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
Creator economy journalism newsletters technology

🕵🏻‍♀️ #45: Substack: the Marketplace of Ideas

(and some great newsletter resources for you)

Interesting read from Ben Smith in The New York Times on the Substack debate. Media company vs tech platform, their editorial role (or not), the advances paid out by Substack Pro, and their biggest challenge: competitors like Ghost and Twitter/Revue.

The quote from John O’Nolan, Ghost CEO sums it up: Subscription newsletter publishing was ‘destined to be commoditized.’

The news is that Substack has signed up two high profile transgender writers – Danny and Grace Laverty so we have a household with two Substack incomes. A smart move, as it helps counter the backlash they’ve had from some writers who don’t want to share the platform with people who they said were anti-trans. It shows they want to be a platform for all – even those who criticise the company.

There’s been a media storm around Substack over the past year – about money, mostly (they are VC funded and valued at $650 million (Axios), the compatibility of VC funding and journalism, and the ethics of paying writers to join the platform. Why not? Authors get book advances, and we don’t bat an eyelid. And subscriptions are a much better deal for writers.

As Casey Newton said, Substack is taking up a lot of mindspace and has become a target for ‘a lot of people to project their anxieties.’

Substack has captivated an anxious industry because it embodies larger forces and contradictions. For one, the new media economy promises both to make some writers rich and to turn others into the content-creation equivalent of Uber drivers, even as journalists increasingly turn to labour unions to level out pay scales. – Ben Smith.

Some writers (a minority) are making big money on Substack – good for them. It’s inspiring to check the leaderboard and see what’s possible – it introduces a bit of friendly competition. They’ve built a following over time and bought their audiences with them.

But most (like me) are making money via support from readers, not paid advances. It’s a side hustle alongside their main job or freelance projects. It’s fun. I’m learning as I go, and it’s an opportunity to have a product and a platform. There’s no obligation to stay – I can take my work and publish it elsewhere.

Power to the creator 

The power shift has been happening for a while – Patreon CEO Jack Conte talks about it here. Substack isn’t creating it, but it’s part of it and riding the wave. There’s a cultural shift towards the creator economy, valuing good content and being willing to pay for it. David Lat calls it the ‘great reset’ of charging for content (we all need to get used to paying more for content!). And the fear is that it’s helping writers to discover their market value.

The genie is out of the bottle, and there’s no going back!

And it’s not legacy media vs Substack either – we have broad tastes, and there’s room for all types of media. I’m not paying for news on Substack; I’m getting opinion, analysis, and diverse views from people who may not fit the traditional media mould/niche, which is refreshing. Journalism is still largely a white, middle-class profession.

I am excited about Substack – it’s the biggest tech challenge in a while, and captures the spirit of early blogging with diverse views and a dose of reality. Columnist Heather Havrilesky is taking ‘Ask Polly’ from The New Yorker Magazine to Substack to ‘regain some of the indie spirit and sense of freedom that drew me to want to write online in the first place.’

As long as they keep adding value, supporting writers, and building community, I’ll stick around. It feels good to be part of a bigger mission.   

As a writer on the platform, the pain points are SEO – very important!! I’m giving away my Google juice. So I publish on my site first, tell Google I own the content and then share it to other platforms – Substack, Medium, and social media. And for those writers earning a living here, the 10% commission is a killer and needs to come down.

As a consumer, it’s expensive to subscribe to lots of newsletters – see this thread from Laura Hazard Owen. I can claim expenses if they are work-related, but I’d love to see more ‘bundling up’ newsletters in similar industries to offer value to readers. I’ve seen posts on Reddit asking if people are interested in joint subscriptions to split the cost.

Companies need to get in on the act, too – newsletter bundles would be a great perk for employees – fresh ideas and perspectives enhance workplace culture.


What are publishers doing to solve the ‘Substack problem’? 

  • The New York Times has bought columnist Paul Krugman’s free Substack to their platform.
  • @Choire is stepping down from the NYT Style desk and ‘taking on a new and exciting challenge, as a senior editor charged with a project to help expand our newsletter portfolio alongside Sam Dolnick and Adam Pasick.’
  • Vanity Fair meets Substack – former VF editor Jon Kelly is launching a new, private equity-backed publication. ‘Writers have been offered equity and a percentage of the subscription revenue they would generate.’

As Ben points out, the biggest threat to Substack isn’t politics amongst writers but another tech stack with a different (cheaper) model, e.g. Ghost, Twitter/Revue. Ghost is open-source and non-profit, which will appeal to many publishers.

They are aware of this and working hard on ‘brand Substack’. Good to see they’ve announced a $1 million initiative to support a new group of local news writers on the platform (non-famous writers ;-).

This is not a grants program, nor is it inspired by philanthropic intent. Our goal is to foster an effective business model for independent local news that provides ample room for growth.

There’s more to come. ‘We will make a large investment in a support program that includes initiatives related to healthcare, personal finance, editing, distribution, design, and coworking spaces.’ Which gives them the edge.

And writers will find creative solutions for siloed working and isolation. 💪

Today, eight writers with paid newsletters on tech and culture, including Casey Newton, Anne Helen Petersen, and Delia Cai, are launching Sidechannel –

‘A shared Discord server where our paid subscribers can meet, hang out, and participate in a vibrant daily conversation about tech, culture, and society.’

They have big plans – shared channels, jobs, networking, and Clubhouse-style chats where you can ask questions. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is their first guest tomorrow.

Let’s celebrate Substack’s success. Indie media is super important, as is diversity – we need more voices. Please support your favourite writers, artists, and musicians via Substack, Patreon, Podia, Soundcloud, and Stack Magazines – leave a tip or comment, share and like a post – a little goes a long way to help.

Self-publishing is a hard, lonely job 🎻

From the NYT comments:

In a media ecosystem where six companies own systems that deliver 90% of the news, indie platforms can only be a good thing.

Substack is filled with cancelled, edgy writers. It’s where Ernie Pyle, Hunter Thompson and Martha Gellhorn would be if they were alive and writing today.


Go deeper 🛠

✍️ Sovereign Writers and Substack (Stratechery) – Ben Thompson on ‘the fundamental issues about the Substack model specifically, and the shift to sovereign writers generally, that are being misunderstood.’

📬 Newsletters: The market is booming! (Marie Dollé). Mapping the newsletter ecosystem. ‘Creating content for and with your audience is exciting and crucial, especially when you realize that the community builder is the creator too!’ Brands, take note!

📣 You’ve Got Mail (Anna Wiener, The New Yorker) on the history of newsletters and embracing change: ‘Carving out new ways for writers to make money from their work is surely a good thing: the US lost 16,000 newsrooms jobs this year. I ❤️ Hayley Hahman’s comments on how writing her newsletter ‘Maybe Baby’ has made her reflect on how she measures success. 

👩‍🎨 Li Jin on the Passion Economy and the Future of Work (andreessen horowitz). ‘Gig work isn’t going anywhere—but there are now more ways to capitalize on creativity. This has huge implications for entrepreneurship and what we’ll think of as a ‘job’ in the future.’ 

And some newsletters resources for you 🤗

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
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

Categories
Creator economy future of work Social media technology

The Shift: #33

My first week on Clubhouse; 5 tips; their new ‘Creator Pilot Program’, nuggets.

The Big Idea 💡

Clubhouse 👋 – A buzzy, invite-only audio, social media app.

A new type of social product based on voice [that] allows people everywhere to talk, tell stories, develop ideas, deepen friendships, and meet interesting new people around the world.

In May 2020, it was valued at $100 million in beta despite having just 1,500 users. By December, it had 600,000 users. A cross between an audio version of Twitter threads, live podcasts and a party – the next step up for podcasts.

I’ve been on it every day this week and loving it. It’s fun, vibrant and organic – I learn something new every time I tune in. They’ve hosted events on the tech exodus from Silicon Valley, Covid-19 and the gut, a beginner’s guide to Cryptocurrency, the pros & cons of 5G, & live performance of Antigone.

I can see why it’s flying during lockdown. We’re desperate for human connection and conversation and something that’s not Zoom. You can give your eyes a rest and have it on in the background – great if you work alone.

There’s a room for every topic under the sun

Millionaires Answer Questions; Be a Real Estate Boss; Music Networking No Egos; The Power of Social Media; Tech Talks, Womxn in Business – it’s US-heavy right now but growing fast. One guy said he’d just finished hosting an 8-day property room (he sounded manic). There’s also celebrity talk shows, live music, stand-up comedy, speed dating, political discussion, and performances. The Lion King had a 5,000 audience, 41 cast members and narrators, profile pics changing the scenes – a great opportunity for the theatre industry. And a 30-day festival coming up…

I prefer smaller rooms as they’re more intimate and you get a chance to speak. The larger rooms have a very different energy, some are heavy sell, lots of egos & too many mods – who can choose who they want on stage. Rooms full of men have different energy to those led by women. I’m enjoying Relaxed Business Networking, every day at 10.30 am – we had a good chat this morning about financial planning for women. You can pitch your business, ask for help, build your network, mentor others, hear diverse perspectives.

Getting started on Clubhouse – 5 tips

1/ Do your bio. The top three lines are important as they come up in the search so use keywords and emojis related to your field. You can’t add links to your bio, but you can link Twitter and Instagram and respond to DMs there (they’re working on a chat function). People are finding ways to monetising their bios – Cash App, tip jar, CH tip sheets to get you on their mailing list…

Be wary of gurus and experts. I don’t think anyone’s a CH expert yet, not even the founders 😉

2/ Be strategic and intentional. What info do you want to receive? What do you want to be known for? You don’t need to get all your updates from one platform. Be selective in who/what you follow. Curate your space & who you follow for a better feed, and exit rooms that give you a bad vibe.

3/ Get stuck in. Raise your hand even when you don’t know what you’re going to say. Start a room (it can be open to all, your contacts or private). You need to host three rooms to apply for a club, and people have suggested applying for a club first as there’s a backlog.

4/ Join the Clubhouse Town Hall on Sundays, 5 pm GMT – updates, best practice, and ask the founders.

5/ Keep a notebook handy – audio is fast and fluid, you’ll want to write down names, contacts, books. I’ve heard so many nuggets this week, a thread below👇

Clubhouse ‘Creator Pilot Program’

Where’s the money at? Right now, we’re not paying to enter rooms which has democratised it, but this will change. CH has said they won’t monetise it via ads which is a smart move, but there are other options: ticketing, tips and subscriptions.

It will be a platform for content creators to make money. They are testing an invite-only ‘Creator Pilot Program’ with more than 40 CH influencers including regular meetings with one of the founders and early access to special tools. Interesting to read that several of the people in the pilot programme are in their 40s and 50s and may not have big followings on other platforms – “not the Gen Zers and millennials most people imagine when they think of influencers.”

It seems tech investors are warming to the idea that being a content creator is a legitimate form of business – analysis from tech reporter Taylor Lorenz.

I feel like something has palpably shifted in the past year among investors, and it seems like everyone is talking about the creator economy now and investing in creator tools. Li Jin, founder of Atelier, a V.C. firm investing in the influencer economy.

Creators are passionate and take their businesses seriously. Serving them is a good business strategy.

The murky world of moderation  

If they want to keep users happy, CH also needs to be a safe space that’s well moderated. What are they doing to tackle hate speech, racism, misogyny and trolling? Here’s Tatiana Estévez on the recent issues and harassment of Taylor Lorenz, and the challenges of setting up an effective moderation system that protects women & other marginalised groups.

I’ve been at the CH Town Hall and they are responsive to comments and adding to their to do list. According to their Community Guidelines, rooms are now being temporarily recorded so they can check complaints, and you can ban and report users.

Maybe have CH users vote someone on to the board to deal with data/privacy issues – for transparency and to show you are committed to users’ views. It would be a good way to demonstrate bottom-up leadership.


The beauty of Clubhouse is that it’s live and easy to use. Please don’t add too many features – I’m really not bothered about messaging on the app. Being able to hop off onto other platforms during an event is a strength and keeps it sticky.

Please take off the follower count! It’s about adding value, not how many followers you have.

Brand accounts and podcast recordings – seen ‘em! Not sure how they fit in but keep them separate.

Those who are hearing and visually impaired aren’t being catered for now – live transcription would help.

It will be interesting to see what happens over the next six months. There’s much talk about whether it will lose exclusivity if it gets too big. I don’t think so. It’s different from existing social platforms and serving a need: human connection. Business networking is changing. I’ve heard many people say they prefer online events as they’re more accessible & affordable. We may not want to go back to the travel and expense post-pandemic, so this will be super useful.

As Li Jin said, creator platforms flourish when they provide opportunity for anyone to grow and succeed.

Ps, they’re hiring (Android launching in March) – apply here.


Toolkit 🛠

💻 The Verge: The $100 million start-up is learning the hard way that content moderation comes first.

👩‍🎨 New York Times: How tech investors are embracing the creator economy.

🗺 SignalFire’s market map to give you a deep view of the creator ecosystem.

💡 Li Jin on building the middle class of the creator economy.


The Advice 💬

Clubhouse nuggets…

The quality of people on this app right now. The networking is fucking amazing. It’s helped me so much with my public speaking.

Focus on energetic exchanges rather than monetary. Seeing the wealth that comes from compassion over sales. Shifting the conversation from monetary seems critical.

The best thing about Clubhouse: Not getting a suntan from the fridge lights. Before, I was spending a lot of time in the fridge. Now I’m spending it on Clubhouse.

The first real app that allows true interactivity. It’s revolutionary for the way we speak to each other.

I heard some techies talking about future of CH, people will come on with different voices.

I’d describe Naples as Liverpool with a suntan. They are very similar cities.

The world is full of amazing people. Any single mums on here? Struggling? Give us your PayPal email, and we’ll transfer some cash.


Welcome to my bookshop! 📚

I’ll be sharing books in my bag and recommended reads on Bookshop.org here. They pay a 10% commission on every sale and give a matching 10% to local bookstores, an integral part of our culture and communities. Please spread the word and help support the high street.


Work with me 🙋🏻‍♀️

Leopard print, always. Worry less and rock a red lip. Internet person, global citizen, flâneuse, problem solver.

💡 Thoughts, ideas, feedback? Leave a comment or email nicci@niccitalbot.com.

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