Distributed Team vs Remote Work, Virtual Work, Telework and Work From Home

The terms “distributed teams”, “virtual teams”, “virtual employee”, “remote work”, “remote employee”, “work from home”, “work from anywhere” and “telework” are often used interchangeably, even though they mean very different things. Used incorrectly, these terms can (mis)communicate important human, social context in ways that are damaging and unintended. Hopefully, this summary helps people be more intentional and crisp when describing work arrangements:

  • Distributed Team: This clearly and correctly describes that all humans on the team work together, even though they are physically apart from each other. This is not a collection of individuals who each do solo heads-down work from different locations. Instead, this is a group of humans who coordinate their work with others on their physically distributed team. Because everyone on the physically distributed team is “remote” from someone, it is clear that everyone on the team has equal responsibility to communicate and coordinate their work with coworkers – regardless of whether any individual human is working from a building with the company logo on the door, from home, from a coworking space, a hotel or a parked car! Example usage: “I work on a distributed team”, “my team is distributed”.
  • Remote worker / Remote employee: This term correctly denotes that one human is physically separate from other coworkers. However, I usually hear this term used from the perspective of the speaker who believe they are not remote – only the other person is remote. (This is physically impossibility and tells me a lot about the mindset of the human speaking. I’ve found this usage happens most often when one human is sitting in an office with a company logo on the door, describing another human coworker who is not in the same office.) This usually implies that the person in the office considers themself to be a first-class citizen in the center-of-their-universe, while they consider the “remote” person to be somehow a less-important, second class citizen physically located somewhere else. This mindset usually assumes that the “remote” human carries all the responsibility for communicating with the rest of the team – a mindset that is incorrect and operationally harmful to the team. To be explicit, if any member of the team is not able to reach out and tap the shoulder of each and every other human on the team, then everyone is remote from someone – and all share equal responsibility to make sure communications are clear across the entire team. Example usage: “I work remotely”, “We have a remote person on our team”.
  • Virtual employee / Virtual team: A variation of the “remote” term above, this implies that the “virtual” human is somehow not as valued as a real human and is somehow more disposable. No matter how politely someone says this, it feels to me like virtual humans are treated as second class employees in terms of career progression, new projects and even just basic human empathy – while humans “in the office” are somehow “real (non-virtual) employees” who should be cared for more intentionally because they are real humans. Like the term “remote”, this has the same first-class / second-class flaw where the speaker thinks of themself as a real, first-class human, while the other human is somehow a virtual, second-class human. Examples include: “I am a virtual worker”, “We have a virtual employee on our team”.
  • Work From Home: This term made sense when describing someone working from a fixed location outside of a physical office – back in the time when people working outside of the office used a desktop computer and a physical landline telephone connection. These technical constraints limited them to working from a predictable fixed location – typically their residence. Now that portable laptops, smartphones, high-speed internet and wifi are the norm, this term feels increasingly obsolete. Of course, some people do actually work online from their actual home. Confusingly, I’ve heard the phrase “Working from Home” used to describe someone working from a coworking space or a hotel conference venue – or when describing co-workers who travel the majority of the time. I’ve also heard the terms “road warrior” and “on the road” used to describe coworkers flying in planes or working from airport lounges. The terms “Work From Anywhere”, “Digital Nomad” and “Gray Nomad” are gaining popularity, and at least feel more accurate when describing someone’s non-permanent physical work location. Focusing on describing the physical location of coworkers, instead of how work is coordinated across the team, concerns me. Describing the physical location incorrectly bothers me, so I avoid the term “work from home” unless it is somehow relevant that the human is literally working in their place of residence. Example usage: “I can work from home sometimes”, “Some people on our team can work from home”, “There’s too many interrupts in the office, so I work from home when I need to do heads-down work”.
  • Teleworker / Telecommuter: This term originated in the 1970s, when people working outside the office had to use a telephone landline to “phone in” their work. Computer baud rate connections were so slow and technology so expensive that video calls and transferring large files were usually impractical. Communications between co-workers were limited to audio-only phone calls / conference calls and emails with small attachments. Because of the physical size of computers and the need for a physical landline telephone, this was usually only done from a fixed home location with plenty of advance time needed to setup and configure everything. The declining use of landline telephones and desktop computers make this term increasingly obsolete. Like “work from home”, the lack of coordinating work with others makes me feel this term applies to humans who temporarily use a different location to do solo heads-down work without interruption and will then return to their usual desk in the office when they need to coordinate their work with co-workers. Example usage: “Our company has a telework policy for decades, but almost no-one uses it.”

That summarizes the most common terms I’ve heard recently, but if you know of other terms that I should add here, let me know and I’ll update this post. Hopefully, this explains why I think it is important to intentionally use the term “distributed team” and avoid other confusingly incorrect terms like “virtual worker”, “remote worker”, “work from home” and “teleworker”.


Physical Proximity vs Employment Status

Your physical proximity to coworkers is orthogonal to your employment status.

I’m frequently surprised when people discussing “remote work” or “working from home” or “distributed teams” somehow start talking about gig-work, contract work or freelance work. Without realizing it, they have shifted from talking about the proximity of coworkers to the very different topic of contractual terms of employment. The hidden assumption is that if you are “working remotely”, “working from home” or part of a distributed team, you must not be a full-time employee.

Usually, but not always, I’ve seen this happen in conference discussions about “Future of Work” or changes to the employment economy. Occasionally, I have had founders and/or c-level executives tell me they don’t want to hire “remote workers”, because they prefer to hire “permanent” employees not short term contractors or gig workers. Each time, I’d be confused hearing these smart, experienced, people talk about “gig work” and “remote work” interchangeably!?! The first few times this happened, I hesitated to say anything, thinking that I had somehow misunderstood some important subtle detail in the complex discussion, so would ask them later to explain what I had missed. Only to discover they already knew the terms were very different and they themselves had not realized they were mixing these very different topics. Confusing these topics frequently misdirects the rest of the discussion down a very different path. Left uncorrected, this mixup also added to the confusion of others listening, trying to learn. Worst case, organizations make bad business decisions because of this miscommunication.

Now, whenever I hear this mixup happening, I’m faster to interject. Correcting the mixup (politely) when it first happens helps everyone in the discussion stay focused on the right topic and make better decisions. I found myself doing this again recently, causing me to write this post.

Over the decades of my career so far, I’ve worked in many large company offices, with a fancy logo on the door, or outside the building. Inside these buildings, there was usually an arrangement of cube farm or open plan desks surrounded by private offices and meeting rooms. In every single one of those buildings, some of the people sitting at desks were full-time employees. Some were part-time employees. Some were full-time contractors – not employees. Some were part-time contractors – again, not employees. Occasionally, there were even humans who were not employed by the company, but instead were hired by an intermediary sub-contracting company, either as employees or contractors. Dress code, seating arrangements, projects being worked on, even who reported where in positions in org. charts, were indistinguishable between employees and contractors. A collection of humans with a mix of employment status, all sitting shoulder to shoulder. Usually, the only way to tell someone’s employment status was to look for different colors or logos on their ID badge.

I’ve also worked in organizations where the same mix of full-time employees, part-time employees, full-time contractors and part-time contractors were physically distributed. Instead of sitting shoulder to shoulder, they all sat at desks in different locations.

The physical distance between you and your coworkers does not determine your employment status.

Summarizing another way, all of the following are true:

Of course, this is not new. It has been normal in business for so long that I think many people now simply take it for granted. However, it is important to point out because this miscommunication causes misunderstandings and complications for organizations that are transitioning from all-in-one-location to distributed team.

One possible origin for this confusion is that over the last 40 years or so, society has gone through seismic changes, complicating discussions for everyone. The idea of a job for life is no more. Per-project jobs, freelance work, and gig work are prevalent in the free-agent economy. Whether this is good or bad is a separate discussion; the point is that the social contract has fundamentally changed.

Across all industries in the US, this trend continues to accelerate. Baby boomers now average a new job every 2.5 years. The computer software industry has even faster turnover, with people averaging one and a half to two years per job. In some hyper-competitive locations like Silicon Valley, the turnover is even faster, with average tenure at major tech companies ranging from 1.2 to 2.0 years! Most of the software engineers I know already work on a per-project basis, even though they are administratively called full-time employees. They are hired to work on a particular project—and after one or two release cycles, they’ll leave to work on a new project at a new company before moving on yet again. These 18- to 24-month transitions lined up with the waterfall delivery cadence that was used by a lot of software companies. Soon after each major release shipped, there would be a predictable flood of “goodbye” emails, internal promotions, and new-hire announcements as people celebrated their successful project release and left while others were promoted internally or hired to fill the gaps before the next project started. As more software companies transition to an agile methodology, releasing smaller deliverables more frequently, I suspect that the average tenure will shrink further. This will be interesting to watch.

In many ways, this transition feels similar to the movie industry’s transition from the all-in-our-studio model of the 1920s to today’s model of hiring independent specialists for each part of each different movie. How do you categorize a special-effects engineer or stunt driver working on a movie for a few months? Or a software engineer who switches jobs every 18 to 24 months? Or a four year tour of duty in the military? Or engineers hired for a few months because they specialize in complex skills that are only needed for a short project? Or an Uber driver? Or a sound technician at a concert venue? The line between per-project employee, contractor, freelancer, free agent, and gig worker feels very blurry.

All interesting stuff to talk about – and unrelated to the physical proximity to other humans working on the team.

Your legal employment status is one topic. Your physical proximity to other humans you work with is a different topic.

Language helps humans communicate complex topics. Rapid shifts in business trends are changing how we think and talk about work, and the language we use is still catching up. Errors in use of language confuse the situation, cause invalid assumptions to spread, needless conflict from miscommunications and confusion for others listening for advice from the experts. Speaking clearly and accurately helps everyone by reducing confusion. So, when I hear people incorrectly jump to the assumption that someone “working remote” must be not-an-employee-for-life, I think it’s important to help them avoid confusing the two topics.

Hopefully, this blog post helps clear up some confusion already out there, and helps others feel comfortable speaking up when they hear these very different terms being mixed-up. In turn, I hope reducing this confusion helps reduce the barriers to having more people start working in physically distributed teams!

Economic development on The Canary Islands with “Distributed Teams”

Last month (November2019), I spoke at Nomad City about “distributed teams” as a new approach to economic development.

This was the fourth Nomad City conference hosted in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Canary Islands. There were sessions on building careers while traveling, personal brand building, the challenges/advantages of building a remote business and other topics important to freelancers, “remote” workers and companies willing to tap into remote work. This year also featured a panel session, as well as a longer more in-depth think tank session, on economic development. I was invited to speak at both.

Why a conference about remote work – in the Canary Islands? For background, the Canary Islands are Spanish islands in the Atlantic, physically off the coast of Morocco. In Europe, these islands are most known for tourism – a “recent” focus of the local government. They started encouraging tourism in the 1970s, which required them to spend a lot of time and effort shifting the public perception of beaches from “sunny beaches with families of children making sandcastles” to “adults playing in the surf, sun and all night parties”. It has been wildly successful for decades and has encouraged other nearby sun/beach locations to do the same. At this point, approx ~14 million tourists visit the Canary Islands each year. For comparison, the total population of the Canary Islands is 2 million. At this point, direct tourism and tourism related revenue accounts for 35% of the GDP of the Canary Islands (or 55% of GDP depending on how you count tourism-related construction) and accounts for over 40% of the total employment. The rest of the economy depends on agriculture (~20%) and a diversity of industries. I was personally surprised to find that because of the natural deep ocean water so close to land creating sheltered ports, there is a long history of repair/maintenance of deep ocean going ships – from Columbus and Magellan through to modern fleets of oil exploration ships.

The local economy has been quietly and consistently growing pretty well for a while now, but there are concerns. Having an economy dependent on a single revenue stream is always a concern. After all, a diversified portfolio is more stable than having all eggs in one basket. In this case, their economy’s reliance on tourism has some additional concerns:

  1. Tourism is seasonal, so it is hard to predict accurately. This means that most of the economy literally depends on predicting the weather on the islands, as well as where tourists usually come from. This can cause surprise fluctuations to flights, hotel bookings and local major events at short notice.
  2. Climate change brings concerns about rising waters to these islands, like all other coastal locations around the globe. It also brings risk to their tourism industry. Many tourists come to the Canaries to escape the cold/dark of winter in northern Europe. As those winters become less severe because of climate change, would people decide to stay home or vacation somewhere nearby instead? This is further complicated by the recent closure of a major budget airline and tour operator in Europe, making travel to these islands more expensive. An additional factor is a rising “flight shaming” movement to counter the impact of airplane flights on the environment. The combination of all these raises the question: What happens if these tourists start choosing to stay home or vacation somewhere closer to home instead?
  3. Approximately 50% of citizens under the age of 25 are unemployed. Another 30% are underemployed, meaning they are overqualified for the work they hired for (while here, I heard in-person anecdotes of people with PhDs working as bartenders pouring drinks for tourists!).

To address these issues, local government officials and industry leaders have been looking for ways to diversify the income economy of these islands for a while now. Some impressive steps so far include:

  1. High speed internet: Residential internet connections of 600 Mbs are guaranteed and affordable. For specific business districts, internet connections of 1GBs are considered normal. These numbers were confirmed by my (non-scientific) sampling of internet speeds in various locations while I was there.
  2. Tax incentives: These islands are part of Spain and within the European Union (EU). This means that any company based here can operate across the entire EU. These islands are part of a special EU tax incentive zone to encourage companies to be created and grown here. I am not a tax accountant, and there are small-print-conditions to consider, but companies in the Canaries meeting those criteria have corporate tax rates significantly lower than others in the EU. Also, humans living here pay a lower consumer sales tax of 6.5% compared to an average 21% in the rest of the EU. 
  3. Bike rentals: There are well organized, affordable, bike shares widely available across Las Palmas and a growing network of dedicated bike-only lanes. This makes getting around easier then figuring out car ownership and parking – and cheaper than taxis.
  4. Conservation policies: Because of the geographic terrain, there are protected deep ocean scuba diving areas just off the downtown beaches, walking distances from offices. And preventing light/radio pollution in the high mountain tops has allowed the creation of two space observatories as well as a deep space communication center for the European Space Agency. These unique assets only exist today because of previous forethought creating policies to protect these unique locations.

Encouraging non-tourism companies to relocate to these rugged, beautiful islands would help diversify the local economy. The local civic leaders are well aware of the importance of this, so no surprise that it is something they’ve been trying for a while now, with mixed success.

However, if there was a way for humans on the islands to have meaningful work with employers that are not on these islands, that would be a game-changer. My “incentives for humans not corporations” mantra was eagerly agreed with – and some were even already working towards this. There are several co-working spaces on the islands – each with their own slightly different focus. Some cater to tourists or surfers looking for an impromptu place for some professional video calls/meetings before returning to fun in the sunshine. Some cater to digital nomads who will be daily users for a few weeks/months, until they leave to explore somewhere else. (Many of these also include “coliving” – with small apartments or shared accommodations.) Some cater to locals or expats who are now residents of the Canary Islands, usually running their own companies – and need a reliable office-as-a-service to work from outside of their home. Ignacio “Nacho” Rodriguez created a coworking space in 2014 which has been a big success. His mantra of “We work from places we love” is obviously popular.

All this explains why Ignacio wanted me to talk about this new approach to economic development at the Nomad City conference and also at some workshops before/after. Attendees were a mix of digital nomads, company founders, academics and civic/government leaders. This mix of different perspectives made for some very interesting discussions, on and off stage. These discussions have continued gathering momentum even after the official conference ended. It’ll be exciting to see what we end up creating and if more people can start working from places they love!


A “Distributed Teams” workshop, distributed across eastern Australia

Earlier this year, while in Sydney, I gave a presentation on distributed teams at Fishburners in Sydney Startup Hub. As I blogged about before, the Sydney Startup Hub is huge – a government supported initiative bringing together multiple co-working spaces under one roof to create a critical mass of entrepreneurs and literally revitalize the entire neighborhood. The event was packed. The attendance was even more impressive when you keep in mind that this was a holiday week in Australia, so all those attending interrupted their vacations to come to a work event! The event was so successful that afterwards, I was asked if I would do another session.

The twist was that this next session would be with co-working members who were not able to make the journey to Sydney in person.

It turns out that many of those attending my session traveled hours to be there. Because Australia is so large, Fishburners has a special “virtual membership” for people who are not in Sydney, yet need the features of a great co-working community, professional support, business networking and the occasional professional desk space with wifi when visiting Sydney for meetings. Catherine “Cat” Kitney is Head of Virtual at Fishburners and felt this session would be particularly helpful to those “virtual” members – if it could be done.

Holding a session on how to work well while physically distributed to a group of people who are themselves already physically distributed is tricky. The idea of explaining video etiquette to strangers who might not have working video or stable internet was concerning. Also, my workshops tend to have quite a lot of interactive Q+A as topics come up. I enjoy the questions and lively real world anecdotes but was worried that this back-and-forth might be too unstructured for a large, very distributed video call where strangers without shared cultural norms might talk over each other and keep tripping over internet and microphone glitches. Overall, it felt like a bootstrap problem and I was concerned by the very real risk these mechanical risks could turn the session into a bad waste of everyone’s time.

Fortunately, this group of people had already been trying to wrestle with the various mechanical barriers for a while now, and Cat was willing to support me as “remote moderator” during the session, so we agreed to try this experiment – a large workshop on a video call about distributed teams, with distributed strangers I’d never met before.

Those attending were scattered along the eastern coast of Australia. The bigger towns represented were Brisbane, Coffs Harbor, Wollongong, Sydney and Byron Bay, with some people joining from countryside between those towns. I was the only person in a different timezone – now back home in San Francisco.

If you’ve never been to Australia, its easy to lose sight of the sheer scale of the place. Driving from Brisbane to Wollongong would take ~12hours – not including any stops for breaks. For context, driving from Ashland, Oregon to Los Angeles, California is shorter. Also shorter is Boston, Massachusetts to Raleigh, NorthCarolina. And Berlin to Paris. Australia is big. Very big.

The session was a great success.

There was lots of Q+A throughout, and Cat did a great job moderating to make sure all questions were answered and the flow of discussions felt naturally inclusive. Most people who joined were the only attendee at their physical location, with only a few people who gathered physically in one meeting room together. Everyone’s internet connections was solid and high speed throughout. We never hit any of the camera/microphone problems I had been worried about. It all just worked, flawlessly. There were even impromptu side discussions between different participants across the different locations. Everyone was very eager and motivated to learn how to work better together while physically apart. After all, this was the reality of their daily lives!

Several discussions have continued since then, with some interesting further developments being worked on. More on those later. For now, I just wanted to note that the idea, and the entire event, was a great success.

Thank you, Cat for suggesting the idea and also to Fishburners for putting so much practical attention into their “virtual membership” as a way to help encourage entrepreneurs across all of Australia. Very very cool to see and I admire them for it.

“Distributed Teams”​ book now in SFO bookstores

My book “Distributed Teams” is now available at all Compass Books stores in San Francisco airport!

This photo still gives me goosebumps.

“Distributed Teams” book on display in Compass Bookstores, San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

Even more exciting – the first in-store sale was just hours after the books were first put on display on the shelves that morning!?!?

Many thanks to Chris, Andrew and the rest of the staff at Compass Books for being willing to help me through the process as well as for being willing to carry this first-time author on their precious shelf space! If you are passing through SFO, and don’t already have a copy of my book, please do consider buying it here. You’ll be supporting good independent bookstores and the short actionable chapters will be good reading for your flight.

Book sales at 6 months

My “Distributed Teams” book was published six months ago, so this felt like a good time to review some metrics.

While writing my book, I had multiple people telling me that print books were dead, Amazon/kindle was the only way to go. Some literally lived on the road, with no home, so their opinion was understandable. After all, books can be heavy to carry. Maybe it was true for the specific subject matter of their books? Maybe they only used kindle, and thought others should do the same? My own reading style was different. I have a few books on my tablet, but vast majority of my books are physical books. Was I the only luddite who still skimmed over packed, curated bookshelves at home, re-reading specific helpful passages when the situation arose?

Despite all the kindle-only suggestions, I decided to create my book in multiple formats: Physical paperback, Amazon/kindle and Apple/epub. This decision delayed the release of the book, as it added significant complexity to the book creation process. But it felt like the right decision, so I did it.

Instead of writing words in the book, I found myself working on the mechanics of the book publishing process dealing with a flurry of time-consuming questions like: paperback-vs-hardback? book height and width, font size, margin size – all of which in turn change the total number of pages? How do paragraphs wrap on page boundaries? Where to put footnotes and page numbers? etc, etc, etc. I also decided that I was going to ship the book in all these formats at the same time, not one-after-another. Doing sim-ship like this is obviously harder to do, but my experience in shipping software taught me that the organizational rigor this requires has two very important side effects. 1) This avoided any perception of one format being more important or better than another. 2) This makes it easier later to track, coordinate and ship any fixes/edits to the book over the lifespan of the book. Something I’ve been thankful for with each small book update I’ve shipped since August 2018.

Six months after launch, here’s what I discovered: 72% people bought physical paperback while 28% bought kindle.

Book sales: Aug2018 – Feb2019

It is worth noting for the record that these numbers does not include physical copies of the book handed out in workshops I run on distributed team or as copies to people I’ve worked with. If I’d included those numbers too, it would have skewed the sales numbers even more towards paperback. I find it oddly great to watching people who don’t know me casually flipping open the book, politely skim a little and then stopping to lean in and start intently reading. Just like I enjoy watching people highlight passages and inserting post-it notes during workshops. My opinion, without evidence, is that this is less likely to happen with electronic versions.

I am now convinced that, as a writer, the right answer is to make your content available in whatever format(s) your readers use.


ps: While creating my book, I also created an epub version. However, I stopped part-way through the legal paperwork with apple, and then in the middle of everything else, I simply forgot to revisit. Earlier this week, a reader reminded me of this, so I’m now working on it again. The next six month report should include numbers for epub sales also. I’ve also had a few requests for audio-books, which I know nothing about but am starting to research.

Work From Home – in Vermont!

Starting 01January, 2019, an important new law came into force.

The State of Vermont will pay you to move to Vermont. Of course, there is a catch. You need to “work from home” (or from a co-working space) for an employer who is not based in Vermont. And the money has to help cover your costs of relocating to Vermont and/or of working “remote”. Put another way, Vermont wants to encourage people who “work from home” to move to Vermont.

You can read the entire law here. As a non-lawyer, I found it surprisingly short and easy to read. There is also additional coverage in The New York Times, National Public Radio, RouteFifty, SevenDaysVT and VTDigger – including interviews with some of the people who used this incentive to help move to Vermont.

Of course, if you prefer to work in an office, there are also employers in Vermont who are looking to hire. Everything from large corporations to scrappy startups, across a range of industries. But the incentives in this law are specifically focused on people who “work from home” (or a co-working space) as part of a distributed team, working for an employer that is physically located outside of Vermont.

This is the first US state law I know of providing job incentives to humans – not companies – and is a very exciting change in the social contract.

(Disclaimer: I do not work for the State of Vermont, but I did provide testimony, advice and helped review early drafts of this bill as it worked through the various committee meetings and became law over the last year or so. My work was unpaid but I did this because I am passionate about distributed teams and their impact in society… which readers of my blog and my book already know!)

If you could live anywhere and still have a meaningful job/career, where would you choose to live? There are many factors in deciding where to live. Everyone has different interests in their life. People who are enthusiastic surfers are unlikely to consider moving to Vermont. However, the skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking and hiking in Vermont are world-class. So too is the leaf-peeping. Housing is plentiful and great value. Crime is low. Schools are good and it has the highest number of universities per capita in the US. Overall, quality of life is good. Really good. Of the 50 states nationwide ranked by wallethub.com, Vermont ranked 4th best for raising a family and 5th best for quality of public schools. Oh, and if you do need an occasional trip to a big city office (say for client meetings or group gatherings or conferences), you are within 3-5 hours drive/bus/train of Boston, Connecticut, Manhattan(NYC) and Montreal. Too far for a daily commute, but otherwise very reasonable.

Before you decide to relocate to Vermont, I recommend you first visit and explore. Not just as a tourist, but as someone thinking of moving there – as a potential new resident who cares about the reality of day-to-day life. To help with relocating decisions, Vermont has online sites which give details about the state. Vermont is also running free “Stay-to-Stay” events, where you visit Vermont for a long weekend to meet with locals who will help answer any/all of your relocation questions. They’ll help make sure you find your way around, introduce you to other local professionals and realtors, invite you to business networking events, arrange school/college tours, etc. The idea is to help answer any questions about housing, schools, healthcare and the other details of life that people care about when relocating.

Once you know you want to move to Vermont, click here to read the rules and to apply. It is all intentionally quite straightforward and if you have any remaining questions, you can contact the organizers at remoteworker@vermont.gov.

When running my own “distributed teams” manager bootcamps, I describe how vacant job postings are filled faster, simply by adding the words “remote welcome” in the job description. I’m excited to see Vermont saying “remote welcome” at a whole new level.

It will be exciting to watch how this turns out. Last but not least: if you are reading this and do decide to relocate to Vermont, I’d love to hear from you.

ps: Another interesting part of the new law is about co-working spaces and maker spaces. Vermont already has a bunch – see a partial list here – but this new bill provides funding to encourage creating even more maker spaces and co-working spaces with high speed internet. More on this in another post.

pps: In July2019, an amendment (H.533 / S.80) was passed which made two changes. Firstly, people who were moving to Vermont and would be doing “remote work” for a company based elsewhere in Vermont would now be eligible. The original law required the employee *and* the employer to both be outside of Vermont. Secondly, existing grant money earmarked for later years could be spent now to help keep up with the backlog of pending grant requests. This was to help address the high demand since the start of the program and avoid the confusion of turning people away now, even when there was still grant money available for next calendar years.

“Distributed Teams as a Competitive Advantage” in Sydney!

On Thursday, 10jan2019, I’ll be leading a presentation and Q+A about distributed teams at Fishburners / SydneyStartupHub in Sydney, Australia. Doors open at 6pm, with formal event starting at 6.30pm and ending ~8.30pm. Click here to reserve your spot. (All proceeds from tickets go to charity.)

“Distributed Teams” in the Blue Mountains, Sydney, Australia

This presentation will build on a focus of my “Distributed Teams” book – the competitive advantages and wider economic impact of this trend to distributed teams (or “remote work” or “virtual teams” or…). Over the last ~20 years, we’ve moved from jokes about “working at home in bunny slippers” to viewing distributed teams as a competitive advantage. How did this happen? What are the cold, hard, business advantages to this trend that can help you and your organisation be more competitive and more successful? How can this trend help your organisation hire better, hire faster and improve retention? Can your organisation save money while also addressing important social, diversity, urban planning and environmental issues? How can your team or organisation work well together even when physically apart? Can you have a meaningful, well-paid career without a daily commute to a physical office?

This is usually a very interactive topic, so we’ve scheduled extra time for Q+A discussions as well as some time for networking before/after.

It is also worth noting that this will be the first presentation of 2019 in the large, newly renovated, event space at Fishburners, in SydneyStartupHub. I heard a lot about this venue earlier this year while working in Singularity University with Molly Pyle and Brian Lim, so when I arrived on holidays in Sydney and Melbourne, I had to check it out for myself.

Yes, SydneyStartupHub is a co-working space. But its like none I’ve ever seen before. This one location has ~183,000 sqft / 17,000sqm of office space across 11 floors. There’s a fantastic 110 seat theatre. There’s a large public speaking event space that can hold a few hundred people. Serious professional-grade kitchens, coffee machines and social spaces. Rock-solid internet connection. Many many many meeting rooms. Phone-booths for video-calls. Glass-walled offices and open-plan co-working desks arranged for different size startups. After a while, I just stopped counting. All renovated and stylish – yet mixed with the carefully preserved original heritage details. If you’ve never visited, you need to see it yourself to grasp the scale and great attention to detail throughout. Its mind-boggling! Oh, and the location in downtown Sydney means that it is easy to get to/from here on many different forms of public transport.

If you are now (or will be) part of a distributed team, please stop by – I hope this event will help your organization be more effective and I’d love to hear what did/didnt work for you. If you’ve never seen Fishburners or SydneyStartupHub, please use this event as an excuse to stop by and check it out. It is short notice, but I hope you can make it. 

(Note: This would not have happened without a lot of help from: Molly Pyle, Brian Lim, Fishburners, JobsForNSW, Margaret Petty @ UTS, Pandora Shelley, Georgia Marshall and Justin O’Hare. Thank you all for making this happen.)

The “Distributed Teams” book – created by a distributed team!

Here’s a little trivia about the book “Distributed Teams: The Art and Practice of Working Together While Physically Apart“. This book *about* distributed teams was created *by* a distributed team.

Catherine, Linda and I live in three different states (California, New York and Utah), in three different timezones and never once met in person during the creation of this book. Instead, we “walked the talk” – following the practices from the book while writing the book.

We held video calls instead of audio-only conference calls. We used pre-agreed Single Source of Truth to track each person’s work as well as the state of the overall project. We had crisply organized communications. Depending on the phase of the project, sometimes we co-worked on multi-hour video calls multiple days in a row and sometimes we didn’t talk all week. But we always knew the latest status of what the others were working on. These, and many other tactics, came from the “How” section of the book and were essential for helping this team work well together while physically apart.

I note for the record: Catherine and I had never worked together before. Linda and I had worked together once before, years ago, on a completely unrelated project. This team went from “forming” to “performing” (bypassing the “storming” part!) while never once meeting in person. It was a great team to be a part of and one of the highlights of the whole book writing process. We’ll be working together again, I know it!