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(worker at home in the midst of chaos) I’ve got a pretty good handle on working from home. Homing from home, that’s another story.

Home sweet office

Home sweet office published on

Today’s the day my wife Alexandra Samuel’s upcoming book becomes Alexandra Samuel’s newly-published book! Remote, Inc.: How to Thrive at Work… Wherever You Are is now on sale at your favourite bookseller.

I’ve been lucky enough to witness the evolution of this book, which Alex cowrote with one of the world’s leading productivity experts, Robert C. Pozen. And over the last few weeks, it’s been a lot of fun drawing a few cartoons inspired by it.

Not to mention a remarkable fit thematically.

A lot of Noise to Signal’s humour draws on the ways technology and networked living sometimes-dovetails/sometimes-collides with the rest of our lives. And for the past year-plus, working from home — with its reliance on constant connectivity — has cranked up the intensity of that dovetail/collision 24/7. (I say 24 because I don’t think I’m the only one who’s had dreams about being on a Zoom call and suddenly realizing I was fully clothed from the waist down.)

All of which yields a rich vein of ore for a cartoonist to mine. But we could have a lot more dovetailing and a lot less colliding with a more thoughtful approach to the new workplace. That’s where Remote, Inc. comes in: It’s your guide to making that new workplace work for you, no matter what mix of remote and on-site work it entails for you.

It won’t make your pets less annoying, do your laundry for you or clean up your kitchen. But it will help you navigate the terrain of the fusion of working from home and heading into the office that emerges as the post-pandemic workplace. Learn more and get your copy here.

 

Couple in bed: one is delivering a remote presentation, while the one who’s trying to sleep says “Remind me in the morning — we need to talk about boundaries.”

Good fences make 1) good neighbours and 2) good remote work habits

Good fences make 1) good neighbours and 2) good remote work habits published on

Remote work has always been at least part of how I do things professionally. It’s a natural part of freelancing. But even when I’ve had a job-job, doing some work in the distraction-free environment of home was a recurring trochee in my professional rhythm.

That changed last April, when I had the very good fortune to land a 12-month term as the BC Federation of Labour’s director of communications. My last day was on Friday, capping off a year of guiding the messages and communication strategy for a terrific organization representing more than 500,000 union members throughout British Columbia.

And, like nearly all of my coworkers, I did it entirely virtually. There was no migration from the office for me; I never set foot there.

Yet despite years of working-from-home practice, it was a challenge to keep my BCFED work from encroaching on my personal life. (And vice versa, with unexpected puppy Zoom-bombing being one of the least intrusive incursions.)

That was partly because of the lack of physical separation — with remote work, there’s none of that psychological break that comes from walking out the office door.

But it was also the fact that I care a lot about the work I do. (Which is a tremendous privilege: A lot of people have jobs they find at best meh and at worst awful.)

And this job was no exception. The BCFED had to take on a remarkable challenge: advocating for working people, equity and justice in a pandemic that both raised the stakes dramatically, and transformed the way we do that work. It’s been a fascinating opportunity to find new ways to connect, collaborate, mobilize and effect change. And I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

I’m delighted to return to my clients and freelance practice, but I’ll miss working with my friends at the Fed. My advice: When you have the chance to work with talented, dedicated people around values that matter to you, jump at it.

* * *

Of course, one thing that’s helped me navigate the challenges of my first-ever entirely remote full-time job is having a front seat as my wife Alexandra Samuel and her co-author Robert C. Pozen wrote Remote, Inc. the definitive guide to (as the subtitle puts it) thriving at work wherever you are.

It’s a practical, hands-on guide for employees and managers alike, and not just for COVID times: Remote, Inc. will help you navigate the fusion of remote and on-site work that’ll emerge as the new post-pandemic normal.

It launches on April 27, but you can pre-order right now.

(person on video call, holding puppy up to the camera) And now Miss Fuzzywiggles will take us through our third-quarter financial results.

Sit! Stay! Roll over! Zoom!

Sit! Stay! Roll over! Zoom! published on

Two historic trends converged during the Great Home-Office Migration of 2020:

  1. Zoom calls, and
  2. pandemic puppies.

The result is more fuel for the very happy phenomenon of pets making appearances — expected and otherwise — in work meetings. My calls with my BCFED colleagues over the past year have been punctuated with a cameo cat, drop-in dogs, a guest-star guinea pig and a central bearded lizard (who did not come with a handy alliteration).

For some of us, seeing each others’ pets is a welcome reprieve from the sometimes-grueling world of never-really-off-the-clock working from home… and a happy reminder that not every non-human we meet on-screen is a bot.

For others, though, the sight of Fluffy or Bailey is an irritant to be endured. For them, those four-legged intruders are at best a distraction.

But maybe there’s something more to that — something more behind the muttering over whether pets in meetings are professional. Or whether having kids walk in on you during your meeting is professional. Or whether any sign that you have a life beyond your job description and work product is unprofessional.

Maybe this blurring of the boundaries between our professional and personal selves hints at the possibility that the workplace of 2019 isn’t coming back — and neither is a world where we show up to work, whether it’s in the office or at home, as only part of who we are.

If that scares you, let me just say — don’t let it. There’s a lot to be gained by getting to know each other as our whole selves. The future is friendly… and fuzzy.

* * *

This is one of a series of cartoons celebrating Remote, Inc., the new book by my wife, Alexandra Samuel, and productivity expert Robert Pozen. The subtitle says it all: How to thrive at work wherever you are. It’s a practical, hands-on guide for employees and managers alike, and not just for COVID times: Remote, Inc. will help you navigate the fusion of remote and on-site work that’ll emerge as the new post-pandemic normal. It launches on April 27, but you can pre-order right now.

(woman in an empty boardroom and deserted workplace, to a large video screen of faces) It’s great to be back in the office so we can all meet face to face!

Better Homes & Offices

Better Homes & Offices published on

A little over a year ago, we made a massive, abrupt migration from offices to makeshift home workplaces. As weeks melted into months, fantasies of a quick return to our beloved cubicle farms gave way to the grim reality of remote work. Zero-minute commutes. Meetings conducted in dress shirts and PJ bottoms. A dreary procession of home-cooked meals punctuated by (shudder) more time with our loved ones.

I was one of the lucky ones. Not only was I already accustomed to working away from an office (thank you, freelance lifestyle!), but I was able to draw on the advice and insight of my wife, Alexandra Samuel. She’s been thinking and writing about work and technology for quite a while — and last summer, she began work on a book with co-author and productivity expert Robert Pozen.

Remote, Inc. hits virtual and physical bookshelves in just a few weeks. The subtitle says it all: How to thrive at work wherever you are. It’s a practical, hands-on guide for employees and managers alike, and not just for COVID times. Remote, Inc. will help you navigate the fusion of remote and on-site work that’ll emerge as the new post-pandemic normal.

I got to read drafts of the manuscript. That meant I also got to put many of the book’s strategies and tactics to work over the past year, as the interim director of communications with the BC Federation of Labour. It’s the first job I’ve ever worked entirely from home. And it’s been tremendously rewarding: partly because of those strategies, but also because they’re a terrific group of folks.

My time with the Fed comes to an end in just a few days as I return to my leadership communications practice. I’m looking forward to picking up my work with my clients again. And between now and April 27, when Remote, Inc. officially launches, I’ll be posting more cartoons inspired by Alex and Bob’s ideas about remote work and the hybrid workplace.

(one man to another worried man, in bed) Hey, it happens, and it's nothing to worry about. But I don't think you can blame it on Zoom fatigue.

Video killed the…

Video killed the… published on

For those of us for whom working from home was already our daily reality, there’s a certain “Welcome to the party, pal” quality to hearing complaints about Zoom fatigue. Not to be all hipster about it, but we were finding video meetings exhausting before it was popular.

Part of the problem may be that we nearly always only see each others’ heads and shoulders, and we’ve become used to communicating with each other using our whole bodies. The way we hold ourselves, the gestures we make, that shift of weight from one foot to another: These all communicate volumes, and we’ve shut ourselves off from that.

In a widely-read Medium piece, Hanna Thomas Uose argues that the effect is actually “low-key traumatic”. Without those body-based signals we’ve learned to unconsciously rely on when we talk with someone, we’re never quite at ease, and never really feel safe. The fight-or-flight mechanism is constantly on deck, squirt pistol of adrenaline in hand, ready to go at a moment’s notice.

I found out about her article when I was doing research for an episode of my own podcast about why and when it may make sense to back away a little from the camera, especially if you’re not just a meeting participant but a presenter. Creative use of that space could lend a lot of expressiveness to your delivery — although, as I warn, “The bad news? You’re gonna need to start wearing pants again.”

By the way, everyone talks about Zoom fatigue, but nobody talks about Slack or Microsoft Teams fatigue. Look, I love me a good threaded conversation, and I think Slack is absolutely brilliant in its improvement over email. But between the proliferation of threads, channels, chats and more, I sometimes feel like I’ve traded one inbox for a dozen or more.

(woman lying on sofa with laptop, talking on phone) Hey, dad... remember when I’d be playing video games, and you’d tell me that hanging out on the sofa all day staring at a screen is no preparation for the real world?

Preparing for this our whole lives

Preparing for this our whole lives published on

There’s a lot about working from home (for those of us who are doing it) that still isn’t working well: the Zoom fatigue, the tsunami of ergonomic injuries waiting to be diagnosed, the difficulty finding a quiet place to do focused work, the erasing of whatever tenuous work/home boundaries we’ve managed to draw, the potential for employer surveillance and abuse, and a lot more.

But let’s remember that a lot of offices and workplaces weren’t great to work in, either. Some people thrived on face-to-face meetings and collaboration, but a lot of others found that environment stressful and distracting. (“So why didn’t they raise that in our all-hands meetings?” I hear someone ask.)

We’re going to keep adapting. We’ll solve some working-from-home problems and discover new ones. We’ll resolve them with varying mixes of collaboration, negotiation, innovation and conflict. Work-from-home today probably looks a lot different from what work-from-home will mean next year.

I have no idea when I’ll next set foot in an office. I’m in no great hurry.

Coffee shops — that’s a different story. I’m champing at the bit to plunk down with my laptop somewhere, scan the baseboards for an outlet and ask a barista for a WiFi password.

How about you?

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