Hey there, one quick note:
So amazed that 1.5 years in and 29 issues later, we recently hit 2,000 subscribers! Thank you all for joining me in the movement to rethink how we do work!
I've consulted with dozens of remote companies since 2018, and one question continues to come up again and again:
"I love remote work, but I miss the serendipitous moments in the office when I caught up with a coworker while getting coffee and had a breakthrough. How do I make this happen remotely?"
Let's dive into this problem, starting with: Those weren't truly serendipitous moments.
Serendipitous moments are ones that happen by complete chance. But that coffee chat moment in the office occurred due to structure. You worked in the same physical office as your coworker and had the same work schedule. This structure is what brought the two of you together, not chance.
This is important to recognize because you'll need to create some structure in order to introduce breakthrough moments into remote life. The structure is typically derived in one of three ways:
1. Time - A specific time when people take a certain action
- Coffee Breaks - Schedule recurring 15-30 min calls where anyone can jump on and talk about informal topics
- Lightning Talks - Each week, a person presents on a topic they're passionate about for 15 minutes (it doesn't have to be work-related), then answers questions for 15 minutes
- Chat Office Hours - One hour a week where everyone commits to being available and checking Slack at the same time
Live in action: Tom attended a lightning talk Alice gave on her interest in AI. Later in the quarter, he's added as a PM to a new project with an AI component. He reaches out to Alice, who provides him with helpful resources and solutions.
2. Place - A specific zone where people connect on certain topics
- Interest Group Slack Channels - Allow employees to create clubs around their interests (book clubs, tv shows, hobbies, etc.)
- Virtual Coworking Space - People can drop in whenever to cowork together
- Internal Podcast - Record conversations with team members and share their stories internally
Live in action: Jessie and Alex are on different teams but both drop into a virtual coworking space. They are able to bounce ideas off each other and get a new perspective that their teams hadn't considered.
3. Opportunity - A ritual that takes place following a trigger
- Slackbot Connections - Use a Slack bot like Donut to connect random team members together to meet
- Meetup Budget - Budget for coworkers to get together for lunch/coffee when nearby
- Experience Bonus - Reward team member wins with a day off and a budget for a nice experience out of the house (ex. Day trips, nice dinner out with family, mountain climbs, etc). Have a channel dedicated to sharing experience bonus trip stories.
Live in action: While browsing the experience bonus channel, Sarah reads about how Monika used her experience bonus at a nice restaurant in Munich that looks delicious. Later in the year, Sarah is in Munich for a conference and reaches out to Monika for the restaurant details. They decide to catch up in person and use their meetup bonus to grab lunch together. Monika finds out about an opening that would be the perfect fit for her in Sarah's division through this lunch.
What do these things have in common?
- They're optional. People can attend if and when they want. The above ideas will be good for some people and bad for others. That's normal and okay. Offer a variety and let people choose what's best for them. Serendipitous moments will never be created through forced interactions (like icebreakers).
- They're regular. People know what to expect from them, and they are consistent. Serendipitous moments will only happen if team members can count on your chosen structure.
- They're not about the work. You're building connections by encouraging people to get to know each other on a personal level. Serendipitous moments will not happen without letting your team members be human.
So, with that, step 1 is complete. You've created the structure necessary for these breakthrough moments to happen. Now for step 2: provide the permission for them to happen.
When teams go remote, the company's first concern is that their employees will start slacking off. In actuality, people end up overworking because they're always trying to prove this is not happening. This means they won't participate in anything outside of their job responsibilities, they won't chat with coworkers about non-work topics, and they won't build bonds with their coworkers. But informal, open-ended conversations are required for serendipity.
Company leaders must provide explicit permission for team members to talk about non-work topics and have fun together. It won't happen otherwise. Create policies that encourage taking part in the connection structures, build them into your onboarding process, and ensure managers lead by example.
The "serendipitous" moments you miss from the office can absolutely still happen remotely. It's as simple as adding structure and permission. Remember: People need to be humans instead of machines in order for very human moments, like serendipity, to happen. Create an environment where that is okay.
- Create structure
- Provide permission
That’s it. You are 2 steps away from bringing “serendipity” to your remote company. Let the magic moments fly
In Other News
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"In our survey, employees with high adaptability were 60 percent more likely to report intent to leave their organization if they experienced high levels of toxic behavior at work than those with low adaptability (which may possibly relate to a higher level of self-confidence). Therefore, relying on improving employee adaptability without addressing broader workplace factors puts employers at an even higher risk of losing some of its most resilient, adaptable employees."
Americans Reclaim 60 Million Commuting Hours in Remote-Work Perk
"Younger workers were more likely to spend more time on leisure, including going to bars and restaurants or working out, while older workers were more inclined to handle domestic tasks like cooking, cleaning and taking care of kids. All groups got more sleep — roughly an extra hour a day. That finding alone is good news for the wellbeing of American workers, since chronic sleep deprivation contributes to a litany of serious health issues."
Behind the Scenes
Remotely Interesting Costs
Check out this Twitter thread if you want to know exactly how much it costs to run this newsletter and why I still offer it for free.
Badass Courses Podcast Interview
I don't say yes to a lot of podcast interviews, but this one was fun. The 25-minute conversation with the founder of Egghead gives you an inside look at the alternative approach I take to teaching, and dives into how I'm able to do so much without buying into hustle culture.
How To Start a Business as a Risk-Averse Person
Shared my thoughts on starting a business as someone who is not a risk taker. Including:
- How I prepped for quitting my full-time job
- Steps I took to mitigate risks
- Why I look forward to tax time
In Case You Missed It
I recently hired @mar15sa as our Director of Ops. She turned our weekly standup meeting (that we kept skipping) into an async Slack channel called my-week. On Mondays, everyone just posts what they did last week and what they're doing this week. My life is so much better now.
October 2nd 2022
If you look at teams that have successfully worked remotely since pre-pandemic, you'll notice a couple things: • None use surveillance software • All ended any hybrid work experiments • All do team retreats • None have a heavy meeting culture Take a note from their playbook
October 7th 2022
What did you think of this issue? What do you hope you'll see in the next one? Feel free to reply to this message or DM me on Twitter @mar15sa.
I truly appreciate you taking the time to read this. Hope you have a lovely day!
Founder, Remote Work Prep