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Group of coworkers engaging in small talk

Does Small Talk Play a Big Role In Remote Team Morale? Yes, and Here’s Why—

By Remote WorkNo Comments

Small talk can build huge teams. 

In a recent study by Atlassian, healthy teams reported they felt like they belonged and their ideas were supported, leading to higher levels of engagement and fewer instances of burnout. And the answer to building these healthy teams? You probably guessed it already—small talk.

But is it important for remote teams, where arguably these moments have to be manufactured in lieu of the physical watercooler?

Yes. The benefits of small talk aren’t limited by the location of the employees and in fact, small talk plays a more important role in remote workplaces.

But first, what is small talk? (And what it’s not)

Small talk is characterized by light and breezy conversation, typically avoiding important or controversial topics. So you may have been subject to the occasional “How was your weekend?” or “It’s freezing out there” but it’s important to note that the definition of small talk and how it’s understood culturally varies. 

In the US, small talk is a big part of the workplace culture. It’s considered essential to develop a great bond between teammates, have a great working relationship with managers, and win over vendors and clients.

On the other hand, most Swedes, Fins, and Norwegians don’t appreciate small talk because it’s not a part of their culture. 

Coming to the actual content of small talk, an HBR article recommends shying away from politics, religion, or anything divisive and there are companies that have banned this exact thing. Yet others encourage a healthy discourse on all things that affect their employees. 

When it comes to what small talk is—it’s best left to individual policies and what’s in the best interest of employees. However, bear in mind that small talk shouldn’t be used as a means to gossip. Gossiping at work can hurt morale and even lead to huge employee turnover.

More small talk promotes employee well-being 

A study of 151 full-time workers revealed that “small talk was uplifting.” Participants completed 3 surveys a day for 15 consecutive workdays and rated their emotions, productivity, and overall engagement. 

“On days workers made more small talk than usual, they experienced more positive emotions and were less burned out.” -Jessica R. Methot, Associate Professor at Rutgers University and co-author of the study. 

For remote workers that primarily work out of their home–limiting their contact with other working professionals–small talk can alleviate some of the negative impacts of remote work such as loneliness and burnout. 

Woman on a Zoom call with coworkers having small talk.

Mandatory fun makes teams feel more connected

Teams that don’t engage in scheduled social gatherings struggle to adapt to remote work and feel less connected. 

A study by INSEAD of more than 500 global professionals working remotely showed that the teams that thrived made time for “mandatory fun”—hosting quizzes, shared playlists, book recommendations, and movie clubs. 

Set aside some time every week for the entire team to get together for virtual hangouts. You can also pair up employees at random to re-create the watercooler moment and spark conversations. 

Read Next: How to find and plan fun events for your teams in a remote environment

Shooting the breeze builds a positive team culture

The study of 151 workers found that supervisors who create space for small talk benefit from increased creativity, inclusion, and collaboration.

That’s key to building a positive team culture which in turn leads to more productivity, higher engagement rates, and speeds up the time to productivity for new hires. 

You can set the right example for your team in a few ways. 

  • Before you start virtual meetings, make way for some friendly chat. Start with asking how everyone’s weekend was or how they’re feeling about work.
  • You can also let employees share how they’re feeling and encourage conversations in the chat. 
  • When new hires go through their onboarding, encourage existing employees to set the right tone and make them feel welcome by inviting new hires to informal chats.

Read Next: 5 ways to connect employees with similar interests in a remote environment

Social chitchat drives psychological safety

When Dr. Amy Edmondson was studying clinical teams and the number of mistakes that different teams made, her research revealed that teams producing better outcomes consistently made more mistakes compared to teams with fewer good outcomes. Upon further investigation, Dr. Edmondson found that “teams with better outcomes were admitting more mistakes, whilst the teams with fewer good outcomes were more likely to hide theirs.” 

As a result, Dr Edmondson codified psychological safety as an important workplace concept—”the belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes, and the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking.”

Without creating a culture that allows for mistakes, naive questions, and wild ideas, businesses steer themselves to failure. 

Small talk within teams can change that. Small personal disclosures build trust among coworkers. Ultimately when disagreements arise, they can speak up and disagree productively – leading to a better outcome. 

Managers and team leaders should incorporate these learnings in team meetings and lead by example, making it easy for everyone else on the call to open up as well. 

Just 5-minutes of intentional small talk can lead to higher productivity rates

A recent study in Language and Speech found that small talk raises productivity levels. The study looked at transcripts of 69 conversations to identify both work-related and “off-task” communications and revealed that when highly engaged two-way conversations occur, higher levels of task enjoyment and productivity follow.  

But to enjoy the benefits of small talk, you don’t have to go too deep or turn it into a marathon chat fest. Just 5 minutes of small talk at the beginning of meetings can have a huge impact. 

Companies are using Airspeed to reap the benefits of small talk. Employees use the platform to gain helpful insight on coworkers, such as what they did over the weekend or their hobbies. Airspeed makes it easy to kick off meetings with genuine, quality rapport – which in turn, makes meetings more enjoyable and productive.

Want to learn how? Get in touch to cure digital disconnect.

Women stressed working on her laptop, considering quiet quitting.

How to Prevent Quiet Quitting in a Remote Workplace

By Remote WorkNo Comments
Screenshot of Google Trends 'Quiet Quitting' trend graph, with trend line going from 0 to showing significant searches and activity.
Search term ‘quiet quitting’ interest over the past 90 days – reaching a peak on Aug. 24, 2022

The days of #riseandgrind and #hustleculture seem long gone. Enter boundaries, strict 9 to 5 schedules, and the trend sweeping newsfeeds and social platforms: quiet quitting. 

Quiet quitting isn’t in and of itself malicious. It’s about setting boundaries and reclaiming time. As with most things though, it requires a balance.  

We spend most of our day at work. So, how do employers help employees find fulfillment so it isn’t just another corporate transaction at the end of the day? How can we set expectations so both the employee and employer are heard, especially in a remote setting where transparency can be hard to give? 

While your HR team may be nervous about the implications of quiet quitting, addressing this head on can prevent it from happening in the first place. It’s an opportunity to rethink your culture so your employees will stay engaged and invested. 

What does quiet quitting mean? 

Quiet quitting is a bit of a misnomer, as it just means the act of doing what your job description says, within the time frame you’re supposed to be working, and not going above or beyond what is required. Yet quiet quitters make up half of the U.S. workforce – with the percent of employees under the age of 35 who are engaged in work dropping by 6%.

It’s a stark change from the 2010s. Millennials may know hustle culture intimately because they entered the workforce during the 2008 Great Recession. With little job security, Millennials were forced to grind to maintain some stability. Thus, ‘hustle culture’ was born, as well as all the flexing and ‘performative workaholism’ that came along with it. 

As with most things, the COVID-19 pandemic provided a stark contrast to reality. With the exodus to remote jobs for knowledge workers, the fear and grief of an unknown virus, and the blurring of home and work (and time at all, really), it’s no wonder 71% of knowledge workers reported feeling burned out. While some companies have embraced remote work, many employees still struggle with leaving work behind when they’re no longer shutting laptops and commuting home at the end of the day. Now, work is home, and with no separation it’s easy to work all hours. 

As Gen Z continues to enter the workforce in droves, they’re learning the lessons reaped from the forebears: Work should not consume your life. One way Millennials and Gen Z differ? What they want out of their jobs. Gen Z wants face-to-face interactions and mentorship – if they don’t get what they need from their job, they’re happy to tap the breaks and “quiet quit” because it’s not worth it. For Millennials, they want X out of their roles. And when they “quiet quit” it’s typically for more of a burnout reason. 

How are remote companies impacted by quiet quitting?

Productivity, company culture, and morale are all at risk from quiet quitting – though if people are participating in it at your company, your culture was probably lacking in the first place. A finding by Harvard Business Review showed that least effective managers had three to four times as many people who were quietly quitting as opposed to the most effective leaders.

It’s easier for employees to disengage remotely too, if not given the proper tools or motivation. The number of remote or hybrid employees that believe someone encourages their development has dropped, as well as their belief that they have opportunities to learn and grow. Less than four in 10 employees even know what is expected of them at work. 

While having a fulfilling job is a goal for many, it can make it disappointing and easier to check out if a role doesn’t meet those expectations. Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a senior research scholar at Clark University, said in a CNET article, “That [fulfilling job] ideal collides with reality for most people. As desirable as that ideal is, it’s awfully hard to find work that can live up to it because … a job is not created to fulfill people, jobs are created because people need things done.”

He cites emerging adulthood as the push toward finding a fulfilling job for people new to the workforce, as well as the shift to a more individualistic culture brought on by manufacturing and the knowledge economy – rather than it being a generational divide. This is an idea that Hannah Grady Williams, a Gen Z expert that consults for top companies on how to attract and retain young talent, challenges companies on, as Gen Zers and Millennials often get a bad rep for job hopping or disengaging.  

“Gen Z would stay at companies for 10 or more years if the culture and the team are something that we resonate with and adore. Now, how often does that happen?” Williams says. “Our standards for what that team and culture is are so much higher than other generations.”

For companies, it’s about finding a way to tap into employees’ value while also delivering on their own culture. But how do they go about creating a strong foundation for that?

How to counteract quiet quitting

Here are three ways you can prevent quiet quitting, especially among Gen Z, according to Williams:

  1. Ask and meet your employees’ needs 

“Gen Zers, unlike millennials, are not fascinated by technology because we grew up so integrated with it. Instead, we want face to face interaction. We want stability with companies. We want to be in mentorship environments. The first thing I advise for companies is to get great tech flexibility and autonomy built into your culture, then you can get more personalized with your team. Gen Z expects personalization because we’ve grown up with it.” 

  1. Be open to dialogue around trends – and listen

“What I encourage companies to do is at your team meeting, say, ‘Hey guys, I’ve seen this TikTok trend going around. It’s called quiet quitting. How many of you are familiar with it?’ And then have them raise their hands and start the conversation – even asking what they think we should do about it.”

This kind of approach helps ease the secrecy and fire drill approach that companies can take when it comes to circulating work trends. 

  1. Engage your community

“Pre COVID, it was very normal to see people working away from the office be more productive. And now we’re in an environment where that’s the standard and there’s no tools to keep the team engaged. That’s where we’re seeing startups form to solve the problem. And that’s why I love what Airspeed is doing, being able to get to know your team separately from the workplace and what they’re into.” 

Knock the quiet out of quiet quitting. Just like closed door meetings are a risk to transparency and good culture, so too is just ignoring this phenomenon and acting like all is well. That’s the exact opposite of what Gen Zers and other digital natives want in a remote work environment. By being transparent, encouraging healthy boundaries, and engaging your employees, employers can get ahead of quiet quitting and evolve their company culture in the process. 

Employee handing in letter of resignation to HR.

2 out of 3 execs believe their workers will quit because they feel disconnected, and it’s the #1 reason workers say they’ll leave

By Company NewsNo Comments

Key highlights:

  • Over 9 out of 10 executives say that the culture and connection is lacking for their remote team members.
  • 75% of the C-Suite say their employees would make major sacrifices to work for another company where they’d feel more connected.
  • A lack of workplace socialization is partly to blame, with 72% of workers noting that they aren’t able to socialize enough when they’re remote. 
  • 96% of executives agree that if their employees felt more connected to each other it would boost their motivation and productivity.

Remote, The World. (13 September 2022) — Released today, Airspeed’s Remote Work Culture Insights study reveals that while the shift to remote work has largely been beneficial, it’s also led to widespread isolation and loneliness among today’s remote workforce. The findings confirm that some employers have been so focused on maintaining productivity that they’ve forgotten to prioritize culture and connectedness among their people — and this could have a devastating impact on their retention efforts amidst the ongoing Great Resignation. 

To better understand these issues, Airspeed partnered with independent research firm Workplace Intelligence to survey 1,600 employees and C-level executives at remote or hybrid organizations. The survey uncovered that 92% of the C-Suite admit that the culture and sense of connection need improvement at their company. In fact, executives say that their #1 challenge has been ensuring that employees feel connected.

But well over two years into the pandemic, 33% of workers report feeling lonely and most don’t feel that their co-workers care about them. The situation is so dire that 2 out of 3 executives believe their employees may quit for a job at another company where they’d feel more connected, and workers confirmed that the #1 reason they’d leave is because they feel disconnected from the company culture. 75% of executives believe their staff would leave even if it meant making major sacrifices, like taking a pay cut or accepting a part-time role.

The research also revealed that the widespread lack of connection has given rise to a much more transactional workplace and a highly disengaged workforce. For many employees, work is now just a means to an end — 52% say they’re just in it for the paycheck, and 62% would take another job for only a $1,000 sign-on bonus. Only around two-thirds of workers report feeling a deep sense of loyalty to their company (62%) and their co-workers (69%).

To get to the root of these issues, the survey assessed how often people are socializing and whether they have the tools they need to have fun together and build a true sense of connection. The majority of employees (72%) say they aren’t interacting as much as they’d like to when they’re remote, and one key reason is that they lack the right technologies to do so.

  • 81% like using technology to connect with their co-workers
  • 58% aren’t satisfied with the technologies their company offers to help them connect
  • 24% don’t have the tools they need to socialize 

Fortunately, executives recognize how critical the situation is. The vast majority (88%) say that improving culture and connection is one of their top priorities this year, and many are starting by taking a hard look at their current tech stack. Among those who don’t offer an integrated technology platform to support workplace connections, 83% have plans to move in this direction, noting that this would improve people’s day-to-day work experience (92%) and make them more likely to stay with their company (87%).

To learn more about the Remote Work Culture Insights study, please visit: https://join.getairspeed.com/deeper-cause-great-resignation/

Supporting Quotes

“The transition to remote work has been immensely challenging for businesses and their employees. However, our findings revealed that most executives didn’t fully grasp just how much this shift would affect their workforce,” said Doug Camplejohn, Founder and CEO of Airspeed. “So many people reported feeling lonely, disengaged, and detached from their co-workers and their company. We’re at a critical turning point now where leaders need to make connection a priority, or they’ll risk losing their best employees at a time when most can’t afford to do so.”

“Amidst the ongoing war for talent, employers need to create a strong culture of connection in order to engage and retain employees,” said Dan Schawbel, Managing Partner of Workplace Intelligence. “Today’s workers expect much more than just a competitive salary and good benefits — they want to feel a true sense of belonging and community. And although building connection in the age of isolation is no easy feat, the right technologies can play a critical role in bringing this vision to life.”

Methodology

Research findings are based on a survey conducted by Airspeed and Workplace Intelligence in the U.S. between March 8 – March 20, 2022. For this survey, 800 C-Suite and 800 employees working at remote or hybrid organizations were asked questions about their perspectives on remote working. The study targeted people working full-time and between 18 and 76 years of age. Respondents were invited to take part via email and were provided with a small monetary incentive for doing so.

About Workplace Intelligence

Workplace Intelligence, LLC is an HR research and advisory firm helping leaders adapt to trends, drive performance, and prepare for the future. Our mission is to create more intelligent workplaces using data-based insights. For more information go to our website and subscribe to our LinkedIn newsletter.

About Airspeed

Airspeed is where fun happens. It’s an internal social platform — a simple and fun way for employees to connect with their co-workers, beyond their LinkedIn profiles.

When employees were all in the office, they would discover shared interests and find work friends during social moments like breaks or team lunches. Airspeed recreates those opportunities for connection, regardless of physical location. Workplace connections increase company loyalty, engagement, productivity, employee satisfaction, and more.

Visit our website to learn more, or follow us on social: LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram.

Future of work man working remotely.

3 Reasons Why Remote Teams Are the Future of Startups

By Remote WorkNo Comments

Are you considering a remote team for your startup yet? We’ve outlined the top three reasons why you should.

Remote may be the future of work, but is it the future of startups?

Startups are notoriously challenging to scale, with two-thirds of them failing to deliver a positive return to their investors. Those that succeed share a few things in common: they attract and retain great talent, focus on creative solutions, and run a lean business.  

And remote teams check off all the right boxes for those success factors.  

3 Reasons Your Startup Needs A Remote Team

While there may be several reasons why your startup can benefit from hiring a remote team, we’ve narrowed it down to the top 3 reasons you should consider.

Top-notch talent wants to work remotely

Having no geographical barriers when you’re hiring employees allows you to tap into the best talent. Instead of being limited to finding a talented front-end developer to work with in California, you can access some of the best minds in the world.

Besides, most workers don’t want to return to the office. 

In a 2022 Buffer survey of over 2,000 remote workers across the country, 97% recommend remote work and would like to continue. Companies that don’t understand employee needs and force employees to return are seeing workers quit in what is now referred to as The Great Resignation. 

Woman working remotely while traveling. She is sitting at a desk with huge windows that faces a lake and mountains.

Remote employee productivity is higher than in-office

According to data from Stanford University professor Nicholas Bloom, remote workers report being more productive when compared to those who work in office. Although this data is reported, we also have corroborating data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics data on growing output per hours worked.

The reason for this boost in productivity is also the increased flexibility. Having more flexibility leads to employees being happier, and thus more productive. 

Office costs can be reduced or eliminated

Office space can cost $100-$1,000 per employee per month. Startups can save on rent, overhead, maintenance, and other costs associated with a physical office by switching to remote work. 

Even if you’re not fully remote, the costs you save per employee can be put to better use. Many companies that are saving money on office rent put the funds towards having an offsite annually, or offering other more important benefits to their employees like a team culture app or home office stipends.

Proof of Concept: Successful Remote Companies

If you’re still not convinced about remote teams being the future, these successful remote companies might change your mind. 

Hotjar

David Darmanin, CEO of Hotjar, believes remote work removes physical barriers: “I think when you are in an office together, there are obviously huge advantages — like the fact that you can bring everyone together and just talk directly.”

But Darmanin believes remote has a significant advantage over working out of an office.

“I think remote offers an interesting opportunity, which is, it instantly gives you equality. As long as your internet connection is as good as everyone else’s, I’m the same distance.
As the CEO, I’m the same distance away from everyone on the team. We all sit next to each other. “

Buffer

Hailley Griffis, Head of PR at Buffer, shared how Buffer measures productivity in a remote environment: “Everyone at Buffer has to deliver on their goals according to what needs each team has. Their output is a sign of their work and consistent output increases trust with managers. 

If someone weren’t hitting their goals it would affect their team and their manager would know about it.”

Gitlab

Sid Sijbrandij, the CEO of GitLab, shares, “The last two years have shown us that remote work is now just… work. And work is work, whether you’re doing it in an office building, in your home office, or in a coffee shop.”

“A study from the Becker Friedman Institute projects that the post-pandemic economy will experience a productivity boost of 4.8% when compared to pre-pandemic working conditions, mainly due to time saved by not commuting.

The Becker Friedman Institute’s study data also tells us that we’ve been working more efficiently from remote locations like our homes than we did while in the office. For any leader to suggest otherwise disrespects the hard work employees have been putting in for the last two years, amid some of the most turbulent times in recent history.”

Zapier

Wade Foster, CEO of Zapier, shares what it takes to build a 100% remote company: “It’s in our DNA to work this way. Bryan, Mike, and I started working on this project through chat, pull requests, and Trello cards. So we figured out a way to make remote work, and it makes sense to us.

Office companies face this problem too. You add more people, you have a bigger office, and communication breaks down. Your response to that isn’t, “Hey, we’re working in an office. We need to go remote to fix this.” No, your response is, “There’s something wrong with our communication structure. There’s something more fundamental that we need to fix here.”

Brunette woman sitting at desk working remotely and productively.

The potential downside to hiring remote teams might have an easy fix

While there are many upsides to having remote teams, success depends on constant and clear communication. That can be challenging for companies new to remote work. Without the right processes in place and managers who trust teams to get their work done, employees get stuck in endless meetings and productivity takes a hit. 

The first step to fostering a thriving remote workplace is to look at successful remote companies and understand how they solve some of the most common challenges of remote work. 

We recommend starting with these interviews: 

The second part of the equation is finding the right technology to support remote work. In the office, employees would step away from work to connect and recharge in the breakroom, happy hour, or at team lunches. Unfortunately, most remote workers don’t have those same opportunities to recharge with their coworkers. 

Luckily, those key moments can be recreated in a remote environment using technology. Leading companies offer their employees tools like Airspeed that empower them to build great relationships, increase creativity, and avoid burnout.

Take the first step to make your team remote 

Transitioning to remote work requires effective processes and constant communication.
If you’re currently thinking about switching to remote work, here are a few resources for you: 

Man smiling at desk on a Zoom call connecting with coworker.

Why The Future of Work Is About Human Connection

By StrategyNo Comments

The key question in business today isn’t about getting workers back in the office. It’s “how do we create a legendary digital work experience?” — and that’s impossible without human connection.

As return-to-work programs rolled out in the second half of 2021, executives assumed 50% of their people would be back in the office five days a week. They were wrong. Now only 20% of executives think their people are coming back. 

Surprising (to some), native digital work grew rapidly at the exact same time employers tried to get people back in the office. In April 2021, 48% of meetings were digital. In April 2022, 64%

The future of work is digital

Savvy leaders understand that knowledge workers value choice. Workers want agency in how, when, and where they work. And they have chosen a native digital paradigm. Making the key question in business today not, “how do we get people back to the office?” but, “how do we create a legendary digital work experience?”

The principal downside to digital work is people feeling disconnected from their coworkers and company.

Employee disconnection is now one of the main drivers of voluntary turnover. And now loneliness is costing U.S. companies up to $406 billion a year.

Technology can bolster human connection

The benefits of using technologies like Slack for collaboration and Zoom for communication are immensely powerful. They make time and space irrelevant. The smartest people can team up to produce results without the shackles of the analog world.

The downside is, work can feel transactional for many. People are digital lonely. 77% of people say that building close relationships with colleagues is “the most important factor in determining job satisfaction”.

The next big wave of work software is designed to create real human connection. 

Technologies like TikTok and Instagram make it clear that people are attracted to the fun, funny, and playful. 

At Airspeed, we’re building the first work app where no work gets done. A new, native digital place where people can hang out, share, have fun, and get to know the people they work with. 

If you’d like to create the future of work that actually works for people, join our waitlist now.

40 year old man on Zoom call with 25 year old coworker.

Bridging Generational Gaps in the Digital Workplace

By Remote WorkNo Comments

Pop quiz: What emoji would you use to show that you’re laughing out loud? Would it be 😂,💀, or 😭?

Or what about this: If someone wrote something to you that you had to confirm receipt on, would you write “k”, “OK”, or “okay!”?

The year you were born would most likely dictate those answers.

It’s more than 20 years after Y2K and we’re living, working, and evolving in digital times. With three generations of employees now in the workplace (and 16% of companies in the world fully remote) we’re primed for miscommunication and some humorous moments. 

Evolution of a digital language 

As we’ve evolved as humans, so too has language. 

Gretchen McCulloch, author and publisher of “Because, Internet”, discussed this evolution through when people became introduced to the web. She broke it down into old internet, pre-internet, full-internet, and post-internet people. 

Old internetPre-InternetFull-internetPost-internet
1970s-1980s users that coined terms from programming language and chat programsPeople that used the web for work and other tasks, majority Baby BoomersMillennials that came of age using the InternetMostly Gen Z – those that live and breathe the Internet and don’t know a world without it 

As McCulloch said in an interview: “One of the things I hope to do with Because Internet is foster this kind of dialogue between generations, because there doesn’t have to be one right way of doing things. I’m not saying that everyone has to talk like they’re a younger person, it can be just as valuable for young people to say: ‘OK, this older person is not actually trying to be passive aggressive when they send me this full stop.’”

Consider the following conversation that took place in a digital workplace and how it can be construed by different generations:

3:05 p.m.
“Hi there…called to talk through your recent assignment.

We received feedback from the client…they have some edits…can we make sure to incorporate their comments going forward. Thanks.”

3:12 p.m.
“hi yes! will work on that
tbh I was expecting more feedback lol 💀
were they not happy with the deliverable?”

3:30 p.m.
“quick q, when do you need this done by?” 

3:33 p.m.
“End of day would be preferable.”

3:12 p.m.
“I can do that!!”

3:35 p.m.
“K. Thx.”

You can guess who is who in this scenario just based on how they type. While the boss would have preferred to talk through this through the phone and tried to keep the IM exchange short, the employee was fine having that entire interaction via IM. Even still, the employee walked away from the conversation feeling like they did something wrong given how they perceived the boss’s tone and lack of response.  

When we educate ourselves on generational differences in communication, it adds that necessary context to the conversation. We can then align our expectations and avoid feeling unintentionally spurned by a rogue ‘k.’ 

Lack of communication in the digital workplace has become a big (and expensive) problem

Back in 2019, the “OK Boomer” meme exploded. An older man posted a TikTok saying millennials and Generation Z had Peter Pan syndrome and didn’t want to grow up – and the internet did its thing. 

This friction around generational gaps isn’t just taking place in online dialogue – it’s showing up in the workplace. In a survey from Olivet Nazarene University, more than half of Boomer respondents reported age discrimination and worried that a younger colleague would take their job. On the other hand, 30% of Millennials felt like they were being held back by an older colleague; 1 in 4 quit because of them.   

Miscommunication can cost companies with 100 employees $420,000 a year. For larger companies with 100,000+ employees, this cost can skyrocket to $62.4 million. 

86% of employees think lack of collaboration and communication is one of the main sources of workplace failures, leaving big implications for productivity. Add to the fact that nonverbal parts of communication, like tonality and body language, make up 93% of how we communicate, the remote workforce force is at a communication crossroads. 

Dan Negroni, an employee experience expert for the remote workforce, thinks communication is one of the toughest things to do at work, regardless of the other challenges at play. 

“When people have their video off or have never met their colleagues in person, it’s just much harder to read and to connect all those nuanced languages,” Negroni says. “We understand we need to do something different. And so therein opens the intentionality. We need to teach the workforce that the job is to try and connect and to ask if a person wants to receive that conversation.” 

Understanding generational communication differences

When it comes to starting to bridge the communication divide, it’s important to recognize how each generation prefers to communicate

Baby BoomersGen XMillennialsGen Z
What they prefer:Face-to-face, phone and emailEmail, phone, text and FacebookText, chat, email and InstagramFace-to-face, Snapchat, YouTube, TikTok and FaceTime (70% of Gen Z prefers face-to-face!)
What they want:Details and backgroundTo keep it professional and to the pointEfficiency and digital approach Video, voice command and mobile approach 

For different generations in the workplace, these employees are all at different places in their careers. Those early in their career, like Gen Z, and those later, like Boomers, want different things, ranging anywhere from wanting more in-person interaction and feedback or integration into a workplace’s culture. Understanding who your employees are and what they may want is the first step in finding a common ground.  

“Humans are built for connection,” Negroni says. “And so the bridging the gap model is about understanding who your audience is, and creating a safe space where people can be met where they are.”

Strategies to overcome generational gaps in the workplace

For Negroni, the key to creating that safe space in your culture is through what he calls the three B’s: belief, belonging, and becoming. 

“It’s almost like having permission to be yourself or to ask for these things you need,” Negroni says. “Employees need to believe that they’re safe in their environment, that they feel like they belong, and that they have the ability to learn and grow. Those are the three kinds of combinations that if you understand, as a manager, you can meet people where you are.”

It can start with creating a separate space from work to encourage this type of intentional connection. 

In a survey of 2000 remote and hybrid workers, 75% connected with colleagues through informal work messages, with 73% saying it helped with the transition to remote and hybrid work. Breaking it down by generation showed 80% of millennials compared to 60% of Gen X. 

Having a safe space to connect with each other can make a difference. Apps like Airspeed help bring coworkers together to bond and grow from each other, with teams using this solution to build rapport beyond just social profiles. 

This kind of platform can act as a playground for connection, a way to bridge communication styles and learn more about each other in the process. Going forward, a “K” can be more of a laughing point instead of an alert for anxiety, and an errant emoji or GIF use can be a teaching moment across generations rather than a point of contention. Every generation has something to learn from each other in the workplace.

How Modern Tribe’s CEO Shane Pearlman finds (and keeps) the best remote talent

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For many companies, the shift to remote or hybrid work was a quick and stressful transition due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. But for some, remote work wasn’t a transition at all. 

Modern Tribe, a digital agency, has been remote since it was founded in 2006. The Modern Tribe team has a remote-first mindset when it comes to their company. In fact, their CEO is running the company from the Canary Islands—no formal office needed. 

Shane Pearlman, CEO of Modern Tribe, joined Dan Schawbel, managing partner of Workplace Intelligence, to chat about how Modern Tribe has thrived, attracted top remote talent, and tackled challenges while being 100% remote.

The remote-first mindset

Shane Pearlman started Modern Tribe in 2006 as a fully remote company and never looked back.

For Shane and his team, what matters most is the results that his employees produce, not where their offices are. By removing the barrier of having to be in-office, Modern Tribe has access to a global talent pool — which really increases their opportunity of attracting top remote talent. “We made a decision really early on that it didn’t really matter where you worked. We were willing to pay for results, and so we set a benchmark that was location independent,” said Pearlman. 

In addition to the top talent from around the world that they have access to, they’ve also given themselves an advantage when it comes to retention. When it doesn’t matter where you live, what time zone you work in, or what hours you choose to be online, you allow your employees to design their own workdays in ways that work best for them. This means they’re more likely to be happy at work and stay with your company.

“It allowed us to design a work style around flexibility. There’s a lot of people who believe work is 9-5, but when you don’t care about time zones, it frees you up to design your work around your best life.”

Tackling challenges with remote-first work

There are many benefits to remote-first work, but it comes with its own set of challenges as well. 

One key challenge faced by Shane and his team is fostering empathy between people at work. When you’re not face-to-face, it’s harder to create close connections with your coworkers and even harder for companies to create opportunities for coworkers to connect.

As a remote-first company, Modern Tribe leaders spend nearly as much time and money on building culture as a fully in-person company would. They’re able to go on retreats and host company and team activities. They’ve even built their own internal system for people to highlight one another’s achievements. 

Another key challenge of remote work is accountability. A common misconception is that if you can’t see your employees and you don’t know what they’re doing, they must not be getting their jobs done. This is not true for the team at Modern Tribe.

The leaders at Modern Tribe hold their employees accountable for getting their own work done, on their own time, within the proper timelines. Not everyone is built to work at a fully remote company, but at the end of the day, accountability and self-management are the keys to success in a remote environment.

“I have a lot of people ask me, ‘Can anybody work remote?’ and I’m like, ‘Yes, but not necessarily well or happily.’ It takes a certain amount of self-management,” shared Pearlman.

Although Modern Tribe has been remote for over a decade, now that more companies are moving to fully remote or hybrid work, they have more competition for remote talent.

Today, there are more opportunities than ever to join a fully remote company and work from wherever you’re happiest. Luckily, the Modern Tribe team was able to make lemonade out of lemons and turn the challenge of competition into a positive.

“We never fished in the same ponds until suddenly… we did. And that’s genuinely created a business challenge for me organizationally. What it did though, was force us to get more creative as a result. We have a much more diverse applicant pool because we’ve had to go fishing in places we originally didn’t.”

Maintaining a fully remote culture

Building and maintaining a remote culture isn’t just about happy hours and Zoom meetings. For Shane and his team, building a fully remote culture around the idea of flexibility is an obsession. For Shane himself, he prioritizes his best life around work. He blocks off his calendar to focus on family and to make sure he gets to surf every morning, and he encourages his team to do the same.

“I have other things. And these are things that I make sure to block in first, because the urgent will always fill the rest of my calendar. I have to put the important in before the urgent just goes over it like a tsunami.”

To make their remote culture sticky, they look for people who are happy, helpful, curious, and accountable, so that they can build a healthy environment for their team. Finding top remote talent is crucial to their culture.

While they’re working, they set rules for communication by creating team charters. Figuring out how to communicate with one another, when things can be escalated, who they go to, and how fast you’re expected to respond to a message is critical for team success. If these boundaries aren’t clear, there can be a lot of friction across a team. So, Shane and his team suggest that each team sets clear workflows and expectations for communicating. 

“In our case, we allow our teams to work differently. It’s fine if one team wants to communicate in a way, take time off in a different way, that’s fine, as long as it’s well-coordinated,” shared Pearlman. “And so that practice talks about things like, ‘If I have a question, how do I ask it? How long do I need to wait until I know that it’s okay to ask again?’”

Tips and tricks for being remote

As someone who has been fully remote for a long time, Shane Pearlman knows how to build a remote company. He shares great advice for those who are looking to build or improve upon a remote environment.

First and foremost, be clear about outcomes. “Be really clear about outcomes, then get your management and your leadership aligned. I know a lot of companies where the leadership has given one set, but the management is trying to run it with a different set of tools or practices. And that conflict causes harm everywhere.” 

When you’re building your culture, be intentional. “Consider that whatever culture you have now probably has about an 18-month to two-year shelf life. You can probably run on that. At that point, there’ll be enough churn that you’re going to have to intentionally design whatever’s next. And don’t assume that the culture you design for a presential organization should be one-to-one with a remote organization. There are tweaks you’re going to want to make. Think about those ahead of time, rather than trying to react and change something that isn’t working.”

If you’re a split organization, create a level playing field for all of your employees. “Those fully remote people always feel ostracized, always miss out on key conversations, rarely get access to raises and promotions. And it doesn’t work. So if you’re going to create some kind of split org, even if you do have access to an office space, you need to behave remote-first. All meetings have to be online, even if person A sits at this desk and person B sits at that desk. You have to create a level playing field for everybody.”

The future of remote work

What’s the future of remote work? Well, for the Modern Tribe team, it’s just work. As priorities are shifting and there is more focus on flexibility and work-life balance, we will likely see a dynamic shift in what work looks like.

Finding the best remote talent will continue to be more and more competitive, but companies can use Shane’s tips to create an outstanding culture that stands out from the rest.

Shane Pearlman’s advice for the future of work? Think like a retiree. 

CEO of Doist Amir Salihefendic on why being fully remote is a superpower

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Many companies are focused on the past ways of working. They’re urging employees to come back to the office full-time, even trying to entice their team with new office benefits like free lunch. So how do you let go of the past and embrace the future of remote work?

We sat down with Amir Salihefendic, CEO of Doist — a company that creates tools to simplify and organize the workday. He shares how they make remote-first work for Doist, and how organizations can make remote work successful initiative for them, too.

Remote from day one

From day one, Doist has been a fully remote company. Back in 2007, Salihefendic knew that remote work was not common, but thought it was the only way to move forward.

Salihefendic shares, “When we first started, working remotely was a very niche thing. We started because at the time, I was in Chile, and I couldn’t hire locally in Chile. There weren’t many tech people in the area.”

I started to hire globally and then suddenly, we became a fully distributed company all around the world.”

One of the best things about being a remote company for Salihefendic was the talent. When searching for talent as a remote organization, it’s easy to find the kind of people you’re looking for. You can expand the talent pool and access top talent around the world.

“Without working remotely, it would have been impossible. Or I would have needed to relocate to a place where I could hire the people I needed. And I didn’t want to do that”, Salihefendic explains.

The case to remain remote-first

We’ve seen companies try to revert to their “old” ways, before the pandemic forced companies to rethink the workplace. Salihefendic recommends taking a hard look at why companies feel like this is the next move — and why it shouldn’t be necessary.

He explains, “Companies who are pushing for employees to return to the office? They’re on Zoom all day anyway. So why are they even there? Are people spending time meeting with their colleagues and brainstorming and using an office for what it would be more beneficial to use it for?”

Instead of forcing employees to return to office life, Doist allocates money they would have spent on the office to funding remote activities. They’ve done retreats with employees to create memories and experiences to create a strong bond across the team.

Doist has also seen many benefits in recruiting and hiring from different countries, which are the primary reasons companies need to get behind being fully remote.

Salihefendic explains, “It’s a superpower to be able to hire and live and work from anywhere. It’s great for companies, but it’s also great for people. When you hire people all over the world who are earning a great salary, it can impact the local community because the wealth isn’t centralized into huge cities.”

Companies should also consider the major benefit that comes with the ability to disconnect and plan your own day as you like. When your organization works remotely, they don’t have to stick to a 9-5 schedule.

“If you have to take a few hours off, I don’t feel like I’m blocking anybody or holding up the company. Being remote truly is the ultimate freedom,” shares Salihefendic.

Challenges of being remote

Even with all of its advantages, being a remote-first company can bring its own unique set of challenges. For instance, working remotely requires a lot more discipline. Office managers or founders might have a fear that their employees aren’t getting their work done.

But, in reality, Salihefendic has found that the opposite is true. He explains, “People are working, but there’s the downside of the fact that they can work all the time and they don’t take time for themselves. Being remote has created a culture of always on – always connected, which is bad for mental and physical health. Maybe people don’t go out as much as they used to or do as many sports. This can be a challenge with remote work, especially with lockdowns. People are stuck with their kids or stuck at home or have been home a long time. This can severely impact mental health and lead to burnout. Personal and professional lives are more intertwined than ever.”

And while companies all over the world are claiming to recognize the signs of burnout and the consequences that come with it, it’s another to actually do something about it. At Doist, they’re embracing asynchronous first, which means they strive for more deep work instead of being on Zoom calls all day. They’re also open to issues about mental health, and employees can take days off without asking anybody.

We trust that if people are going to take a day off, it’s because they need to,” explains Salihefendic.

For this type of mindset to work, organizations need to get on board with trust, which is a key element for successful remote companies of all shapes and sizes. Salihefendic explains further to say, “Without trust, remote won’t work, and it goes both ways. We don’t check on people. We don’t care when you work or where you work. We don’t micromanage.”

Creating a positive work culture

For some organizations, knowing how to build a culture in a remote-first company poses its own challenge. These companies should remember that it is possible to have a strong culture inside a remote-first company.

Culture isn’t being in an office. It’s the people that you have to hire, the people you fire, and the values you have inside, the communication styles you have,” explains Salihefendic.

To make this work, consider the initiatives that Doist offers its employees. For instance, they give the team the freedom to take one month off a year to master a new skill or hobby and spend time on their own pet project.

It’s also essential to make sure the values that make up the culture aren’t just words listed on a company website but instead put into action. For Doist, one of their values is independence, which is a must-have for any remote business. “You need to have people that are self-driven and self-managed because you’re working in different time zones. People need to do their own thing and contribute in their own way. You shouldn’t rely on the office to communicate values and have a tangible culture,” shares Salihefendic.

Doist also fosters team camaraderie and collaboration by creating squads of five people who work together on a project they need to execute. Every month, they assemble new teams, so during the year, employees are always working with different people and thrown into various working problems, which makes people adaptable. 

Finally, there’s the standard question surrounding virtual meetings. Does Doist encourage their team to have their Zoom cameras on or off? Salihefendic answers by saying, “We have very few Zoom meetings, but when we do, cameras are on, and people are focused. Most of our meetings are one-on-one to build rapport with people. Plus, we only have meetings with agendas. There always needs to be a reason you’re having a meeting.”

Tips to successfully transition to remote work

“Start gradually by introducing a more asynchronous work-life balance. Abolish the standard 9-5 schedule. Find other ways to evaluate your team. Do it slowly, so it’s less of a shock. Take baby steps. Small behavior changes or start with one day working remotely. There’s no perfect model for every company.”

And, if you’re still considering some compromise that looks like a hybrid office environment, think again.

Beware of introducing hybrid, because then you have two different worlds for your employees that may not be compatible. You then might have the worst of both — not good at office work and not good at remote-first. Suddenly everything’s a mess.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide what is the future of your company. For this, Salihefendic recommends, “Change how you evaluate people. Micromanaging doesn’t work in a remote company. Leadership styles need to change. You don’t want to measure how many hours someone is putting in. The companies that don’t adopt or embrace a remote-first way of thinking will be extinct because they won’t be able to compete.”

4 Ways to Connect Employees with Similar Interests in a Remote Environment

By Remote WorkNo Comments

How well do you know your coworkers? If your answer is ‘not very well,’ you’re not alone. In this new remote world, it’s not as easy as it once was to connect employees.

Coworkers used to meet for coffee, have lunch together, or grab drinks after a long day at the office — which opened up many opportunities to build friendships. In addition to those interactions, teammates often passed each other’s desks or caught up in the kitchen. 

Now, we work alongside whoever we live with, and our days at the home office end when we log off and close our laptops. As a result, there aren’t as many opportunities to connect with coworkers throughout our workdays.

However, that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. There are many ways companies can foster connections between employees. Here are five ways that you can connect employees with similar interests in a remote environment.

Create interest groups

It’s important for your team to connect and discover what interests they have in common. For example, it could be that a few people all have dogs or love to travel internationally.

The best way to support your team in connecting is to create interest groups, similar to how you might have clubs in-person. Here’s a few examples of popular groups:

  • Pet Parents: have employees share pictures of their cats, dogs, or other furry friends
  • Chefs: employees can share their favorite recipes
  • Jokesters: everyone loves a lighthearted meme or funny dad joke
  • Diversity and inclusion group: help empower different communities at work
  • Wellness Warriors: for conversations about health, wellness, workouts, and more
  • Book Club: teammates can share book recommendations and read the same book

These groups are a great starting point for connecting employees with similar interests. To easily create virtual interest groups, try using a tool like Airspeed. You can even use those groups to plan virtual events or create official clubs.

Host virtual events to connect coworkers

Hosting virtual events and classes that appeal to a wide range of interests is a great way to connect coworkers.

You can organize events like workout classes, game nights, cooking classes, and more. Offering non-work activities that appeal to different people is a fun and unique way to connect coworkers that might not usually interact with one another.

These different activities allow new coworkers to meet and build friendships with one another based on a shared interest discovered outside of their typical work.

Organize virtual club meetups

Now that you’ve created interest groups, you can organize virtual clubs! Employees can meet briefly to connect about a specific topic and have fun. We recommend meeting once a month, or every 2-3 weeks depending on the club. Here are some great ideas for clubs at work: 

  • Book clubs: meet up to pick a new book and discuss your learnings from last month’s book
  • Cooking clubs: choose one member to teach everyone their favorite dish
  • Game clubs: pick a virtual game to play together, such as a Jackbox game
  • Movie clubs: everyone can watch a movie at the same time, and share their thoughts in the chat box
  • Running clubs: accountability buddies are the best! Meet up to share any running tips and how much you ran that week

The best thing you can do is listen to your employees by allowing them to provide input on their interests and help create your virtual groups.

Partner with organizations


If you’re looking for more ways to connect employees with one another and get involved with the community, you can partner with local organizations. For some, you may have to be members of that organization or association, but that’s also a good way to get employees to connect. There are many groups that are organizing virtual events. 

You can partner with groups for certain specialties such as sales or marketing organizations, groups for women, charity organizations, or industry organizations. That way, you’re providing your employees with an opportunity to foster an interest, connect with one another, and connect with other professionals who share their interests. Adding in an extra layer of social interaction is extremely beneficial in our virtual world. 

The key to fostering employee relationships is offering opportunities for them to connect with one another, such as interest groups, virtual clubs, and virtual events. Connecting employees with similar interests in a remote environment is easier than you might think—you just need to know where to start!

Collage Group’s CEO David Wellisch on navigating the balancing act that is remote work

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Remote work has become the new normal for many companies. While many thought it seemed like a simple shift to make, not every company was originally on board with the switch to remote work. 

Collage Group, a consumer research and advisory company, is a company that never planned to go remote. The leaders at Collage Group were under the impression that in order to retain talent and build a strong culture, employees needed in-office perks and group lunches every day. But then something shifted within their mindset.

By chance, before the start of the pandemic in 2020, Collage decided to do a trial of hybrid work—they let their employees work from home every Thursday. Although this was an internal debate for a while, it actually worked in their favor because three months later, they had no choice but to go fully remote.

What started as a trial run turned into a forced, fully remote work environment for the Collage Group. However, it turned out to be positive for their workforce, company culture, and hiring trends. David Wellisch, CEO of Collage Group, joined Dan Schawbel, managing partner of Workplace Intelligence, to discuss the transition from hesitancy toward remote work to embracing the change over the last few years.

David Wellisch describes the hybrid work model as a balancing act. Trying to retain talent, build a strong company culture, see results, and promote a flexible work environment is all a balancing act that CEOs of hybrid and remote companies need to navigate. 

Many employees, especially of younger generations, are ecstatic about remote work. People love the opportunity to have boundaries, privacy, and work on their own schedule. The only downside is that companies need to work harder to foster connections amongst employees.

Enter the balancing act.

“Gen-Zers and Millennials, they discovered flexibility. And so the question is, how do you balance that with culture, community, and sense of belonging? And how do you not get into a transactional world?”

Employees are embracing remote work, but still, the missing link for a long time was fostering an authentic community and building relationships with coworkers. As humans, we aren’t meant to only be transactional — especially with our colleagues. Companies need to put an emphasis on connection and community, which David and his team continue to work toward. 

“How do you respect the found priority for flexibility? And yet, at the same time, how do you continue to deepen the sense of belonging, community, that as humans, we all strive to have?”

Keeping culture authentic

As a company that once believed you have to be in the office to have a strong culture and retain top talent, they have now found new ways to build company culture. For both work and cultural purposes, the Collage Group has found new ways to keep its employees connected. 

To ensure their employees are still spending time with one another, they have organized monthly coffee chats and bi-weekly happy hours. On the weeks where they don’t have happy hours, they’ve upped the cadence of their company-wide meetings from monthly to bi-weekly. With the mix of fun and serious meetings, their employees are connecting at least once a week to build both interpersonal and professional relationships.

“Authenticity is at the center of our culture… being authentic, being caring, while ambitious and driven, is really at the center of it, especially in this remote context.”

In addition to their monthly coffee chats and bi-weekly happy hours, Collage has also launched a monthly Collage Academy curriculum. This helps employees focus on the soft skills that are often overlooked, but often drive the most results. 

By focusing on what matters most to the Collage team and offering flexible options for connection amongst employees, Collage is able to foster an authentic culture that aligns with their core values.

The great Zoom camera debate

One value that is incredibly important to David and his team is the art of connection, especially when it comes to connecting via Zoom. A great debate amongst leaders and remote employees today is which meetings are camera-on and which are camera-off? And, on top of that, how do you decide which meetings call for which protocol? 

For David, he thrives on the connection created by being face-to-face with coworkers, even virtually.

So listen; I’m from Latin America. I love people, and I derive energy from people, and I care about our people,” said Wellisch. “And so, when we’re on Zoom, I want to see them. I want to interact. I want to generate energy, get energy.

Although it’s important for David to see who he’s interacting with via Zoom, there is no real mandate for the employees at Collage. 

“It’s interesting; when we were discussing policy, we said, ‘In our company, community has meant a lot, and interactions have meant a lot. And we’re not just meant to be producers. And we’re not just meant to transact. We’re meant to connect.’” 

They put an emphasis on building connections, not just having transactions. At the end of the day, employees can choose to have their camera on or off, whichever makes them most comfortable.

The future of work for Collage Group

Nobody expected the pandemic or remote work to last as long as they have. When companies explored going back to the office with a hybrid approach, the idea of a two-tiered system was discussed—that those who were in the office had an advantage of having access to leadership, when those who remained at home were at a disadvantage. Thanks to the technology that can be leveraged, the two-tier system may not be a reality for most companies — but it’s all about trial and error. 

Wellisch is doing a great job building an authentic, intentional community at Collage Group. While right now they are fully remote, Wellisch believes that they will move forward to being a hybrid company, giving employees the option to work in an office or work from anywhere. 

Truthfully, remote work isn’t going anywhere, and it has turned out to be a benefit for the Collage team. Over the last year alone, Collage increased its headcount by 30% and was able to hire outside of their office location. 

“Every time we hired, not only did we expect people to be in office, but it was always very much DC Metro and Bethesda,” said Wellisch. “We now have people all over the country.”

Advice for companies embracing hybrid work

There is no perfect approach to embracing remote work or hybrid work. If you’re a company like Collage Group that is going to be embracing hybrid work in the future, David Wellisch has some excellent advice for you.

Trust, measure, listen, and be open-minded because things are changing so much. We don’t know the truth; truth is sort of moving around; there are many flavors. And so, be open-minded, learn a lot, talk to people, and lead.