Designing the Future of Work

Posts tagged ‘digital nomads’


No Place Like Home


It’s natural that I would take stock of my time in Seattle on the day of my departure. It’s been an impactful trip. I am glad my reintroduction to the United States was in a city I didn’t know well. I could say hello to my country with a fresh perspective. With the same sense of wonder I greet each new city in my travels.

For Digital Nomads a sense of home is always a challenge or at least a peculiar idea. Home in any traditional sense, the country of your birth, is often a storage space or friend’s and families basements and garages. It is always a conversation, at least in our heads, where is the place we should plant every last possession we own. Each city you visit is answering that question. Is it the place you want to get nest like in the old days. So, when I touched down on the land of my birth it was a test of belongingness.

It has been a wonderful adventure. I’ve explored the city just enough to want to come back. I’ve had brilliant surprises like running into a SWA friend at a coffeehouse in the city. I’d gone there to write and had forgotten my converter for my now Czech laptop charger and it was just about to die. I was lamenting how I would entertain myself for three hours, before I could head to Oyster Happy Hour at Flying Fish. And then, a miracle. A friend walked by, looked about, our eyes met and we screamed. “Ray?” “Robin?” We were both incredulous to see each other in a Seattle coffeehouse. He was in town for a wedding and I was in town for work.

Robin and Ray Take Over Seattle

We spent three delightful hours learning about each other’s lives. It felt like kismet and karma and a plain good time. Ray was my people. Someone who loves travel as much as I do and integrates it in his life in powerfully creative ways. Ray is a dancer who uses his body as an instrument, and treats it well so that he can dance all across the world. Ray shared the amazing video he had made in cities like Paris and we talked about the travel show he is born to do. You can see his brilliant work @ Ray Takes Over the World

I’ve enjoyed the city. It surprised me with its beauty. Seattle is a town begging the sun to come and doing it justice when it arrives. The city is filled with balconies, rooftop gardens and restaurants with outdoor seating. Seatlites are prepared to celebrate the sun. I shared several sunny days while nesting in this city. Every outdoor deck was filled with smiling citizens. And, I saw Seatlites tuck under when the rain came. Umbrellas optional. There are plenty of fun and funky places to shelter, so it’s not so bad.

Two Tech Cities on the Bay

Seattle has been an amusing opportunity to see another city built by tech, whether it was internet or aerospace. And, the one thing Silicon Valley and Seattle have in common is traffic. So, I’ve enjoyed Seattle. At the same time, I have felt good about moving on. Two minutes on any news channel in my 700+ channels of nothing to watch, the reminder of how things have become dark in America settled my thoughts on exploring other pastures. I packed all the goodies that I could only get here in my suitcase (astonished it all fit) to head back to the city I’ve fallen in love with. That’s the life of Digital Nomads, we can love many cities. We enjoy each one for its unique beauty, tastes, and entertainment.





Dear Readers

I hope you’ve missed me while I was transitioning to a new life. Gone are the lazy days of working at the kitchen table for a couple of hours before I even brushed my teeth. Afternoons at co-working spaces with a random collection of digital nomads. I have transitioned into the world of the employed.

9 to 5

It doesn’t mean I am in the world of 9 to 5 or that I am no longer global and mobile. I’ve taken on a role with a team that is spread across the globe. Our tiny team of three supports people in Europe and North America. One of my teammates is in Seattle and two of us are here in Prague.


The technology has improved dramatically since I began writing this blog. Video-conferencing technology was either clunky or state-of-the art (like Cisco’s visionary telepresence), but very expensive and often guarded as a resource like the gold in Fort Knox (sorry Europeans, maybe a better reference is the Central Bank). My company has made the video-conferencing technology fairly seamless, and I spent the last week in team meetings with my colleague in Seattle via video conference. Ergo, the lack of 9 to 5. What technology can’t change is time zones. So, my teammate has early mornings and I have late evenings, and we make it work across oceans and continents.

time zones

While my company relies heavily on distributed teams, they still have anchor locations, like Seattle in the U.S. and Luxembourg in Europe. Other companies have taken a more radical stance and have done away with offices altogether, relying on collaborative tools like Slack and Dropbox.

Flexjobs started out with a small list of just 26 “virtual”companies in 2013. By 2014 the number of remote or telecommuting job listings on the site rose 26 percent, with companies like Basecamp, Mozilla, Zapier, and FlexJobs itself, that operate either mostly or entirely virtually.

Distributed Workforce

The Things a Company Can Do with Global Mobile Workers

Here are some notable examples from FlexJobs.

Acceleration Partners

Acceleration Partners is a digital marketing agency and all of the job listings on Acceleration Partners’ site offer remote work options. In addition, its full-time employee benefits include “work from home or flex offices” and “work/life balance for all employees.” We think those are pretty great benefits!

appendTo Describing itself as “100% distributed,” appendTo does have an office in Illinois, but “everyone in the company has the freedom to work from wherever they feel makes them the most productive.” In fact, the ability to work from anywhere is one of the company’s core values. Virtual companies are finding that when people are comfortable in their personal work environment, they are more productive and efficient in their jobs.

Articulate develops award-winning web, mobile, and desktop applications for the rapidly growing online learning space. Every one of its 150 employees works from home 100 percent of the time. Executive Vice President of Brand Lucy Suros says, “We’ve always been fully distributed, so it’s in our DNA. Because working remotely requires a lot of trust, you have to put people front and center. Ours are smart, kind, fun, and results-oriented, which makes Articulate a pretty magical place to work.”

At posting time, web services company Automattic Inc., has 312 Automatticians working in 26 countries, 174 cities, and 36 U.S. states—all working from home. It also offers flexible schedules and staffers can set their own hours so they can work when they’re most productive.

Basecamp  “Basecamp is a company spread out across 26 different cities around the world. Our office is in Chicago, but everyone at Basecamp is free to live and work wherever they want.”

The Cheat Sheet
The Cheat Sheet aims to distill the day’s news for readers to quickly peruse and digest, and its model clearly resonates with its 15 million unique visitors a month. Though based in Asheville, North Carolina, The Cheat Sheet’s staff is completely distributed and “welcome to work from anywhere: your home, a coffee shop, or even the beach! We care more about high-quality results than your location in space-time while you create things our readers love.”

This IT automation company proclaims its support of “having a life outside of work” right from the get-go on its careers page, and says, “We’ve worked hard to create a remote-friendly culture and believe you can have a big impact no matter where you live.” In addition to telecommuting, Chef offers

“Codebusters is a hardworking team of passionate health information specialists. We love working with healthcare providers to capture accurate and meaningful patient data. We work as a distributed team, openly collaborating to solve problems, from documentation to coding to claim review.” It also offers interview and resume tips on its careers page for anyone interested in applying to work at Codebusters.

Elastic is a distributed team with two hubs, one in the Netherlands and one in San Francisco. But it stresses, “we also have colleagues in Germany, France, the Czech Republic, Spain, the UK and Romania—to name but a few. We care deeply about the quality of the team, which is infinitely more important to us than where you’re based.” Plus, they purport to offer salary packages that may be well above the industry average—not a bad combination!

Equation Research
The team at FlexJobs can certainly relate to Equation Research’s reasoning for being a distributed company: “When we launched back in 2000, we set out to build and grow a company that NEVER HAD AN OFFICE. It was not a fear of the old food in the back of the refrigerator that drove us—it was the inspiration of building a different kind of experience for the people that shared in this adventure. It was part of the innovation we craved.”

Fire Engine Red (2nd Year) 
This marketing and technology company loves working virtually, and it offers perks like a virtual walking group, a virtual book club, and bring-your-pet-to-work day every day, because everyone works from home!

The Ghost Foundation
A nonprofit blogging platform committed to publishing—that’s Ghost. To add to its uniqueness, it says of its work environment, “Our headquarters is the Internet. If you have a wifi connection, we have an office near you. We’re a distributed team working online from all corners of the planet. We don’t care about counting the number of hours you spend in a chair at a desk in a small room each week. You can live wherever you want, and work however you like. As long as you’re online, you can be ‘at work.’”

A well-known marketplace for development work, GitHub is also a distributed team, with over 260 people working across the world. As “a remote and flexible workplace,” GitHub says, “Work/life balance is important to us, which is why we offer flexible work schedules and unlimited PTO. We believe that if a job allows for it, people should work wherever they’re happiest.”

Greenback Expat Tax Services
Providing a specific and unique service to thousands of clients in over 140 countries makes working virtually a no-brainer. In fact, in this company’s FAQ section, when asked how it’s able to keep prices so low, it responded that being virtual is a big part of the answer! “Because we are a virtual team, we do not have the additional hefty cost of offices, commutes, etc. This allows us to spend money where it matters: On ensuring our customers have a reason to return every year.”
Kato’s aim is to fix business communication by offering a one-stop portal for all organizational communication. And it’s also virtual: “Work from Nome? Work from Rome? Work from home? Kato is a fully distributed organization headquartered in Oakland, California. We’re looking for engineers, marketers, and writers passionate about the business communication business.”

We couldn’t say it better ourselves: “Our core team of paid staff and volunteers work collaboratively to develop our strategies and campaigns. As a virtual organization, we use conference calls, IM, and email extensively to communicate, to create, and to care for each other. Our team enjoys a results oriented work environment where the challenges and joys of balancing work, family, and personal time are understood.”


The maker of Firefox, Mozilla is a nonprofit organization with a distributed team and a lot of remote workers around the world. As the company says, “We have 13 global offices and people working in more than 30 countries. If you work best from home, that’s not a problem. We can support you anywhere.” Most of the open jobs on the company’s career page right now are remote positions.

As the makers of a well-known WordPress multilingual plugin, OnTheGoSystems is the perfect company to use a distributed team. Sixty full-time staff members work from 6 continents, 32 countries, and 53 cities, with a headquarters in Hong Kong. The one main qualification across all jobs? Being able to “coomunicate in English.” Bah-dum ching!

PeopleG2 A very unique addition to this list, PeopleG2 started out as an office-based company but made the switch to a virtual company in 2008. “Chris Dyer, PeopleG2’s founder and chief executive, initially made the switch because his expanding workforce was bursting out of the company’s existing office space, but also to weather financial pressures caused by the recession. Operating as a virtual business worked so well, he never looked back.” Virtual companies such as PeopleG2 have discovered the benefits of virtual teams and are operating successfully in the online world.

While ProofHQ, a company that supports marketing teams in the online proofing process, is technically based in Dallas, Texas, and asks many of its hires to be based in the Dallas area, it also says that, “All our roles are remote working, so you can be based anywhere and work from your home office, the garden shed, the beach, the slopes, or local coffee shop. We don’t care as long as you deliver and get the job done!”

The team at this web crawling platform company is completely distributed, with 90 people working from around the world in areas like professional services, sales, support, and more. The company looks for people who “thrive in an environment where you can operate autonomously…and have great communication skills.”


The makers of online collaboration software for virtual teams, Sqwiggle practices what it preaches. “Building a fun and social culture within a remote team can sometimes seem impossible.” Sqwiggle aims to make the impossible possible.

Citing long, uninterrupted stretches of focused work as one of its main reasons for being a remote company, TeamGantt says, “We all know what it’s like to work in an office. While it can be a lot of fun, there are meetings to attend and countless interruptions from coworkers with questions, small talk, etc.” And Nathan Gilmore, a co-founder of the company, says, “I think that some employees who work from home could get more done in one highly focused, uninterrupted two-hour stretch of work then some people would be able to get done in 8+ hours working in an interruption filled office.”

The founding members of this team management company includes “social scientists and an improv comedian,” and while it’s not shy about cracking jokes throughout its website, it is serious about helping people better manage team sports and groups. About its distributed environment, TeamSnap says, “Some people work in our headquarters in Boulder, Colorado, while many others work remotely from all corners of the USA as well as a few in Canada, UK, Australia and Croatia. In the US, we’ve got people in Portland, Raleigh/Durham, Pittsburgh, Washington DC, Austin and San Diego, just to name drop some cities.”

Universal Mind
On its careers page, Universal Mind touts its remote and distributed team: “Our team members are located across the United States and around the globe. We hire the best of the best regardless of geographic location.” And when explaining why people would want to work at Universal Mind, it says, “Our workforce was virtual before virtual was cool. Whether we work in our company office, on our dining room tables, or at a hip coworking loft, we believe in individuality and autonomy—not set hours or corporate face time.”

Ushahidi has a unique goal—to gather crisis information from the public during real-time events happening around the globe. To do this difficult and important work, the company says, “We are first and foremost a virtual organization, with team members hailing from across the globe.”

Varsity Tutors 
This private academic tutoring and test prep company offers tutoring services online, in-home, at libraries, or wherever is convenient for its students. All of its employees work from home in remote positions, which it points out, means “no commuting time!”

VLP Law Group
This group, formerly “Virtual Law Partners,” has really embraced the benefits employers receive from telecommuting work arrangements. It is one of FlexJobs’ virtual companies that has “invested in technology rather than expensive offices. We work in a lean, low-overhead environment.” And, “Where and when you work is entirely up to you and your clients. Most of us work from home or at our clients’ offices, allowing us to better coordinate work and personal commitments.”

The Wirecutter
The Wirecutter is a resource that helps people locate the best gadgets based on its research, testing, and editorial content. “The Wirecutter is a 100% remote organization and as such applicants should feel comfortable (and preferably have a good deal of experience) with this arrangement. You should feel comfortable conducting a majority of your correspondence with the team over the phone, team chat, IM and video calls.”

Acknowledging that building a company with a distributed team comes with its own rulebook, Yarnee has written blog posts on how it runs a happily distributed team, and the17 tools and services it couldn’t live without. Great reading for anyone either working for, or managing a distributed team!

Flexjobs 100

Flexjobs list is now up to 100 companies, and even my new company is on the list.

FlexJobs has a Guide to the Best Companies for Flexible Jobs, a searchable database of over 30,000 pre-screened, legitimate employers that embrace and offer telecommuting and other flexible work options.

Going to work every day with my new employee badge around my neck hasn’t changed my belief that Digital Nomads, Distributed Work Teams and Mobile Workers are the wave of the future. And, I’m not the only one who continues to chant the mantra. Here are some other great places to explore and celebrate the world of the Global Mobile Worker.

Winning with Remote Work

Check out the Top Companies Winning at Remote Work.

To Learn more about the rapidly expanding world of Global Mobile Workers here are some other great blogs: Blog Blog

Zapier Blog

Future Work Report Blog

Remote Nation





You Can Win on Both Sides of the Chalkboard

Not even ten years ago, all that came to mind when I thought about online courses was dodgy internet degrees from exotic places and online licenses from churches you’d never heard of so you could officiate at a friend’s wedding in the mountains. Now Edtech is booming. A huge $2.51 billion was invested into edtech companies in the first half of 2015. The long list of education startups at Web Summit 2015 was testament to a thriving industry.

Shock was my response when my sister announced she would be teaching all of her classes online this semester. My sister did not own a computer until two years ago when I moved out of the country and she had no other way to keep in touch. The delivery and installation of this computer was a carefully coordinated mission between my techie brother and I. Something close to a Martian landing. Now her college had offered this solution so she could work from home and recover from health conditions, since she only had one year to go until retirement. Online education had arrived and officially impacted every demographic.

How Digital Learning Technology Will Change In The Next Decades

According to a 2015 Babson Research report one out of three U.S. college students is taking at least one course entirely online.

Digital classrooms are reshaping more than colleges and universities. Just as technology has blown open the music and publishing industries, learning is now an open source experience.

Digital Learning BoxDigital Learning Goes Open Source

Companies like Khan Academy launched a movement for free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere. Khan Academy, founded by Salman Khan is funded by donations, now with significant contributions from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Google.

Online programs like Khan Academy are known as MOOCs, massive open online courses. These are generally free and available to anyone with an internet connection. Itunes University is a good example of a MOOC. You will find thousands of courses on a broad range of topics. Of course, because its free, you may study by yourself, usually without any feedback or accreditation.


Some Freelancers find it helpful to demonstrate their skills. Sites like Upworth and offer free online tests with scores.

Two high-profile companies have pursued a badge-based future: Coursera and Udacity. Both began their lives as providers of MOOCs. Coursera has bet on content and brands from top universities. The launched “Specializations” in 2014 and now offer 75 different programs, the vast majority from a single U.S. university.

Coursera CEO Rick Levin – former President of Yale came onboard last year, in part due to his unparalleled connections in China and throughout Asia – and has said that the Specializations/certificate model is “financially sturdy enough that it should pave the way for Coursera to become cash-flow positive in the foreseeable future.”

See PC Magazine Review of Coursera

Udacity pivoted in 2013, when it announced “Nanodegrees” developed in partnership with top technology companies like Google’s involvement in the Android Developer Nanodegree. Udacity has done the same with iOS (Apple) and Tech Entrepreneur (Google). Back in September, Udacity revealed it had 10,000 students enrolled in Nanodegrees – a number growing by 30% every month.

teach onlineThere’s Money in that Knowledge in Your Head

There are other online education marketplaces like CreativeLive, General Assembly, Treehouse, and Skillshare that offer freelancers the opportunity to get paid for what they know. Bloggers and “thoughtleaders” make money with online courses on these platforms. See “Why Top Entrepreneurs Will be Teaching Online in 2016.”

In the heavy weight division are emergent online providers like Udemy and PluralSight. Like the Uber of education, certain platforms, like Udemy, allow global teachers to create and benefit from their course content.

Udemy is a website that enables anyone to teach and learn online. Launched in 2010, Udemy tries to democratize online education by making it fast, easy and free to create online courses. Like Amazon with eBook publishers you keep 70% of the revenue from your courses (or 85% if you directly refer the customer to the course). How 10 Instructors Earned $1.6 Million on Udemy in One Year.  If you are a visual learner go to Slideshare – 16 Tips to Make Passive Income on Udemy.

Former high school math teacher Rob Percival, the company’s top instructor, has made more than $2 million since 2014. And Percival’s friend and tennis partner, Ben Tristem, says he earns in the high six figures teaching game development.Not everyone gets to Malta, though: Average Udemy teacher take-home pay is $8,000.

Read More in Fortune.

Another online teacher success story is Kunal Desai, founder and CEO of Bulls on Wall Street, a company that teaches people to trade stocks online. Desai came to his idea to launch Bulls on Wall Street while working as a successful stock trader. Read more at Why Online Education is a Popular Path for Entrepreneurs in 2016

Pluralsight began as a provider of online technology training, and recently acquired the Orlando, Fla.-based Code School, which offered dozens of instructional courses and videos for developers. The $36 million deal was Pluralsight’s sixth acquisition in the past 18 months, as it continues its strategy to buy up smaller companies to expand its footprint in the online learning industry, and strengthened its position against companies like Skillsoft, and new competitor, LinkedIn.

online learning providersWith LinkedIn’s acquisition of, Pluralsight is geared up for an online education fight. In early April, professional social network LinkedIn shelled out $1.5 billion to acquire, one of the largest and oldest online learning marketplaces; their goal to become the professional enrichment destination of choice.

Pluralsight surpassed $85 million in revenue last year and roughly doubled its revenue every year. The company is prepared to IPO early this year. While LinkedIn’s shares recently fell 42% on news of larger than expected losses. If you are curious about how LinkedIn tries to make money see more at LinkedIn Financial.

So freelancers can both feast and be feasted upon in the online learning market. If you are in the market to upgrade your skills take a look at The 10 most popular free online courses for professionals.

If you think you have something to offer here are a list of additional resources.


  • Another way to earn money teaching online is YouTube. And, of course there is a YouTube Video to tell you how. “How to Make Money Teaching Online Courses on Udemy, Skillshare, Skillfeed”


Wisdom and Experience – The Secret Weapon in the Talent Wars

Unfilled job openings

We continue to hear about companies struggling to fill open positions.

It’s true there is a skills gap in the marketplace. But, I don’t think that explains the whole story. The pervasiveness of technology has escalated the pace of change in every aspect of our lives, including the world of work. The result is multiple areas of dysfunction. I’ve already explored the outdated thinking that workers must be located at home office in Global Mobile Workers – A Solution to the Talent Gap. Now, I want to explore yet another piece of obsolete thinking.

The Youth Obsession is Unsustainable

All of the Founders that I heard speak about talent at Web Summit focused primarily on one demographic – Millennials. In tech these days, people in their 20’s are worshiped.

“Young people are just smarter,” Mark Zuckerberg infamously said back in 2007.

Global Demographics

Besides being fundamentally untrue, it ignores the demographics of the labor force. There simply aren’t enough Millennials to staff the current workforce.


Even more importantly, the workforce demographics reflect the consumer demographics. Ignoring roughly a third of the workforce is simply bad business.

Yet, tech companies are doing just that. Everyone is competing for the same talent segment. The trend towards workers becoming obsolete in their 50’s is simply unsustainable.


The result of this thinking is a large pool of extremely experienced, out-of-work people in one of the hottest job markets in the world.

The bias in favor of younger workers begins with the job posting. Ads for “recent grads” or “digital natives” telegraphs that seasoned professionals need not apply. When you move on to the interview stage the code word is “overqualified.”

Over 50 is Where It’s At

Companies are missing the boat on this one. Contrary to popular belief, workplace vitality peaks around age 57, according to an Israeli researcher’s study.

“Workers’ vitality fuels the success of the organization, and the fact that professional vitality is preserved and actually rises well into one’s 50s indicates that organizations investing in this aspect of the workplace will be able to benefit from productive workers for many years.”

Companies often overlook the wealth of knowledge, experience and skills that equips seasoned workers to contribute. These workers have cHold age against youcrucial business relationships and industry contacts that cannot be recorded in a manual. And, life experience is critical in understanding how to implement and execute on new innovations and products. This type of wisdom comes from hard-learned lessons that often comes from living and learning through mistakes.

The assumption that older workers will cost more is also outdated thinking. Because of changes in how companies compensate their employees, with pay being tied more closely to performance than to tenure, older workers do not cost significantly more than their younger colleagues. In fact, older workers tend to be more engaged than younger workers, which contributes directly to a company’s bottom line. Disrupting The Way We Think About Older Workers

With the cost of unplanned turnovers running between $7,400 and $31,400 per employee, depending on the industry, greater stability translates into bottom-line security for companies with a higher census of mature workers.

Where’s the Demand for Talented 50+ Workers?

The stereotype that seasoned workers are inflexible and resistant to change or acquiring new technical skills is unproven, and in my experience just wrong. When given the chance, the majority of them want to embrace new technology and new skills.

Entrepreneurship Isn’t Just for the Young

Bloomberg Beta in a study on patterns of business founders identified that 38% of founders were actually over 40. A study, funded by the Kauffman Foundation, found that the typical successful founder was 40 years old, with at least 6-10 years of industry experience. Twice as many successful entrepreneurs are more than 50 as under 25. More experienced leaders tend to have deeper networks, know-how managing teams, and better business savvy and skills for delivering on the vision.

Fill the Gap with Talent That Get’s It

So talent hunters. Don’t be scared off by a two-page CV, with lots of capability. Don’t assume that seasoned talent is more interested in the salary than the opportunity to make a difference.

The Intern Experience Never gets old

REMEMBER – Global Mobile Workers De Facto Get Technology – We’ve Made a Lifestyle Of It.

The Global Mobile Worker – A Solution to the Talent Gap

War for TalentA consistent theme at #WebSummit 2015 was the war for talent. Every co-founder cited getting good talent in the door as one of their greatest challenges, and one most didn’t expect.

What Founders learned was talent is not just about developers. It takes a range of skills to build a company.

These Founders thought there would be talent knocking down the doors of the hottest, hippest new thing. Sorry. There are a lot of shiny objects being flashed in the faces of Digital Natives.

Global Mobile Workers are the Solution

Everyone wants MillenialsPerhaps a new perspective on talent is required. Because startups still operate on the same paradigm as larger, older companies. Everyone wants Millennials and they want them geographically located at headquarters or a satellite office.

I mentioned in my last post that I was disappointed by this outdated way of thinking about talent, the internet makes geographic distance simply a state of mind. After all, this was the largest “technology summit in Europe.”

Remote workers more complex work testimonialStrategy, user experience, marketing, sales, back office operations, customer experience; remote talent can be a solution for all of these needs. Talent that is living in a city they love, and in more affordable conditions than the traditional headquarter cities of San Francisco, New York, London or Berlin.

Besides, these cities are swept up in a highly inefficient game of talent swap.talent-changing-jobs

Despite a decade of talk about flexible work arrangements and telecommuting, the idea of leading a remote workforce still seems as exotic as SpaceX.

There has been some progress. Almost 50% of managers in the US, UK and Germany are allowed to work remotely. And, the trend is global, the percentage of managers who work remotely in many developing countries has risen to between 10 and 20 percent.

It’s not just millennials driving the movement. Every generation has expressed a desire for remote work options. In their book Making Telework Work, Offstein and Morwick, found that workers nearing retirement also prefer to work remotely in order to spend more time with their families and to have a more flexible schedule.

Yet, companies are still struggling with the concept. When I worked as a corporate lawyer in the Palo Alto office of a global technology focused law firm, I asked my partner if I could work from our San Francisco office because the commute was crushing me. He said he “didn’t believe in telecommuting.” I later learned one of my colleagues had moved with his family to North Carolina without telling anyone. It had been two years, no one seemed to notice, and he was enjoying a more family friendly lifestyle in Raleigh/Durham.

So what’s the problem?

Many of the greatest companies in the 21st century, including Virgin, 37signals, and IBM have built successful businesses providing people the freedom to work where they want, when they want, and how they want.

People criticize working remotely because they find it difficult to measure the number of hours their employees are working. What they forget is that going into the office does not equal productive work.

“Office workers are interrupted—or self-interrupted—roughly every three minutes.” The Wall Street Journal

I once worked at a Silicon Valley life sciences icon that had built a sprawling campus on the Bay. It took 10 to 15 minutes to get around campus and meetings were a constant. Everything had to be face-to-face. I spent hours every day shuttling around campus to share my face. The company struggled to get people to even read the flexible work policy because nobody believed you could succeed without riding the campus shuttle several times a day. Most people ended up doing their real work at home at night, and large segments of the population were living in burnout.

Then, what does it take to promote remote work? What is required is a culture of trust and respect, empowering your employees; which, guess what, has also been shown to increase engagement, productivity, and company loyalty.

Managers have to get better at understanding and focusing on results

Focusing on output forces everyone to prioritize tasks that will have the biggest impact. It forces managers to better define the tasks, even repetitive tasks or what is required to oversee a process. Employees will have a clear understanding of expectations, another driver of engagement and productivity. This chart keeps it simple.

Results oriented approach

Systems such as ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) are being introduced to promote output work cultures, where employees are evaluated on performance, not presence. It has been implemented in companies such as Best Buy and Gap, where they’ve seen: 20% improvement in productivity, 90% decrease in turnover rates, and increased customer satisfaction.

Who has done it successfully?

Education startup Citelighter has workers scattered around the world, from developers in Romania to account executives in Northern California, and another group in Baltimore. The company recently shared with Fast Company how it successfully manages it dispersed workforce.

Citelighter goes beyond online communication tools, they designate certain people as communication leaders, who are expected to know the answer no matter what. If, for some reason, those people aren’t available, there is a backup person. Distributed knowledge in action.

“I’m not just left in the dark because our developers are in Romania,” said Co-founder Jokl. “That expectation eliminates a lot of the risk.”

Founders of companies like Zapier, built with a distributed workforce, evangelize the movement. Zapier published The Ultimate Guide to Remote Work. Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson from 37Signals, whose Basecamp product is designed to support teams (I’ve used it – it’s intuitive and fairly robust), wrote Amazon Bestseller Remote – Office Not Required.Remote Amazon Bestseller

You can speed your rate of growth by having a diverse team from the start, not the same 20-something demographic that is shaping every other startup in your town. Having a geographically and demographically diverse team from the start can be your “blue ocean” competitive advantage.

Managers and talent leaders may fear the thought of managing a virtualized workforce – terrified of losing the ability to track employee progress. Yet, there are success stories and the future global workforce is inevitable.

Top 10 companies winning at remote work culture and their secrets

100 Top Companies with Remote Jobs in 2015

76 Virtual Companies and Distributed Teams

50 Best Companies Hiring Remotely

By establishing core values, like clear and frequent communication, with a strong onboarding program and embedded collaboration tools, you will be streaming workflow seamlessly between on-site and remote employees. The bonus, you create a company that organically seeks to bridge differences and be inclusive.

Now Hiring Remote Workers

Next – Finding employees that “fit” and global mobile workers being found are the two ends of a market as inefficient and equally hated by both sides as any that’s ripe for disruption. Not Ready for the Global Mobile Worker – Talent Sourcing is Broken.



Web SummitI have taken some time to absorb the thousands of messages that I received at #WebSummit2015. How can I describe the experience? The picture in my mind is of a vibrant, moving wall of people, pinging about a pinball-esque landscape of hungry startup companies and people who’ve made it (or are at least fakin it till they make it) floating amongst each other in an orgy of cool. The effort at “coolness” factor could only be rivaled by my years at Sundance, but with a smaller clothing budget. It was a significantly less anxious crowd, although the quantity of coffee consumed would suggest otherwise.

Web Summit 2015 = 21 Summits + 1,000 Speakers + 42,000 Attendees

So with that amount of knowledge transfer what did the Global Mobile Worker Learn?

Talent Acquisition has not fundamentally changed. It’s just been automated.


The number one challenge expressed repeatedly by Founders was they underestimated the difficulty of finding good talent.

Why? Because they are stuck in the same old model.


must be in same physical locationI noted in an earlier post that even the CEOs of web/mobile based collaboration tool companies could not visualize teams that weren’t cluster in some city, some really expensive city like San Francisco, New York or London.

I was disappointed by the presentations from Slack and Trello, who acknowledged they were building a collaboration tool that would let teams communicate from anywhere, then talked about the fact that their teams are heavily focused on their San Francisco base.


I have worked with both Slack and Trello. The major premise of both is to help teams work effectively between meetings, and since the products are mobile and web based that should also mean across borders. Yet, the Founding team is stuck because they can’t find talent in a seat near them.


Back in 2009 experts were touting the importance of collaborative tools, yet no one has risen to dominate the market.

Collaboration and collective intelligence. In an information economy, only organizations that are flexible enough, so that people and capacity can be rearranged and recombined quickly without major structural change, will be able to thrive. … Project Management 2.0 emphasizes the importance of leveraging the collective intelligence of the whole team, no matter where the team members are located, at the same office or on different continents.

Why Project Management 2.0 Is a Different Ball Game

The tools to put location independent professionals – freelancers – to work are primitive, as acknowledged by Upworthy.

On Center Stage, the place to be at #WebSummit2015, Upworthy’s CEO, Stephane Kasriel, told The Journal that we had reached the Age of the Freelancer.

“If you look at the average duration people stay in a job, 10 years ago people stayed 10 or 15 years in a job, 5 years ago people stayed 5 years in a job; right now the average is 2.5,”

In presentations on Center Stage and later on the Enterprise Stage, Upworthy acknowledged that while the total value of jobs booked through the site is more than $1 billion (€933 million) annually, netting the company at least $100 million from its 10% commission, only about 2% of the people who signed up as new workers each day would ever get a job through the marketplace. Kasriel said an even smaller subset were destined to become “top-rated freelancers,” who earn most of the revenue.

That’s a highly inefficient system that is a great deal for employers and a swamp for freelancers.

See More at The workplace of the future – where no one has a 9-to-5 job

Kasriel did a workshop in San Francisco last weekend called “Matching workers with opportunities at high velocity.” It seems like the system is designed for the lightning to happen for companies not workers.


Over 50 Need WorkThe Elephant in the rooms of #WebSummit2015, besides my Fan Fave evernotesEvernotes, was that talent has a very short shelf life. The talent that the Founders were struggling to find was all under 40, still with highly focused careers.

We will explore these three things in A NEW SERIES




The Technology Dance

Dancing with Technology neon

There is so much technology dancing on my laptop that sometimes while everything is loading I see the screen jiggle a little bit. Whether in terror or anticipation I can never tell.

Technology is being hurled at me constantly.
I’m applying for these writing gigs that challenge me to have perfect grammar or else and up pops tantalizing ads for Grammerly and other grammar apps that promise perfect phrases. Grammerly took me off to a confusing page that seemed to be missing the “Free” promise that brought me there. I did a “hell no” and aborted the download. In stepped Ginger, quite gingerly I must say. The download was smooth, it offered to do all kinds of setup and connections for me.

Ginger on WordI awoke the next day to discover it had taken over my Word screen, hidden my menu so all I would think about is Ginger and how badly I needed it.

Then, when I went back online there was Grammerly on every sidebar of every search screen, even YouTube. “Don’t forget me,” it called, seemingly unaware that I had chosen another. Grammerly and I were over before we ever started, literally.

The dance is constant and when it becomes a group dance you pray everyone will know the same steps. I upgraded to Windows 10, clearly nothing to lose given my Windows 8 disaster (See most of 2013 – 2014 archives). But our Toshiba laptop is Windows 7 and it is working perfectly, and as the sole portal to our U.S. TV watching it was not to be tampered with. We already struggled to get our Hotspot Shield to recognize the Windows 7 laptop (We’ve been forced to use the Chrome extension) and the Shield doesn’t even have an option yet for Windows 10.
There is too much technology dancing across my screen and it won’t all play well together.

incompatible technologyThe Hulu TV only works with HOLA, but HOLA is apparently opening my home to cyber terrorists (see Take Me Hola, I’m Yours). The streams best with our paid VPN, Hotspot Shield, but it will only work on the Toshiba with Windows 7 as a Chrome extension, but HOLA and HotSpot refuse to work together on the same Chrome browser so one must be disengaged to use the other.

The McAfee Web Advisor keeps leaping out at me to assure me sites are safe. Would it stop me? Is this slowing me down? I already took it off my phone because it was.

Did I invite McAfee to execute all of this behavior somehow with something I downloaded or clicked on? Where is the off button?McAfee Web Advisor






At what point does this become madness?



Maybe I should join next years UNPLUG DAY




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