:

Last, but not least, you can become a truly green company. There are very few better solutions for the environment than going remote and cutting back on the pollution that comes from many different forms of travel. If all the people who switched to remote work during the COVID-19 crisis stayed remote afterward, we could eliminate 54 million tons of greenhouse gas in the US alone. That is about 10% of the total 5 billion tons of greenhouse gas produced the US per year.

Sharon Koifman:

To top it off offices, which are being used only 50% of the time, still waste a significant amount of energy in lighting, heating, cooling, and electricity usage. Have you ever passed an office building at night, where the light’s still on, as if people were having a huge party all night and you were not invited. It happens often and it is a huge waste. This leap might sound scary for many people, but going remote opens up an entire horizon to a happier, more productive world with fewer crowded roads and more fresh air. Take away. Remote workers are happier, more motivated, take fewer sick days, are less distracted, and cause less damage to the environment. Moreover, going beyond your limited region gives you access to a much bigger pool of people who will work from countries where the cost of living is much lower, creating a win-win situation for both those workers and your company.

Sharon Koifman:

The politics of remote work. Okay. Let’s discuss the huge pink elephant in the room. For many people, remote work promotes the idea of outsourcing and cheap labor, which immediately turns into fear of losing Western jobs. Politicians and the media have suggested this for years. They say people are losing their jobs, and businesses are closing because of cheap labor across the world. Yet with exception of rare events, such as the burst of the.com bubble or the banking crisis of the 2007, 2008, unemployment rates in the United States have stayed approximately the same, if not improved every year, going back multiple decades.

Sharon Koifman:

This might sound quite unusual, India and the Philippines have been gaining hundreds of millions of jobs in the outsourcing service market, jobs that once belonged to Americans and other Western residents. Yet unemployment rate did not budge in those countries. How is that possible? Well, all we have to do is inspect some economic laws. When we start providing a bunch of new jobs to people that did not have jobs before, we’re creating more consumers.

Sharon Koifman:

When I first went to India in the early 2000s, I noticed tons of McDonald’s and Pizza Hut and US clothing brands like Nike and Reebok. My associate at the time told me that these businesses did not exist in India 10 years earlier. With economic boom, suddenly new brands and new industries found opportunities in other countries, and guess what? Almost all of them were American and European companies. In other words, when a Western company employs people outside their country, they’re not just creating jobs somewhere else, they are also creating consumers who will purchase the products that generate jobs in the first place.

Sharon Koifman:

The reason why we have a perception that unemployment is increasing is because we like to show the jobs that were lost to the cheap labor market, but we never discuss the jobs that are being created. We never follow up or alert people a few months later about where the people that lost their jobs are at the moment. What happened to the people who lost their job to a cheaper labor market? Based on employment rates, they found employment elsewhere, often somewhere potentially more challenging and more creative.

Sharon Koifman:

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the US doesn’t have some employment challenges. And we do need to define what is considered a quality job. Still, outsourcing, off-shoring, or hiring international staff has a very low negative effect on employment rates. The only effect that you do actually have is drastically lowering poverty rates in other countries. That’s right. The effect of international hiring is, as expression goes, “Give him a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” You just thought someone how to fish, so you no longer need to give to charity.

Sharon Koifman:

Here’s another interesting side effect. One of the biggest industries to be outsourced to India and the Philippines was the call center industry. Because richer countries help create a stronger economy within less wealthy countries, the salary of an American call center employee is currently just 15% higher than the ever-increasing salary of a call center employee in India. Now jobs are coming back. Isn’t that amazing? We’ve brought entire economies out of poverty, created more consumption, and at the same time, jobs are returning to the US.

Sharon Koifman:

Two other industries that gain a reputation for losing jobs to the outsourcing industry are IT and software development. I have talked to people who had a friend, I have a cousin from their stepmother’s side who lost their job to someone in India or Ukraine. Bad news, for sure. Yet, once we go down to the facts, the need for software engineers doubles every five years, and the age and experience of candidates go down every day. No one is running out of work. We’re running out of engineers. This equalizes the financial playing field very quickly.

Sharon Koifman:

As a side note, the reason why I’m not delving too much into China, the other beast of the offshore world, is because China has political issues, or should I say dictatorship issues that negatively affect human rights and environmental concerns. While it is pretty amazing that the Western world contributed to China’s climb from poverty, the economic influence that China is getting comes with quite a few problems, but that is a discussion for another book.

Sharon Koifman:

The only real fear we should have from international hiring is when we start losing the ideas and creative battle. The key is having the people and companies that can think outside the box to create a new product and a new brand, and cheap labor won’t provide that. What will is working with happier, more independent employees. And as we learned in the previous section, there is no better way to accomplish that goal than hiring remote workers.

Sharon Koifman:

So why do politics of remote work matter so much? There’s this old book called Secrets of the Millionaire Mind. It was one of those self-help motivational books focused on making money. Now, if you’re one of those people who are interested in reading it, I might ruin it for you, because it can be summarized with one phrase. “Don’t be afraid to make money, and don’t be afraid to be successful.”

Sharon Koifman:

The upshoot of this book is that running a business is incredibly tough. The word on the street since I first entered the business world is that one out of 10 people succeed in business. I don’t actually know how precise the statistic is, and how many of those 10 people just registered for a business, but then didn’t really do much. Yet, let’s say even if it’s one out of four people, this mountain that you’re trying to climb comes with massive falling rocks and the slipperiest ice, because building a business is so difficult. Psychologically, you cannot afford to have unnecessary obstacles, be they emotional or political. If you feel that making money or being successful is wrong or evil, you are simply doomed to fail.

Sharon Koifman:

So why bring all this up in a book about remote work? Because remote work comes with a lot of prejudgments and fears, similar to the ones that we have seen above. When I see a new client that comes with a horrible attitude, that is only hiring because it doesn’t have a choice, it’s almost always a failure. I’ve had so many experiences where I go to a conference, hang out with a CEO, and get them excited about using our service. The CEO comes back to the office, pumped up like a perky cheerleader, excited about opening the world to new talents. He tells his CTO to work with our company, but the CTO doesn’t have the same enthusiasm and is actually dreading the idea.

Sharon Koifman:

So while I love the prospect of getting a new client, I know that it will be a very difficult process, which will most always fail. My goal for this book is to get you as pumped up about remote work as that CEO or as I am. I want you to put your pom poms in the air and say, “Yay, remote work.” If you don’t come into this with an optimistic approach, you are drastically hurting your chances of succeeding. I hope this book will help you find that optimism.

Sharon Koifman:

Takeaways. International job equals consumers, equals Western products are being purchased, equals more jobs in Europe and North America, equals no one loses jobs, equals more jobs all around, equals less need for charity. Understanding the politics equals being proud of your work, equals doing a better job.

Luis:

And I was it, ladies and gentlemen. I hope you enjoyed this excerpt of Surviving Remote Work by Sharon Koifman. You can find it wherever you can find good audio books, which is to say Apple Books, Audible, and Amazon, of course. You’ll find the links in the show notes, or you can head to our sister site, www.thinkremote.com/remote-work-book, and you can find there how to buy it.

Luis:

But yeah. Also check the links down in the show notes. This was once again, Surviving Remote Work by Sharon Koifman. I think it’s an awesome book. I think you should read it. And it’s a very fun book, as no doubt you’ve noticed from the intro. So yeah, go get it and enjoy it. Thank you. This was Luis with 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 and 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 with that again, distantjob.com is the perfect place to start. You will tell us who we 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.

Surviving Remote Work is the ultimate remote work guide for those wanting to succeed in this new virtual environment. While the book is written from a leadership perspective, it also has valuable insights for remote workers.

In this episode, Sharon shares the first chapter of the book and a little sneak peek of what this valuable resource offers remote workers.

Highlights:

  • Purpose of the book (and how it is structured)
  • Insights about building a remote team
  • Why many employers fear remote work and what to do about it
  • Benefits of working remotely

Interested in the audiobook? Get it here!

 

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