Working from home is not a new concept at all. It is something I’ve done at various points throughout my entire career. But in the wake of COVID-19, this method of working has been brought front and center out of necessity. As a result, I have been consuming more books, articles, and podcasts on this topic.
Some people have always had the ability to WFH, but due to either company policy or personal preference, most never did it day after day. In some cases companies would allow their staff to work from home at regularly scheduled intervals, but this global shift to working from home is new territory.
We are all adjusting to the new “abnormal.” This got me thinking it might make sense to freshen up my reading on this and determine if I needed to change my management and leadership strategies to help my staff, who are now facing the same challenge.
My thirst for more knowledge on this led me to start reading The Year Without Pants by Scott Berkun, a deep look at the early days of Automattic, the parent company of WordPress, created by Matt Mullenweg. At the time Mullenweg wrote this book, Automattic had about 100 employees – they have now grown to a distributed workforce of nearly 1,200. I am pulling out a lot of different ideas about how to better operate in a distributed workplace. I make my notes public as I work through a book, so you can review them here if you’re interested.
The best information I have obtained so far is in this post from Matt where he provided an excerpt from a podcast discussion with Sam Harris about COVID-19’s impact on workers. In this specific episode, Matt covers the five levels that companies go through as they transition to a distributed workforce. What really struck me as I was reading this was how the majority of large FinTech’s likely fall into level two:
Level two is where many companies have found themselves in the past few weeks with the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve accepted that work is going to happen at home for a while, but they recreate what they were doing in the office in a “remote” setting, like Marshall McLuhan talked about new media mediums initially copying the generation before. You’re probably able to access information from afar, you’ve adapted to tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, but everything is still synchronous, your day is full of interruptions, no real-time meetings have been canceled (yet), and there’s a lot of anxiety in management around productivity — that’s the stage where companies sometimes install surveillance software on laptops.Matt Mullenweg – Distributed Work’s Five Levels of Autonomy
The article goes on to describe the remaining levels which eventually outline a path that ends with nirvana (level 5) that is mostly unattainable in my opinion, unless of course your company started out with a distributed workforce. In future posts I will be compiling a variety of different tips and tricks for using some of the ideas mentioned in levels three to five, as well as from some other books and articles. In the end, unless we as leaders take initiative on driving change, our organizations will not progress to the next level.