How to work remote without endless meetings (in 2021)

How can you decline all your meetings this week and be super productive, by running just one workshop?

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1. Intro

How can you decline all your meetings this week and be super productive, by running just one workshop?

The WW community helps you run high-energy and result-driven workshops, so you can get the control back over your work week. And In this series of videos we will show you step-by-step how to get there.

In today's episode we'll be covering the basics of working from home and the Zoom video call madness.

If there is only one good thing that is coming out of this crazy crisis we're living in than it should be setting the standard for a new way-of-working.

It's quite clear for everyone now - even the more conservative organizations, that work doesn't necessarily needs to happen at the office. Working remote is here to stay and that can have major positive side effects. There is one big issue though. Most of us don't know how to work remote yet. People are sitting behind their laptop 8 hours straight, jumping from one Zoom meeting to the other.

And still, many organisations want to make this way of working permanent. I have been working remote on and off now for more that 10 years and I love it. And ever since reading the 4-hour workweek becoming a digital nomad - and working from another country for a year - is still something that is in the back of my head.

There are many examples to learn from to speed up your learning curve around remote work. When executed well, a remote way of working enables you to be highly productive while deciding on your own working hours. Times have changed and knowledge work fits no longer in a 9 to 5 regime.

2. Successful remote companies

A great source of inspiration are tech companies who have been working this way for almost twenty years now. Companies like Basecamp, Automaticc, Gitlab, Buffer, MURAL, Zapier and Trello have been sharing so much valuable resources about their way of working. They've published complete handbooks where they explain how they work with 1000+ employees in different timezones.

What do you think that one common theme is in their playbooks?

Eliminate all your meetings.

3. 5 levels of remote

A really great podcast about why meetings are killing remote work is this one from Sam Harris who is interviewing Matt Mullenweg. Matt is the founder of Wordpress and they've been working remote  since 2004.

Making Sense Podcast #194 - The New Future of Work | Sam Harris

In this podcast Matt talks about the 5 levels of remote work, and what you need to get there. Level 1 is pretty obvious - you need to go to the office to get work done. Level 5 is his ideal place where “You’re effortlessly effective”, but he doesn't give much details about it besides calling it Nirvana.

What level would you put your company in?

Level 2 is where most organisations have been stuck in since the beginning of this year. They are still figuring out why they have so many Zoom meetings, and are running full days with back-to-back meetings. Everything happen synchronous, which results in your days being all over the place.

Level 3 is where it starts to get interesting. First thing is: You need a good WFH setup, which I will tell about in a bit. Second you see lot's of meetings being replaced with asynchronous communication. For example if you want feedback on something, you don't plan a meeting but instead record a short video where you can give feedback on in a Google Docs to give a status update instead of calling a meeting. That's where you'll also find out how crucial written communication is. And when you are in video calls, you capture real-time notes to make sure you're on the same page and to share with others who missed the call.

You might be wondering right now, if you are telling me to eliminate all meetings: Why are you starting a Workshop Wednesday community?

I'll tell you in a bit, but first let's talk about your remote work setup first, because you need that to get to level 3.

4. Work From Home (WFH) setup

I have been in countless video call this year, and I have seen so many examples of workplaces where working remote is simply undoable for a longer period of time. The most important basics are a monitor at the right height, and a great chair. I'm lucky to have a dedicated room for my office, but even if you're sitting at your kitchen table you have to invest in this. And if you're working for an employer they should DEFINITELY pay these things for you. Otherwise your productivity just drops horribly over time, not to mention the back issues you will get.

I'm not going to go too detailed into a setup this time, but there is this great resource from Matt Staufer which will show you different options for your gear, depending on your budget

Setting Up Your Webcam, Lights, and Audio for Remote Work, Podcasting, Videos, and Streaming

Also, there has been an explosion in YouTube videos where people show their desk, which I have to admit I enjoy watching a little bit too much.

5. Basecamp: Meetings are toxic

So let's get back to why this is the perfect time to start the Workshop Wednesday community.

If you look at one of the companies who seem to be doing really well with working remote, there is one point of view I disagree on.

This is an excerpt from the book Getting Real from Basecamp, which is a company I follow for a long time now and I appreciate much in their approach. What they are saying is that you should skip meetings because:

  • They break your work day into small, incoherent pieces that disrupt your natural workflow
  • They’re usually about words and abstract concepts, not real things (like a piece of code or some interface design)
  • They usually convey an abysmally small amount of information per minute
  • They often contain at least one moron that inevitably gets his turn to waste everyone’s time with nonsense
  • They drift off-subject easier than a Chicago cab in heavy snow
  • They frequently have agendas so vague nobody is really sure what they are about
  • They require thorough preparation that people rarely do anyway

6. The Workshop Wednesday community

I fully agree with all these points. However, I would change this word because too WHEN.

If you make sure these points don't creep into your team, then instead of having meetings you would have workshops. And in a WORK shop, you do get real work done. But it's true that you need someone who makes sure the people in the group don't step into these pitfalls. And that's actually what I have been doing for the last decade as a Scrum Master, Agile Coach and Design Sprint facilitator. I've helped groups of people work together alone, so that they can solve problems faster and have more fun in their work. For me that's the Nirvana level.

That role of facilitator helps a team win over all the other teams. However, I've noticed through the 10+ years in this is role that is often misunderstood and one people don't feel comfortable taking up. That's why with the Workshop Wednesday community I want to make this as simple as possible. As a start, every week I'll be sharing one of my workshop formats as a step-by-step guide. I've adapted them all to a remote way-of-working with templates you can download and use yourself. And in the near future I want to use this platform for other facilitators, where they can show their approach and make it simpler for others to get better in this role.

Off course you don't learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over. This is where the Expert program from Workshop Wednesday kicks in. It's the only part of Workshop Wednesday that's paid, so that we can create a safe environment for you to practice your workshop facilitation skills and prepare your own workshops.

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