5 Excellent Ted Talks About Remote Work
Everyone loves Ted Talks. Whether you have always been a remote worker or are forced into it due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve gathered 5 excellent Ted talks that will pique your interest in the subject. Each talk has a different theme, but they all underline the inevitable rise of remote work.
1. Why work doesn’t happen at work by Jason Fried at TEDxMidwest
Jason Fried is the co-founder of 37signals and co-author of the book “Rework.” His Ted talk focuses on the inescapable distractions at work and makes a solid case for remote work. Jason asked various people this question – Where do you need to go when you need to get something done? Almost every person answers it with either a preference for place or time. Almost no one mentions office.
According to Jason, work, like sleep needs long stretches of uninterrupted time. Neither of them can happen in short bursts, which is exactly what one experiences in the office. In the office, our days are often marred by meetings and impromptu requests. It becomes almost impossible to pick up from where you left if your flow is disturbed. Jason almost has a militant view towards meetings, calling them toxic, terrible and poisonous. He also shares a similar sentiment towards management in general whom he calls the source of distractions at work.
Jason states that distractions at home are more manageable because they are voluntary. These can be overcome with practice. However, the office distractions (M&M for managers and meetings) are much harder to deal with.
2. Go Ahead, Tell Your Boss You Are Working From Home by Nicholas Bloom at TEDxStanford
Working from an office is relatively a recent addition to human life. Prior to the industrial revolution, most of us farmed the fields right next to our homes. Summer vacation in Europe for kids was to boost the agrarian workforce during harvest season. Nicholas Bloom opens his talk tracing the origins of 9-5 work schedules, how something that gets taken as a norm was absent from most of our history. He then goes on to showcase the media stereotypes that exist around remote work – folks in pajamas slacking off in their homes with their laptops next to them. Nicholas delivered this talk in 2017 and it’s interesting to see that even in just three years, the world has become a lot more receptive to remote work, dispelling some of the stereotypes he talks about.
Nicholas also shares a big remote experiment that his company did with Ctrip – China’s largest travel company. Ctrip was growing aggressively but so were the real estate prices in Shanghai. They decided that all employees with birthdays on even days would work from home for the next 9 months and would only visit the office once a week. Nicholas’ firm would analyze the entire experiment scientifically. Over the course of the experiment, Ctrip saw a 13% improvement in productivity among remote employees and a 50% reduction in employee turnover. The results were so encouraging that Ctrip rolled out the remote policy for all its employees. They ended up saving $2000 per person in profit.
3. Managing Cross-Cultural Remote Teams by Ricardo Fernandez at TEDxBarcelona
Managing cross-cultural teams is already quite testing. Remote work makes it an even tougher challenge. Ricardo talks about the challenges of managing cross-cultural remote teams by sharing his own experiences. How “Just now” in South African culture means the near future, and saying “You’re killing it” to employees in India can stress them out. It’s fascinating to see that such cultural differences emerged among people who shared a common language. These challenges only get amplified when the language itself becomes a barrier.
In order to navigate cultural barriers smoothly, the context in communication is critical. When the context is clearly articulated, the chances of misinterpretation are reduced drastically. Another important thing is self-awareness. When people become aware of their own cultural nuances, they gain patience for their multicultural teammates as well.
Ricardo also makes an interesting point about physical proximity. Loneliness in remote work is a real problem. Despite all the advances in technology, there is nothing that even comes close to in-person communication with your teammates. Physical presence is important to create empathy. Therefore no matter how well your remote operations are working, if possible plan a meetup at least once a year.
4. Remotely Productive: You can work from home | Jay Hayes at TEDxWilisonParlk
One of the simpler talks about remote work, Jay Hayes explores the perspective of a remote worker. Sharing his own experience, Jay states that commuting time was the biggest factor that influenced him to go fully remote. This gives him the freedom to spend more time at home with his family. Remote work’s growth in the tech industry is helping the economy of small towns by moving jobs away from traditional IT hubs. This trend will help curb traffic congestion in urban areas.
Remote work, like any other skill, needs practice. The more you work remotely and learn about it, the better you will get. Jay highly recommends getting dressed in the morning prior to working even if you’re working from home. This gives you confidence and energy to go through your day.
Jay also shared the importance of leaving your house occasionally to be productive. For example, if an online meeting doesn’t require his hands on keyboard, Jay prefers to take a walk outside during it.
5. The Remote Work Revolution by Kavi Gupta at TEDxUWA
Talent is borderless, work is borderless. Kavi Gupta talks about the remote work revolution and what can employees, companies, and governments do to thrive in an increasingly remote environment.
Remote work revolution doesn’t mean everyone will be compelled to work remotely. It’s about everyone having the choice to do so. A lot of people perform better in an office environment and would continue to do so in the foreseeable future.
Those people who want to work remotely should start working on improving specific skills that’ll make them attractive for remote hiring. This includes organizational skills, the ability to communicate effectively and accountability. In a remote environment, visibility is replaced by deliverability.
Organizations should ensure that there is no discrimination among remote and on-site employees. There should also be no discrimination when evaluating who gets to work remotely and who doesn’t. For example if an employee is allowed to work remotely because they have kids at home, this policy should be extended to those that don’t have kids as well. Companies need to understand that they can’t expect employees to design their lives around work, it needs to be the other way around.
Similarly, governments also need to adapt to this reality. For example, Korea has one of the highest suicide rates in the world due to work-related stress and exhaustion. Korean work ethic stems from their post-war rags to riches industrialization. However, such an approach is not ideal for creative work. The Korean government has lately allocated resources into changing this by creating a startup infrastructure, encouraging peer learning and fostering a culture of openness and innovation.