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Remote work is here to stay

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Hello! This week we talked to GitLab's head of remote about the difference between pandemic work at home and the future of remote work. Plus, hot-desk summer, the three-word secret to better meetings and how one company is using tech to stop virtual mansplaining.


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At The Office

Is it time to hire a head of remote?

Darren Murph knows a thing or two about productivity. In 2010 he was named the most prolific professional blogger by the Guinness World Records. We have no idea if he still holds this title, but we do know that he's currently the head of remote at GitLab, a job he held before the pandemic even started. Now, in true GitLab fashion, he is sharing the formulas for making the role work for other organizations in a public playbook. In a conversation with Protocol, Murph shared what exactly a head of remote does all day and what other companies should look for when hiring someone to do the same. Here's how he describes the burgeoning role:

  • What even is a 'head of remote?' "A head of remote pressure tests the entire organizational design to make sure that all culture and workflow operates well in a location-agnostic way."
  • Why would a company need this? "Part of the role on an ongoing basis is to always look for what is the next iteration of the workplace, what is the future vision and how do we continue to generate purpose in our workplace. That is increasingly important because there are only a limited number of years where we'll even refer to the word "remote'' before work. At some point, this will become so proliferated that it's just work."
  • Who should I hire? "A phenomenal storyteller and communicator, because you are going to be the chief visionary for the company. You have to be an amazing operational mind, because you are trying to convert older ways of working into new ways of working."

Read on for the full interview.

—Amber Burton (twitter | email)

The Workforce

Hot-desking: so hot right now

Larry Gadea, the CEO of Envoy, doesn't have an office. He doesn't even technically have a desk, though there's one he sits at often enough that the company's desk-scheduling app has learned to seat him there if it's available. Envoy is all in on hot-desking, and it's sweeping the tech industry.

  • Envoy, which is still best known as the tool for checking visitors into offices (and taking those hideous under-chin photos), built a desk-scheduling app as it became clear that companies needed a way to make sure offices weren't overcrowded.
  • Now Envoy Desks accounts for between 30% and 40% of Envoy's new revenue, Gadea said. He thinks Envoy Rooms, which is the same idea but for booking meeting spaces, will be the next to explode.
  • The system works surprisingly similarly to … a middle school, Gadea said. You come in, drop your stuff in your assigned locker, and either go to class (your first meeting room) or your homeroom (the part of the office where your team sits). Envoy's job, Gadea said, is to optimize that system for whoever is coming to the office each day.

It was a bit of a transition getting used to having a new desk every day, but Gadea said he likes that the system can automatically seat teams near each other, or optimize for giving everyone as much social distance as possible. But he also thinks he's not the only one who will want the same spot every day. "People want repetition," he said. "They're going to want the same desk, they're going to use that same one meeting room that they always like using." Just make sure you're first in the hot-desking queue.

— David Pierce (twitter | email)

A MESSAGE FROM ZOOM

Zoom is for you. From meetings, chat, phone, and webinars to conference rooms and events, Zoom powers all your communication needs. Zoom for Government, our separate, U.S.-based platform, offers the same Zoom experience but with the specialized security controls and certifications required by the U.S. government.

Learn more

Get Stuff Done

Open, explore, close

Here's a three-word mantra for having better meetings: Open, Explore, Close. That's a favorite of Sunni Brown, an author and consultant focused on helping people work better together. "It follows the arc of a good book, a good movie, a good game," she said during Protocol's recent virtual event.

  • It's a simple rubric. Open: Explain the point of the meeting and the information needed to run it. Explore: Brainstorm, ask questions, think deeply, play games. Close: Make decisions, write down action items and next steps and send everybody on their way.
  • The process of running a meeting like this starts well before the meeting itself, said Annie Pearl, Calendly's chief product officer. "We really like to think about the whole meeting lifecycle," she said. Before the meeting, "that means getting clear on the agenda, the goals, the prep work. And are the right people there?" Along the way, she said, never forget that a meeting should always be connected to a larger objective, and exist only in service of that objective.

As for the age-old question, "should this be a meeting?" here's another good three-word guide. Informative, Generative, Evaluative. "If you spend most of your time in a meeting informing me," said Mural CEO Mariano Suarez-Battan, "that could have been done in a Slack." Evaluative can sometimes have useful debates, so choose wisely. But most meetings, he said, should aim to be generative. "You start to build on top of people's perspectives, ideas and so forth." That's the best reason to get people together, and tends to be the kind of meeting people actually enjoy.

— DP

DEI

ERGs may help companies more than they help employees

Tech companies like to tout the number and variety of employee resource groups as an indicator of how much they care about diversity and inclusion. Ideally, these groups provide a place for employees with similar backgrounds to connect with each other and affect change in the workplace. Sometimes, however, those tasked with leading these groups say they feel exploited and burnt out. Others have told me they feel like ERGs undermine the efforts of a union.

Do you have thoughts on ERGs at your workplace? If so, I want to hear from you.

— Megan Rose Dickey (twitter | email)

ICYMI

Can Cisco solve "virtual-mansplaining?"

A large share of tech workers have embraced remote and hybrid work setups with verve, but the virtual workplace hasn't come without its own set of pain points. For some, the inability to speak without being interrupted or spoken over has become commonplace.

One in five women reported feeling ignored and overlooked by coworkers during video calls, according to a survey released in June 2020 by Catalyst, a nonprofit that works to promote women in leadership. In addition, 45% of women business leaders said they find it difficult to speak up in virtual meetings. While "virtual mansplaining" looks a lot like it did in the office, it can be heightened by the clunkiness of a video call in which there are fewer natural cues to suggest who has the floor to speak.

Learn more about how Webex is working to solve what many frustrated workers call "virtual mansplaining."



—AB

A MESSAGE FROM ZOOM

Zoom is for you. From meetings, chat, phone, and webinars to conference rooms and events, Zoom powers all your communication needs. Zoom for Government, our separate, U.S.-based platform, offers the same Zoom experience but with the specialized security controls and certifications required by the U.S. government.

Learn more

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to workplace@protocol.com. Have a great week, see you next Wednesday.

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