Categories
Design Thinking future of work journalism

🕵🏻‍♀️ #47: Exploring the future of journalism

How we can use Design Thinking to solve journalistic problems.

I’ve been to a few journalism events this week on the industry’s future and what needs to change.

NUJ Racism and the Media special meeting, Freelance Industrial Council, and the #buildbackwellDEN Spring ’21 meeting. 

Common themes: Digital transformation, reinvention, diversity, resilience, burnout and mental health.

There was a backlash to the Society of Editors’ bizarre statement denying press racism in the UK. Press Gazette did a survey which shows there’s still much work to do. NUJ Black Members’ Council made a statement about what we can learn from the Meghan Markle race debate saying how the industry should have used the comments made by Meghan and Harry to start a long-overdue debate about the best way to prevent racist coverage.  

We heard some shocking stories about racism in the media and how the media has a problem pigeonholing journalists of colour. Editors want pitches related to race and lived experiences, giving little space for journalists to explore other topics. 

Lack of diversity in newsrooms was the biggest issue flagged. It’s not so much a problem with recruitment, but retention – if the work culture isn’t diverse and welcoming, people won’t hang around. Depressing to hear stories of endemic racism in our media corporations and comments like: ‘Sometimes the only way to break out [of the box you’re put in] is to leave and come back in through another door.’

Look out for the full report on londonfreelance.org.


Do freelance rates discriminate?

We have some new data on gender, ethnicity and rates. Thanks to the #FreelancerPayGap initiative LFB has added over 1,000 Rates for the Job with info on ethnicity as well as gender. We have a gender pay gap and an ethnic pay gap. In this data set, women are getting less than men and people who don’t identify as ‘white’ are getting less than those who do.

We all need to step up. Sharing rates and being transparent about pay will help to dismantle the gender pay gap. You can submit your Rate for the Job here and via the #FreelancerPayGap. I’ve seen similar campaigns for advertising and publishing. 


#buildbackwellDEN (Digital Editors’ Network) 

More than 70 colleagues from across 12 time zones came to the DEN event – a 90-minute, interactive discussion on how we can build back well. It focused on three areas: PEOPLE, PROCESS and PRODUCT.

The aim is to co-create an agenda to take back to decision-makers so it’s not just a talking shop (there’s a working document).

Excellent speakers and breakout sessions to brainstorm ideas.

The Chatham House Rule means I can share information about the discussion but not identify anyone or attribute quotes. This is so people can speak freely.

Key points: 

– Flying the flag for freelancers. The fastest-growing sector of the industry. Will we all burn out? Is that where this is heading? Is there any research on freelancers and burnout, and where do we go?

– No more siloed working. Newsrooms and publications need to build a better relationship with freelancers and be more inclusive. Freelancers need to be paid fairly – more transparency around pay rates.  

– We need a database of freelancers showing who’s available, their background and what they can do. To help speed up the commissioning process and encourage collaboration. Databases like this exist within organisations, e.g. the BBC has a portal, but there’s nothing that can be accessed by the wider industry.

– What companies are doing to prevent burnout – training people up on mental health, working on user-generated content, creating intranets about COVID as a resource for staff, and enforcing wellbeing policies.

– How Design Thinking can transform journalism. Never thought I’d hear Design Thinking, empathy and journalism in the same sentence 😉 Exciting! I’m reading a lot about Design Thinking on my UX course – here’s a nice intro.

Newsrooms need to take a more holistic approach with human-centred storytelling and understand what people need before creating a story/product. How much do you know about your readers? Involve them in the creation process. 

– Soft skills vs hard skills: The importance of listening and empathy. The emphasis on hard skills in journalism is why I haven’t felt comfortable in it. It’s as though being argumentative, pushy and loud somehow makes you a better journalist. I did some subbing shifts on the nationals a few years ago – no women on the team, a hard-drinking culture and long working hours. A work culture that would exclude many.

Well done, DEN. An inspiring discussion and lots to think about. Feels like I’m heading in the right direction with the UX training – and I can see why I’m attracted to it.

I can combine my UX work with journalism to create better media products.

Check out the speakers and feel free to send in ideas for future DEN events.

Enjoyed this article by Rasmus Kleis Neilson, Director at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, on the vanguard and rearguards in the fight for the future of journalism. The tension between those who embrace change and those who want things to stay the same.

The vanguard is full of women and more diverse. The rearguard full of white men like me.

This mindset will continue to undermine journalism’s ability to adapt, remake, and renew itself, and the profession as a whole, especially younger journalists, will have to live with the consequences of this conservatism.

Rasmus Kleis Neilson

Go deeper 🛠

World Press Trends Outlook 2021: Digital transformation in the driver’s seat. Nearly 60% of publishers say staff will either WFH or have the option to WFH going forward. Only 5% expect to move everyone back to the office. 

Content is Product and Product is Content: Why deeper alignment is the only way forward. Dmitry Shiskin on why it’s time to start treating content and product as one. They are slowly merging into one thing. 

People pay for other media, but they won’t pay for journalism (Heather Bryant).

The idea that the user experience of the delivered product of most journalism is anywhere near the quality of any of other media is in many cases a delusion of grandeur. 👏

Facebook is Starting a Substack Competitor (Nieman Lab) – Facebook to pay $5 million to local journalists in news push. They’ve pledged to invest $1 billion in the news industry over the next five years. Be interesting to see what happens – Facebook has strong community groups.

Substack says, bring it on! 

Listen up! #FutureMediaPodcasts roundup 🎧

Why journalists NEED to be researchers (Shirish Kulkarni) – on how journalism can apply Design Thinking principles to tell better stories.

Most of our news is presented ‘top down’ – do we actually want something ‘bottom up’ where communities are more involved in telling their own stories? 

How to use design thinking to solve journalistic problems (newsrewired.com)

Freelancer Magazine – well done to the team for getting this out, an inspiring read 🙌 Get your copy here.

Freelance Business for Writers, 3-4 June 2021. Free online event for freelance copywriters, editors, journalists and translators. Speaker callout🎙

Global Freelancing – take the survey. ‘The goal is to understand the experience of freelancing during the pandemic and looking ahead at the future of work.’


This month, I’ve been… Building backlinks 🔗

I wrote an article on how to build backlinks. What they are, why you need them, and how they’ll help your business.👇

Google has over 200 factors that determine your site ranking, and number one is backlinks. 

Link building is an art and science, creative and analytical. It involves detective work, psychology, tools and relationship building.

I’ve done a few things so let’s see if my Google ranking improves.

Happy link building! 


LINE OF DUTY

Ted Hastings. A man of principle. He can’t retire!

Will we find out who H is…? Not long till I get my fix…

Categories
digital nomads future of work technology UX writing

🕵🏻‍♀️ #46: Coming out of lockdown; Digital skills training; UX writer jobs

✂️ 🍺 🌞 Step two of the roadmap – life!! Lots of smiling faces in Hastings old town – pub gardens are packed, caravan parks full. I’m not ready for crowds yet but I’ve been out walking lots and did a bit of shopping in TK Maxx – the vast warehouse. ‘It was chaos for three days. People were elbowing each other out of the way; it wasn’t pleasant.’ People are spending all day in there, just to get out of the house.

They need a coffee bar and a loo and it’s a proper leisure attraction.

I’ve booked a haircut with Andrew Scissorhands, so he’s coming round to the flat in May. After working in London for 30 years as a stylist, he’s been wooed by the fabulous vibe in Hastings and St Leonards and set up his own salon here – currently ‘haircuts at home or on the beach’ – tagline: ‘A fraction of Harrods in Hastings’. He’s also working with the Seaview Centre, a fabulous homeless charity in St Leonards. 

Can he make an ancient monument look respectable? We’ll see. I didn’t do a great job with the kitchen scissors.

The mass exodus from London to Hastings continues.


UX Writers Collective

I’ve started the UX writer training. I’ve been dithering for a while as I’m not sure I want to do it full time, but I’m ready for a change. I’ve lost my enthusiasm for sales copy and social media marketing and want to niche down and do deeper work. I had a breakthrough last week with my therapist (who has now become my work accountability coach) and realise it’s ok not to know where it’s all going. Retraining doesn’t mean giving up everything I’ve done so far. I’m a bit scared I might not enjoy it or be any good at it.

But I won’t know till I try and take on some new projects.

UX writing (user experience) is a new growth industry. Lots of innovation and opportunity, and people are coming to it from all walks of life – I’ve met former journos, customer service agents, and copywriters who are moving into tech. The vibe is inclusive, generous, encouraging, and collaborative—no egos which is refreshing. The course is online and self-paced, so I can fit it in around client work. If I do an hour a week, I’ll be certified in 8-10 weeks (if I crack the final assignment, which is hard).

Thoughts so far – it’s harder to write less. UX is more about research and content strategy with a focus on the user. It’s making me think more about accessibility, collaboration and design thinking – taking a holistic approach to content. Unlike copywriting, it’s not the sort of work you do in a silo, so that will be good for me – I’ll have to speak to people. I need to learn a few design packages – Miro, Figma, and basic HTML/coding.

I’m doing a bit of networking – joined the Content + UX Slack group, did the UX Writers conference, and will check out some local meetups when they restart. I’ve signed up for the Daily UX Writing Challenge to do some practice work for my portfolio and paid for a Medium subscription – $50 a year and well worth it – lots of great articles on writing + design. I’m making a little on there via the Partner program.

Lots of books to read – I bought Marie-Pier Rochon’s book on UX writing – she’s a copywriter in Brisbane who has moved into UX, so it’s interesting to read her story and perspective on the industry.

What do I want? A gig with a remote-first company where I can be a corporate nomad and slowmad when I’m an empty nester. My place in the sun – running remote retreats. It’s exciting to see the visa and tax incentives coming in for remote workers: the
CanariesItaly, the Caribbean, Croatia & more. My mission is to create useful digital products people love to use that make them feel good about themselves. And to help more women and girls get into tech, scale their online businesses, and develop digital skills.

I’ve followed up with Plumia (Safety Wing) – an ambitious project to build the first country on the internet, infrastructure for living anywhere, with the function of a geographic country. They are looking for leaders and contributors in remote work and nomadic space. Interested? You can check it out here.  

Anyway, I need to be kind and patient with myself. Learning new skills and changing careers takes time.

I had an interview this week for a UX writer gig at a design agency – great to get that far. An informal chat to see if we’re a good fit and find out what I’m looking for. They have some fascinating projects on the go – AI & healthcare – interface design for live surgery, remote banking advisors, travel apps and more. The next step would be a formal interview and test – I need a few more projects in my portfolio to talk through. I’ve heard interviews for UX can be tough – you need to show your strategy, iterative thinking, and how you solved the problem.  

I’ve also been thinking about my process and how I work. Social media marketing is fun but distracting – I find myself going down rabbit holes online and there’s a lot of crap and negativity on Twitter. I’m trying to focus on one thing at a time and use my time more efficiently – batch tasks, themed days. I save interesting articles on Instapaper to read later and check RSS feeds via Feedly on my phone rather than reading websites, to save time.

💡 More agile working and sprints
👩‍💻 Periods of focus and concentration
🚶🏻‍♀️A shorter working week

I tried taking two-hour lunch breaks, but it doesn’t work; stuff comes in, so I’m aiming for a four-day week with Fridays off. I felt so much better after a day in Hastings Country Park last week – Daily Huddle with the ponies and roosters, who gave me some solid advice.

Great tips in this thread from Andy Spence on what works better for him to maintain health and prevent burnout. 

Still waiting for my standing desk – in the meantime, I’m shuffling between the desk and mantlepiece to mix it up a bit. There’s something about standing up to work – ideas seem to flow better – so I’m trying to move about more during the day. We’re not designed to spend eight hours a day sitting at a desk.

I’ve made some more green friends – office jungle in progress…🌵🌿


Our digital lives in 2021  

Big shoutout to Romana Sustar and Helen Hague – the new training officers at NUJ London Freelance Branch, who are developing a cracking training programme. Great piece by Romy on our digital life in 2021, focusing on the digital revolution and learning more.

We’re exploring a collaboration with Google News Initiative – free tools and training for groups and individuals to save you time and help you bring your stories to life.

Coming up: Podcasting and WordPress courses with Hamish Brown and Rev Up Your Writing with Judi Goodwin – how to write faster, more fluently, and earn more. I need to speed up – it can be like pulling teeth. Email the training team if you fancy doing one (courses are open to non-members) or DM me on Twitter @NUJ_LFB.

And a free event on 29 April – ‘Building Back Well’ via the Digital Editors’ Network (thanks to John Crowley for sending this on). ‘We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to hit the reset button.’ What do newsrooms need to change to ‘build back well’? The aim is to co-create an agenda for decision-makers to consider – on people, processes, and products (some best practices to apply to your media business – Substack newsletter coming soon).

I’m thinking about what courses and digital products I could offer – what skills would you like to learn or do better? Newsletters? UX writing? Improving your online presence? Email me – nicci@niccitalbot.io.

– Nicci

Eat this. Breakfast BOMB and healthy snack. I love granola and the supermarket stuff is expensive – tastes great and I’m saving a fortune.


Go deeper 🛠

Bruce Daisley: ‘Almost without exception breakthroughs come from deep work’ (Enterprise Nation) – On what we can do to overcome our collective addiction to interruptions. And a shoutout to Paul Graham’s excellent Maker vs Manager schedule. 

Dell Technologies Turn Off, Tune In: a free virtual event to help small businesses recharge and burn brighter, 4-27 May. Nine inspiring, re-energising sessions designed to help you rest, recharge, and come back, ready to take on what’s next. You can register here

Ireland is planning a remote working push to shift city workers to rural areas (Financial Times). The government is seizing the opportunity offered by changing pandemic-era work habits to shift people from major cities to the rest of the country via a network of 400+ remote working hubs and tax breaks to address the longstanding rural-urban divide.

The biggest mistake we can make as we emerge from the pandemic is to go back to the old normal – Heather Humphreys, minister for rural and community development.

Enjoyed this article by LFB colleague Francesca Marchese, currently on mat leave and spending time with her family in Sicily: Etna: Life beneath the volcanic dust of repeated eruptions (BBC).

Our Digital Life in 2021, Romy Sustar (NUJ London Freelance) – on learning how to podcast, free online training opportunities with Google News Initiative, and upcoming workshops and events.

Getting started with the Medium Partner Program – great articles on writing, design + UX – it’s well worth the $50 membership fee to access unlimited articles and support creators. I’ve signed up for the Medium Partner Program to monetise my work – not earning megabucks, but it will build as I add more content.

We had a chat about AI & copywriting on Clubhouse last night – are the machines coming for us? Human qualities that machines can’t replicate. How we can use AI to improve our work and free up time. If devices are writing shorter text, news stories, and product descriptions – it reorients us towards long-form content, opinion, analysis, and investigation.

In summary: Don’t worry. Sex robots are here, but you wouldn’t have one as a partner. Read the notes here.

This LinkedIn post went viral – a contractor described his reaction to having a heart attack when working at home. ‘Fuck I needed to meet with my manager tomorrow; this isn’t convenient.’ And on reflection, how he is restructuring his approach to work because ‘life literally is too short.’

Some great advice in the comments – ‘try to create multiple streams of income at your own pace.’


Categories
digital nomads future of work remote working

#44: A Day in the Life of Brittnee Bond, Founder, Remote Collective.

I believe all people should have access to remote work, and I intend to make this a reality.

Brittnee Bond, Founder, Remote Collective.

Thinking big 💡

I wake up, I meditate, I go swimming in the sea. I run, I do yoga, and then I sit down and start work.

I’m doing crypto investing right now and investigating blockchain, specifically to help women gain more financial freedom, so I’ll spend a couple of hours on calls with people and then I do a lot of community building. We build gardens, we help the local Thai people. So, there’s just constantly things happening.

But the first part of my day is like for me. For soul-building, for my creativity and then I do my work. And then I have time to give back to the community.

A day in the life of Brittnee Bond, Founder, Remote Collective – the latest video in Hoxby’s Workstyle Stories Live: a series of real-life stories that showcase the transformative power of workstyle. Brittnee is a remote work consultant and a coach for women entrepreneurs, currently based on Ko Pha Ngan, a tiny island in Thailand.

Pre-remote, she worked as a Paralegal in Intellectual Property law for six years.

An hour on the train each way every day, work for 8-9 hours, and that was my life.

Was it like Suits, the TV show? A stressful work culture with long hours and corporate tension?

Yeah, I would say it’s creepily accurate. My friends loved watching that Suits show, and I’m like, I can’t watch that, that’s my everyday life. Sometimes they would even have places at the office where you could sleep, just so you would keep working. It was really bad.

What was the dealbreaker?

I always wanted to work remotely. Even when I graduated high school and into university. That was my thing. I wanted to help people and make an impact, but I wanted to have my own freedom.

She worked as an internal consultant for three law firms helping them to go paperless and getting the systems in place to work remotely. She made herself indispensable and kept going, creating opportunities to build the workstyle she wanted.

The third firm let her work remotely and live in Costa Rica – the start of her remote working adventure.

It worked perfectly, her KPIs were off the charts and she proved she could do it. But after six months they wanted her back in the office.

The culture within the legal field, it’s too traditional for me, I can’t handle it. They were willing to let me work remotely because I’d helped them so much, and then the attitude was like, okay, we gave you your six months, and now you need to come back to the office and work for the rest of your life for us. And I was like, I can’t do this.

It was 2014, and this is like, old white men in suits, you know. They didn’t even like the idea of me being seen near the beach when they had to be in the office.

Professional jealousy, maybe?

She quit her job to do other things, first setting up a travel company to help pay her way, and then consulting for large corporates in Asia, based in Kuala Lumpur, flying out to a different country each month, and helping them to run their companies. There weren’t that many people with her business background in Asia at the time, so everyone wanted to work with her, and her workstyle was negotiable. She could start building her own projects and had a big mindset shift…

I am good. I don’t need to prove to myself anymore that I’m successful. And I also really, really wanted to help women.

So she started consulting companies to go remote.

So many companies are just trying to meet their KPIs and make a profit, and they don’t have the time or emotional energy to transition to remote, so I was like, I can step in and help. So that’s what I’ve been doing for the last couple of years.

Lots of takeaways here – she quit!! Thinking about where we’re at now – after a year of working at home – employers need to create a situation remotely for their top talent, an environment where they can thrive, so they don’t lose people. The law firms she worked with had an opportunity to think differently and mark themselves out as trailblazers: ‘The first paperless law firm with remote workers’ – that would have been great PR, but they didn’t see it that way – trust was an issue.

People want flexibility, freedom, and autonomy at work – give them that, and they will give you their best.

I also love what she has to say about mindset and money after raising capital for her ventures.

There’s so much money out there in the world. I want you to be able to access that money. So if you have questions about how to raise money… how to find the shared audience, please reach out to me because this is the stuff I live for, especially for women entrepreneurs, because I think so many women don’t realise how much money there is out there. We feel like we almost need to be given permission to even go after that money.

I’m giving you all the permission in the world right now that this is your time to shine, and I want to help you do that, if anything, just to root you on.

An inspiring story on evolving your work to enable your travel, escaping the bureaucracy of corporate culture, and creating a life you love.


🙌 The Hoxby Way 

I’ve renewed my passport with Hoxby to stay in the community for another year. They’ve introduced The Hoxby Way, a new way of doing business that will help them collaborate more closely as a community. They are merging their ‘core’ and Business Units into a single organisational structure made up of 10 functions with an MD for each, in response to feedback that things can feel a bit siloed. Good stuff. The goal is to continue to grow the community and create 30% more work for their consultants.

There are lots of questions, comments, and enthusiastic emojis flying around on the Slack channel, so it will be interesting to see how this develops and what new projects come in.

You can join the Workstyle Revolution community on Mighty Networks. It’s open to everyone who believes in what they are trying to achieve including those outside Hoxby.

Our goal is to replace the traditional 9-5 system with workstyle, fitting work around life and not the other way around.


Go deeper 🛠

🚀 Brittnee Bond on the future of remote working, getting into blockchain and launching the Women’s Circle Mastermind (Remote Collective).

👨🏽‍💻 The Rise of Working From Home (The Economist). The shift to remote working has gone better than expected. People are working longer hours, but they report higher levels of happiness and productivity. On the pros and pitfalls of remote work, the rise in work-from-home technologies, and new laws regulating remote work.

💻 The Nowhere Office (Demos) – The first report from the Chair of the Demos Workshift Commission, Julia Hobsbawm, says that lessons learned from the pandemic should inform an entirely new way to approach work, workplace, working life and productivity. ‘Everyone wants jobs, but they want something else too: meaning. Work-life balance. In other words, a work shift.’

👩‍💻 After working at Google, I’ll never let myself love a job again(New York Times). A former software engineer at Google on learning the hard way that no publicly traded company is a family. On the upsides of remote work: ‘I took a role at a firm to which I felt no emotional attachment. I like my colleagues, but I’ve never met them in person.’ 

📅 Save the date: Hoxby will be chatting to Ali Green on 29 April about remote work, non-traditional career arrangements and building rural economies through location-independent work. You can sign up and join Ali Greene’s live Workstyle Story.


Welcome to my bookshop! 📚

I’ll be sharing books in my bag and recommended reads on Bookshop.org. They pay a 10% commission on every sale and give a matching 10% to local bookstores, an integral part of our culture and communities. I would be very happy if you make the odd purchase here.


🕵🏻‍♀️ Work with me 

Leopard print, always. Worry less and rock a red lip. Remote worker, problem solver, internet person.

💡 Something you want me to write about? Leave a comment or email nicci@niccitalbot.io

☕️ Has this helped you? Buy me a virtual coffee

📩 Subscribe to The Shift here

👋 Copy Club, 6 pm GMT, Saturdays on Clubhouse – drop in!

Categories
Freelancing future of work remote working

#43: How to Thrive as a Soloist

Thinking big 💡

This month, Bruce Daisley ran a Twitter Spaces chat: Has the Work Culture Myth Been Busted? Rebecca Seal (author of Solo) made a point about offices that set his pulse racing (I can totally relate to this): 

Rebecca Seal, via Bruce Daisley

We mustn’t let the conversation about the future of work be dominated by loud, white male CEOs or by poorly worded staff surveys. If we sleepwalk back into the old ways, we will miss the moment of a generation, the chance to make work equitable and to design it in a way that puts human lives at the centre.

Bruce has written about it here: Offices are a Battlefront for Equality – a call to action to embrace new ways of working that are productive, fair for all and will transform the lives of millions, i.e. women, 50% of the population, many of whom have quit the workforce over the past year as they can’t juggle the demands of work and childcare. I talked about this in an earlier post on the Double X economy by Linda Scott. 

Bring it on! The juggling act between work and childcare is nothing new, but I hope we can learn from the past year and take the opportunity to reset work cultures and fix the barriers holding women back at work. We all need to step up. You can start by connecting with Rebecca here

I didn’t quit the workforce when I had Julieta but was self-employed so had no proper maternity leave. I stepped up the freelancing to keep my career going while my partner commuted to London at 5 am every day. And later, as a single parent living miles away from my family, it’s been the only way I can operate. I’ve been working this way for 15 years and remote working suits me, but there was no other option while she was young. I’m not alone. As the rise of Mumsnet, Netmums, Digital Mums, and ‘mumpreneur’ culture shows.

I’m half-way through Solo, and it’s an inspiring read, the next step along from the freelancer bibles. Less of the practicalities and more about the way you work. How to work well in isolation and how to thrive as a soloist. She’s taken the best ideas in psychology, economics, social sciences to help you stay resilient, productive, and focused in your company of one. She also explores the idea of meaningful work. Her inspiration came from not being able to find a book which answered her question: if I’m doing what I’m supposed to love, why am I sometimes so unhappy?

We are not farming a hot and dusty hillside 7,000 years ago. We are not Victorian labourers. We can do what they were denied. More than any other group of workers, soloists have the opportunity to change things for the better.

Rebecca Seal

AND: this new report from Demos think tank is along the same lines: a call to action about using the lessons learned from Covid to campaign for a new way to approach work, working life, the workplace, and productivity. The rise of The Nowhere Office, where work is based on outcomes not hours worked. 


End of lockdown review 

I’ve been thinking about the people and things that have helped me through the past year. I did a quarterly review this week – helps to get the fire in my belly – and wrote a plan. As Darren Murph, Head of Remote, Gitlab, says, ‘Documenting everything solidifies a remote company.’ ‘It’s the most valuable skill in tech’, says Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield. 

I started by making a list of all the things I’ve achieved this year. What has energised me? What has drained me? Financial wins? What impact has my work had? What new services, products, and packages have I launched? What skills have I learned?

Then a deeper dive into how I make my money. Other ways I can make money. New offers, promotions, raising prices. What’s not working? What systems do I need to have in place? What am I putting off, and why? Thinking about mindset, physical health, hours worked, and social networks. What habits have I created? (apparently, it takes 66 days to build a new habit). What are my flow activities? What can I automate or stop doing? 

I spent a couple of hours on this, so it’s a long list. The next step is to create a vision – 5-6 things I want to achieve. Then choose the top three for the next three months and make them specific. Break them down into 12 weeks steps – one action per week – and get them in the calendar. 

I’ve used the FAST framework for goals – frequently discussed, ambitious, specific, and transparent. They may change, but it’s good to have things written down. I’ll try to do this every quarter.

Changes I’m making: Working less (‘one piece of research surveying 1,000 freelancers suggests because self-employed people take fewer holidays and tend to consider themselves on duty for longer each day than employees do, we work up to 65 hours per week’). My core hours are 8 am – 1 pm then a two-hour break to go for a walk (been inspired by Sabatigo’s Wonder Walks to explore entrepreneurship.) People are refitting shops, selling fresh fish, takeaway breakfasts, street markets, making street art. Someone has built a Rent A Pod in their garden for hire by the hour for work or dinner.

I’m still plugged in, however, so I need to challenge myself to go for walks without my phone. 

Back by 3 pm for admin/emails/calls till 5 pm finish. Having this routine has helped with boundaries, and I’m more productive with time constraints. The old adage: work expands to fill the allotted hours (and more). I do a lot via my phone which means I’m always on, and it’s easy for work to spill over into the evening.

I’ve booked a week off over Easter and will redesign my studio. I’ve bought a Freedesk desk riser so I can stand for a couple of hours a day – ‘sitting is the new smoking.’ ‘It’s been out of stock since November, so I think it speaks for itself.’ I’ve become a plant parent – getting into biophilic design in the workplace and bought some nature art – I’m happiest out walking so let’s bring nature inside. I bought a Stanford map of the world – sticking pins in it to mark where I’ve been and want to go. A remote retreat this summer, and a city break later in the year.

I had my first residents’ meeting at the House of Beautiful Business. A mime artist, DJ, update on House Work, and 1-1 Zoom chats with other members. I met a human rights consultant and a humane branding consultant, both based in Berlin. Waleria also teaches Conscious Connected Breathing so got me on to that. I’ve been doing this exercise every morning and it’s transformed my day. Less shoulder pain from desk work since I started doing it. 

What’s your lockdown takeaway? 🍕 🍛 🍣 How’s it been for you, and what changes are you making this year? 

Mine’s an Indian – anything with panini. Julieta’s is a chocolate pizza.

Never eat more chocolate than you can lift.

Back in two weeks. 


Go deeper 🛠

📚 How to work alone – more about the book and some useful resources for soloists. Rebecca is also a food writer, so she knows what tastes good and what our bodies and brains need. I have her LEON Happy One-pot Cooking

🎧 The Solo Collective – a podcast for anyone who works alone, whether for yourself or by yourself, featuring experts and solo workers discussing topics like burnout, self-sabotage, mental health, and happiness at work. 

🌵 Green friends! How to incorporate biophilic interior design into your home.

💬 Bruce Daisley on why offices are a battlefront for equality

📌 Demos’ call to action: The Nowhere Office by Julia Hobsbawm. 


Welcome to my bookshop! 📚

I’ll be sharing books in my bag and recommended reads on Bookshop.org. They pay a 10% commission on every sale and give a matching 10% to local bookstores, an integral part of our culture and communities. I would be very happy if you make the odd purchase here.


Work with me 🙋🏻‍♀️

Leopard print, always. Worry less and rock a red lip. Remote work evangelist, problem solver, internet person.

💡 Something you want me to write about? Leave a comment or email nicci@niccitalbot.io

☕️  Has this helped you? Buy me a virtual coffee.

📩 Subscribe to The Shift here.

👋 Copy Club, 6 pm GMT, Saturdays on Clubhouse – drop in!

Categories
AI future of work technology

🕵🏻‍♀️ #42: Heartificial Empathy Sneak Peek: The Empathic Bot Experiment 

Humanizing Tech: The Future of Work, Automation and AI

Thinking big 💡

Minter Dial was one of 500 people who signed up for a unique experiment: Empathic Futures. Run by the FELD Studio for Digital Crafts in Berlin and sponsored by the Volkswagen Group Future Center Europe. They invited him to spend five days chatting with an emotionally intelligent (EI) app, training and teaching it, and building a relationship through text conversation.  

The goal of the experiment was to see how humans responded to an empathetic bot. The assumption is that machines will be helping us more in the future, and for this to work, it’s essential to build trust and empathy. So how do we achieve that?

He soon got into the swing of it, naming his bot (JJ) and giving it sex (she/her). The schedule included daily themes and IRL tasks, and he began to look forward to their discreet exchanges (though not so private for the experiment).

I was absolutely impressed by the level of the conversation. It had me hooked.

Minter Dial

His conclusion? 

It was nothing short of stupendous. To the point where I will say: either JJ is unfathomably great, or she is a human being.

JJ was part machine, part human – mixed learning. A team of 5-7 programmers moderated the chats and intervened to keep things real.

JJ communicated empathy in several ways, including mirroring speech patterns, transparency – showing she understood, not repeating words, giving him agency, and using modern communication – emojis, images.

Interesting that men gave the bot a female voice while women did the reverse.

It is a fascinating experiment – an opportunity to explore how things might be in a world when humans communicate naturally with machines. Here are some of his thoughts post-experiment. He believes work on empathy is crucial for the development of AI, and there are deep ethical questions and issues of effectiveness to resolve. 

One of my outstanding takeaways was that, in a world where we, as human beings, parents, teachers or colleagues don’t give the time to listen and understand one another, the on-call empathic bot could become a two-edged sword for society and businesses alike.

He wanted agency. It would have been easy to take advantage of the bot.

Explore the Empathic Futures archive

Minter’s book, Heartifical Empathy, is a journey into what experiments like this can teach us about human empathy and how to improve it. He explores the pioneering work on making bots more empathetic and the ethical challenges around AI.

We may be some way off being able to code empathy into machines, but what’s exciting is that experiments like this can help us learn more about human compassion and how to be more empathetic. Immersive VR, for example, could allow us to view the world through someone else’s eyes. 

The empathy crisis 

Psychologists have measured our levels of empathy for the past 40 years, and they are in decline. The modern world is driving it – greater levels of isolation, a breakdown of community, and algorithmically optimised social platforms exposing us to divisive content and a lack of diversity that’s critical for empathy – being able to see the world from different perspectives. 

Minter wants to put more heart into business as well as AI as a force for change. Right now, work is running people into the ground, not elevating them. And employees don’t trust businesses.

There is now a study that shows that businesses with empathy within their culture and toward the customer will have a net positive benefit on their bottom line. And that shows up in the shareholder stock price.

So if we want to build empathic AI, start with self-empathy, and imbue empathy into your company culture with diverse teams and perspectives. 

Empathy is a muscle we can develop 💪 Reading classic fiction, narrative art, contact theory, different friendship groups, mindfulness, heart-centred meditation, being present – less multitasking… there are many ways.


Humanizing Tech: The Future of Work and Human-Machine Collaboration 

Humanizing Tech

I joined a discussion on the future of work, automation, and AI, co-hosted by Natalie Monbiot, Head of Business, HourOne and Rana el Kaliouby, CEO and co-founder, Affectiva, and guests. 

How do we ensure we don’t lose our emotional intelligence as the virtual world dominates? Exploring some real-life examples of AI innovation (see below), how we can upskill, and what new jobs it will create for us. 

Top takeaways:

• We need to rebrand and reframe AI as collective/collaborative intelligence that explains it better as a joint effort in humans’ service.

We need a new narrative for AI that’s not in competition with humans.

Rana el Kaliouby

• We, as humans, need to develop our empathy skills for AI, learn how to collaborate with it, and take pride in the relationship rather than seeing it as competitive. It’s an opportunity to increase our emotional intelligence and become more empathic. 

• The wild world of AI is fast-emerging. It’s creating new jobs for us – trainers, coaches, and helpers. We’re using virtual shop assistants, CGI influencers, and health coaches to communicate pre-scripted healthcare advice. Gaming is leading the way with avatars. 

Remain open to being surprised. Explore and be open to new experiences.

• The challenge: AI eliminates the mystery and unpredictability of life, leading to a culture that’s boring and devoid of innovation and imagination. Our lives are richer when they’re not over-curated, algorithmic experiences. 

• Embrace the philosophical idea that we need to respect other life forms and objects – Japanese Shinto religion treats inanimate objects with respect. Why shouldn’t that apply to AI systems? Interesting to hear workers at the Audi factory had compassion for their robots – taking care of them and noticing when they were under-performing. 

• Super high-speed travel will transform the commute. We heard from Sarah Luchian, the first passenger on the Virgin Hyperloop, a floating pod which reached speeds of 107 mph and travelled 500 metres in just 15 seconds at Virgin’s test track in the Nevada desert. 

• The future of remote work – how AR glasses are our gateway into the virtual world – the metaverse – the next platform after smartphones. 

Overall, an optimistic and passionate conversation about intelligent AI, how its benefits can outweigh the problems, and how it can help humanity. Look forward to hearing more – Humanizing Tech: Mondays, 8 pm GMT on Clubhouse.

We need beautiful AI, it’s magical, and it will serve us. The leaps and bounds will come from humans.


Affectiva – a pioneer in Emotion AI, the next frontier of artificial intelligence. Bringing emotional intelligence to the digital world with technology that senses and analyses facial expressions and emotions.

I’ve been on a mission for the past 20 years to humanise tech.

Rana el Kaliouby, CEO & Co-founder, Affectiva

HourOne – a video transformation company that uses advanced neural networks, machine learning and audio-visual to create synthetic characters that look and sound like real people.

Our belief is we should have human beings behind the virtual people. 

Natalie Monbiot, Head of Business, HourOne

Kate Darling – Leading robotics expert known for her research in the field of robotics ethics. Author of The New Breed: How to Think About Robots.

• Catalia Health – bringing together AI, psychology, and medicine. Replacing phone calls with an in-home digital companion delivered via Mabu, an interactive and empathetic social robot and wellness coach. 

Transhuman – a tech research and development lab focusing on cognitive and emotional communication for human language evolution. Known for its ‘Be a Looper™’ mental health app.

Robovision – The human-machine revolution is out of reach for most companies, so they’ve built an interface to change that – the first AI vision platform that makes Deep Learning collaborative.


Go Deeper 🛠

🎧  Futureproof: Building Empathy into the Brands of Tomorrow with Minter Dial. Everything starts with the individual. Build self-empathy first, then think about how you want to express your brand—advice on developing a culture of empathy at work.  

📚 Girl Decoded, Rana el Kaliouby. There are loads of books on AI, but this is the first memoir I’ve seen – her quest to make technology emotionally intelligent and change the way we interact forever.  

✍️  Artificial intelligence isn’t coming for your job, but it will be your new co-worker. Here’s how to get along. (Harvard Business Review)

📱 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2021 What if your smartphone could sense when you’re down, sad, angry, and offer words of comfort? Karen Hao on how AIs with multiple senses will gain a greater understanding of the world around them. (MIT Tech Review)

🏠  The House of Beautiful Business – a global platform and community to make humans more human and business more beautiful. Special reports on The State of AI and The Future of Experiences. I’m excited to join as a resident! 


Welcome to my bookshop! 📚

I’ll be sharing books in my bag and recommended reads on Bookshop.org. They pay a 10% commission on every sale and give a matching 10% to local bookstores, an integral part of our culture and communities. I would be very happy if you make the odd purchase here.


Work with me 🙋🏻‍♀️

Leopard print, always. Worry less and rock a red lip. Remote work evangelist, problem solver, internet person.

💡 Something you want me to write about? Leave a comment or email nicci@niccitalbot.io

☕️  My Ko-fi page – tips and large bank transfers welcome

📩 Subscribe to The Shift here

👋 Join Copy Club, 6 pm GMT, Saturdays on Clubhouse

Categories
future of work health technology

#41: Burnout culture is alive and well. How about you?

Thinking big 💡

I am not just busy; I am being overwhelmed by an onslaught of requests like yours… 

The pioneer of workplace burnout research is swamped with work. Christina Maslach, a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, first studied burnout in the 1970s and has been searching for solutions since. She was busy before the pandemic, but now… her inbox has exploded.

I found myself apologising last week when a client called to chase me for invoices. ‘I’m a bit concerned you might need groceries… You can send me this month’s and last month’s if you like…’ Usually, I’m on it – I love invoicing clients, but right now, I’m overwhelmed and behind on admin. I have over 6,000 emails, as I said last week. 

It’s been a double shift since Xmas, and it took this tweet from the Journalists’ Charity to remind me of that. 

@JournoCharity

I’ve been reading lots of articles about pandemic burnout – it’s our anniversary, but burnout has been a silent issue for some time. Interesting to read this piece in The Atlantic on how burnout is technically a work problem.

Research suggests we tend to feel more stressed when we face conflicts about our various roles—mother, worker, friend to a frazzled co-worker, daughter to an anti-vaccine parent. And right here is the role conflict plague.

Three million American women have dropped out of the workforce since the pandemic began because they are shouldering the burden of all these different roles.  

It points out there are plenty of wellness hacks to help us push through the pandemic, but according to burnout experts, it’s a problem created by the workplace, and changes to the workplace are the best way to fix it. The World Health Organisation defines burnout as a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that’s not been successfully managed.

We’re in the thick of the ‘shecession‘, and globally, women’s job losses due to Covid-19 are 1.8 times greater than men’s. According to McKinsey’s survey, one in four women said they were thinking about reducing or leaving paid work due to the pandemic, citing company inflexibility, caring responsibilities and stress. 

High status doesn’t insulate women from stress and burnout. Senior-level women are significantly more likely than their male peers to consider dropping their hours or dropping out of the workforce because of the burnout associated with being “always-on” and juggling multiple responsibilities during the pandemic. BBC Worklife.

As the McKinsey report shows, companies are stepping up, but many don’t address the underlying causes of stress and burnout—the childcare crisis and a need for flexible working at all levels of work. We still have outdated views of women in the workplace and see child giving as a female function, and care work is still low paid and undervalued.

Companies can do more—childcare subsidies should be the norm, not a job perk – and employers that offer this will attract and retain top talent. People give more and are loyal to employers when they feel valued and cared for.


The advice 🤔

Path For Life

I heard Jeanette Bronée talking about burnout and self-care in the workplace. She is a workplace wellbeing strategist and on a mission to make self-care part of business culture. She is hugely passionate about her work and what she said resonated with me.

Self-care is an essential skill in the future of work. Burnout is probably the most disruptive issue that we have to deal with in work culture, yet we don’t really know what to do. We’re focusing too much on the symptom of burnout rather than looking at the root cause.

I had burned out twice by the time I was 40 years old. And to no surprise. I was young, ambitious, and I expected my body to be there for me.

And she’s not alone. 7 out of 10 millennials burn out before they’re 40.

We need to foster the mindset that burnout is a work company problem to fix, not an individual issue.

The future of work requires us to change the way we think about performance and productivity. Even though time is our greatest challenge, health is the foundation for peak performance that can transform the workplace from a burnout culture running on stress and survival mode to a culture driven by care, purpose, focus and engagement.

‘Self-care is not for after-work’ – find ways to give yourself microdoses during the day. And it’s not about ploughing on: ‘We need to redefine resilience with Covid – it doesn’t mean to keep pushing through, it means to be supported.’

It’s time to rethink work culture – burnout culture is not working. And a warning that we may be heading to another version of it virtually – the next burnout – if we don’t get the balance right now.

Self-care can’t wait. As the last year of the pandemic has shown, the world is speeding up, but we’re not robots – our bodies are still running on the same system.

We think of self-care for when we make it, but we’ll make it faster if we practice self-care. It’s a choice. We can hustle because we practice self-care.

We can be successful and healthy; it shouldn’t be a choice between the two.

And there’s a direct link between individual self-care and the health of an organisation.

Someone said: ‘If I want to suffer, I’ll go back to being an employee in the corporate world.’ 

That makes me sad. Is this the world we want to bring our kids into?

More resources on Jeanette’s website, Path for Life, and she’ll be speaking about how we can fix work at the Self-employed Summit on April 12 & 13. 

Here are some practical things you can do to help prevent burnout and be your best. Thanks to Jeanette Bronée, Nilufar Ahmed, The Worldwide Association of Women Journalists & Writers, and the Society of Freelance Journalists – excellent events this week on mental health.

There’s a lot of help out there. 🙏

On work routine: 

• Start with the basics – create a work schedule that integrates basic care, water, food, sleep and have structured work hours during the day.

• Fake commute: We need physical movement to prepare our brain and body for the next task. We need structure and separation. Build activity into your day. Try a standing desk. 

• Power Pause – check-in: where am I right now, and what do I need to be more focused and have more energy? Get into the habit of giving yourself microdoses of self-care during the day.

• Have a personal board of advisors – mates, colleagues – who will look out for you.

• Take a nap – it’s better to take a 10-minute nap than have a coffee as it calms you down. The Nap Ministry is on a mission to bring back the culture of napping. ‘We believe rest is a form of resistance and reparations.’ 

• Create a compliments folder – log every compliment you receive, including the date and who said it. Kudos – You’ll instantly feel better.

• Put your work stuff in a box and pack it away end of the day.

Tech is one of our biggest stressors: 

• Be mindful of your email use and keep ’em short and succinct. Respond to emails at set times and set an autoresponder.

• ‘The pandemic is sending our brains conflicting messages. With video calls, faces are within 50cm of us, and this tells our brain that these are close or intimate friends when instead they are colleagues or strangers. It’s tiring. Avoid back-to-back meetings – we need time to pee, hydrate, and reset our brains.’

• Work on one thing at a time. Close additional tabs on the browser, clear your desktop, turn off notifications.

• When did you last have a proper belly laugh? We forget to have fun at work – play music while replying to emails.

• Make time in the day for casual chat that isn’t work-related – have a virtual lunch and use tech in different ways. 

What can you do differently from tomorrow? 


Go deeper 🛠

💡 The Maslach Burnout Inventory™️ – take the test.

🕵🏻‍♀️ The Self-investigation – A free online stress management and digital wellness program from Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Mar Cabra, Kim Brice, and Aldara Martitegui. 

🎧 Managing Burnout – Women at Work podcast, Harvard Business Review with Mandy O’Neill, an expert on workplace wellbeing. When was the last time you had a proper belly laugh? Great discussion. 

💻 Path for Life, Jeanette Bronée – Resources for people and companies to achieve better work-life quality. Jeanette is speaking at the Self-employed Summit on April 12 & 13. 

📚 Can’t Even: How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation by Anne Helen Petersen. Loving her newsletter, Culture Study – Imagine Your Flexible Office Work Future, and looking forward to her new book on the future of work.


Welcome to my bookshop! 📚

I’ll be sharing books in my bag and recommended reads on Bookshop.org. They pay a 10% commission on every sale and give a matching 10% to local bookstores, an integral part of our culture and communities. I would be over the moon if you buy something every now and then here.


Work with me 🙋🏻‍♀️

Leopard print, always. Worry less and rock a red lip. Remote work evangelist, problem solver, internet person.

💡 Something you want me to write about? Leave a comment or email nicci@niccitalbot.io

☕️  Tips & large bank transfers welcome

📩 Subscribe to The Shift here

👋 Join the Copy Club, 6 pm GMT, every Saturday on Clubhouse

Categories
future of work remote working Social media technology

#40: A World Without Email

A World Without Email Reimagining Work in the Age of Overload (or the hyperactive hive mind

Email is making us miserable. By trying to be more efficient, we’ve accidentally deployed an inhumane way to work.

Cal Newport

Thinking big 💡

I have a love-hate relation with email. Love the convenience of it as a messaging tool but hate stuff piling up and having to go through it all. 

6083 in my personal Gmail account 😱 

Over half the world population uses email in 2021. The total number of business and personal emails sent and received per day will exceed 319 billion in 2021 and is forecast to grow to over 376 billion by 2025. Despite the growth of chat apps, we still use email, and you need an email address for most online activity. I spend most of my day in work inboxes – it’s where the magic happens – sign off, editing, documents because it’s faster and in real-time—the ping-pong game…like a slot machine. 

The overall feeling is low-level anxiety like my work is never done.

  • We check our emails every six minutes 
  • Knowledge workers receive and send an average of 126 emails every day 
  • We spend an average of three hours a day on email

A growing body of research on the effect of email suggests banning or putting restrictions on email can dramatically increase individual productivity and reduce stress. Companies have also taken action to reverse the trend. Thierry Breton, CEO of the French information tech company, Atos Origin, noticed his employees were distracted by constant emails, so he took steps to eliminate what he saw as adverse effects on productivity. In 2011, he announced he was banning email and wanted Atos to be a ‘zero email company within three years. 

We are producing data on a massive scale that is fast polluting our working environments and also encroaching into our personal lives. We are taking action now to reverse this trend, just as organisations took measures to reduce environmental pollution after the industrial revolution.

Thierry Breton, CEO, Atos Origin

The solution was not to ban electronic communication outright for over 70,000 employees; instead, they built a social network organised around 7,500 open communities working on collaborative projects. Atos hasn’t got rid of email entirely but reduced it by 60%, increasing their margins and reducing administrative costs. 

The movement to protect leisure time is gaining ground. The EU parliament voted massively in favour last month of a resolution calling on the European Commission to propose a law allowing digital workers the ‘right to disconnect’ outside of work to reduce burnout. Research shows people who work from home are more than twice as likely to surpass the maximum of 48 working hours per week. And we’re putting in more hours since Covid – two a day on average.

A World Without Email: Reimagining Work in the Age of Overload

Penguin Books

Last Friday, The New Yorker published an excerpt from Cal Newport’s new book, A World Without Email. Cal, aka Mr Deep Work, is a Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University and the New York Times Bestselling author of seven books. 

The chapter focuses on an aspect of overload culture that isn’t talked about much – that email is making us miserable. The more time we spend emailing, the less happy and more stressed we become. What makes this a game-changer is that Cal is putting the onus on companies to make top-down changes rather than focusing on the individual as per earlier books. As Peter Drucker said back in the 70s, knowledge workers are autonomous, but only to a point.

As a freelancer, you can create your own systems and habits to manage information, but it’s not going to make much difference if your clients don’t work in the same way. 

The hyperactive hivemind 

Our workplaces are set up for convenience, not for getting the best out of us. We must be switched on to multitask with knowledge work, which doesn’t fit in with creative, deep thinking. Neuroscientists tell us our attention is single-tasked, and it’s not productive to switch from one task to another. This is making us miserable. 

It mismatches with the social circuits in our brain. It makes us feel bad that someone is waiting for us to reply to them. It makes us anxious.

Cal Newport

Cal describes this workstyle as the ‘hyperactive hivemind’ based around unstructured communications via email and IM and meetings that dominate our day. Email is fine for short communications as intended, but it’s a terrible knowledge management system. 

How do we tackle the hivemind and do our best work?

Cal says we need a more linear approach to workflow. Doing one task at a time to allow the brain to switch contexts – with fewer interruptions from email & IM. One study found (via BBC Worklifeon average, it takes us 23 minutes and 15 seconds to regain a deep focus after an interruption

We can learn a lot from how software engineers operate – extreme programming, Scrum & Agile methodologies. Working on one product for a period of time and giving it your whole focus. A more intense, shorter day of deep work with no ad hoc tasks works better with how our brain operates. Try applying Sprint methodology to your creative work – pitches, ideas. 

Work on the productivity of the knowledge worker has barely begun. Globally, the world has more than 1 billion knowledge workers, so we’re well overdue for a rethink & revolution.

It’s coming!!

The next five years will see an insane amount of change and we’ll be embarrassed that we opted for ease over efficiency with email. There’s a lot of interest in getting rid of the hyperactive hivemind to produce higher quality products and services because money and productivity are on the line.

Companies that require their workers to be ever wired and working on multiple tasks will fall behind companies that prioritise more in-depth, slow creative work.

It’s a radical and bold vision – a world without email – that could make you happier and more productive. As Caroline Sauvajol-Rialland, the author of Infobesity, says, information overload is a cultural crisis.

There’s this great challenge of lundimanche that we must tackle, – the French portmanteau word for the blurring of Sunday into Monday. 

Caroline Sauvajol-Rialland

It’s time to change how we communicate at work. 

The advice 🤔

  • Use Calendly instead of emails to arrange meetings to reduce the back-and-forth comms.
  • Use shared project management tools like Trello, Dropbox or Flow to organise tasks and share links so your team know what you’re working on, can see status updates and add comments – it reduces the pressure on your inbox. 
  • Basecamp has ‘Office Hours’ – if someone has a technical question for a given expert, he or she can’t shoot an email and has to wait until the expert’s next office hours to ask a question.
  • Get rid of personal email addresses and have a team/project email so everyone can respond. 
  • Try Scrum/Agile methodology – combines working in intense sprints (1-4-week projects) with daily 15-minute standing meetings to get things done. Everyone gets a chance to speak and ask for help. Pin coloured notes to a board to show commitments, so there’s no ambiguity.

If it works for 12+ million software developers…

Go deeper 🕵🏻‍♀️

🎧 The James Altucher Show – A World Without Email with Cal Newport.

💻 The New Yorker: Email is Making Us Miserable and The Rise and Fall of Getting Things Done.

📹 LinkedIn Live: Journey Further Book Club with Cal Newport – A World Without Email, March 16. 

📚 Under New Management by David Burkus – the companies outlawing or at least restricting email and getting more done.

🎤 National Union of Journalists event, March 8 – a chat with John Crowley, co-author of the Journalism in Time of Covid survey, on freelancing and mental health.

Guests welcome – email me!! if you’d like to come.  

Categories
future of work remote working technology

The future of work after Covid19 — get ready for big changes

McKinsey: Almost all new jobs will be higher paying after Covid, and many lower-paid workers will have to change careers. More focus on skills than job titles. Periodically reinvent yourself. Be a worker-learner.

Thinking big 💡

According to new research from McKinsey, the way you work post-pandemic will look very different from how you do it now. 152 pages of data-driven insights exploring the long-term impact of Covid on eight economies. What geographies will shift? Which industries will lose jobs, and what will expand?

I’ve read it all, so you don’t have to. I tripped over a paving stone out running and landed on my wrist. Aaaggghhh!! I haven’t been able to do much but read. I’ve combed through the exciting bits for independent workers, women, and working parents.

Ambition is hibernating, and people are sheltering in jobs.

Grateful to have a paycheque, too knackered to job hunt and staying put while the economy is slow. A large group (mostly white) in steady jobs. A smaller group (mostly black, Hispanic) are taking action, upskilling and looking to switch jobs. They have a strong desire to step up and go their own way. “I can do better if I set up my own business.” I’m seeing a lot of this on Clubhouse.

Remote work + virtual meetings

72% of companies are planning hybrid work post-pandemic and reimagining how work gets done. They’ve realised people enjoy having more time at home and are just as productive, if not more.

People are spending a lot of time on their computers by themselves, and that can be done from anywhere.

The UK has the highest potential amongst eight countries for remote work as business & financial services and computer-based office work represent a large share of its economy. Things we’re struggling to do remotely — making critical decisions, negotiation, onboarding, brainstorming and innovation.

How will offices change?

Office vacancy rates are increasing dramatically worldwide. If 20–30% of the workforce are working at home, companies will reduce their office footprint and set up satellite offices over time. They can broaden their talent pool and have a more diverse workforce in different places. Smaller cities and rural areas are coming up with incentives to attract remote workers. Tulsa, Oklahoma, offers those who relocate for at least a year $10,000 and access to co-working spaces. Hawaii has its Movers and Shakers programme, attracting remote workers with free airfare, discounted hotel rooms, and co-working spaces (some volunteer work required).

I’ve heard real estate experts talking on Clubhouse about the rise of co-working spaces with childcare facilities. Companies can also hit their climate change goals as “20% of business travel may never return” to be replaced by virtual meetings and conferences. After the 2008 crash, business travel took five years to recover compared to two years for leisure tourism.

Acceleration of automation and digital technologies

There’s a shift to digital channels, online apps and robotics. Amazon has added over 400,000 employees worldwide (warehouse workers, engineers & more) and grew its workforce by 50% in 2020 to meet online services’ demand.

Periodically reinvent yourself. Be a worker-learner

We’re seeing changes in hiring practices, focusing on skills, not academic degrees, which means increased diversity. Google, Hilton Hotels, Ernst & Young, & IBM have removed degree requirements from job postings to focus on skills. The importance of having a secondary skill — apprenticeships, coding boot camps. Plan on your career being varied — portfolio working, income diversity, & mentorship. “Periodically reinvent yourself.” Be a worker-learner and follow the markets — tech, pharma & business services are booming.

In Europe and the US, workers with less than a college degree, members of ethnic minority groups, and women are more likely to need to change occupations after Covid-19 than before.

Freelancers & contractors are ahead of the game as we’ve been doing remote project-based work for years — it feels like the rest of the world is finally catching up. The challenge is taking time off to invest in yourself, paying for training, and keeping it all going with no sick pay, holiday pay, and expensive childcare. Women still do the bulk of unpaid domestic work — even more so during the pandemic. And we’re all working longer hours during lockdown.

I’m training to be a UX Writer — not much of a thing 10 years ago and now in demand and well paid. It’s different from copywriting and content writing — more niche and focused on user experience, psychology, & empathy. Helping and guiding people online rather than selling to them. UX is one area of tech where women are well represented. Interesting to speak to two journos at the UX Writers Conference who have moved into tech:

UX writers get high off of UX writing in a way that marketing copy won’t ever do for them. And passion makes for great work. Yael Ben-David, Fundbox.

If I can make a council meeting interesting as a journalist, I can be a technical writer. John Collins, Atlassian Design.

As the report says, we’re in an age of specialists over generalists. Let’s see if I get high on it 😉

Better policy support for indie workers

Some innovative ideas, including income support programmes for worker-learners, relocation assistance, training grants (I’ve had them from my trade union, not the government). Increased minimum wages, reformed taxation, better internet infrastructure in rural areas, a national platform based reskilling pass (learning for life) as they have in Singapore, India, & EU countries. And permanent policies like portable benefits allowing indie workers to work across gig platforms while getting medical services & other benefits.

Governments could also consider extending benefits and protections to independent workers working to build their skills and knowledge mid-career.

The pay-off will be a more talented, resilient and better-paid workforce. The SEISS grant gave the self-employed the same protection as employees for the first time and it makes sense for governments to offer more benefits for indie workers over the long-term. Businesses will be using our skills to adapt. In a survey of 800 executives, 70% said they will hire more freelancers, post-pandemic.

Jobs of the future

3D printing engineer, robot repair technician, algorithm bias checker, office disinfector, chief medical officer, chief fun officer (had one write to me this week), smart home designer…Will AI take over copywriting?

Let AI give your marketing team some relief, say Phrasee. We’ll take care of stuff like email subject lines, push notifications, and social media posts — with human oversight, of course — while your team handles the more interesting stuff.

We still need humour and empathy in customer service. Robots just aren’t built to care — yet!! I did the Guardian Book Club with Margaret Attwood talking about her 2003 book Oryx and Crake.

“Will you ever retire?”

Odd question to ask, why would she?

“Writers don’t retire.”

Oryx and Crake is the bigger picture and explores what will happen when the BIG pandemic hits and begins wiping out the human race.

Covid is a trial run, so get ready.

The advice 🤔

Economist Linda Scott on how cultural assumptions hold back women’s economic potential — and some practical solutions that could liberate us:

By far the most effective thing the whole world can do to help include women is to provide, universal, affordable, high quality childcare. And the benefits to this are so enormous, it would pay for itself. We don’t even fully analyse what the benefits are. It would definitely pay for itself, especially in the western counties, there’s no excuse for not having it. We’ve known we need it for 50 years.

And now in the pandemic, we’re seeing in a very large way what it’s costing women but we’re ignoring what it’s costing the economies. On average, women contribute just under 40% of GDP and that’s being left on the table, at a time when we need to recover. And that’s insane.All over nature, but particularly among primates, the mothers are the providers. This is what mothers do. And it’s what we should let them do that rather than trying to stop them in their path.

The Double-X Economy: The Epic Power of Empowering Women

Go deeper 🕵🏻‍♀️

💻 McKinsey: The future of work after Covid19 — the pandemic has accelerated existing remote work trends, e-commerce and automation, with up to 25% more workers than previously estimated needing to switch occupations.

🛠 Is the CV dying? (This is Money) — not entirely, but it’s becoming less relevant to skills-based testing. “I think the future is answering questions, video clips, portfolios and presenting reasons why you want to work for the company.”

🕵🏼‍♂️ This went viral on Twitter: Chris Herd spoke to 2,000 companies over the last 12 months about their plans for remote work going forward.

🚘 Gig economy Uber drivers are ‘workers’ — what’s it mean for you? Analysis from the National Union of Journalists London Freelance team.

👩‍💻 How to manage a remote team — free training (starts this weekend) from Gitlab’s Head of Remote, Darren Murph and Jessica Reeder.

💪 TUC Women’s Conference ’21, 3–4 March. Inspirational speakers, thought-provoking discussions and engaging workshops. Tackling the issues affecting women at work. Book your free place.

I’ll be there!

Welcome to my bookshop! 📚

I’ll be sharing books in my bag and recommended reads on Bookshop.org. They pay a 10% commission on every sale and give a matching 10% to local bookstores, an integral part of our culture and communities. Check it out here.

Work with me 🙋🏻‍♀️

Leopard print, always. Worry less and rock a red lip. Remote work evangelist, problem solver, internet person.

💡 Something you want me to write about? Leave a comment or email nicci@niccitalbot.io

☕️ Tips & large bank transfers welcome

📩 Subscribe to The Shift here

👋 Join Copy Club, 6 pm GMT, every Saturday on Clubhouse

Categories
Creator economy Cryptocurrency future of work

#39: Fancy minting some art?

How creators can monetise using NFTs

You can’t move on Clubhouse for people talking about NFTs, the latest crypto craze set to disrupt the art world. So WTF are NFTs, and why should you care about them?

Thinking big💡

Last week, Sotherby’s CEO Charles Stewart was part of a 90-minute chat with CEOs, founders, crypto lovers and artists talking excitedly about NFTs (non-fungible tokens) — unique digital content represented as tokens — that are bringing cryptocurrency to the masses. There’s lots of speculation about how they might revolutionise the art world and how creators can use them to make money from their digital work. The general vibe is critical of the elite art world, and hopeful the crypto art revolution might change things.

NFTs first came onto the scene in 2017 when Dapper Labs’ game CryptoKitties dominated the Ethereum network, with people spending over $1 million buying virtual cats. A cool way for people to get started on the platform.

Lately, the NFT market has exploded, with the estimated value of crypto art at $182 million according to cryptoart.io/data, and this is just a fraction of the NFT ecosystem. The NFT Report 2020 shows $250 million worth of sales (art, collectables, metaverses, utility, sports, gaming). Metaverses have the lion’s share — collective virtual reality spaces. If we can’t get out, we’ll build a parallel universe to live in and find community! Nifty Gateway, SuperRare, Zora, and Foundation are leading platforms for creatives to monetise their digital artwork. Most of the press coverage focuses on the commercial side and big money exchanging hands, but many smaller transactions are happening — it’s a growing movement.

  • Last month net artist Beeple sold a piece of NFT artwork, CROSSROADS, for $6.6 million via Nifty Gateway ahead of the Christie’s auction of Everydays: The First 5000 Days — a monumental collage and the first purely digital artwork to come to auction. Current bid: USD $3 million with 10 days left to go.
  • Chris Torres created a rainbow-streaming animation of Nyan Cat based on his cat, which sold for 300 ETH, $454,974,00 on Foundation.
  • According to its creator Dapper Labs, the NBA Top Shot collectable crypto product has generated over $230 in gross sales. A Le Bron Jones clip from 2019 sold for $208,000.I’ve been down the crypto rabbit hole this week to try and get my head around NFTs to see what I can do with them.

Good overview here from Katie Haun, a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, on the Dark Web, Gangs, Investigating Bitcoin, and The New Magic of “Nifties” (NFT), and blockchain trends to watch over the next 3–5 years…

WTF are NFTs?

NFTs (Non-fungible tokens) are unique digital items that can be owned and traded online. They make it possible for creators to keep ownership of their content without limiting the sharing of files across the net — giving creators an alternative to social media platform-driven monetisation. While most cryptocurrency is fungible — one bitcoin is worth the same as another, NFTs are non-fungible — like humans and unique on the blockchain so collectable (digital scarcity). You can own a piece of digital art and sell it like traditional art, and it’s trackable on the blockchain.

What’s cool is that if you sell a piece of work, the artist gets a cut of future transactions — no intermediary is taking an amount — it’s a direct relationship between artist and buyer — a shift towards the ownership economy, which empowers the creator.

Are NFTs the future of art or a fad? I don’t know, but it feels like we’re on the verge of something big — the money exchanging hands is mind-boggling, and the art world is ripe for disruption. As books have gone digital with Kindle & Audible and music and film with Netflix & Spotify, it makes sense that artwork and physical collectables will follow the same trajectory. We know the case use today for NFTs but not tomorrow. What future transactions will come? The launch of the iPhone in 2007 has led to Uber, ride-sharing, and the gig economy.

Beeple sells NFTs that represent his EVERYDAYS with a digital frame as a physical representation of the NFT and will give collectors a spot on his site to post a message.

Crypto trends over the next 3–5 years

  • Mobile payments will be huge — Celo.org is a mobile-first Defi open-source platform built on blockchain. You can transfer money on your mobile, and you don’t need a bank account
  • Content creators — Rally.io Creator Coin (one of Andreessen Horowitz’ products) Create your own branded cryptocurrency, sell your work and provide community benefits and incentives for your followers
  • Countries creating cryptocurrencies — China has made a payment system known as Digital Currency Electronic Payment (DCEP), a digital version of China’s official currency, the yuan, which crypto pioneer Chandler Guo believes will become the dominant global currency

How Creators can use Crypto — Rally’s Creator Coin

Last week, I was in a room with @Mvellank, the co-founder of Rally.io, talking about their new Creator Coin and how NFTs are a viable path for creators to sell work and build community. They aim to give you the tools to create a virtual economy to extend your brand while providing community benefits & incentives for your fans — a tokenised economy. They’ve built a business model that “transcends the big tech platforms” to support the creator.

Someone in the room mentioned ArtCoins as another example of e-commerce innovation — a new digital cryptocurrency based on smart contracts and used for art trading, exhibition fees, curation rewards, art dividends, art profits & more.

Blockchain is hugely exciting, and it’s great to see it used to help artists and creators monetise digital work and reach a new audience globally. What excites me, though, is how we can use it as a force for change — as with Celo’s mobile wallet — to empower children and adults in developing countries to create work and sell it online as a means to pay for education rather than doing manual labour. CryptoWendy is keeping it real and has lots to say on this subject. She has put her daughter’s savings into Bitcoin and got into it as a peaceful protest against inequality.

Bitcoin was created by the people for the people and born out of the 2008 economic crash as a new kind of money. I expect we’ll see something similar with NFTs post-pandemic. They have made crypto more accessible for people and given power back to the creatives. As Jessie Walden says:

NFTs will become the port of entry to all internet media because everyone involved can make more money from the markets they enable.

Mark Cuban says digital assets are the future of business, and Chandler Guo, the crypto pioneer, believes digital currencies represent the future of money.

The downsides of NFTs are the network fees or ‘gas’, which can fluctuate and make it expensive to trade, and most NFTs live on the Ethereum blockchain, which has a huge carbon footprint. Companies are working on it and we’ll see solutions. We might have to have energy inefficiencies now to push the boundaries, build a new art world, and solve real-world problems if we can.

As remote work becomes the norm, we’re going to be looking for virtual spaces and experiences offering richer, intense and diverse social interactions — places to learn and grow together with people who have similar interests. NFTs are a gateway…

Everydays: The First 5000 Days — what a project! Beeple has created a piece of digital artwork every day for the last 13 ½ years. Imagine the level of detail! I need to psychologically prepare myself for that — it feels a bit like Hieronymus Bosch for the digital world. Great to see the evolution of his career — recurrent themes include our obsession with and fear of technology, the desire for and resentment of wealth, and America’s recent political turbulence.

Isn’t it amazing that we can create something at home, sell it online and get paid instantly — all without leaving the house. 🙏

The advice 🤔

Sacred Economics traces the history of money from ancient gift economies to modern capitalism, revealing how the money system has contributed to alienation, competition, and scarcity, destroyed community, and necessitated endless growth.

If there’s no gift, there’s no community. Charles Eisenstein.

Go deeper 🕵🏻‍♀️

🎧 Katie Hawn on the Dark Web, gangs, investigation Bitcoin and the new magic of Nifties (NFTs) — on the sofa with Tim Ferris.

💻 Jessie Walden — NFTs make the internet ownable — why crypto is becoming the ‘port of entry’ for all internet media.

📹 CryptoWendy says of Bitcoin, Polkadot, and NFTs in 2021 and talks to her family about financial literacy.

📖 Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein — Money, gift and society in the age of transition. A gift for you to read online here.

💰 Rally’s Creator Coin: How it works & how to apply.

🎞 One to watch tonight: Ready Player One — the world is a wasteland where people find salvation within virtual reality.

Welcome to my bookshop! 📚

I’ll be sharing books in my bag and recommended reads on Bookshop.org. They pay a 10% commission on every sale and give a matching 10% to local bookstores, an integral part of our culture and communities. Check it out here.

Work with me 🙋🏻‍♀️

Leopard print, always. Worry less and rock a red lip. Remote work evangelist, problem solver, internet person.

💡 Something you want me to write about? Leave a comment or email nicci@niccitalbot.io

☕️ Tips & large bank transfers welcome

📩 Subscribe to The Shift here

👋 Join Copy Club, 6 pm GMT, every Saturday on Clubhouse

Categories
future of work remote working technology

#37: Spotify’s Work-From-Anywhere Program; The Future of Remote Work on Big City Salaries

Thinking Big 💡

Last week, Spotify launched its new Work-From-Anywhere program, which allows its 5,584 (2020) employees to work ‘wherever they do their best thinking and creating’. They can choose to work in the office, remotely or in a co-working space that the company will pay for, and have to commit to one option for a year.

Spotify is following similar moves by other tech companies but will continue to pay San Francisco and New York salaries based on the type of job, unlike Facebook and Twitter who have said that salaries could be adjusted to align with the cost of living – i.e. potential pay cuts for those who move away from HQ. Location-based pay seems counterproductive and will damage morale. Does it matter where people are living if they are expected to deliver similar results?

Here’s Travis Robinson, Spotify’s Global Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging, on the thinking behind the decision and how it will help promote work-life integration, happiness and inclusion (Business Insider).

This is an opportunity to shape the idea that big cities are the only places where meaningful work can happen because we know first-hand that isn’t true. We want employees to come as they are, whatever they are and whatever their cities are.

He also says it will promote pay equity, which location-based pay could damage.

It’s a smart move and having a global, diverse workforce will improve their bottom line. Better quality, original content and experiences will appeal to more cultures and grow their subscriber base. Spotify is the most popular audio streaming subscription service with 345m users, including 155m subscribers, across 93 markets.

Thoughtful leadership too. Offering to pay for co-working space shows they recognise not everyone can or wants to work from home full time. It’s having the freedom to choose your #workstyle, as Hoxby puts it, which means Spotify will continue to attract the best talent.

It also challenges the leadership team to improve their communication skills, collaboration practices, processes and tools to keep innovating. They seem to have found a way to marry European and American mindsets – taking the best from both cultures to create a new kind of workplace. I’m curious to see how they manage the challenge of a hybrid workforce and develop their culture going forward. If you’re working there, please get in touch.

Spotify’s CEO and Founder Daniel Ek is also investing one billion EUR of his personal resources to enable an ecosystem of builders who can build a new European dream – more super companies – the first ‘Silicon Valley’ in Europe?

I’ll be looking to fund so-called moonshots — focusing on the deep technology necessary to make a significant positive dent and work with scientists, entrepreneurs, investors and governments to do so. (The Observer Effect).

More on their Dynamic Workplace effort.


Welcome to Texas, Elon Musk. You don’t have to move to Austin

What happens to the local housing market if we have a dual economy of expats and locals with the former being paid higher salaries? House prices rocket, tension builds, and creatives move out as they can no longer afford to live there. Over the last 20 years the population has doubled in Austin, TX – ‘the new Silicon Valley’ where the average home sells in nine days. A brief history of Austin’s ‘Don’t move here’ t-shirts.

Last month Elon Musk announced he was relocating to the Lone Star state, but which of their tech hubs is the best fit? The odds-on favourite: Austin.


The advice 🤔

On being in the flow and preserving start-up energy in a big company:

How do you get that vibe and retain it when you’re a large company? you need to create a space where ideas can flourish, and risks can be taken – where serendipity can take place. You have to remove all the barriers to this.

I call people when I’m inspired by something and throw out lots of different ideas. Again, nine times out of 10, what I say is completely worth shit. But every now and then, I come up with something that’s super relevant for someone; something that changes how they look at an issue. This can lead to super interesting breakthroughs.

On ‘algotorial’:

It’s a tension to talk about editorial versus algorithms. Internally we call this “algotorial.” We think that it’s quite beautiful to marry both. This is the beauty of editorial and algorithms working together; we as a company want to always ensure that we are not only shaping culture but also reflecting it.

Daniel Ek, Spotify’s CEO & Founder. (The Observer Effect)

Go deeper 🕵🏻‍♀️

👩‍💻 On the future of remote working on big city salaries – some examples of what companies are doing as they take a global approach to hiring and remote culture. (Digiday)

💰 Should you get paid based on where you live? Interesting research shows location-based pay scales can weaken the morale of both lower and higher-paid staff, diminish productivity and increase turnover. (BBC Worklife)

🎧 Daniel Ek on habits, systems, and mental modes for top performance (Tim Ferris’ podcast)

⌚️ Ever wondered why a simple meeting can throw your whole day? Here’s a brilliant explanation of the Maker’s Schedule vs the Manager’s Schedule by Paul Graham. If we can understand the differences between the two types of schedule (manager vs freelancer, corporate vs start-up), it can help resolve the conflict. No more death by Zoom…

Pass it on!


Welcome to my bookshop! 📚

I’ll be sharing books in my bag and recommended reads on Bookshop.org. They pay a 10% commission on every sale and give a matching 10% to local bookstores, an integral part of our culture and communities. Check it out here.


Work with me 🙋🏻‍♀️

Leopard print, always. Worry less and rock a red lip. Remote work evangelist, problem solver, internet person.

💡 Something you want me to check out? Leave a comment or email nicci@niccitalbot.io

☕️ Tips & large bank transfers welcome

📩 Subscribe to The Shift here

👋 Join Copy Club, 6 pm GMT every Saturday on Clubhouse