What Virtual Culture Looks Like with Kate Lister from Global Workplace Analytics

Kate is the president of Global Workplace Analytics, a research-based consulting organization that helps employers deploy and deploy teamwork, telework in other workplaces and work for strategies that are good for people, the planet, and profit.

Follow our guest on their social media:

Succesful business woman

Luis:

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to another episode of the Distant Job Podcast, your podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. I am your host, Luis, and with me today, I have Kate Lister. Kate is the president of Global Workplace Analytics, a research-based consulting organization that helps employers deploy and deploy teamwork, telework in other workplace and work for strategies that are good for people, planet and profit.

Luis:

So, Kate, welcome to the show.

Kate:

Great to be here.

Luis:

It’s my pleasure having you after looking at the great research that you do and that you published. It’s great to finally have you on. Now, tell our listeners a little bit more about yourself and about what you do, and especially what you’ve done, your recent work in this very special year that’s 2020 is proving to be.

Kate:

Yeah. Well, I’ve been pushing the remote work rock uphill for 16 years now, and suddenly, it feels like it’s chasing me down the other side of the hill.

Luis:

Yeah. Talk about the jackpot.

Kate:

We’ve been working with companies to help develop flexible workplace strategies not just telework or remote work, but also all kinds of flexibility and getting into wellness and wellbeing, and any of those strategies that are good for, as you said, people, planet, and profit. For the most part over the last 16 years, it’s been a steady business, but come early this year, it changed substantially and practically overnight. The phone was ringing off the hook.

Kate:

I think I was interviewed by over 300 news organizations since COVID, but also find time to work with companies as well. What we’ve mostly been doing is helping them figure out what is it that we want to do over the longer run.

Luis:

Yeah. That’s an interesting point, the longer run, because right now, people are in panic mode, right? They’re trying to cope. They’re trying to adjust to the new realities. There are estimates of how long those new realities will be or not. I have to say I had a similar experience of the bolder suddenly turning on me because as our special thing as a recruitment agency was that we are a remote recruitment agency. So, we only find remote candidates for businesses.

Luis:

A lot of the businesses that come to us were actually not so much used to remote work and in many of our clients, their first remote workers came from us. So, that was always a barrier that we found that people were unsure, “Not sure if this will work out,” “How will we know if it works?” “How are we going to manage these people?” et cetera, et cetera.

Luis:

Suddenly, everyone is like, “Oh, you do remote workers? Nice. I need to hire some people. This is how we do things today.”

Luis:

So, that was a definitely an experience, but as you say, you’ve been focusing all this time in the long run. Now, everyone is thinking short to middle term. How do you think that the events of 2020 will affect remote work in the long term?

Kate:

Well, I think it’s absolutely been a tipping point. Employees have wanted it for a long time, employees of every generation. All the studies that we’ve done over the years, it was pretty consistent that 75% to 80% of people said they would like to work from home at least some of the time. So, there’s that, but what’s happened during this is that they’ve actually had a taste of it. I mean, more than half of the people that were working at home are working at home during the pandemic had not done it before.

Kate:

Now, the genie is out of the bottle, and it’s not going to go back in very easily. So, we’ve got the employees that now really want it. We’ve got the middle managers who traditionally have been the biggest hold back. They’re the ones that are afraid they won’t be able to manage people. They can’t see that they’re going to be sitting on the sofa eating bonbons rather than working.

Luis:

Why not both?

Kate:

Right, right, but I think we’ve overcome that barrier now because one of the biggest predictors of a manager that supported it in the past was having done it themselves. Now, they have and they’ve seen that, “Hey, I can see my people. I can manage them remotely. They are actually working. All of those things that we’ve been telling them over the years, they’ve finally seen for themselves.

Kate:

I think another factor, a couple other factors that are going to really roll this forward is that over the years, it’s always been the tactical solution to the problem du jour. So, during the last recession, it was about saving money. After the recession, it was about hiring and retaining the best talent. It was starting to get into improving work-life balance and health and wellness.

Kate:

Those always came from silos from HR or from real estate. C-suite wasn’t really involved. Now, C-suite has seen what this can do to productivity and performance and engagement and costs and if we’re headed into a recession, that’s going to stick. I think investors are going to be more interested in having companies do this not just from a cost point of view, but from a resilience point of view. I mean, imagine if companies hadn’t been able to deploy their resource, their workforce virtually during this time. I mean, it would have been absolutely crushing.

Kate:

Then the last thing I think that’s going to drive it forward and maybe this is a hope more than thought is the sustainability impact. I recycle, but I can’t really … I don’t see it. I don’t see that that’s doing anything. When just a few short weeks we saw cleaner air and cleaner water, that’s I think going to make a lasting impression.

Luis:

That’s something. Yeah, for sure. That actually makes a lot of sense. I’m with you in the recycling. Sometimes I’m recycling and I’m thinking, “Oh, gosh! Is this really going to make a difference?” There’s the person in the recycling plant just say, “Oh, this is not properly sorted,” and just throw it out the window in any way. That’s that, but, yeah. It turns out that not using cars is a big deal for the environment. Who would have thought?

Kate:

Who would have thought, right?

Luis:

Exactly. Exactly. So, okay. So, 2020 happened. Now, obviously, people are in … It’s not a great sell to say, “See? Now, if you make remote work a big part of your organization when the next pandemic hits, then you’re going to be prepared.” Now, that’s the great selling point, not great for the optimists, but as you said, people are clearly seeing that not only is it not so bad, there’s actually many gains to the bottom line to be made, right?

Luis:

Even if you’re completely blasé about the environment, about work-life balance, about all of that stuff, there’s an argument. People are understanding that there’s an argument to be made for the bottom line. I think that a lot of people weren’t really expecting that. I would wager that most people weren’t expecting, most people that weren’t doing remote work before.

Luis:

Now, what were some of our expectations that 2020 broke? Why would something that you believed about remote work, about this area that you’ve been engaging on for the past 16 years that you actually felt that, “Oh, this isn’t quite right. This thing that I thought was going to happen once remote work blew up, it’s actually not quite right”? Did you have something like that?

Kate:

Yeah. I guess at the beginning I’ve felt like this was going to go one of two ways, either because people were thrust into this, because they weren’t ready for it, they were going to do it and just hate it. It just wasn’t going to work. That might have happened had this not gone on so long, but pretty quickly, and we saw within the first three, four weeks, people were getting over the technology issues. They were making it work.

Kate:

So, I think our fears were wrong in that way, and we did actually make it happen. I mean, we would typically have spent six months to year, even longer with a large client rolling something like this out, and boom, it happened overnight.

Kate:

We did a survey with a company called Iometrics, partnered with them to do a survey, and it was filled in in April, so not very long into the pandemic. 70% of both employees and managers said that they felt that they were either as productive or more productive working at home, and that they were comfortable working at home, and that they were even comfortable and satisfied with the collaboration working at home. They preferred the collaboration in-person, and they preferred managing people in-person, but they were getting it done.

Kate:

My fear now is that the companies that are jumping into this with both feet and saying, “Half of our workforce is going to work remotely,” is that they won’t go back and do those important things that we would have done if we were doing this intentionally. They’ve let it happen rather than made it happen. There are a lot of things, and we’re starting to see the cracks now. The biggest concern we’re seeing with companies now is that they’re feeling there’s a cultural disconnect, that they’re not feeling as connected to their people, that people aren’t feeling as connected to one another.

Kate:

Part of that is because they don’t have the practices and the protocols in place to communicate effectively. They don’t have a virtual persona that exudes the purpose of the company. I mean, think about like a manufacturer of healthcare equipment. You walk in to their office and there’s this giant screen showing how this equipment is being used in a hospital and helping people, and there’s posters all over, and there’s all kinds of things that remind you of what it is that you do and what you stand for, but we don’t have that virtually, and we need to recreate that virtually. It’s not difficult, but it is different. We need to go back and pick up some of those things that we would have done if we have rolled this out in an orderly fashion.

Luis:

Yeah. Those points, it’s funny because when I was looking at your latest reports, the data points that you mentioned were actually the ones that stood out more to me because it … I know that this is self-reported, correct?

Kate:

Yes, it is.

Luis:

This is self-reported. So, obviously, there’s very likely a gap between what people feel and the reality, but I’m surprised that people admit to challenges in communication and engagement and to operation and yet, they also admit that they are the same or more productive. To me, this brings an enormous elephant in the room that there’s, well, is actual engagement and the cooperation that important, right? That was the thing that popped out to me. It seems to me that most people are actually perfectly fine, actually do a perfect good job being shut ins and not having any deep relations with people in their businesses, so long as they have healthy lives with the other non-work-related people in their family.

Luis:

I’m a bit afraid that we have fetishized this idea of team spirit in our culture one thing the workplace to almost necessarily be like a second big happy family when actually we’re pretty fine just doing a good job getting the fruits of our labor and then having our friends and family somewhere else.

Kate:

That’s a really interesting point. We were sort of, even over the last five years, there’s been research showing that we’re becoming more family and friend-oriented and actually having a smaller circle of people that we interact with and becoming more insular. So, I don’t know. Is it good or is it bad? I think one of the problems we have right now is that this is not normal, right? This is not normal work from home. Normal work from home is when the children are not in the house and they’re not being homeschooled and we’re not all worrying about a pandemic or being let go from our jobs or the economy tanking.

Kate:

Normally, it would be kind of a hybrid. It would be sometimes in the office and sometimes at home. I mean, there are a lot of all virtual workers, but that’s not the majority. So, we’re missing what those, back in the study that we did that I mentioned earlier, it showed that the typical employee wants to work from home half of the time, so two to three days a week. So, that gives them the time with people at the office, and that’s where we collaborate, that’s where we socialize, and then at home, this is where we go to concentrate.

Kate:

One of the things that we just did in a recent study with Owl Labs, just got released last week, is we asked people whether they were self-described as introverts or extroverts, and then ran the answers to questions like, do they like working from home, do they want to continue to do it, would they take a pay cut, and all those kinds of things. Then we’re able to cut it by introvert and extrovert.

Kate:

It wasn’t as different as you might have thought or as I might have thought. There wasn’t a very significant difference in how introverts and extroverts felt about the experience of working at home. I would have thought introverts would be like, “Oh, this is the best,” and extroverts would be saying, “Get me out of here.” It really didn’t come down like that.

Luis:

Yeah. Well, because it really depends. I mean, I self-identify as an introvert, and I’ve been in physical businesses where I didn’t have to interact as much with people as I do now. I mean, it depends on the business, the company, and the position you occupy, right? When I was just toiling in my own little cubicle doing my own little stuff, I basically had to talk with my boss. Now, leading a team, I have calls almost every day, and I would have every day if I didn’t block some days not to have calls because Zoom … So, for an introvert, I think for everyone, but for an introvert, in particular, Zoom fatigue is a real thing.

Kate:

Oh, absolutely.

Luis:

Right?

Kate:

Absolutely, yeah.

Luis:

So, I mean, right now, while I’m with you, and I actually did something that I only started doing recently, which is you occupy all of my screen, right? Usually, I would have myself, I would have a grid view, and I would see myself, so that I could check. Really, it turns out that that actually really tires me being self-conscious of my own presentation while someone else is in the screen, right?

Luis:

I used to have when I was in a team meeting, I used to have everyone arranged in a grid again, and now I only have the active speaker because it just really … It’s weird, but it feels like I’m with more people and as an introvert, it drains me more. So, I would definitely say that remote work is not the panacea for introverts, though it can be depending on the position, depending on the position that you occupy in your industry.

Kate:

Yeah. There’s science behind all of that, the lack of that full person and the full gestures. One of the things, and it’s interesting, there was a guy that I was dealing with early in the recession, and he was always looking off to the side and sitting back. I thought, “Well, he doesn’t seem very engaged.” Boy, his body language just is, gosh, I don’t know. I don’t know if he’s interested or whatever.

Kate:

It turns out that he was looking at his other monitor because that’s where the camera was or that’s where the show was, where he could see the other people, but the camera was on the other computer that was looking at the side of his face, basically. So, that was one of those things that you get this false feedback. If that had happened when we were in the room together, I would have seen the whole thing happening. So, there’s a lot of misinterpretation that can happen, and also a lot of misinterpretation that can happen by email, and by chat because those things are now elevated to a higher use and higher platform.

Luis:

For sure.

Kate:

We have to be more careful. Again, going back to the training, we would have been thinking about those things, and we would have been talking about how you write an email, and how you use a text, and when you do this, and when you do that, and most of people that are working from home right now haven’t had that opportunity to think about those things.

Luis:

Yeah. That’s one of the things that I like to check the most when I’m interviewing for positions in my team, remote, of course, is really, how do they communicate in written form because I find that it can be very tiring for everyone involved when someone communicates let’s say in Slack, it doesn’t even need to be an email, just on Slack, very loosely, right? Saying things like, “Did you have the thing ready?”

Luis:

I’m like, “Yeah.”

Luis:

The person that I don’t want to work with is the person who says, “Did you do the thing?” That’s not great communication. It’s not great communication anywhere, but when it comes to the written format, it’s even worse.

Luis:

I want to go back a bit to that stat that you said that most people would actually like to work in the office half of the time and from home the other half. I would like you to tell me what you think about that and why do you think that is. Could it not be just a case of preference falsification because it would seem to me to be more natural that people would be more for most of the time either in one situation or the other situation. When someone just says 50/50, it smells a bit of preference falsification to me.

Kate:

Say more. What do you mean by preference falsification?

Luis:

Well, I mean, this has happened in some controversial elections both in the US and Europe, where the polls say that the more politically correct candidates will win and that’s because there’s a large percentage of the pollsters that are shamed of saying that they are going to vote for the less politically correct candidate. So, they, in effect, they only show their true intentions when it’s the actual 11th hour and they actually need to commit to a position.

Kate:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. I think a lot of it is habit and routine. We like routines. If we had never packed up our bags and left the agricultural age, and gone to an office, then we obviously wouldn’t miss it. We wouldn’t think about going back to it.

Kate:

I think there is a habitual part of it. That is where we’ve learned to go to socialize. That is where we’ve made friends. There is this impression that you collaborate better, you innovate better, you’re more creative, and I say impression because I don’t think any of those are necessarily true.

Luis:

I would definitely that I can understand why some people would like to be in the office. I do miss some aspects of the office myself. I’m saying this as someone whose business, the home model is the remote work, right? I do miss some things about the office. The things that I like about being remote weigh a lot more than the things that I like about being in the office, but I’m not going to argue that there are some cool perks to being in a physical location with people, of course.

Kate:

Yeah. I think also like the all-remote companies have learned and research has shown that we don’t need a lot of face time to create trust bonds or maintain trust bonds. Most of them have once or twice a year get togethers, so that you are all physically in the same place and during those times, often, they make it entirely social, so that you just get to know people as people.

Kate:

Personally, I know people all over the world as a result of this kind of communication. I’m very comfortable with them. In fact, if I do meet them in-person, I don’t remember whether I met them in-person or not before because I’ve just become so comfortable with them. I don’t know if that’s because I’m an introvert also or I think I probably would score high on the empathy scale.

Kate:

I think that’s another thing that this, maybe there’s a silver lining here that when you see the CEO sitting in his armchair with his golden retriever’s head on his leg, I mean, it humanizes that person. When I see you with your cats walking around in the background, it creates a connection. I see you have a plant on the mantle piece. I like plants, too.

Kate:

I think it is actually making us more empathetic, “Hey, this is a whole person. He has a whole life.” Maybe there are children walking around in the background. So, when I think about talking to Luis in the future, I’m going to think about his cats. No children walking around, so I won’t think about those.

Luis:

Yeah, and I actually hate plants. The plant is there so that cats can slowly nibble it to death.

Kate:

Thanks. As a plant lover, you just stuck a stake through my heart.

Luis:

Yeah. Oh, well, yeah, that’s definitely a good point. Yeah, I do, I have felt much more committed to my colleagues and business after I actually met them for real. The afterglow of that meeting actually lasts for months, right? So, actually, I would say that more important than people working together in the same place is just people getting together a couple of times a year. Actually, don’t make it about work. Sure, you can talk about work because you work together. It would be natural that you do, but hang out, right? Well, don’t hang out.

Kate:

Yeah, and I think that’s important now in these communications. Again, it’s just about being intentional and taking that time during a meeting, five or 10 minutes or whatever or maybe a whole meeting dedicated to just talking to one another and just being yourself. That’s the kind of thing that some of the virtual companies have learned or playing games together, the value of that. There’s a really neat study on empathy and they were measuring mirror neurons.

Kate:

So, you and I don’t know each other, and they put us in a room together, and they tell me that they’re going to put your hand in a bucket of scalding water, and I’ve watched this. There are no mirror neurons that will fire. I’m not going to feel your pain. Now, we go out and we play Minecraft together for 10 minutes and we come back in the room. Now, when you do it, my mirror neurons feel your pain. I’m empathizing with you just from spending 10 minutes together playing a game.

Luis:

Yeah, yeah. That’s true. That’s true and that’s actual thing that I have experienced. I mean, I was a lot and into playing and I even worked a bit in the game industry many years ago. I definitely felt more connected to people that I had never met, but I had played online than the people that I only met occasionally. So, that is, for sure, just the idea of working together toward a common goal or even not working together toward a common goal, but just working in parallel in the same space, and it can even be virtual space, that’s definitely a takeaway that’s relevant for the current times.

Luis:

So, there’s something that you said a bit back about what predicts people, what predicts middle managers accepting remote work and the largest predictor factor is that they have tried it themselves. I wanted to ask you a bit about hiring. So, have you found anything that predicts when you’re hiring that people will be good at working remotely? Because I found out that a lot of people that are really great performers, top of their game in their respective areas of work and their respective industries, that doesn’t automatically make them great at working remotely. It does seem that there’s a certain amount of skills and traits that make it a bit better. I’m curious to hear your opinion and if you found out something about that along those lines in your research.

Kate:

Yeah. In fact, we did in that first study that I mentioned that we did with Iometrics, we used predictive analytics to determine what were the key traits of people that, again, self-reported said that they were feeling successful. The first one was being a self-starter, being naturally autonomous. So, you would expect that. You’re not going to have to discipline yourself to sit down and work.

Kate:

It was about knowing, being comfortable in your role and comfortable in your job. So, having that confidence that you don’t … One of the things we learned or have learned is that young people are having the hardest time right now because I think, A, they don’t have the space at home that somebody older might have. So, maybe they’re sharing with a roommate or in a basement or wherever they are. They don’t have the space, and that’s actually one of the predictive analytics, too, was that having a dedicated space is important.

Kate:

The other part of it is that they’re not as comfortable in their role. They don’t feel confident that they know what they should be doing, what they should be working on. They feel they need that subtle coaching that goes on in an office.

Kate:

I was interviewed by a New York Times reporter a while back and she said, “I learned how to interview by sitting in a bullet pen hearing the more senior writers interview people.” So, I think that somehow we have to be conscious of that and have to bring that into how we operate remotely.

Kate:

Again, I go back to I think there’s an awful lot we can learn from the companies that have been doing this for a long time, particularly in an all-remote way. I hope that we come out of this actually better than how we went into it because it’s a pet peeve, but when people say we need to replicate the water cooler. Excuse me, let’s not try to replicate things until we know that they were good things to begin with. So, let’s use technology to make things better. Who said that the water cooler was the best way to socialize and get to know people?

Kate:

I mean, meetings are broken. Let’s use what we’re learning from this to create better meetings, to learn how to communicate asynchronously as well as synchronously and cut down on a lot of those meetings.

Luis:

That’s a great point, and that’s actually why I’m not too bullish about the idea that we get nowadays that, “Hey, we went remote and productivity is actually bigger.” It’s like we don’t really know. We’ve been doing this. Most people, the big chunk of people that are new to remote work have been doing this for a very short time, and they’ve been doing it under very weird conditions.

Luis:

So, really, it’s really hard for me to be bullish on anything much because these are complex systems, and complex systems sometimes take time to adjust, right? Actually, they usually do. They usually do.

Kate:

Yeah, yeah. No, no.

Luis:

I do think, to your point, I do think that we are, I mean, it would be very hard to get out of this situation worse for the wear, right? I would say as much as it’s been terrible for many of us in many respects, for remote work specifically, I think that it was the proof of concept moment, right?

Luis:

Now, people actually know that it’s not just a small niche of introverts that are pushing this idea. This is actually a viable business model, a viable way of conducting business, a viable way of working that may need some adjustments along the line, for sure, almost certainly will.

Kate:

Exactly. I agree with you. I’m a little bit more bullish in that I’ve seen the research over 16 years. I know that it increases productivity even during this and that first study that I mentioned. We showed that people said they lost 35 minutes a day less to interruptions at home. That’s with all of the cacophony that was going on in April of this year, but that’s something that we would have traditionally seen that they lose less time to interruptions, that they give back part of the time they would have otherwise spent playing in traffic. In fact, I’m sure you know that the biggest problem for remote workers is overworking, knowing when to being able to turn it off.

Luis:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Kate:

I know one guy that works in his car outside his house at the end of the day, drives around the block and then parks back in front of his house so that there’s his separation of work and home.

Luis:

Oh, I wasn’t arguing that there were no … I mean, again, I haven’t been doing this for 16 years, but it is my industry, and I do know that the earnings from productivity are real, but I mean, again, then we get to the … I’m just wondering longterm the effects of the rest. Right now, people are less distracted, even though miraculously almost because they have their dogs and kids at home and there’s a zombie apocalypse going on outside. So, that’s really neat.

Luis:

Then there are the other factors that we’ve been commenting around during this podcast, the less personally in-person time, the lower sense of engagement with the company culture, et cetera, et cetera. We don’t know how these things will affect productivity across one year, two years, et cetera. So, I mean, you certainly know better than me because you have a very large dataset to draw upon, but it’s still, I mean, talk about an embarrassment of riches, right? For you, a data centric person with the data of the it’s like your laboratory has been amplified by 10.

Kate:

Yeah. Good phrase. I do wonder about some of the other things like, for example, we’ve known for a long time that it’s a hiring talent differentiator that people have wanted flexibility and therefore by offering it employers could hire the best and the brightest.

Luis:

Yeah. That’s my tagline.

Kate:

What’s going to happen when everybody offers it is that differentiator now not going to be there. I think that being able to hire the best and the brightest from wherever they are is still going to be hugely important and a real bonus to companies once they learn how to do that. I do wonder about things like that whether or not this experience will change even some of the things that we knew to be true before the pandemic.

Luis:

For sure. For sure. So, I want to, I mean, I want to be respectful of your time. So, I want to wind down the interview. We are on the final stretch of the interview. I’d like to ask you some rapid fire questions. The questions are rapid fire, but the answers don’t need to be. Feel free to take it to your own pace and answer as long as you’d like. Let’s talk a bit about your own virtual office, right? What browser tabs do you have up right now? What browser tabs do you have up when you start your day? What are the apps that you can’t live without?

Kate:

Oh, I’m a browser tab nightmare. I finally found an app called the Great Suspender. So, it keeps them from eating up bandwidth when all of those tabs are open, and then I could just push this one little button like a funnel, and it drops them all down to one list and it saves that to the web. So, that’s absolute essential.

Kate:

I love Trello. It helps me organize things. I love the way you can take that little thing that you were supposed to do and drag and drop it. I mean, my name is Lister, right? So, I’ve been a maker of lists all my life, and this is the first one that I found that has that level of satisfaction like crossing something off.

Kate:

Evernote, I’m an Evernote junkie. We’ve developed a database of over 6,000 documents, studies, news items, anything we could put our eyeballs on that has to do with workplace and workplace strategy and science, and organize that in an Evernote library, and it’s all tagged, and I can bully and search on what’s the impact of lighting on productivity or whatever and get the academic research. So, I live on that. I guess those are my must-haves. I’ve tried to get into Slack. I can’t do it.

Luis:

I feel you. I feel you. I was dragged into Slack kicking and screaming.

Kate:

How long did it take to get used to it?

Luis:

I still haven’t.

Kate:

I mean, that’s one of my big frustrations because in dealing with clients, I have to use what they’re using. So, I’ve got Microsoft Teams for this client, and I’ve got to use Google Docs for this client, and I’ve got to use Adobe for this client, and so far, nobody has forced me to use Slack. So, I’m good there.

Luis:

Well, our company is a democracy. So, if the team decides that that’s the tool they want to use, I am going to. I am not going to be the one that says no.

Kate:

Good.

Luis:

Yeah. So, I mean, along those lines of working with people, let’s say that you have $100 to spend with each person working for you, and a couple of rules here. You can’t just give them the money or an Amazon gift card or a money equivalent, and you can’t ask them what they want. You need to get the same thing for everyone. What would you give them?

Kate:

Huh. $100?

Luis:

Yeah.

Kate:

A dog.

Luis:

Okay. This is a unique answer. I have never had that, but I must say approve.

Kate:

A dog or a cat from a shelter.

Luis:

Well done. Well done. So, what about yourself? What purchase has made your work life easier or more productive in the past year? For this one, someone has said a dog, yes.

Kate:

Okay. I won’t say that.

Luis:

… and a house. Those were the two answers that I remember best, a dog and a house.

Kate:

Yeah. Three monitors.

Luis:

Wow. That’s one more monitor than I have, and I am intrigued. Why three?

Kate:

Because I need a lot of real estate. I’m just as bad with keeping programs open as I am with keeping tabs open.

Luis:

Yeah. You’re the first three-monitor person, though, I’ve had a couple of two-monitor person on. I have become a two-monitor person at the beginning of this year, and I have to say it is, I mean, of all the productivity, the hundreds of productivity tricks, I’ve tried over the years. The second monitor is so much more powerful than you initially assume it is. It really is amazing.

Kate:

Yeah, than when you’ve got to work on a laptop, though. It just drives you crazy. I do have a thing where I can put my iPad next to my laptop and use that as the second screen. This is something that I think employers have to realize. If somebody loses 10 minutes of productivity a day, it would be the equivalent of the cost of their entire annual office expense. So, we need to think about the kinds of things. A monitor costs, what? $100-$200? We worked out that for the increase in productivity it pays for itself if people save less than a minute a day.

Kate:

You just figure. You want to amortize that over three years. There’s research to show that for some people it can increase their productivity as much as 50%. The same thing with an office chair. I mean, most companies are not supplying their people with office furniture, but they could pay for, I think I figured out 350 office chairs for the cost of one worker’s comp claim.

Luis:

Wow.

Kate:

So, it’s like work on the chair.

Luis:

That is definitely a good argument for the chair. Nice.

Kate:

I mean, all kinds of things like that. If you give them a slow laptop, if you don’t give them a-

Luis:

The laptops are the worst.

Kate:

… a cellphone, it’s just really, it’s false economy.

Luis:

Yeah. Okay. So, let’s talk about books for a minute. What book or books have you gifted the most?

Kate:

Not business books.

Luis:

That’s a fair answer. I mean, any non-business books?

Kate:

Yeah, there’s one-

Luis:

I personally am a fan of non-business books myself.

Kate:

Yeah. I just need to bury myself in fiction when I’m not working.

Luis:

Any favorites?

Kate:

Oh, I read all the time, but I never remember the titles of what I read. Sorry, I can’t help you there.

Luis:

Okay. That’s fine. That’s fine. So, let’s move on to the last question. So, final question, takes a bit of a setup. So, bear with me. Let’s say that you’re hosting a dinner for the top people at tech companies and general companies that can work over the internet from around the globe. These are CEOs, CTOs, owners, founders, hiring managers, et cetera.

Luis:

The topic of the night is remote work. So, the twist is that this dinner happens in a Chinese restaurant. So, you as the host get to pick the message that goes inside the fortune cookie. What is your fortune cookie message?

Kate:

Make the road less traveled the way to work.

Luis:

That’s a good one. That’s a good one. Congratulations. You win at the fortune cookie game. Okay. Well, Kate, it was an absolute pleasure having you. Where can our listeners connect with you, continue the conversation with you and know what you’re up to?

Kate:

Thank you for asking. The website is globalworkplaceanalytics.com. We’ve got probably a dozen and a half free white papers. Pretty much everything that we produce we make available free on our website. So, I would encourage people to go there, including actually a book that we wrote the US chapter for a six-country study on telework that was peer reviewed and published by Edward Elgar, and at the start of the pandemic, they made it available free. So, we’ve got the US chapter on that website.

Luis:

Hmm. Nice. Yeah. I’ve definitely gone through that literature, not all of it, but a chunk of it and I really enjoyed it. So, thank you for making that available. We will include the links in the show notes. Yeah. It was a pleasure having you. Thank you so much.

Kate:

Thank you, Luis. Keep up your good work, too.

Luis:

Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, this was the Distant Job Podcast, your podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. See you next week.

Luis:

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

Luis:

You can also help a lot leaving reviews on iTunes or your podcast indication 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/log/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 peruse the conversations in text form.

Luis:

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 talents. 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.

Luis:

With that, I bid you adieu. See you next week on the next episode of Distant Job Podcast.

More ways to listen:

This year, a significant number of companies faced the challenge of implementing remote work. Some of them never worked remotely before, so they had to change their structure completely. Despite the many challenges most of them faced (and still do), they experienced all the benefits that virtual work brings to the table.

In this podcast episode, Kate Lister shares how 2020 is the year that changed how people perceived remote work. She reveals facts and statistics about how companies have seen a productivity boost even during covid-19 times. However, although companies are experiencing all the benefits, they are also struggling with other aspects. For instance, companies need to prioritize building a virtual culture for employees to thrive in the long term.

 

Highlights:

  • Insights about surveys regarding productivity and performance of employees during the pandemic
  • Why virtual culture is fundamental
  • How remote work helps to develop empathy
  • How the pandemic has affected remote work
  • Important skills to look for in remote candidates

 

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