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What are your SaaS company's current growth marketing challenges and wins?

February 27, 2024

How SaaS Companies Can Get Remote Culture Right with Ali Greene, Coauthor of Remote Works

Ali Greene, coauthor of Remote Works and former Director of People Operations at DuckDuckGo, joins Jeanna on this episode of Remotely Cultured.

Ali and Jeanna discuss what company culture actually means and how to define it, how leaders can flex their "remote-first muscle" and support their teams to be successful in a remote environment, how to properly assess if a candidate is a good fit for your remote culture in the hiring process, and how to avoid the biggest mistakes companies make when going hybrid or fully distributed.
Resources Mentioned In This Episode:


Jeanna: Hey everyone, welcome to Remotely Cultured. I'm your host, Jeanna calling in from Roatan, Honduras, where I run FPS and host this podcast. This episode is brought to you by FirstPage Strategy. At FPS, we use data and big ideas to produce exponential growth for product-led brands who need to nail their acquisition goals and want to work with a flexible, non-traditional agency. For example, in one year, we've grown a client's total revenue 197%, their organic revenue by 300% and their paid revenue by over a thousand percent. If you're a SaaS, fintech or startup and need to hit your high growth acquisition goals, check us out at firstpagestrategy.com. Today on the podcast, we have Ali Green with us. Welcome, Ali.

Ali: Hello, thanks for having me.

Jeanna: Ali is the co-author of the book, Remote Works, has been working remotely since 2014, and she was previously the director of people operations for DuckDuckGo, and the former head of culture and community at Oyster. Ali was named a remote accelerator in the 2022 and 2023 for her continued thought leadership around the future of work. Ali's mission is to empower people and companies, helping them thrive in making work and life better. I love that mission. Welcome, Ali. How are you?

Ali: Thanks much. I'm great. How are you doing?

Jeanna: Good. Where are you calling in from today?

Ali: Yeah, so I am in the midst of some travels, which is very exciting. So I just wrapped up a trip back in the US, going to Tulsa, Oklahoma for the first time. And the reaction I get when I say that is like, huh, what, why? And it's because Tulsa is doing incredible things with the remote work community and building of tech and startups and having support around there. So I'm just fangirling over here wishing I could stay longer, but I'm now packing up and changing my wardrobe to head on over to Croatia for a digital nomad program where I'm going to do some research about the map of like knowledge workers against physical location. And so trying to finally define all these weird words that everybody's been using for the past couple of years and see if we can come up with some trends around what truly is the future of work.

Jeanna: Oh my gosh, I love it so much to unpack there. First, the Tulsa Oklahoma, we actually have someone at FPS at our agency who relocated to Tulsa and to take advantage of their remote work.

Ali: Tulsa remote program.

Jeanna: Yeah, when he started with us. So, we have someone in Tulsa too, and it's funny because he always kind of has to qualify why he was working in Tulsa as well. But briefly, like just tell us what is Tulsa doing specifically with their remote work program?

Ali: Yeah, so Tulsa Remote is a program where if you qualify, you get paid $10 ,000 to relocate to Tulsa for a year. What's amazing after I've now spent one week there and I'm like, yeah, this is so great is that it's not just about the financial incentive, but they're truly building a community in this network effect to share ideas, share learnings, have increased innovation through the co-working space, 36 Degrees North and other community events. I went there and did a workshop with their community on how to rethink productivity and just met so many people, ate delicious food, and I can't wait to go back.

Jeanna: That's amazing. Oh, I love that so much. I'll have to make a trip and check out the co-working space in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And Croatia, that's exciting as well. So you're gonna spend a month in Croatia, work remote from Europe and explain a little bit more. You said define some of the definitions, remote work definitions or what?

Ali: Yeah, so there's this really cool program going on. Croatia has been very much a leader in the space of, attracting remote workers. And I am going to a region of Croatia and I'll be joining other people that work remotely, whether they're normally digital nomads or not. But to have this experience together where everybody was encouraged and selected to work on a passion project. And so my passion project is really how do I combine these different factors of my life that I always knew overlap, but at any given time, I'm only talking to one audience. So like here today, really thinking about remote work and company culture from the lens of what it looks like to run and operate a company. On other days, I'm like traveling the world and staying in co-livings and talking about remote work through the lens of like how it's allowed me to live a certain personal lifestyle and like making friends in my adulthood and be able to travel the world and manage my energy and just be able to have more freedom and flexibility. And usually I keep these lives kind of separate. And I've seen more and more people are blurring the lines of what this looks like. Hybrid employees are starting to consider, hey, can I go on a workcation? What would that look like? How can I be productive while I'm traveling? Digital nomads are not just freelancers hanging out on the beach. When I was traveling full-time as a nomad, I was also sitting on the leadership team of a startup and thinking about how to grow the company and scale culture. And so as the world blends more, I want to figure out like, what does that actually look like? And what are the implications for companies and for people?

Jeanna: I love that. Obviously, you're a thought leader in remote work now. It's something that is evident through the book that you've written, which we'll get into a little bit later and being invited to these various communities and events happening on remote work around the world. And your background led you to this, I'm sure. So let's talk a little bit about that. You have been a people leader at two various software companies, DuckDuckGo and Oyster. So you can tell our listeners a little bit about those roles, what you were doing and kind of in charge of there.

Ali: Yeah, definitely. So my role at DuckDuckGo was more traditional people operations. So when you think of that term or you think of human resources, it encapsulates a lot of the work that I did while DuckDuckGo was scaling from about 30 people to just over 100 during my time there. And so I focused on the umbrella of the employee experience, things like what do benefits look like at this company, especially given that there's cultural differences and norms from where our employees and contractors are based, things like what do performance reviews look like in a fully remote company? How do we make sure that subconscious bias doesn't fall into the equation? And we're analyzing people in a very objective way to make sure that they're being rewarded for their work and their effort. Planning off sites, which is really fun and always felt like the perk and the highlight for me throughout the years thinking through just because we're remote, what is the strategy for bringing people together to spend intentional face time with one another? And I think that's a hot topic today. To like developing the hiring strategy, doing annual surveys, all the stuff that you know and love when it comes to people operations. And it was a really special time for me in my career, because it was a point where I was leading and building towards that and really wanting to see what that looked like in action for a company whose values truly aligned with my values, which is what led me to work remotely in the first place is how do we treat people when they enter the workforce like adults? Why don't we give them responsibilities and let them run with it? And I didn't experience that in my first couple of jobs right out of university. And so DuckDuckGo was the first time I felt empowered because of the frameworks they put in place for remote work. And then shortly after, you know, deciding to take some, some time off from work and stepping down from my position at DuckDuckGo, there's this thing I don't like to talk about very much that happened to everybody in the world. And I got pretty much locked down in a studio apartment instead of taking this personal sabbatical that I wanted to take. And, and everybody has some sort of story that I love hearing about like what transitioned them to the next step during 2020. And so for me, it was that desire to encourage and help people get better at remote work. And so Oyster was a fantastic opportunity. One, again, like mission-driven company, helping people be able to expand their talent pool and hire from all across the world. And I think that's like a super special mission and utilizing like SaaS and technology to be able to do that in a lean way and a way that's interesting for people and not just like, a boring EOR service is very cool. Also starting again at a company very small in size and at the very like early days before they became highly operationalized like they are today. And so, you know, working with people and figuring out, hey, like, how do we want to collaborate and use Notion together? What does this look like? But what was really fun for me in that role is it did accelerate my passion for thought leadership because, while I was focused on culture and community, it was external facing. So I did a lot of work launching a podcast with them. So I admire all of the work you're doing interviewing me today and a thought leadership series on the future of work and started writing and things like that. And just using my knowledge and people ops to share and expand that information.

Jeanna: I love it. And you know, I, as you were kind of rattling through all the like projects you've worked on, which all sound fun too. I'm super passionate at this about making remote work within companies too, obviously as a founder of remote company. But I was thinking about your note that you said how you were thinking through benefits of people sitting in different cultures, which is things that you don't think about, right? Like I talk a lot to people about the difference of being a remote-first company versus just being a company that decided to go remote where they decided they think that remote is just putting everybody at home and giving them a computer, which really it isn't, right? It's thinking through these really granular differences of you have to build a benefit program that is for people in multiple locations. You have to build communication and documentation using Notion or whatever you want to use for people in different cultures and different languages, right? So it's so fascinating to me, but talk a little bit about the benefits thing. Like what kind of tweaks or differences did you see building a benefit program for people across different locations?

Ali: Yeah. So I would say like the first thing to consider a very common benefit that we see remote-first companies intentionally doing is something like a co-working benefit. Then you really need to sit down and think through the landscape of what's available for people. What if somebody lives in a space where there's no co-working office to take advantage of? Like have you then produce an equitable experience? Is the goal of the co -working benefit to increase productivity for the workers or is the goal to help them like socialize and connect with people in real life in their community? And once you start asking yourself those types of questions, you can start to see if there's like an either or example of something that you can offer for people to take advantage of. And so, you know, what we're seeing now and a lot of companies are going ahead and just offering both, which I think is great, but like a work from home desk set up allowance or a co-working benefit. And like, depending on the why, making those either and or ors is very important to also depending on like what your company culture is, like, are you the type of company that wants to offer robust perks or do you expect that your financial compensation covers the needs of the employees and employees have autonomy to choose what they're spending their money on? And so I think there's a lot of nuanced details in this. And of course, a layer of like legal and compliance. And I always like suggest even for the most experienced people operations person that they lean on, employee council and some legal advice in terms of what that looks like, because the nuance even of laws country to country differ. And that's why companies like Oyster, like Remote and Deal can come into play to support you in figuring out what that journey looks like.

Jeanna: Yeah. And that's, I think, that is such a complicated piece of it. It's a lot of... A lot of people think that you can just like go work remote, right? But one thing that we've learned at First Page is like the compliance piece is such a beast. You have to make sure that you're open in certain states or countries that you have a tool like Remote to be your employer record in those locations. And it feels like a full-time job just to keep up with like the rules and laws and compliance. Like, do you have any tips for companies kind of going through that?

Ali: I would say like, don't get scared. What I'm seeing a lot right now is companies getting overwhelmed by this information and it can be overwhelming. And I believe like one of the reasons that we're having this return to office debate and I think there's a lot of reasons, but reasons that are related to the topic we're having right now is just fear. If there's too much overwhelm if there's too much information, if there's too much nuance, it's safe to go back to what you know and what you know might be hybrid, what you know might be in the office. But by keeping it safe, you're not letting people really excel in this new way of working and you're not doing all the things you can do to really stand out and grow your company successfully in a unique way.

Jeanna: Right. Yeah, the hybrid stuff. It's so I'm not a fan. I feel like it's just one foot in one foot out, but it's not actually investing in all the things that you need to invest in to make sure that like you just said that people excel while working remote. It's crazy to me. But um, what do you think software companies looking to go fully remote or kind of at this cusp of maybe being hybrid and not sure going back into the office or fully remote? Like, what do you think is some of the most important things that they need to think about and figure out?

Ali: Yeah, I think the first thing is their management layer at the company. And so when Tam and I decided to write Remote Works and we were thinking, you know, who is the target audience for the book, it stood out immediately that managers are the heartbeat of the organization. And the past couple of years, there hasn't been support for this group. As an individual contributor, you can somewhat easily go online and research things like how to, you know, set up your home office to be like comfortable and, and arrogant, ergo metric, like chairs and stuff. I can't say that word, but you know, like ergonomic. Yeah. Um, this is, this is where in the podcast, if my sister's listening, she rolls her eyes because she's an interior designer and I can't say that word. Um, embarrassing. Cool. But you know, like people have access to more information now when it comes to just themselves. If you want to learn how to be more productive, if you want to learn how to communicate more effectively, just you and like having the sphere of control over yourself, it's doable. Like we've all seen listicles about these topics. Yeah, right. At the CEO level, you have a big sphere of influence. And so you can make lots of sweeping changes around your hybrid policy or remote work policy. And then the people in the middle are sort of getting left behind. They are the ones that have to operationalize these strategy decisions, depending on the size of the company and make it work for a group of people. And they themselves might have never worked remotely. They themselves might not like it, but it's not necessarily about their personal level of comfort, it's about learning a digital first skill set. And right now, the biggest problem I see in why there's tension to take this leap is people don't have that skill set yet. We're not prepared to truly lean into things like asynchronous communication, to building a level of trust virtually. And it makes sense. Managers, they got successful based off an old playbook. And now we're here telling them like, hey, you have to learn completely new set of rules to play the game. And so we're telling people that have been successful, hey, everything that's made you successful, forget it and learn new stuff. That's really scary for people. And so I think just addressing change management with the level of empathy needed to address those fears is what's going to make CEOs really impactful in starting this transition and being able to see it through successfully.

Jeanna: Yeah. We see this, I mean, this is the number one problem I see as a founder trying to hire people is the thought that you said about people being digital first and digital first managers. We work async at FPS. We also have everything is built inside of ClickUp. We are like, if it didn't happen in ClickUp, it didn't happen kind of a thing. And we document everything. Now we struggle to hire people that understand this and can really get into the tools and get it right. And sometimes, you know, I feel like my last three or four years has been how we tweak our hiring process to find, make sure that we're figuring out. And it's really hard to test for technical savviness in a hiring process, because we'll get some people that have beautiful backgrounds, we think they're going to nail the job, and then they get in here and they flat out cannot communicate or work in the new way that we kind of work, right? So what are your tips for companies that are like trying to solve this problem as well? Have you figured out how to test people for being technically savvy and to like be able to figure out how to work async?

Ali: I think this is again, a very nuanced topic because you have to balance testing for the skill set in the hiring process and the candidate experience. And right now we're going through a job market that's incredibly competitive. I think there's definitely like an imbalance of power and there's a skill gap. And so as a company, I would say even before the hiring process, think through how good are you as a company at continuous improvement and training people on these skills if they show potential because that will dictate the level of expertise you need in the hiring process. And then from, they are very tactical things to consider in the hiring process is how do you blend information that you need to know about the candidate with asynchronous testing? And so, you know, there is this funny debate that I got myself into on LinkedIn a few weeks ago and I'll come out and say, I hate cover letters.

Jeanna: Oh, honestly, who uses them anymore? I don't look at them as personally as a founder. Like we don't use them here.

Ali: Thank you. You're on my side. I love this. But I do see the value in people that say, well, cover letters give us an opportunity to see what their written communication skills are. But my problem with cover letters is that you're not explaining the rules of the game. Instead, why don't you consider what are one or two questions that I need to know about a candidate in order to make my decision on their subject matter expertise, their functional skillset, and how do I turn that into a case study or a piece of written communication? And even go one step further to outline how that might look in the culture of your organization. Do you want that information prepared as if it were in a Asana blog post? Do you want that information prepared via like a private Slack channel that you set up for candidates one-on-one and then they can manage and set expectations around turnaround time and delivery and not just send you that, hey, what's up question mark that like lingers in Slack and you're like, this isn't a synchronous tool. Like we're not here to have these constant pings back and forth. Do you want them to send you a Loom video and really show that you have confidence in communicating asynchronously, but using audio and video as a way to like explain it? What does your culture look like and how can you start testing for that in the hiring process alongside what are you willing to train and how do you test for agile learning and just that open-mindedness in candidates?

Jeanna: Yeah. So we personally are tripling down and like going backwards on, and it's hard, right? When you're a young company, you're a technically startup phase, right? High growth. And we're going backwards and saying, okay, we need to now make sure all this training is in place. We understand there's a gap here. Like we aren't training people properly. We started building like, you know, video, like loom type videos of click up and how we use it. And we're looking at trying to test people in the candidate like journey for using some of these tools. And so have you built out testing before for like, specifically what is some advice maybe for some, some companies that want to tweak their hiring process? Like how would you set up a test like this? Like what tools might you use, et cetera?

Ali: Number one, if you're going to make people do the level of work that it's adding like value or using specific tools, like I always recommend considering how you can pay people for this level of testing. So that's something that I was really proud of during my time at DuckDuckGo is that, you know, people had the opportunity to do test projects and these test projects were paid and it was very much an opportunity for both people to interview each other. I think we forget that it's mutually beneficial for candidates to decide if they're a good fit, as well as for you to decide about the candidate. Every time that I've designed a specific test project and coached and collaborated with leaders at DuckDuckGo, it was very much, how can we replicate this experience for using a tool, not in the tool? And so the example of Asana. Maybe a candidate doesn't know what Asana is, but you can explain like, Hey, we use Asana. Like normally we write things as blog posts. And they tend to be between this many and that many words. The audience is, you know, the whole company or just the marketing team and give them that framework and set up the case study and then let the candidate work in that container. I recommend that hiring managers, once they build that container, write down so that they don't forget when they're analyzing candidate success, what will the candidate not know about your culture? They might not know acronyms they use. They might not know that you prefer numbered lists over bullet points. Write down the limitations of the test. Like they're doing something that's in a sandbox. They're not actually in your Slack, your Notion, your Asana. And so what will they not have the ability to do such as like at mention somebody and what information like, do they not know that they don't know because you're providing like an example and it's probably like overly simplified to test a certain skill, not something actually going on in your company, which leads into like a warning sign. I would say too, sometimes when it comes to hiring processes, if you're expecting the candidate to test against a current problem you're having and what the solution is and if the solution is viable or not, that's not the point of a test to me. The point of the test is do they have a specific competency that will let them be successful? So let's say you're testing for analytical skills, maybe they analyze information and they come up with a recommendation that you hate. It would never work in your company culture. It would be too complex. It's not gonna be a high priority. But the analytics of how they made that recommendation are great. The math is there, the reasoning is there, whatever they use to make that decision is there. That is more important than if you like it or not, because they're showing that they have those analytical skills. And I think oftentimes we get caught up in the momentum and we forget what are we actually testing for.

Jeanna: Yeah. Cool. All right, I love that. So we talked a little bit about hiring, some benefits at these various companies, but is there anything else that you think are unique challenges to software companies that are looking to go fully distributed or are fully distributed that they should solve for?

Ali: Define company culture. People, I think, struggle with this the most. It's one of my favorite topics to talk about. It's funny that we spend time talking about things that I always felt were things where I really rely on other people I admire in this space to talk about. Company culture though, like people blame remote work and use it as a scapegoat under the lens of company culture often. And this is something that's like deeply upsetting to me. I define company culture around standard operating behaviors. How do people behave in your company to get the work done? What do you recognize and celebrate? And you want more people to do blank activity, blank behavior, and what do you want less of in your organization? And when you frame culture that way, of course it can be remote. You think of things like, sports teams that have like this really intense culture around what colors you wear and how you show up and what types of cheers you do. And these people don't necessarily know each other. They've never met each other before, but they rally around a set of shared values and also shared behaviors that makes it an obvious sense of culture. Like immediately also comes to mind of like Swifties and how they even have their own vocabulary that they're Taylor Swift fans and you see like this doesn't get cultivated sitting in one room or one office. Yes, they go to a Taylor Swift concert, but the whole rest of the year, there's like these other things that add value to that character and the in-person experience is just a capstone of that. And I think how Orc works is the same. You can build how do people show up in our online channels that we offer them. Do we want people to be collaborative or competitive? What does that tactically look like? And those are the things that you need to decide and also ask yourself why. So I sat down in a very interesting conversation last week and there were two founders that both have the same goal. We want our people to collaborate and get to know each other personally more often. That's a great goal. Like I love relationship building at work. I don't want to just sit alone in my house all day and type things into the like internet how they were approaching getting people to collaborate and build those relationships looked different because their companies look different. And that to me was a sign that both of them were thinking intentionally about what they were doing and why they were doing it. So don't forget to ask yourself why.

Jeanna: I love it. Yeah, culture obviously big to me too. That's the whole like basis of this podcast remotely culture, just talking about all these different cultures and how you do remote work right within your culture. What do you think is the first step to like getting your culture documented?

Ali: Observe, get in there, like get messy, see what's going on with people before you start dictating anything. Talk to people in different departments, talk to people at different levels of the organization. If you're, you know, like pre -seed startups and you're just kicking off, talk to your company when it's just you and your co -founder. Then reiterate the conversation when you've hired your first group of people and continuously evolve that through your first, you know, one person to seven people, to 30 people and be open to change. And I would say as you're analyzing and looking and getting messy, start writing down what do you think aligns with the vision of the company? What behaviors are you seeing that's propelling you forward towards your goals? And what behaviors are you seeing that you can notice tension around or that feels uncomfortable and why is that? And after you've done that, then take a step back and have a conversation around organizing those norms.

Jeanna: Love it. So you talk a little bit a lot about also building an intentional culture. So this is obviously some part of that, right? Is there anything else you would go deeper into giving advice to founders on how they could build intentional culture?

Ali: Know that everything that you say in the company will be heard and figured out. Like if it's something that you want to happen, but you also don't have the skills. Like I would say it's okay to be vulnerable with that and identify other champions in the organization because people need role models. And naturally, you are the role model until you help point out in the organization who those others are.

Jeanna: Cool. Great. And I'm curious, because as I was listening to you, I remember this conversation. Personally, I'm super proud of our culture at FPS. It's what I, as a founder, have poured my heart into. But I remember a conversation with someone that we work with here at FPS. And they were saying, like what I was saying to them, the problem is, is you don't have a culture. There's no like defined way within your organization that you're working or whatever, and it's not, and it's clashing. And they were like, what are you talking about? We have a culture. We have a great culture. We treat people really well. Everybody's been here forever. And I'm, but to me, they didn't really have a culture. So how would you define culture? Like what is a company's culture more than just we pay you well, we want to treat you well.

Ali: Yes. So I like to use the term standard operating behaviors for culture, which to me encompasses things like how are people interacting in a very tactical way? What are the competencies and skill sets that we reward and therefore promote? What are the behaviors in terms of rituals that people do on a regular cadence that make us uniquely different than our competitor or like, you know, our collaborators or our clients? Are there any artifacts that we use virtually that help people remember what these standard operating behaviors are and what our values are? What does this look like? Is there specific emojis that are like uniquely meaningful to us? So things like shared definitions really help propel a company in terms of making sure they're aligned on how am I looking at the world and how are you looking at the world? And do we have this like shared understanding of what we're trying to accomplish at this company and how we get it done. And I think that's very important is the how you get it done is the culture.

Jeanna: And rituals, what do you give us an example of some what you mean by rituals for those who might not be as knowledgeable in the people office space?

Ali: Yeah, so we had a ritual at DuckDuckGo called the Green Bow Tie Award. And it was something where every week somebody that truly lived the values of the company and went above and beyond in their work were celebrated and honored. And the way that it worked was the company peers could submit an anonymous nomination, I guess is the word I want to use to say, hey, I really want to recognize this person for doing this thing. And then every Friday, everybody would know who is being recognized. So everybody would kind of get that shout out. And the winner from the previous time would select the winner from this group of nominees. And it would continue on being peer led. And so it wasn't something that you had to worry was counting for or against you in terms of performance reviews. Your manager wasn't necessarily involved. It was just a way to promote a value of giving thanks. And so the ritual, the reading of the nominations and then the selecting of the winner and then the value behind the ritual being, you know, cultivating a behavior of giving thanks.

Jeanna: Love it. That's a great example. Cool. What do you think are some of the biggest mistakes companies make when it comes to a remote culture or being distributed?

Ali: I'm not taking the time to learn what that looks like for them. And that can take two forms. One is just doing things the same way that they've always done them because society has trained us to work Monday to Friday, nine to five and sit behind a computer desk. And so I think the biggest mistake is not experimenting. I think you need to unlearn what you thought equal to productivity, what you thought equal to success, what you thought equals collaboration. And the way that you unlearn something is by shaking it up. And so I always recommend that leaders in remote organizations that don't have experience working remotely take one day a week where they try one thing that's different. And so if they believe that they're a morning person, challenge them to flip the switch on their schedule and do what they normally do in the morning and the afternoon. They might not like it. They might realize that actually they really enjoy having the time to sleep in and it gives them more energy. If they think they like working in a quiet environment at home, challenge them to go work at a coffee shop one day a week or do a co-working space. And they might make a connection with someone local who's facing a similar problem that their company is facing and realize the benefit of working in different locations. And so just pick one thing and start there. And the biggest mistake is not picking that one thing and holding so tight to your beliefs and not being willing to make that change.

Jeanna: Yeah, that's a cool way to think about it. I don't think I could be an evening person. So that would be tough for me because I am I fall into the morning person routine. But luckily, I have had I've always been, I mean, I started my company by being remote myself and wanting to build a company that fit how I wanted to work. So I'm not one of those founders that I have had to kind of change my beliefs, but for founders that are going through that, I can imagine it's super difficult. And yes, you're right, there's fear there. And that's where the pushback is coming from. Where would you advise like, advise them to go tactically? Like where would they, or tactically? I guess, ergonomic, ergonomically, to like, start to figure this out, like, where reading documentation or what to learn or how what can they do to from an education standpoint to get them to be a little bit more understanding of the benefits or how to switch into remote work?

Ali: Yeah, in terms of the benefits, I would say just start talking to more like, individual contributors or even people in their company that and ask them what would happen if we open up more flexibility in this company? What does that look like for you? And I think hearing those personal stories can be incredibly empowering to make a change, whether it's, you know, this means that I get to drop my kids off at school every day, or this means that when I have a headache, I don't have to fake it in front of my colleagues in order to look professional. I can just, you know, sit in a dark room and catch up on my work later. There's lots of reasons why this is an empowering movement for people. Um, so one, just get really curious and ask people questions from a very then educational standpoint of like, okay, I believe it, I'm into it. Let's do it. Um, again, get really curious, don't copy and paste what other companies are doing and assume it works for you. I would say learn the frameworks of what are the building blocks of remote. And so for me, I think through like asynchronous communication is a skill that you need to be successful in remote work practice asynchronous communication, set frameworks for what that looks like in your organization and get people that you trust to give you feedback. Project management is another big one and productivity. I think those are like, if you're gonna focus on three things from like, what is my sphere of control personally and with people that report to me or I report to those three things can increase trust, increase accountability, et cetera, et cetera. In our book, Remote Works, we dedicate chapters to those topics and have frameworks and reflection questions that really help educate people, not just based off of my years working remotely and my co-author Tams, but also through interviews that we did with people I really admire and look up to. And I also look to for advice on a lot of the topics we talked about today.

Jeanna: Nice. That's a great segue. Let's talk a little bit about your book before we wrap the pod up. Remote Works, what I love about it, briefly, just going to your website, is that it's written specifically to managers managing remote teams, right?

Ali: Yes. And we define manager in like a fun way too. So you don't have to manage people. You can also be managing projects, which opens up the door to who this book is for.

Jeanna: Nice. Can you tell us a little, tell us a little bit more about the book? What's kind of the meat to it? What can readers expect?

Ali: Yeah. So it's highly interactive. They can expect it's as if they're, you know, chatting with the friends about their struggles with remote work. We, as I said, like we interviewed a lot of people that have been working remotely through various points in their company growth and industry to tell stories. This is how it works for these people. Also, this is how it's been working and things we wish we knew when for me and Tam and combine all those stories with activities that you can do and bring back to your team and have a true learning and development journey alongside reflection questions, things to ask on your team in order to concretely build new norms. So for example, there's a chapter all around how to set up your team charter. And what does that look like when you're a brand new team? A chapter all around, what does it look like to have communication done right? Like when should we use synchronous? When should we use asynchronous? We're not gonna prescribe that to you, but we're gonna teach you how to make that decision.

Jeanna: Love it. Cool. And so, where can people go to learn more about this book or buy this book?

Ali: Yeah, so the book is available worldwide on Amazon. So that's the best place to go. But if you have a favorite local retailer, we also really admire when people go to their independent bookstores and request for the book get supplied. And I absolutely love connecting with people and expanding my circle of people so I can hear stories about, you know, remote work wins and challenges as well. And so you can connect with me personally on LinkedIn. 

Jeanna: Well, so remote work, remoteworksbook.com is also a place that can read more about it. And you yourself offer consulting and workshops, right? For companies that want to go remote. Can you talk a little bit about those?

Ali: Yeah, definitely. So our cornerstone trainings and workshops are around those three skills I mentioned. So remote communication, productivity and project management. I also offer, you know, interactive keynote speeches, as well as group coaching sessions. And so some people want a little bit more, hey, how does this book look like in our world? And can you tailor this more to the company culture that we have? And so I think, you know, having group coachings around that is a really special opportunity to dig into the details.

Jeanna: Amazing. All right, so three final questions as we wrap up the podcast. I would love for you to tell our listeners today, you do a lot of traveling, you do work from anywhere. So what is your #workfromanywhere item or tool that you could never live without and you cannot say your computer or your AirPods.

Ali: Um, I would say my leggings.

Jeanna: Nice.

Ali: Like, no, no lies here work from anywhere uniform is cozy comfy clothes, especially as we're nearing wintertime in a good chunk of the world.

Jeanna: Yeah, do you have like a legging secret? I am also wearing leggings today. So #leggingsrule.

Ali: I don't, I just find that like one way I like to work is by focusing on a specific task than getting up and doing something active. So I like to be ready to go. Whether it's like a 15 minute yoga sesh or like walking from one shop to another dog walk. Like I have to be ready for that. So I no longer rock the like dresses and high heels that I wore in like my office jobs.

Jeanna: Oh, cringe. I can't even, I know. It's so funny. I really like it just to go down that tangent for a minute, but it's so bizarre. I feel like I've lived, you know, multiple different lives, but the past Jeanna eight years ago that lived in San Francisco in the tech and startup world, literally I wore heels, like pumps every single day, bright pink lipstick, like gold earrings, my hair was always done. I was like so fancy. That's so weird to think about that version of myself. Like this downtown San Francisco office Jeanna.

Ali: I can relate. I went to an office for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and I didn't know what to wear anymore. I was like, what's appropriate these days for these like, rises in New York, like couldn't tell you. I couldn't either. So yeah, my non-tech answer a solid carrier of like, comfy pants that like helps you focus.

Jeanna: Love it. And what is your remote work productivity hack that you want to share with our listeners? It's a good one since you have a whole chapter on productivity.

Ali: Yeah, I just sort of like gave the the answer to that in the last question, but I'm gonna like specifically call it out so you know what to look for in the book. But I have a hack I like to call one place one goal. And so I very specifically orient my brain around the physical location that I'm in. And so what that looks like is I will go to a coffee shop to, you know, work on updating a workshop deck and adding in new graphics or new examples. And when I'm done with that, I will leave that coffee shop and give myself the break that happens when you try to context switch. I think a lot of lost productivity is around context switching. So instead I use that to fill my personal cup and I will go to a bike ride from the coffee shop back to home or the coffee shop to a co-working space. And when I get to my new location, I pick a new top priority to focus on. So it's like similar to a Pomodoro technique, but way more fun.

Jeanna: Yeah, I love it. I also love the integrating of the workout or a bike ride before you do something else. Gotta get our steps in as remote workers sitting in front of computers, which is now I got so many articles coming out that it's worse for you than smoking. So it's good. I'm with you on always trying to like squeeze in the activity. Cool. And you said this briefly earlier, but let's very clearly say it again. If someone wanted to learn about you and your book, where should they go online?

Ali: Yeah. So you can go to remoteworksbook.com. You can learn a lot about the workshops and consulting there. LinkedIn, Ali Greene with an E at the end is where to find me and reach out to me personally. And if you're interested in buying the book, Amazon has got you covered.

Jeanna: All right. Allie, thank you so much for being on Remotely Culture today. It was wonderful to have all of your tips on people and culture of remote. And so I thank you for your time.

Ali: Yeah, thanks so much. It was really fun.

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