Decision Vision

A Podcast
for Decision Makers

Episode 59

How Do I Work
at Home Effectively?

 

Episode 59: How Do I Work at Home Effectively?

Because of “shelter in place” directives, millions of employees are now working at home for the first time and asking themselves, “how do I work at home effectively?” In this edition of “Decision Vision,” host Mike Blake explores various aspects of this question with Shane Metcalf, 15Five. “Decision Vision” is presented by Brady Ware & Company.

Shane Metcalf, Co-Founder and Chief Culture Officer of 15Five

Shane Metcalf is the Co-Founder and Chief Culture Officer of 15Five. 15Five is a leading provider of people management software that not only guides employee growth and development but empowers people to become their best selves. Through strategic weekly check-ins, 15Five delivers everything a manager needs to maintain visibility and impact employee performance, including continuous feedback, objectives (OKR) tracking, recognition, 1-on-1s, and 360° reviews. 15Five is a top-rated performance management software on G2 and has won top culture and workplace awards, including ranking #3 Best Workplace in the nation on Glassdoor. Over 2,200 forward-thinking companies use the solution to bring out the best in their people. To learn more, please visit: https://www.15five.com/.

Decision Vision Podcast Episode 59 | How do I Work at Home Effectively? | Shane Metcalf | Brady Ware

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Transcript: How Do I Work at Home Effectively? – Episode 59

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Intro:
Welcome to Decisión Vision, a podcast series focusing on critical business decisions, brought to you by Brady Ware & Company. Brady Ware is a regional, full-service accounting and advisory firm that helps businesses and entrepreneurs make visions a reality.

Michael Blake:
Welcome to Decision Vision, a podcast giving you, the listener, clear vision to make great decisions. In each episode, we discuss the process of decision making on a different topic from the business owners or executives’ perspective. We aren’t necessarily telling you what to do, but we can put you in a position to make an informed decision on your own and understand when you might need help along the way.

Michael Blake:
My name is Mike Blake, and I’m your host for today’s program. I’m a Director at Brady Ware & Company, a full-service accounting firm based in Dayton, Ohio, with offices in Dayton; Columbus, Ohio; Richmond, Indiana; and Alpharetta, Georgia. Brady Ware is sponsoring this podcast, which is being recorded in Atlanta per social distancing protocols. If you like this podcast, please subscribe to your favorite podcast aggregator, and please consider leaving a review of the podcast as well.

Michael Blake:
This is the third of a sub series of topics regarding how to address the coronavirus process. And specifically, today, we’re going to talk about, really, sort of the front line end user, if you will, of remote work. And that is the employee themselves. We’ve had a show on managing cybersecurity risk by moving outside of the enterprise firewalls and into the home. And we’ve had a discussion on how to lead and manage teams remotely, but I think it’s important that we don’t forget about the fact that the vast majority of people who are impacted by working from home are the people who are actually doing the work themselves.

Michael Blake:
And as it happens, I happen to be somebody that’s been working from home more or less the last 10 years. So, from my perspective, I’m not necessarily noticing that much of a difference, but I know that from talking to other people and reading other people’s experiences, it’s actually been quite jarring. And I hope that this podcast will help serve as a field guide to help people make that transition more easily.

Michael Blake:
So, in spite of the fact that I’ve been working at home for a good amount of time, I certainly do not consider myself an expert on the topic. And as we always do in this podcast, we bring in an expert of our own. And joining us today is Shane Metcalf, who is the CEO and Co-founder of 15Five, which is a leading provider of people management software that not only guides employee growth and development, but empowers people to become their best selves. Through strategic weekly check-ins 15Five delivers everything a manager needs to maintain visibility and impact employee performance, including continuous feedback, objectives tracking recognition, one-on-ones, and 360 degree reviews. 15Five is a top-rated performance management software on G2, and has won top culture and workplace awards, including ranking number three Best Workplace in the Nation on Glassdoor. Over 2200 forward thinking companies use the solution to bring out the best in their people. To learn more, please visit www.15five.com. Shane, thanks so much for coming on the program.

Shane Metcalf:
Michael, thanks for having me. What an unprecedented moment we’re in. And I think that it presents a lot of real challenges. And I think it also presents real opportunities. And, fundamentally, I think that we, as a business community, we kind of need to take a note at Darwin’s book. We need to adapt. I think this is really happening. We don’t know how long this is going to be the case, but I do know that the world won’t be the same. Even if some of the social distancing protocols get lifted, and we’re able to return to offices. I really don’t think that we’re going to be seeing the world that we saw before.

Michael Blake:
So, before we get started, if you can comment because you’re in San Francisco, at least, the San Francisco area, and we’re in Atlanta. California is effectively on what we would consider a lockdown, is that correct?

Shane Metcalf:
Yeah, that is correct. Yeah, only essential businesses are open, and everyone is highly discouraged from leaving the house. So, yeah. I think we were in the first state in the nation to go towards this. And hopefully, it’s working. It does seem to be flattening of the curve.

Michael Blake:
So, from a personal perspective, what’s that like for you, sort of, day-to-day? Most of our listeners I don’t think are in California or, thank God, not in a lockdown state; although, we do have quite a few in Ohio because of our offices there. On a personal level, before we get into the interview, how are you dealing with that?

Shane Metcalf:
Yeah. Well, I have a somewhat unique circumstance. I, typically, would work in the office four to five days a week. And little contacts. So, 15Five, we’re a couple hundred people. And we’ve actually been a semi-distributed team from the beginning. We have about 50% of our people working out of offices in North Carolina, and New York City, and the Bay Area. And the other half are throughout different states and different countries in Europe. And so, in some ways, this has actually been a somewhat seamless transition for us because we already had the infrastructure and the mindset for working remotely. And I think that’s something that I’m going to get into because so much of working remotely, and being effective, and being a successful experience comes down to mindset shifts from both the employer and the employees. And for me, I was actually already at home for the last couple of months because I just had my first kid, and I’ve been on this blissful paternity leave. And I lead the company, and everything’s great, and I disappear, and the whole world falls apart. I’m like, “Man, I really should have stayed, I guess.”

Michael Blake:
Right. I leave for two months, and what happens.

Shane Metcalf:
Yeah, come on. But so, it’s an interesting one for me because there’s, of course, challenges and opportunities inherent to it for me because on the one hand, it’s really great because as I’m getting back to work, I get to stay home and spend more time with my daughter. I don’t have to waste the time of commute. I get to be there and help in between meetings. And on the other hand, that’s okay, not only am I not working from home, I’m also working from home with a kid and a screaming baby and all of the challenges that that presents. And so, it is a really fascinating balancing act. And I think that fundamentally, we need to have compassion and flexibility for all of each other right now.

Shane Metcalf:
And I’m speaking. A lot of my perspective is coming out as a founder, as an executive at a company that is leading and managing the team, but I’m also the employee. And really, I am more certain than ever that this is the opportunity we’ve been waiting for to bring those empathy muscles, those compassion muscles, that humanity that we have been talking about as an essential component to building great companies and to building great culture, this is the moment where the rubber meets the road because you look at Maslow’s hierarchy, everyone isn’t just focused on work right now. As much as we’d like to think that, “Okay, , great. Well, all my employees are now at home working,” and they just flipped off the humans switch and flipped on the employee switch. Now, people are are very concerned. They don’t know if they’re going to get laid off. They don’t know if the economy is going to recover. They don’t know if they have enough food. They are inundated with a lot of uncertainty right now. And so, we, as employers, can actually say, “Hey, we get it. We’re human too. And we recognize your humanity. And we’re in this together. And there’s space for all of it. And we can still be a high-performing team.”

Michael Blake:
Because there’s nothing quite like having to try to be productive when you’re literally in the middle of what might be a horror movie.

Shane Metcalf:
Yeah, you’re right. That doesn’t work. We need to actually — and that’s where I think companies can actually play a role is if you look at the triune brain, this idea that we have kind of three different brains. We have our reptilian brain, our mammalian brain, and our cortex, our human brain. And survival is happening in the amygdala, in the reptilian brain. And we need to recognize that, create a little space for people to have their feelings and to be seen in the process of this because when that happens, okay, cool. I don’t have to cover my ass and pretend that I’m not freaked out right now or pretend that I’m not like trying to jump, ditch out between meetings to run to Costco because I don’t have any toilet paper, And shit, there’s no more toilet paper at Costco. And oh, my God, what are we going to do? We need to have allowance for the entire human experience.

Shane Metcalf:
And there’s certain ways that I think we can actually structure that. But fundamentally, I believe that it starts with a shift in mindset where instead of making people earn trust, we grant people trust. We say, “We know what we need to accomplish as a company. I’m going to grant you the trust that you’re going to accomplish that. And I’m not going to be there looking over your shoulder. I’m not going to be checking your logs to see what you’re searching for on your computer, because that’s a big problem with people of the fear of allowing people to work remotely is, what if they don’t work? What if they just slack off? And that can be a corrosive to a remote culture.

Michael Blake:
Well, true; although, I would argue. I would argue that that attitude is corrosive, whether you have a remote working paradigm or architecture or not.

Shane Metcalf:
Absolutely, absolutely.

Michael Blake:
So, it’s just to amplified.

Shane Metcalf:
And that’s a cool thing is that, actually, this entire coronavirus thing is, it’s an opportunity for every single company in the world to upgrade their culture, to upgrade their value system, to upgrade the operating system with how they think about the people in their company, because you know what, this whole paradigm of human resources, just the words, my humans are our resources, they’re lumps of coal I’m going to throw in the furnace and get a little steam at it. And actually, we’re human beings. We’re fully fledged human beings with thoughts, feelings, emotions, fears, dreams, hopes, desires. And if we can start to actually recognize the humanity of our people in the workplace, pretty incredible things start to happen.

Michael Blake:
So, at the start of this conversation, you talked about the mindset. So, I’d like to start with that in terms of the formal kind of content here. And although it’s hard, I think it’s instructive. Put coronavirus aside for a second, because coronavirus or not, regardless of the circumstances, one day, you’re in the office; the next day, you can’t go in even if you want to. And you can’t go to Starbucks, you’re at home.

Shane Metcalf:
Well, lucky you if you can-

Michael Blake:
What mindset-

Shane Metcalf:
… go to Starbucks. Although, you can’t work at Starbucks.

Michael Blake:
Right. There, you can’t work there. Yes, you can get a coffee, right? But you can’t open up your laptop. I guess she could sit outside, but that would be weird. But talk about the mindset. As an employee, what is the mindset shift that you have to be prepared to embrace and pursue as you move from cubicle to home desk, or kitchen table, or couch, or wherever it is that you’re going to be working from?

Shane Metcalf:
Well, start by making a list of all the pros of working from home. Just get present to the reality of what the opportunity actually is. I don’t have to commute. I don’t have to deal with the crowded train. I don’t have to, you know, waste all that time. I get to not be less distracted. I have a higher chance of being able to enter deep, deep work flow states. I mean, open offices, it’s proven. It’s like they’re very economical, and they’re great for the social connections, but they are disastrous for deep work.

Michael Blake:
Right, they’re brutal.

Shane Metcalf:
Constant people flooding your space. And so, all of a sudden, “Ha! No one’s around. I can actually get some real work done.” And so, you have to make that list yourself. You have to personalize it. You have to look at, okay, look, this is a crazy situation, but what is good about this, and focus on the good. And then, the second thing is optimize your environment. Now, this is challenging. I mean, we have employees who — I have a — one of my guys is in New York City and in an apartment with three kids. A one-bedroom apartment with three kids or something. And there’s not really space for him to work at home. And so, those are challenging situations. And I have a lot of compassion and empathy for the people who don’t have home environments that are easily pivoted to being dedicated workspaces.

Shane Metcalf:
In those situations, I think that’s when you really want to start off utilizing technology – noise-canceling headphones. There’s a cool app that I’ve been playing around with, Krisp.AI. And it’s a noise canceling software. It’s not hardware, it’s a software that cancels all the noise coming from your background. Things like that are where you want to start optimizing the tools you’re using and the environment. For people who can create more of a home office space, optimize that. Create it. Put a little attention on it, clean it up, make it feel good. Our environment, that’s why we spend billions of dollars on designing cool office spaces is because our built environment affects our psychology. And so, don’t just neglect your home office.

Michael Blake:
There’s a variance in kind of cultural point, cultural in terms of American culture point that comes to mind just through this conversation. When I think Silicon Valley and I think California, I think of a mindset generally that looks at all disruption as an opportunity, right? And I don’t think everybody is necessarily hardwired for that. But I think it’s really interesting, the first words out of your mouth are not that this is going to be lousy but, rather, what is the opportunity this disruption provides? I think that’s really interesting.

Shane Metcalf:
Well, yeah. And I think that that’s part of what helps call the amygdala because we were in a fight or flight or freeze state, what we can start to do to shift, that is actually start focusing on what we’re grateful for. What is the positive element of that? And then, actually, start to change our brain chemistry. Now, know this from neuroscience, like, if you’re in a heightened state of survival, just saying, “I’m afraid, but I’m also grateful that I’m still alive,” or “I’m afraid that I might lose my job, but I also don’t know if that’s going to happen, and I’m grateful that I have a job right now,” it actually starts to change our neurology and opens up more creative thinking opportunities. And so, yeah. Look, this is an opportunity. I mean, there is an enormous hardship that we’re gonna be going through.

Shane Metcalf:
And what’s remarkable, it’s not just an American crisis. It’s not just an Italian crisis. It’s not just a Chinese crisis. It is a human crisis. I’ve never been alive in a time where all of humanity was experiencing the same collective crisis and that we actually took it seriously.

Michael Blake:
Yeah, nor have I. And I think you’d have to go back to the Cuban Missile Crisis. And that’s before, even a little before my time. But, yeah, I think you’re right about that.

Shane Metcalf:
And not just the potential of a crisis.

Michael Blake:
What-

Shane Metcalf:
And I mean, I do believe there is going to be enormous surge of companies that get created to fulfill the demands of this moment. And I mean, people are having to pivot their business models. And wait, this is more, I guess, from the entrepreneurial perspective, but there are enormous problems. And anytime there’s a problem, there are opportunities to build companies and products that service that problem.

Michael Blake:
What do you think is the most common misperception about working from home for somebody that hasn’t done it, really hasn’t experienced it? What do people perceive about working from home versus the reality?

Shane Metcalf:
Well, I think that people, when you’re confronted with that prospect of working from home that there’s gonna be no emotional connection to the other people in the company, that there’s not going to be any kind of the watercooler talk, just the random social interactions that really contribute to a sense of well-being at work. And now, that’s not necessarily the default, but what you can do is it’s not rocket science to start doing some social engineering to create opportunities for that kind of social interaction. Every Friday at our company, we do this thing called Question Friday. It’s never been more valuable. And what we do is we take a half an hour, everybody gets on a Zoom call, there’s a question master for the month, and they ask a kind of a random non-business related question, an ice breaker question. And then, we break out into Zoom rooms of 10 to 20 people each, and everybody goes around and answers.

Shane Metcalf:
And what’s so cool as you get this deep perspective. You learn about your colleagues at pretty deep levels. And all of a sudden, you’re actually having this human connection. And I would say that practice alone is one of the reasons why we’ve been ranked number three best place to work in the country by Glassdoor, that we do things to encourage the non-business-related human connection. And that’s more important than ever. We began all of our all-hands meetings with five minutes of every Monday, we do a five-minute gratitude meditation. Now, it’s not just immediately, “Okay, here’s the business numbers, people. Here’s how we’re tracking on our objectives.” That’s important too but, also, just a little little micro doses of connection that remind us that we’re actually all just human beings doing the best that we can.

Michael Blake:
So, you’re put in this position now as a remote worker. What of the most important habits that you need to focus on developing right away in order to make this a success?

Shane Metcalf:
Yeah. Well, look, don’t just throw your whole routine out the window now that you’re not coming into the office. Create a sense of, “Okay, great. Well, what’s my mornings look like? What does my morning practice look like? How do I get prepared for the day?” Don’t necessarily just wear sweat shirt, sweat pants, and t-shirts. Our clothing actually affects our psychology. So, put on a button up shirt, get dressed up, see how that actually changes your psychology around this. You want to ensure that there is an abundance of communication.

Shane Metcalf:
In the absence of information, people often go negative. When we aren’t hearing from each other, when we don’t know what we’re working on, without systems of accountability built in, it’s easy to just be like, “Oh, I don’t know if anyone is actually working.” And so, you want to create systems and processes that encourage an abundance of of good communication. And so, that’s where asynchronous check-ins come in, asking the questions like, “How are you feeling? What’s going well? Where are you stuck? What do you need help with?” is insanely valuable because it allows people to share their real experience and the truth of what’s actually happening for them – the wins and the challenges. And then, that allows for you to have really productive one-on-ones.

Shane Metcalf:
And I mean, also, I mean, there’s a lot of fundamentals. And what I would actually encourage our readers to do,w e just released an article that is everything we know about remote working, everything that we’ve learned in eight years of doing this and building an award-winning culture, and we’ve put that all into a pretty meaty medium article, and we can link to it in the show notes, but it has all of our best advice.

Michael Blake:
So-

Shane Metcalf:
Yeah. And other habits, I think that you want to engage in an appropriate amount of kind of — we use Slack and Zoom for everything. Like our three essentials are Zoom, Slack, and 15Five because that allows for video connection, which is really important, video over everything. Don’t minimize the phone calls. Turn on video for your calls. It’s really important to still see each other, to see that, yeah, I’m not just a disembodied voice. I’m actually the human. And the micro expressions that happen with the whole body. I mean, we know that something like 70% of communication actually happens nonverbally. And so, when we go virtual, we miss a lot of that. And video is the closest we can get to it until we have holograms or something.

Michael Blake:
Yeah, that’s a good point. Now, of course, one subtle but important difference in our current environment is that many remote workers didn’t necessarily work from home, right? And working from home is a subset of working remotely, but that presents its own kind of unique challenges, doesn’t it?

Shane Metcalf:
Yeah. Look, the home can be an non-predictable, and chaotic, and demanding place. I used to prefer not to work from home because when I work from home, it’d be like, “Oh, you know what, I got to take the trash out.” And my wife would be like, “Yeah, you’ve got to take the trash out, buddy.” I go, “I got to go do a little maintenance on that thing.” And there are a lot. There can be more distractions at home. And so, it, fundamentally, becomes also a process and a practice of self-discipline.

Shane Metcalf:
And so, if you can start to get clear, “Well, what does my ideal day of working from home look like?” and maybe that is that involves creating some — I don’t know if you can hear it, but my baby’s crying right now. And my kids are with my wife, and I can hear it, and I’m like, “Oh, man. Okay. I’m doing this podcast. And maybe the crying baby’s gonna get picked up by mic. And now, that’s on the recording of the podcast.” And you know what? I just have to be okay with that. Like we have to have a little more allowance for some of the unpredictable elements that get introduced to our business meetings. And being okay with a little bit more integration between the personal and the professional.

Shane Metcalf:
So, get clear on what you actually need to be productive at home. And part of this comes down to setting boundaries of saying, “Look, honey, I know that I’m home, but I’m not going to be able to help with the kids between these hours. Like, I need to go lock myself in the room and get into deep focus.” And so, personal discipline and boundary setting is more important than ever if we’re gonna be successful at working from home.

Michael Blake:
I think that boundary setting, I think that’s a really good point, that it’s worth pausing and spending some time on because it likely is also not going to be something that simply happens organically. If you just assume, “I’m gonna be okay, and the other person’s gonna be okay picking up whatever it is I’m not picking up. There’s no communication. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Shane Metcalf:
That’s expectations, which guarantee will lead to disappointment?

Michael Blake:
And I’m not putting myself in the position of a marriage counselor. I don’t want to put you in that position unless you want to. But it does sound to me like that needs to be a very intentional discussion in order for an arrangement to be tenable.

Shane Metcalf:
Yeah. Well, look, like at the office, we have, hopefully, a series of explicit agreements around how we’re gonna behave. If you’re going to go take a conference room, there’s usually a social agreement that you need to sign up for that conference room. Otherwise, there’s no guarantee you’re gonna get actually get it. There’s a social contract that you’ll clean your dishes after you use them in the office, things like that. There’s a multitude of agreements that we have in our working environments.

Shane Metcalf:
It’s no different at home. We need to take things out of implicit expectations and into explicit agreements with the other people that we live with or even with ourselves. Like I’m going to make an agreement that I’m not going to sleep in, and I’m actually going to get up, and I’m going to shave, and I’m going to get dressed, and I’m going to make my coffee, and I’m going to be sitting down at whatever hour, and start my day on a positive note.

Michael Blake:
So, one challenge, you sort of touched on this, but I want to hit it explicitly is, unless you happen to be like you or me, where we’ve had kind of this lifestyle for a while, your home isn’t set up to be an office, right? Like you said, homes are chaotic. And I think to my mind, my own personal experience, I never realized how chaotic home is until I actually worked here.

Shane Metcalf:
Yes.

Michael Blake:
You get a different perspective than if you’re just sort of home kind of part time, you sort of see how the sauces, and see all the answer [indiscernible], whatever analogy you want to have. So, I think many people then walk back into a chaotic environment. Are there any other tips you can think of that can help an employee kind of gain control over that chaos? You’ll never stamp all of it out but, at least, manage the chaos, so that you can get things done, meet your obligations professionally, and not lose your sanity.

Shane Metcalf:
Yeah. Well, look, I think that it starts with, well, what’s your vision for your home? I mean, this is a great opportunity for people to upgrade their home environments. If there’s a lot of chaos, well, what is controllable? Is it that you need to repurpose a room that’s, right now, used for something else and you say, “You know what, this is now my home office, and I’m going to paint the walls, and I’m going to go ask my employer if I can go steal a desk from the office and bring it home.”

Shane Metcalf:
And so, what you really want. Like, actually, open up in Word Doc, and write out a vision for what you want your home to look like, and what your experience of working at home can be. And then, come up with some strategies. Like vision and strategy. It’s no different than writing the business plan. Like, what’s the vision? What do we really want to create here? I want to have uninterrupted flow states at home. I want to feel good about the space that I’m in. I want a beautiful environment. I want to get the right technology. And then, my strategy is, “Okay, great. I’m going to go, I’m going to procure a desk. I’m going to borrow one from the office, or go get one myself, or order one. I’m going to set it up.” I mean, this this room I’m in, this is the first time I’ve set up. This is my home office. And I’m actually pretty stoked. I’m like, “Oh, wow, I’m digging this.”

Shane Metcalf:
And so, come up with this strategy. But again, work. Human beings are so incredibly resourceful and creative. And so, apply that, get to liberate because one of my big messages around culture is the culture happens regardless of whether you’re deliberate about it or not. And if you’re not deliberate about it, then it’s going to it’s going to reflect some of your worst unconscious habits and conditioning. If you’re deliberate about your culture, you have an opportunity to create something to reflect your highest values, your best self. And so, it’s the same thing with creating your home culture.

Michael Blake:
A great resource that if you need kind of ideas, and I have to confess, over time, I’ve become sort of addicted to this is, is there are desk setup tours you can see on YouTube where influencers talk about their workspaces, and they have envious — somehow you can’t see a cable, and I don’t know how they do that. They must spend weeks hiding cables, right? But they have beautiful spaces that are a joy to behold. And if you can kind of replicate that, it does become an island of serenity. You can get ideas through Pinterest as well, where people kind of put up their desks setups. And you don’t have to spend $25,000 to do that, but I’ve found that it does kind of give me some ideas in terms of placement and energy and-

Shane Metcalf:
All of that.

Michael Blake:
And even colors and lighting.

Shane Metcalf:
We don’t need to just be like, “Well, I’m working from home, so I’m going to just plop on the couch all day.” Actually, let this be inspirational. Get some inspiration. I love that. I’m probably going to, right after this, go look up to desk stories on YouTube. And yeah, like make this fun. I know that it’s hard to even think about fun right now, but if you can insert little bits of creativity, little bit of proactive creation, it goes a long way to feeling confident, and seeing the possibility in this crisis.

Michael Blake:
And it’s a sense of control, right? I mean, why are people buying toilet paper? They’re grasping for control. It’s not because we go to the bathroom more often, right? It’s a desperate attempt to grab control. And I found that if you can take this opportunity, as you’ve put it, to make a workspace kind of a home with a work home within the home, I found that helpful for myself as well, even though I’ve been doing this for a while, but as an opportunity to revisit this and kind of make it my own kind of mission control, it does give me some sense that I’ve turned this into an opportunity. So, I’ve taken command, at least, a little piece of the environment that I can control.

Shane Metcalf:
Absolutely, absolutely.

Michael Blake:
So-

Shane Metcalf:
The other thing I think that I want to mention, as an remote worker, I think that, often, the fear is will they know that I’m actually working? Do they trust that I’m being productive? And again, I’ll just reiterate that the communication, having some systems of structure and accountability that can create some transparency around what you’re working on really goes a long way for knowing that that you’re seen for the work that you are doing, and that’s where goal tracking, and check-ins, and things like that are super valuable in this process because you don’t just leave it up to chance whether your boss thinks you’re productive. You can actually communicate and demonstrate on a regular cadence.

Michael Blake:
I think one of the things that we touched upon is a little bit, but I think it’s important, one of the things that I think a lot of remote workers are now adjusting to, and myself included, because this has not been that big a part of the tech world, at least, where I am is webcams and video calls. And video calls have been the thing of the future since the 1962 World’s Fair with AT&T, and we’ve resisted, we’ve resisted. And now, everybody is now having to do it to some extent, right? It’s just unavoidable. And I think people feel a little bit uncomfortable. I don’t love it ’cause I consider myself very photogenic. So, I have to I have to kind of work on that emotionally. But as important now as those video cues are, we talked about dressing the part. You don’t just kind of walk around without pants, even if you’re just going to have a neck up view because you never know if you have to get up. And that could be uncomfortable for everybody involved.

Shane Metcalf:
Right.

Michael Blake:
What are the things you have to do to adapt to a video cam culture?

Shane Metcalf:
Yeah. Well, listen. Look, again, opportunity. This is a good chance to get better on video. This is a chance for all to work on whatever issues, whatever thoughts and things come up when we’re like, “Oh, I don’t really want people to see my house.” You know what? Clean your house up then. It’s like-

Michael Blake:
Yeah, you’re right.

Shane Metcalf:
It’s like uplevel your home experience. Comb your hair. And another really good trick is don’t just look at the face of the person on the video. Look at the camera.

Michael Blake:
Yeah, that’s hard. I’m struggling to do that right now because I have an over-sized monitor. But you’re right, it’s hard to do.

Shane Metcalf:
Yeah, it’s really tempting to think that I’m looking at you because it feels like I’m looking at you and I’m looking in your eyes. You’re not actually. Just practice looking at the camera when you’re speaking. And that can go a long way. And so, it’s these tricks of like, how do I actually turn this into a practice where I can get better at video? For personal use, I love the app, Marco Polo for mobile, and it’s just asynchronous video messages. And I love it because it’s great to stay connected with friends, but, also, it’s really good practice for how do you get better showing up on video?

Michael Blake:
Huh.

Shane Metcalf:
We all need to get really good if work — look, we know that communication, and presentation skills, and storytelling is one of the most valuable skills in business. We’re now entering a domain where all those things are still true, but we need to do it with the added complexity and added weight of transmitting that energy through video and audio. And so, it’s all just practice. Like we’re going to come out of the other side of this all way better at talking on video.

Michael Blake:
Yeah. And there’s good reasons to do that too. And it’s not just because more direct communication is going to happen on that but, also, video is becoming so important on social media now. And what some people do, I know that they’ve walked into this as rank amateurs but, now, they look like multi-million dollar productions out of the home studio.

Shane Metcalf:
Yeah.

Michael Blake:
And a lot of that, I think, is because, simply, they’ve practiced. How do you become a great chef? Make a lot of lousy food.

Shane Metcalf:
Yeah, right. Like, one time, a coach, and I was working with her on video, they’re like, “Look, the first hundred videos you make are going to suck. No way around it. But you got to do it. You’ve just got to put in the time, and put into practice, and look at yourself, cultivate a growth mindset around it, and just go forward. We can only go forward as a community. There’s no reverse. We need to just go forward. The past was what it was. And maybe we need to grieve the world pre-coronavirus. But then, we need to move forward. We need to pull up our big boy, big girl pants, and just accept that this is the new normal for now. And we don’t know. We don’t know how long. It could be summer. It could be next year.

Michael Blake:
So, what do you consider as kind of the most important tech that you can have in your house to give yourself or in your home to give yourself the best work-from-work experience and opportunity?

Shane Metcalf:
Well, I think that a good pair of noise canceling headphones is essential. Because of the chaos of home and same with an office, being able to block the world out and move into a more focused state whether with music or not, with music, with noise canceling headphones is really good. Zoom is awesome. Zoom, Eric Yu from Zoom is probably doing pretty well. And I’m sure Zoom is doing some pretty good business right now. And I know there’s some other video chat apps out there. We love Zoom. We use it. We’ve been using it for everything for a long time. And we’re continuing to use it for everything.

Shane Metcalf:
Slack or some other kind of chat app is really useful. And make it fun. Just stick to the facts. And that’s one of the big dangers of remote work, is that, “Okay. Well, I’m working remotely, so I just need to only focus on work.” No, bring in some of your personality. Throw in gifs, thrown appreciations, throw in just some of your own thoughts and reflections into channels like the Watercooler. We have a lot variety of channels in Slack. We have a gratitude channel where people just go in and post what they’re grateful for that’s connected to the Monday gratitude meditations that we do. The pets of 15Five, we have. And nothing is better than going and looking at your colleagues’ dogs and cats and goats. We have some goats in the family, which is pretty cool.

Shane Metcalf:
Okay, Zoom, Slack. And then, it’s not just a pitch of our product, but we really do rely on our own’s platform for the more structured asynchronous communication. Getting an insight into what’s really going on with people and being able to ask questions. Like I can go in, and I can ask a question for all 200 people in my company of, what are your biggest concerns around coronavirus. In a week or in a couple of days, I get all of the answers. And as the Chief Culture Officer of the company, I get to go through, and I get to read those, and I get to respond to them, and I get to have unparalleled access to the heart parts of my people, and what’s really going on, and figuring out how to problem solve, and how to be of service, and how to contribute to people that are struggling right now.

Shane Metcalf:
And then, another really important piece in in this moment right now is let people know they’re appreciated. We have a tool called High Fives in our app where every week, you’re prompted to give people high fives for contributions they made to you and for things that they did. And building that culture of gratitude and appreciation is the antidote to a culture of fear and stress.

Michael Blake:
The other benefit to headphones too is psychological. When you wear them, people are less inclined to bother you.

Shane Metcalf:
Yes, absolutely. It works.

Michael Blake:
Even if you don’t even have them turned on, people, there’s a barrier. Some people are happy to cross a barrier, but it does sort of preclude a lot of would-be interruptions.

Shane Metcalf:
I wonder if that holds true for spouses. If the spouse just doesn’t see that barrier.

Michael Blake:
Well, not not as much. And that’s the one issue I have with noise canceling headphones at home because if she is trying to get a hold of me, and I’m not hearing her, and she has to come down two floors to come find me, the cure may be worse than the disease in that particular case.

Shane Metcalf:
Yeah. I’ve been having that same thought of like I’d love to put on my headphones right now. But then, I’m not going to be able to hear the baby cry while mom is trying to get some R&R. Then, I’m going to be in trouble. So, I’m going to just go with low volume air pods today.

Michael Blake:
Yeah, I think you have to live with that. That’s good. I know you’re a rookie father, but you’re obviously catching up quickly. So, good for you. Any other advice you could offer that we haven’t covered yet? I want to be respectful of your time. So, we only have another couple of questions ago.

Shane Metcalf:
Well, listen, I think that we do need to be looking at the opportunities here that, yes, this is a very serious crisis that humanity is facing, and there is opportunity to upgrade the operating system. We can build healthier cultures where we’re valued and respected as human beings, not just as resources. We can build cultures where we grant trust and freedom; where instead of saying you need to be in the office all the time, we’re saying, “Hey, actually, as long as you’re getting your work done, we’re going to loosen some of the chains around how and when you need to work. We’re going to start granting more autonomy.”

Shane Metcalf:
And if you look at the research on the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, one of the highest intrinsic motivators is autonomy. It’s feeling like I’m being given the autonomy to get the job done in the best way that I see fit. That doesn’t mean that we can’t get coaching, and support, and that accountability, but if we were never given autonomy, were leaving money on the table. And look, like, it’s not like there isn’t room for improvement in the global workforce. 70% disengagement. What if this is one of the things that we discover is, actually, we can start to flip that. So, it’s 70% engagement. That’s our vision of the world is that companies start to seek out building high performance by helping people become their best selves, by tapping into intrinsic motivation, by tapping into psychological safety. Yeah, I mean, that’s a whole other conversation that we need to be having right now is, how do we create high psychological safety amidst times of great uncertainty?

Michael Blake:
Shane, this has been great. It’s terrific to have an opportunity to have an expert of your profile here on this program. I’m sure people have a lot of questions we have not been able to cover. How can they contact you if they want some more advice? Maybe they just want to learn more about your 15Five platform.

Shane Metcalf:
Yeah. Well, listen, you can go to 15Five.com. That’s 15Five.com. You can also check out the resource, the medium article, where we lay out everything we know about remote working. It’s a 37-minute read. It’s not a snack, it is definitely a meal, but it really gives you a ton of our best practices for building high-performing remote teams. Follow me on LinkedIn too. I’m pretty active on LinkedIn. I’m posting videos and content there pretty regularly. That’s the best place to find me.

Michael Blake:
Well, that’s going to wrap it up for today’s-

Shane Metcalf:
One other thing. We are giving away 15Five to two teams of under 50 people until, I think, some time something like mid-June or something. We want to support people in this transition. And so, we are giving the product away for free for now.

Michael Blake:
Okay. Well, I might check that out. Our Atlanta office has exactly 39 people. So, we’ll qualify for that.

Shane Metcalf:
Excellent. Excellent. Yeah. Well, and I’d love to hear what you think because part of how we’re also thinking about this is, “Okay, cool. We know that our platform supports virtual teams really well. But how can we innovate? How can we listen to what is needed? And then, build products and services.” And that’s what I think everyone should really be thinking about. Don’t just operate on the same mindset that you were two months ago. Think about what has changed. How can I actually create value for this new world that we’re in?

Michael Blake:
So, that’s going to wrap it up for today’s program, I’d like to thank Shane Metcalf, who’s Chief Culture Officer – I said Chief Operating Officer before. That was a mistake – Chief Culture Officer and Co-founder of 15Five so much for joining us and sharing his expertise with us today. We’ll be exploring a new topic each week. So, please tune in, so that when you’re faced with your next executive decision, you have clear vision when making it. If you enjoy this podcast, please consider leaving a review at your favorite podcasts aggregator. It helps people find us, so that we can help them. Once again, this is Mike Blake. Our sponsor is Brady Ware & Company. And this has been the Decision Vision Podcast.

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