Categories
communities Content Neuroscience

Building a buzzing (+ kind) community

This week: Community polyamory. Ness Labs’ success – how to build, grow and nurture your network; creating deeper connections; the evolution of digital behaviour; how the use of the internet is causing us to lose empathy; Freelance Business Month: the future of work as open talent.

Happy October! I’ve signed up for Sungod’s Strava challenge – runs or rides every Sunday in October to get as much daylight as possible before the clocks change on 31 October 😱

Excellent performance sunnies and a growing online community – a brand to watch.

Speaking of communities, I’ve been exploring as many as I can lately, and the one I keep coming back to is Ness Labs. It’s inspiring to see how Anne-Laure has built a buzzing, kind community and worth a look at why it works. Read her AMA with Product Hunt here.

Growing a newsletter and a website to 35K subscribers and 100K visitors per month in 2 years. AMA👇

Ness LabsEvidence-based content around productivity, creativity, mental health and knowledge management. 2K community members.

AL now has two full-time employees and hires freelance writers via Upwork. Her main source of revenue is sponsored interviews and paid memberships. She does a bit of 1:1 coaching but says that’s negligible. 

It’s interesting to see how she’s done it in a crowded space of personal development and productivity. Some thoughts on why it works…

Building a kind community 

  • A personal journey: Anne-Laure loves learning in public and shares her successes and failures openly. She’s active in the community with regular Q&As. I’m curious to follow her progress and happy to support a creator. Personal onboarding is a nice touch, and sharing content on a closed platform gives a sense of psychological safety. It’s interesting to see most people have their cameras on during workshops, which creates intimacy.
  • Great value for money: it’s ridiculously cheap compared to other online communities. I paid $35 to access a growing library of content and community. AL says the biggest surprise was people writing to her telling her to increase the price and gifting memberships. 
  • Values of kindness and pay it forward: People are engaged, generous and want to be seen, and it’s down to the topics she’s exploring – personal development, mental health and creativity. It’s not overly self-promotional – there have been a few posts lately from coaches, so she’s created a coaching directory/channel where they can promote their services at no extra charge.
  • Content-first approach: I like the Circle platform – it’s simple, easy to use, minimal friction. The focus is on high-quality content that’s easy to find. It’s organised by channel so you can follow your interests, contribute topics and connect with members.

    *Creator Spark* is a new space where members can host a talk or moderate a panel in a safe, supportive space (people said they felt shy about sharing their stuff). It’s a shame we’ve been conditioned to see sharing our work as boasting and bragging – it causes so many hangups. You have to get your work out there on different platforms: 50% writing, 50% marketing.

    Emotional and informational content works!
  • Online and offline meetups around the world. I’ve signed up for the London event on 18 October, so meeting some of the community in person will be interesting.
  • The zeitgeist – Ness Labs has grown organically during lockdown – we all need connection. It’s also tapping into the current mood – the great resignation, a power shift to the creator, working smarter, not harder, and mental health and burnout at work.

People have set up sub-groups on and off-platform – a sign of a healthy community. I’ve joined the Newsletter Mastermind – an active Twitter group and weekly Zoom.

My only criticism is there’s too much good content in the newsletter! I don’t have time to read all the articles in one go, so I bookmark stuff to come back to (my Pocket is sagging) This can be demotivating – sometimes less is more. I’m mindful of that with this newsletter and being respectful of people’s time.

What communities do you find useful – and how do you make the most of them? 

I carry a notebook around with me for ideas, quotes and things I’m curious about so I can build up a bank of content. I need to get ahead rather than writing last minute. Taking publishing breaks in August and at Xmas gives me time to catch up.

I love online communities but I need my local tribes too. I’m on a mission to turn Hastings into a tech hub. I left London 14 years ago – part of the second wave of regeneration and we have the third wave with the pandemic. It’s good to see new faces, startups and energy – I love all that. Hearing a few moans about how “it’s all gone too far” and property prices…


🔗🖐5 Things 

☁️ Rosie Sherry on how communities are cool again and everybody wants to own a (profitable) one. The tools exist to make it happen but it gets complicated, messy and fragmented pretty easily. I’m using WordPress and Substack and have held back on the community aspect for this reason. I don’t want to complicate things with more platforms. The best and most impactful communities are custom-built like Nomadlist – something we need to talk about more.

🌱 Building, Growing & Nurturing a Kind Community: Q&A with Anne-Laure from Ness Labs. Whether you run a community or are thinking of starting one, here are some solid community-building tips and strategies based on her experiences. Friendliness, the personal touch and psychological safety are important and interactive events that bring people together.

🕵🏻‍♀️ Tribes, Flocks, and Single Servings – the evolution of digital behaviour by Rahaf Harfoush. Nice work creating a visual framework to help her capture the spaces she’s tracking. The interesting bit is the overlap and changes that occur. Rahaf is my go-to for digital culture analysis – Hustle & Float is excellent.

🤔 How the internet is causing us to lose empathy by Eli Baum – written in 2014 but still super relevant – why are we not talking about this more in MSM? Empathy is valuable and the fact it’s declining is alarming – we need people skills, useful products and deeper connections. We can’t slow down tech but we can get the story out to promote change and be mindful of it in ourselves – do the EQ test.

👩‍💻 Freelance Business Month – the largest global event for freelancers. Talks on the future of freelancing, starting and growing your business, freelancing in Europe, the future of work as open talent and more. Learn new skills, speak, and connect with the community – founded by the amazing Elina Jutelyte who is totally on it and open to collaboration. Programme and registration here – there are a few free tickets left.

I’ll be there!

Nicci


I’m a digital writer studying UX and content design – a badass life path 🙂

My mission:

• Making delightful digital products that improve people’s lives.

• Bringing more humanity and creativity to business and technology.

• Solving your problems using better communications – data-driven writing and design thinking skills.

The Shift is my lab where I explore digital culture, creativity, mindful productivity and independent work. I have a ‘pay what you can’ model – you can buy me a coffee or make a regular contribution to support what I do via my Ko-fi page.

Want to talk? Find me online at Polywork, Twitter @niccitalbot or email nicci@niccitalbot.io.

Help me build a forest! To offset the carbon emissions of my online work, I plant 12 trees every month via Ecologi 🌱 🌳

Categories
childcare Creator economy remote working

The Shift: It’s (not) business as usual🤹🏻‍♀️

School’s out – but not for summer. Over 375,000 kids in the UK were sent home this week. 96% aren’t confirmed cases but only isolating as a precaution. We have a two-week shutdown here, so it’s back to homeschooling until 12 July.

My reality is at odds with what I’m seeing online about ‘business as usual’ and getting back to the office – it makes a mockery of it all. This is big stuff – exams cancelled, sports day and end of year events off – all a rite of passage for kids. There’s been a massive disruption to their education this year, and it’s time to call an end to the self-isolation madness.

Kids are struggling too – their lives have been turned upside down. There’s been a 40% increase in anti-depressants prescribed to under 17-year-olds. One of Julieta’s classmates jumped onto the train tracks on the way home and said he didn’t want to live anymore. They had to stop the train and call the police, and the school is organising therapy for the kids there. A friend’s 21-year-old son killed himself last month, and I’ve heard similar stories from others. 

The summer holidays are coming up, and many working parents rely on grandparents to help out with childcare. If the current vaccines are less able to protect against the Delta variant, that puts older people at risk. Grandparents aren’t a stress-free, low-cost solution for expensive childcare. 

Grazia has launched a campaign with the charity Pregnant Then Screwed, calling for an independent review of childcare in the UK. UK childcare is the 2nd most expensive in the world, over 35% of the average family income. 

The lack of accessible, affordable, well-funded childcare is perhaps the single biggest barrier to women’s career progress – and the Covid-19 pandemic, when women have had to shoulder the bulk of the extra care, has accelerated the problem into a mounting crisis. 

We have a massive brain drain – 50% of the working population. We’re not reinventing the wheel here – Scandinavian countries have good models we can work from.  

Childcare isn’t just a women’s issue.  

You can sign their petition, calling for an independent review of childcare funding and affordability, here. And tweet your MP using the link in this post.

Let’s keep the pressure on.


The five-hour workday 

I’m fortunate to work remotely and don’t need childcare anymore (a butler, yes), but I had years of it and support my sisters who do. I’m doing a double shift again – cooking, cleaning, making lunch. There’s a lot of context switching during the day, making it harder to focus and do deep work. I have a full-time project for the next two weeks, so I need to get my head down and minimise distractions. I have a plan!

Notifications Off! The Distraction-free Benefits of Five-Hour Work Days. Digital Enabler is the first company in Germany to implement a five-hour workday and say it’s been a resounding success. Taking this approach has led to a new company mission and revenue – they now do workplace strategy. ‘I still believe motivated employees will do the best job. Instead of counting work hours, we now count good work.’ This could be a good solution for working parents over the summer.

Let me know how you’re managing the juggle and if you’re working from anywhere interesting. My friend Rebecca is converting her shed into a ceramic studio for her side hustle. 

Big shoutout to all the winners, shortlisted, highly commended and nominated at the UK Freelance Writing Awards. Nicola Slawson judged two categories and said the breadth of talent was phenomenal. Many said they’d never been shortlisted before – just goes to show there’s something wrong with the industry, not the talent – we need opportunities and to celebrate good work more often. Check out the winners and their fab projects here 👏 🎉

Nicci 


Tools for thought 

👨🏽‍💻Anywhere Jobs: Reshaping the Geography of Work. A new report finds roughly one in five jobs in the UK, or 6 million jobs, can now be classified as ‘Anywhere Jobs’, with characteristics that mean they can be done remotely as efficiently or more efficiently than in normal office working. A big change that requires the government to develop a strategy. On average, companies took just 11 days to implement digital technology for remote work and collaboration (43x faster than predicted). Post-pandemic, larger firms are more likely to make labour a variable cost using additional freelancers and contractors. 

🤹🏻‍♂️Mental health for creators. There are 50 million content creators across social media platforms. The creator economy is changing how people earn and creating financial independence, but the rough side of the experience is burnout. It’s a unique job – you have to be authentic, open and posting regularly, and for most, it’s solo work. LinkedIn spoke to two creators to find out how they make it work. I told Julieta I’m going to try TikTok, and she gave me a withering look. ‘Just no. I’ll delete your account. It’s for teenagers, not middle-aged women.’ Cheeky bint. You know me. I like a challenge 🤗 

🏠The Work-from-Anywhere Index. A new study highlights the most attractive destinations for digital nomads in search of a new home, according to legislation and livability factors such as the weather, cost of living, and equality. Digital nomad and freelancer visas. I’m surprised to see London at number five – it’s great for work and socialising but too expensive to rent a property. Nomadlist has similar criteria and networking on the road. 

✍️Notes on Quentin Tarantino’s writing routine. Joe Rogan asked QT about his writing habits. Pre-2009 (his best work?), he described himself as ‘an amateur mad little writer’ who would work late at night in restaurants: ‘order some shit, drink a lot of coffee, and be there for four hours with all my shit laid out.’ He decided he wanted a more professional routine, so he now writes during the day – writes then floats – and says it’s become a really nice, enjoyable way to work. I agree – I write then run.

QT is the ultimate digital minimalist – he writes scripts by hand, hates smartphones and bans them on set, and he doesn’t use email – you have to call him on the landline and leave a message on the answerphone. 

🎧Susan David: The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage. On the tyranny of positivity and wellness, and how emotional suppression doesn’t work. How we deal with emotions shapes everything – our career, relationships, happiness, health. Brilliant talk and podcast. I did an exercise on letting go of stuff that’s not working and had a little cry. I broke up with my therapist this week, not easy to do but very empowering. 

We’ll be chatting about Susan’s book, Emotional Agility, at the Collective Shelf Club this month – check it out here.


The future of work is now

Let’s build it. The Shift is a newsletter about humans, technology and wellness. Rethinking how we live, work + play. Weeklyish curated tools for thought and ideas to share ✍️

Question or comment? nicci@niccitalbot.io
Enjoy the read? Share it on Twitter. Tip me: I run on caffeine and Amaretti biscuits 🇮🇹
Discover something new in my bookshop 

To offset the carbon emissions of this newsletter and my online work, I plant 12 trees every month via Ecologi. I encourage you to do the same in your country – here’s a list of climate action groups. There’s no time to waste 🌍

Categories
future of work remote working work culture

The Shift: Why you need a work wife 🤷‍♀️

A birthday card arrived yesterday from my second work wife – it’s 20 years since our first shift together at Wine Rack in Dulwich. She taught me the ropes, and we bonded over ‘cups of tea’ (you can’t recommend a wine to a customer unless you’ve tried it, a few times.) Eight-hour shifts, so we had plenty of time for deep conversations about everything. I thought she was super glam: tall and blonde in her sharp grey suits (she worked 9-5 in a Japanese bank), and she’d bring in baked fish for supper. 

She was my north star and confidante and made me feel at home in London. I enjoyed those shifts more than my ‘proper jobs’ because we had fun and I had a tribe and community. Whenever I drink wine, I think about our ‘cups of tea’, and when we chat, we pick up from where we let off, no dramas. I’m happy she’s still in my life. 

Are work wives or husbands a good idea? Academic research finds risks and benefits. Katie Heaney has written a history of the work spouse and says we need to lay the term to rest. ‘That we’ve adopted this language for co-workers reflects an overidentification with our workplaces, the result of a culture that recast workaholism as ambition and asked us to lean in and work smarter and stay hungry.’ 

But I’ve found them invaluable. My work wives have kept me sane, made me happier and mentally healthier. After the basics are covered, food and shelter, we need to belong. And they’re not confined to the workplace either. I have a coffee shop wife – the owner of a vegan cafe I’ve been going to since it opened in 2007. I’ve watched her build her business, mother her kids, survive a health crisis, split up with men, and keep going, always a smile on her face. She’s a huge inspiration.

I’m curious to know how you find meaningful friendships when working remotely and doing project work? And in a culture that’s focused on busyness and burnout, leaving even less time for socialising. How do you do it and avoid being a work widow? Elizabeth Uviebinené has some great ideas in her new book The Reset‘we need to ‘invest time in growing our local, work and digital communities.’ 

My current work wife is virtual – we met while freelancing for a client. She’s a graphic designer, photographer and digital marketer, so we’ve teamed up to offer a package for clients looking for digital comms. We’ve hired each other for little jobs and passed work on. She’s a brilliant friend and advisor and challenges me to get out of my comfort zone, i.e. charge more! It’s a friendship I treasure and mostly digital now as we’re no longer in the office. She’s a mum of three and living in a different town, so I go over there to co-work.

Working remotely with friends has its challenges – you have to be super clear on communication, deadlines, feedback, and money when you’re both bosses and mates. It’s new territory to explore, a different way of working, but no less exciting. Good team energy leads to great products and services.

I’m also starting from scratch in a new field of work, building connections and starting small with virtual coffees and Slack chats to try and find common ground. Sereena Abbassi, former Head of Diversity and Inclusion at M&C Saatchi, has some great ideas👇 on networking and mentoring – giving and adding value, so it’s a two-way street. 

I admire Sian Meades-Williams and Anna Codrea-Rado’s working relationship – they’re good mates who have set up the Freelance Writing Awards to celebrate and champion UK talent. They seem to have a lot of fun working together and have each other’s back—lots of banter and silliness on Twitter. The awards ceremony is on 30 June – you can see the shortlist and book your free ticket here.

Have a fabulous weekend. It’s my birthday so I’ll be having drinks later with another work wife – my old boss. Ten years on, and we’re still mates. I’ve even forgiven her for introducing me to my ex 😉 

Nicci


Tools for thought 

👨🏽‍💻 Freelance and microwork platforms not fair to workers (Irish Tech News) Oxford researchers have been looking into labour practices like ‘cloud work’ and found these platforms don’t provide minimum fairness standards for their workforce. A good benchmark if you’re using platforms to find work. The report is a call for better standards as poor practices aren’t visible online, and many lower-income countries won’t push back. You can join the Fair Work Pledge here

📵 Reddit/NoSurf: ‘A community of people focused on becoming more productive and wasting less time mindlessly surfing the internet.’ I love the no-surf activity list: a comprehensive list of awesome hobbies and activities to explore instead of mindlessly🏄🏻‍♀️ like cooking, writing, reading and dancing. What did we all do before smartphones? I’m delighted to find this little corner of the internet dedicated to digital wellness – please share! 

🎧 Sereena Abbassi on how building inclusion starts with empathy (Hive Learning) and using the arts to create a sense of togetherness through feeling. Tips on how you can build inclusion by interacting with people you wouldn’t normally. Know everybody’s name. Do someone else’s job for a day. On networking and how using co-working spaces helped her to avoid becoming ‘institutionalised’ at M&C Saatchi (same applies if you WFH home full time!)

🏢 The problem isn’t remote working; it’s clinging to office-based practices (The Guardian). Alexia Cambon on how maintaining this way of working in a remote environment is causing damage to employees. ‘We need to stop designing work around location and start designing work around human behaviour. Employees will work better, stay at their organisation longer and keep healthier if they are placed at the centre of work design – trust me; we have the data that proves it.’

🦅 The rise of ‘third workplaces (Axios). People aren’t working from the office, but they’re not working from home either. We’re seeing the rise of ‘third workplaces’ — teleworking spots in cafes, hotels, or co-working spaces where you can rent space by the hour. I’ve signed up with Flown, the Airbnb for teleworkers. Book yourself into a remote-work-ready property in the UK, Spain or Portugal. Plus virtual co-working and a library of deep work resources.

Just don’t curate your day too much 🤔 


The future of work is now

Let’s build it. The Shift is a newsletter about humans, technology and wellness. Rethinking how we live, work + play. Weekly curated tools for thought and ideas to share ✍️

Question or comment? nicci@niccitalbot.io
Enjoy the read? Share it on TwitterI run on caffeine and Amaretti biscuits 🇮🇹
My bookshop → recommended reads
Want to be featured? Book a Classified ad. I’d rather promote your products and services first.

To offset the carbon emissions of this newsletter and my online work, I plant 12 trees every month via Ecologi. I encourage you to do the same in your country – here’s a list of climate action groups 🌍

Categories
newsletters remote working The internet writing

1729: The first newsletter that pays you

Weekly curated tools for thought and ideas to share ✍️

I signed up to 1729.com this week, the first newsletter that pays you. Daily bitcoin bounties for completing paid tasks and tutorials with $1000+ in crypto prizes every day. It’s also a platform for distributing a new free book app called The Network State. 

Earn crypto, learn new skills and join a community of tech progressives. ‘That means people who are into cryptocurrencies, startup cities, mathematics, transhumanism, space travel, reversing ageing (bring it on!), and initially-crazy-seeming-but-technologically-feasible ideas,’ says the founder, Balaji – see his past work here. You can subscribe for updates and follow @oneseventwonine on Twitter. 

Truth, health and wealth 

Here’s how it differs from a regular newsletter or website. Firstly, it has tasks – e.g. the latest is to learn how to make a Discord bot with Replit for $100-$1000 in BTC. The first challenge posted in March was to set up a newsletter for tech progressives at your own domain to incentivise the decentralisation of media. They paid $100 BTC each for the 10 best sites. See the winners here.

Secondly, it has tutorials – bitesize learning with incentives to complete. Thirdly (love this!) a focus on digital health and the body. Startup culture can lead to burnout as we sacrifice health for business. This is false economy ‘because missing daily workouts is a physical debt that’s even harder to pay than technical debt, and fitness is as good for cognition as it is for health.’ So you can submit a proof-of-workout to earn a little crypto. Stay fit today and contribute to age reversal tomorrow. 

Fourth, it’s international and Indian to show how you build a global operation from an Indian base and expand to the rest of the world. Much as Silicon Valley started as ‘American’ and is now in the Cloud. They’ve named the project 1729 after Ramanujan, India’s greatest mathematician known for his contribution to number theory which underpins crypto. So exploring how we can use technology to help talent rise in developing countries around the world as Ramanujan did. 

Bootstrapping voices

It’s a global talent search to invest in diverse, unreported voices around the world. Enabling anyone with an internet connection to improve their knowledge and bank account through paid microtasks. Learning, earning and burning.

I like the ethos – earning recordable crypto credentials for completing and creating tasks, open-source education, and bootstrapping talent around the world. Balaji says he uses Twitter to hire people as you get a sense of their values and potential from their online content.

Imagine if we applied this process to job boards – rather than stating your skills, education or interest, you could prove it by gaining badges or rewards for mini tasks completed on a site. So you could log in and start working immediately. There’s also a focus on quality content – the tasks require some thought, time and writing skill – raising the value of online content to be on par with design.

Finally, building a ☁️ 👋 Cloud Community – a network of tech progressives interested in exploring things like startup cities, online communities, organising economies around remote work, enforcing laws with smart contracts, and simulating architecture in VR. A global, mobile social network with ‘digital bylaws, crowdfunding capability, a track record of collective bargaining on behalf of its members, and a numerically quantifiable level of social capital’.

It’s a step up from the organic online communities like subreddits and Facebook groups forming for the last 20 years. More on that here.  

It’s the most exciting media project I’ve come across lately. I love the ambition and focus on giving you content that strengthens rather than depletes you (clickbait, social media where there’s no reward for your posts, likes and shares). They’ve allocated enough money to fund a full year of daily tasks, and the goal is to build a scalable business and find individuals and companies that want to post sponsored projects for the community. 

Here’s Tim Ferris’ interview with Balaji about the project. It’s by far the longest podcast I’ve listened to (almost four hours!) but worth it. A deep dive into the future of media, founding vs inheriting (‘own a media company or be owned by one), podcasting, citizen journalism vs corporate journalism, and how the media scripts human beings. ‘If code scripts machines, media scripts human beings, even in ways we don’t fully appreciate.’ His point is that once we’re equal on distribution (a decentralised media), we can speak to each other as peers. 

I agree that journalism’s greatest blind spot is it draws from a limited pool of people with a similar background and class who can’t see the perspectives of people who aren’t like them, and it drives out people who don’t fit in. Is the answer radical decentralisation of media? Citizen journalism instead of corporate journalism – the notion that ‘everybody writes’ – drawing on local expertise, e.g. nurses writing about nursing, and writing as a duty rather than for-profit. But we’ll still need editors and proofreaders.

I want to build up those citizen journalists, those content creators. Second, I want to invest in a cumulative form of education, open-source education, where these folks are doing tutorials. So that people get paid for creating educational tasks others can do. Bootstrapping talent all over the world. Anywhere there’s a phone, there’s a job. 

It’s the digital native solution to education

Other ideas – if you want financial independence, you need to radically reduce your expenses. ‘Check Nomadlist or Teleport, do a spreadsheet and optimise your personal runway.’ (not easy for families to do this, but not impossible) – check out Reddit groups like r/leanfire and r/FIREUK (financial independence, retire early). Find a remote job that pays well and move to a cheaper location to stop the burn and save money over time, i.e. so you can work for a year and then take time out to pursue other things. 

How we’re going back to a hunter/gatherer way of life, but with technology. Relocation and digital nomadism will be huge – taking over from traditional tourism for long-term economic migration.

The best quality of life will actually be available to the digital nomad who has a minimum number of possessions, can pick up and move stakes at any point because mobility is leveraged against a state. 

New politics will form, and ways of self-governance that are network-based rather than state-based. How the virtual world dominates our lives, and the physical world comes second – something we’ve had a glimpse of over the last year with Covid, though not for everyone. Lots of emphasis on our virtual lives here, but we can’t underestimate the physical world. I understand the appeal of Miami as a startup city. We’re social beings and want to be around and work with like-minded peers.

If you’re constantly on the move as a nomad, you’ll struggle to maintain relationships and build community. And what about people getting left behind with technology?

Super interesting chat with lots of positive takeaways about building and shaping the future with a global vision, which he’s also exploring in his book. By changing the media narrative around big tech as evil and seeing technology as a force for good, we can work together across borders to solve problems. And all this work means A LOT of content creation – writing, podcasts, video so opportunities for creators everywhere to learn, earn and burn 💪

I’m excited to see where this goes – here’s to our decentralised and interconnected future.

It’s time we started funding community founders as well as company founders.

Interested? Sign up here.

– Nicci 


Goings-On(line) 

Projects + pieces from around the web.

🏙 The Network State – the Start of Startup Cities. Miami demonstrates that the era of startup cities is now underway. It was the first city to buy Bitcoin and put a BTC whitepaper on Miami.gov. What mayor Suarez has done is being studied by cities around the world. 

👨🏽‍💻 Remote work and the tech-enabled exit – where to live? And why? Doug Antin on the rise of the sovereign individual class and how freedom of movement will become a luxury good.

📬 Newsletter OS by Janel – a cross between an ebook, a project manager, a dashboard and a wiki. 130 resources to help you write, grow and learn with your writing.

🏝Work Travel Summit, 9-12 June. How to thrive in remote work and the new normal. Free 4-day virtual event for networking and learning.

✍️Open notes from this week’s Freelance Business for Writers event.

🎙Plumia’s Speaker Series, an ongoing series of public conversations with academics, policy-makers, and founders who are reimagining democracy and policy in the internet world.


Playlist of the week →


The future of work is now

Let’s build it. The Shift is a newsletter exploring remote work, internet culture, technology, creativity, and writing. If you enjoy the content, please share it with friends or on social media.

Work Better. Live Smarter. Be Happier 🙂

Question or comment? Email nicci@niccitalbot.io
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Categories
Creator economy future of work remote working writing

Geriatric Millennials + your digital body language 🤔

Ever heard of geriatric millennials? This Medium article explaining the term went viral last week and hit the headlines. It says kids born between 1980-85 are ‘best positioned to lead teams that will thrive in the hybrid workplace’. They spent their formative years on both sides of the analogue and digital divide, and have a crucial role in helping bridge the gap between ‘digital adaptors’ and ‘digital natives’. 

There was internet outrage – we like to fight about labels. Some people had fun with it, adding #geratricmillennial to their handle and asking about discounts. Others were offended by the term and suggested a name change. Can we have a sexier name? How about Elder Millennials or Xennials? I find that a bit sad. If we don’t like the term geriatric, we need to rethink how we view older people.  

Of course, labels are silly – a marketing ploy to put us in boxes and sell us stuff, but the argument she’s making is right. ‘The speed of technological adoption makes it wrong to see an entire generation (spanning almost a 20-year difference) as being the same.’ Geriatric Millennials straddle the digital-adapter-native divide and are often able to live in two worlds – they are comfortable with both communication styles. 

Age plays a partial role. We’re individuals – there are ‘Millennials’ who hate Zoom and love their phones and ‘Gen Xers’ like me who don’t answer calls and prefer texting and Slack. It shows the benefits of having a diverse team – we can all learn from each other. 

Anyway, great PR by Erica Dhawan, who wrote the article to promote her new book, Digital Body Language. She used a provocative term to spark conversation, identifies as a geriatric millennial and explains why they’re great. 

Erica spent over 10 years investigating, researching and finding new ways to encourage collaboration and communication at work. She grew up as an immigrant in America – caught between two cultures, and says we’re all digital immigrants now. She wanted to write ‘a nuts and bolts rulebook for clear communication in the digital age. Our shiny new tools are causing issues, and most of us speak badly in this world.’ 

I’ve been listening to the audiobook – lots of funny stories, anecdotes and practical advice, and it’s made me think about my digital behaviour. I think I’m doing my colleagues a favour with my short and snappy emails, but maybe they’re perceived as cold and distant. I still have an urge to multitask while on Zoom. Does it look like I’ve checked out when I look down at my phone during meetings or when I turn the camera off? ‘You’re a black square in the corner…’ 

I had a boss who told me off via email for not responding to my colleagues’ emails. I thought about it for a bit and wrote back in my defence i.e. of course, I’ll reply, there are lots of emails flying back and forth, I can’t work out of my inbox, I wouldn’t get any work done etc. I signed off with NNR – no need to reply (one of Erica’s recommendations) which went down like a lead balloon. I got an email back saying ‘I’m not going to respond to that.’ Cultural differences 😉

Great tips on how to model digital body language for your teams, inclusive language, digital empathy, how to enhance customer experience through words, gender differences in language, and emoji as the universal language. Her top tips? We need to slow down, assume the best intentions from people, think about how we make them feel, and put ourselves in their shoes. 

And a great lesson in resilience. Publishers told her the book was too niche, but its time has come – it was #3 on the WSJ Bestseller list 👏

As Seth Godin says, it’s a salve for exhausted Zoomers. 


We write the talk, not talk the talk in 2021 

Julie Sweet, CEO of Accenture says the way you write your emails can make or break your career. The best investment you can make is to develop one overlooked skill: written communication.

What’s the greatest advice I give? Develop excellent communication skills. Both in-person and in writing, such as when using email.

An employee, even a very junior person, if they can articulately summarize a meeting, if they can put together a presentation and even emails that are really salient and to the point, they are so valued.

Even more relevant given face to face communication is on the decline, remote work on the rise, and we’re spending more time alone, staring at our screens.

Mildly terrifying to think about how traditional body language is being shaped by our digital body language. What digital behaviours will we carry over in this new hybrid world? Will we be speaking in bullet points? Avoiding eye contact and sitting two metres apart in meetings? It’s a new frontier! 

A bit sad to read that unscheduled calls are perceived as intrusive and ‘as far as booking sales meetings were concerned, it seemed that the strategy with the least human interaction [setting up meetings via Calendly] delivered the most success.’ Where does this leave us? Loneliness is an epidemic and we have an empathy crisis. A YouGov poll found 30% of millennials said they always or often feel lonely, compared to 20% of Generation X and just 15% of baby boomers. It doesn’t ask why – but previous studies show social media and internet addiction play a part. 

A phone call is worth a thousand emails – and it’s becoming an obsolete art! We need a new ad campaign. As Bob Hoskins said, it’s good to talk. 


Photo by Alain Pham on Unsplash

👋 The Zoom wave

I can’t resist the urge to wave at the end of Zoom calls – glad to see I’m not alone. ‘I have never felt the need to wave in person,’ Kennedy, 36, the chief communications and marketing officer for the city of Olathe, Kansas, said. ‘What am I doing?’ Apparently, it’s a good thing. I’m not socially inept. 


Tools + resources →

📹 Erica’s Podcast interview with Rohit Bhargava: How to communicate with digital body language

🙇🏻‍♀️ Digital Body Language course

Hilarious thread from Danielle Rene on your favourite phrases to use in a professional clap back – those passive-aggressive emails. 

  • Just a gentle reminder
  • As we discussed previously (See attached email)…
  • lmao nothing is more passive-aggressive than “PLEASE ADVISE…”
  • If I’m feeling Big Petty I’ll hit them with… I’m not sure where your confusion comes from, but allow me to clarify..
  • Thank You in advance for your prompt response. I look forward to hearing from you.
  • Subject line: ‘Friendly reminder’

Vyv Evans on why emoji is the universal language. And it’s making us better communicators 😍

James Clear on writing as leadership at scale

A new WHO study finds working over 55 hours per week is considered a ‘serious health hazard’ 


Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

Playlist of the week →

9 essential podcasts for remote workers, managers + teams


The future of work is now

Let’s build it. The Shift is a weekly newsletter celebrating writing, good design, creativity, flexible working, growth, travel, and online communities. If you enjoy the content, please share it with friends.

Work Better. Live Smarter. Be Happier.

Question or comment? Email nicci@niccitalbot.io.
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Categories
digital nomads future of work remote working Smart Villages

The new Smart Villages – can you really get paid to freelance in Italy? 🇮🇹

Here’s to the new smart villages in Italy.🍷 🇮🇹 A number of towns have launched travel incentives – and will pay you to work from there.

Santa Fiora in Tuscany (the city of water and music) and Rieti in Lazio are both offering to cover up to 50% of your rent if you stay between two and six months as a remote worker.

Local rents are pretty cheap – €300-500 per month, so you could be paying around €150 a month to rent a cosy cottage or apartment in a beautiful village this summer.

Santa Fiora’s mayor, Federico Baloccchi, told CNN:

It’s not targeted at occasional touch-and-go tourists, but people who really want to experiment with our village life.

The goal is to incentivise people to move in and virtually work from here. We want Santa Fiora to become their flexible office.

It’s part of a 10-year development plan to revitalise rural areas which ‘is now more like 10 days [thanks to Covid] so we’re getting on with it.’ Phase one focuses on connectivity and tech and getting workers and firms in – to capitalise on the trend of people wanting space and moving out of urban centres.

And if you fall in love and decide to invest in tourism there, they’ll give you up to €30,000 to open a B&B, hostel or hotel.

I asked about eligibility for freelancers, age/earnings cap etc and ‘it is open to anyone in possession of a smart work job’. Pensioners welcome 😉 as long as you can show you’re working as an online consultant or indie contractor.

A great way to dip your toe in the water and test out Smart Village life.

What do you think, Mac? Could be fun and frothy 🐶 Feasting on roasted chestnuts and Montecucco wine.

Sea you there?

Apply here → Santa Fiora Turismo.

Other places to work different → Visit Tuscany.

Santa Fiora, Tuscany

Remote worker visas and opportunities →

Fueling the future of location-flexible work.

Antigua + Barbuda → Nomad Digital Residence for up to two years. 365 beaches in a year?

Barbados → Work from paradise. 12 month Barbados Welcome Stamp.

Bermuda a slightly more affordable one year Work from Bermuda visa. No minimum income requirement.

Cayman Islands Dreaming of a Cayman?Global Citizen Certificate for up to two years (if you make $100k)

Costa Rica Freelancer visa called the Rentista for up to two years.

Croatia → One year digital nomad visa. Currently hosting their first ‘Digital Nomad in Residence’ competition. 10 nomads will present how Dubrovnik can be a ‘digital nomad friendly city.’

Canary Islands → Launched a €500,000 campaign to lure 30,000 remote workers to the islands over the next five years: The office with the world’s best climate.

Dubai → one-year virtual working programme (and bring your family).

Estonia The first country to offer a digital nomad visa for remote workers.

Georgia Work Remotely from Georgia and be part of your own wallpaper.

Iceland new digital nomad visa for high earners to stay for up to six months.

Indonesia Planning a turbo-charged five-year visa for the wealthy ‘which could be beneficial to digital nomads.’

Madeira a new Digital Nomad Village for minimum one-month stays. Portugal also has a residence permit for indie workers and entrepreneurs.

Mauritius → a renewable one year premium visa for nomads (no fee!) 😍

Thailand Looking to overhaul its Smart Visa to allow digital nomads to remain in the Kingdom for up to four years without a work permit.

Interesting huh. Many more nations will follow suit and compete for citizens as Japanese technologist Tsugio Makimoto predicted 20 years ago – and he digs into the microelectronics and products that enable nomadism.


Can you still buy a house in Italy for €1?

Photo by Ehud Neuhaus on Unsplash

Technically, yes – but the houses are put to auction where people can bid on them. Some sell for €1, the average €5,000 – & then you have to pay for the renovations (say €20,000) within three years.

Rubia Daniels was one of the first to buy a bargain-priced house in Mussomeli, Sicily, in 2019 and bought two more for her children. So far, she’s helped 20 people buy homes out there and hopes to take another group in June. She didn’t intend to buy that many houses, but ‘it’s how the people make you feel that makes you say, ok, I’ll buy three.’

Already 100 people have bought a house, what are you waiting for? – Case1euro.it

Not for the faint-hearted but a hugely rewarding project – an investment in yourself, your family, and a new business opportunity (and I’ve seen €1 houses in France and Croatia too).

Here’s how it works.

1 Euro Houses Italy map


London Writers’ Salon: The future of newsletters & publishing w/Substack’s Hamish McKenzie →

Photo by Nicci Talbot

London Writers’ Salon spoke to Hamish McKenzie about his writing, the future of journalism and being co-founder of a tech startup, Substack.

Great brain food 🧠 Raw, revealing and honest – he’s no tech bro. Appreciate his vulnerability on his burnout at Tesla – engineers picking over his work, his confidence took a hit and it took him a while to come back. On the stresses of being a founder, which he describes as ‘psychological torture’. The Substack soap opera rolls on – their employees have had online abuse.

He comes across as someone who cares deeply about the future of writing and wants to create a thriving ecosystem for media based on a trusted relationship between reader & writer – rather than clickbait.

Substack is here to give the media ecosystem more options, not replace it.

He looked exhausted (it was 6 am in Wellington) and needs a break. I wanted to give him a big hug! So 👏 to Matt and Parul for a sensitive interview and giving him space to relax and open up. Refreshing for him to be asked about his writing journey and challenges rather than how to support everyone else’s.

On what writers can learn from startup culture

Put something out there, get feedback, tweak, adjust, don’t give up! Nothing important is ever easy or worth doing – stay focused.

It’s not self-promotion but giving yourself a promotion. Find the joy in marketing. You can’t be of service to this world if people don’t know you exist.

🔥People & Company is joining the Substack team to work on community upstart efforts for writers in its network. Spark the flame, stoke the fire, and pass the torch.

Watch it here. From menopause to McDonald’s: all topics are fair game at London Writers’ Salon, and they’ve built a brilliant online community. Join their Writers’ Hour Daily Writing Sprints.


Journeys In Sound →

Music was my first love by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash

Playlist of the week: John Grant


Featured Collection: The Mind at Work by Dropbox

This is your mind at work


Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

Tools + resources →

✍️How to open up and create better work: An introvert’s guide to a more collaborative writing process. ‘As a UX writer, sharing early saves me time and breeds creativity.’

💡Hybrid vs remote work: everyone’s looking at big tech to see what they do next, but they’re all making it up on the fly. If you’re considering your options, here’s an open source resource that shows what firms are doing – thanks to Andy for sharing.

🚢Build an online writing habit in 30 days. Redefining the meaning of online community, Substack take note! Writing alone is hard; writing with a community is easier. Love this concept – thanks to Lauren for the tip-off.

🌵Burnout in Tech – Part 1: Declaring war. Actionable steps to fight it for yourself and others.

💰Twitter is rolling out a new tip jar feature to help you get paid for your tweets.

Happy hugging and café working! 🤗


The future of work is now

Let’s build it. The Shift is a weekly newsletter celebrating writing, good design, creativity, flexible working, growth, travel, and online communities. If you enjoy the content, please like it and share with friends. Thanks for reading!

Work Better. Live Smarter. Be Happier.

Question or comment? Email nicci@niccitalbot.io.
Was this helpful? I’m powered by caffeine and Amaretti biscuits.
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Categories
digital nomads future of work remote working

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

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
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

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Categories
digital nomads future of work remote working

The new lexicon of work for 2021; The boom in Zoom towns; The greatest migration in human history; How to manage a remote team

Happy 2021.

It’s been a Covid Xmas — I’m in recovery. Julieta tested positive at the hotel just before her flight to Italy and then tier 4 came in so flights from the UK were cancelled anyway. We came home for 10 days of self-isolation. Covid knocked me out — headaches, fatigue, loss of taste and smell, brain fog. But no cough or breathing problems thankfully, I just needed to rest. It feels good to be on the other side and let go of my anxiety about catching it and whether to have the mix-match vaccine (no thanks!) I enjoyed my mini-retirement, binging on Walter Presents, and want more of these in 2021.

I don’t do new year resolutions but it’s a good time to reflect on last year, be intentional and build on the positive habits started during lockdown — or ‘stacking’ as James Clear calls it in Atomic Habits. The New York Times Well team has a 7-day challenge for 2021.

If ‘unprecedented’ was the word of 2020, this year we have two: Flexibility and work from anywhere (WFA).

McKinsey’s research: Independent work: Choice, necessity and the gig economy reveals 20–30% of the working-age population in the US and Europe, or up to 162 million individuals are engaged in some form of independent work. The UK government has a Good Work Plan with advice and skills for people going self-employed to help them succeed. The DWP is hiring loads of work coaches to help with this with a focus on self-employment.

With remote work going mainstream, people are already fleeing big cities for a better lifestyle and we’re seeing a boom in Zoom towns around the world. Pieter Levels, the founder of Nomadlist, says we’re on the verge of the greatest migration in human history… not nomads travelling perpetually but millions of people relocating semi-permanently to places better fit to their way of living.

Here’s the new lexicon of work to get you set up for 2021:

Work-on-demand, Work from anywhere (WFA) 💻

There are more online platforms to find remote work — We Work Remotely, Remote OK, Upwork, Toptal, People Per Hour, Freelance Writing Gigs, Yuno Juno, Remotiveio, Hoxby, Teachable, LaborX (crypto jobs), Kolabtree, Nomadlist, The Dots (LinkedIn for creatives). More people are using The Dots to apply for projects so it’s worth watching their webinar on how the algorithm works to get to the top of the search results. Pip says tech is booming so to think about pivoting to work for a startup/tech company. There are loads on the site. They’ve also added a remote work section so you can filter projects. I’m seeing lots of articles about the best remote companies to work for and top freelancers in various places which shows the market is maturing.

EdX: Online learning 📚

Doing a three-year degree at 18 in a brick and mortar institution (and getting into debt) is no longer appealing or relevant. We need lifelong learning and affordable training we can do from anywhere. More platforms are springing up to cater for this: Coursera, Udemy, LinkedIn Learning, Khan Academy, FutureLearn, Lambda school, EdX to name a few. I’ve signed up for three courses: CitiesX: The Past, Present and Future of Urban Life with Harvard University, anthropology of current world issues at the University of Queensland, and how to manage a remote team with Gitlab and Darren Murph. These are free and I can pay for certification if I want it. For nomad parents, there’s lots of innovation happening in this space e.g. Galileo global school.

Community, collab and co-working 🤝

The best work platforms are helping freelancers to grow and develop their skills and connections rather than just listing jobs. We’re seeing more reward & recognition for loyalty, e.g. you’re more likely to get to the top of The Dots’ algorithm if you engage regularly, ask questions and help others. They have handpicked mentors/ambassadors and encourage you to credit a team member for project work so you both get recognition. Several Slack groups have Ask & Offer walls/Opportunities so you can find hidden jobs that aren’t advertised. They are offering training, education and events — like a one-stop-shop. We’re also seeing a rise in flash freelance teams coming together to work on projects. Work is coming from a range of sources not just employers.

Digital nomads, slowmads, flexpats, and subscription living 🌏

It’s predicted there will be one billion digital nomads by 2035 and the term will become less relevant as more of us work remotely, relocate and travel more. The rise of 5G, 6G and remote work visas will make it easier for people to stay in one place for longer and give back to local communities i.e. teaching tech skills. Countries like Georgia, Portugal, Estonia, Bermuda and Barbados are leading the way and governments will need to compete to attract the best talent. As Matt Mullenweg says, the smartest people will want to work this way so companies need to keep up.

We’re also seeing more startups and hotels offering flexible accommodation and subscription living, e.g. CitizenM and NomadX. I’d like to see a shift from westerners travelling to developing countries to live better lifestyles without giving much back to local communities to people from all countries being able to travel and work — so we need more flexible visas or an international visa that’s open to all. See One Way Ticket, the digital nomad documentary, which explores the pros and cons of this lifestyle.

Tools 🛠

I wrote this in Roam Research — a notetaking tool for networked thought. Just having a play with it to see what’s possible and liking it so far. Daily notes, journaling, articles, to-do list, bi-directional linking, a mindmap graph. A bit of mind gardening — it’s your second brain. It will be a great tool to help with workflow and research. I quite like writing in bullets — it speeds things up (you can disable this). Lots of beginner tutorials on YouTube.

Thanks for spending part of your Sunday with The Shift 🙏

See you next week — Nicci.

Hi, I’m Nicci 👋 — a journalist and writer. I write The Shift, a newsletter on the future of work, creativity, and travel. If you like it and want to read more, please consider becoming a paid subscriber here. Or if you prefer, you can buy me a coffee here. Find me on Twitter @niccitalbot.