Laura Vanderkam is an author, writer, and podcaster. She’s also a long-time friend of FlexJobs! Laura recently launched her latest podcast, The New Corner Office, and we caught up with her to learn some of the essentials—like how to listen—and to hear a few of her thoughts on how the recent pandemic has impacted the workplace.
Q: What is your podcast about, and what experiences inspired you to create one?
The New Corner Office is about how to thrive in the new world of work, where location and hours are more flexible than in the past. I’ve been studying people’s schedules for 10 years now, and I’ve come to see that structuring work to be flexible (and in some cases remote) is actually a strategic advantage.
Organizations are more nimble and people are happier. But succeeding in this new world requires working in new ways. Now that plenty of people are trying remote work for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic, I thought it was time to share the tips I’ve learned over the years.
Q: How frequently do you upload new episodes, how long are the episodes, and what can listeners expect?
I produce a short (five minute) episode every weekday morning. Each episode contains a quick tip that will help take your day from great to awesome. My goal is that people can listen over that first cup of coffee and learn something useful.
Q: Why should listeners tune in, and where can they find you (i.e., apps, websites, etc.)?
The New Corner Office is available on all the major podcast apps: Apple podcasts, Stitcher, the iHeartRadio app, etc. Tune in because you want a quick daily dose of motivation!
Q: What are three things that every first-time remote worker needs to know?
Find a workable workspace.
Ideally you’re near a window, in a supportive chair, with a table/desk set to an appropriate height. Trying to work on a sofa or (worse) the floor for 40 hours a week is going to cause back problems quickly.
Learn to deal with distractions.
Offices are incredibly distracting places, but people get used to those distractions. If you’re new to remote work, you may have a harder time tuning out undone housework and the like. Either do those tasks during short, planned breaks, or create a “later list” where you write these tasks, and then do them at a designated time.
Get a life!
Despite the worry that remote workers will spend all day watching Netflix, the opposite problem tends to be true: people don’t know when to quit. For many people, a commute signals that the day is done. Without a commute, people wind up half-working/half not-working all night or weekend. The best approach is to have something beyond work that you need or want to do.
Kids can serve this function (they have to eat at some point!) but you can also elect to go for a daily 6 p.m. walk, start a project of cooking through a major recipe book, FaceTime a relative at 6 p.m. daily, or any other such ritual that makes sense to you.
Q: One of the side effects from the COVID-19 pandemic is that it brought remote work into the spotlight. That said, experiences for employers and employees across the board will likely be mixed. Any thoughts on how these past several weeks may shape the workplace for years to come?
I’ve heard leaders argue in the past that remote work “won’t work for us.” Well, it turns out that if you have to, you can pitch a million-dollar project to a client via Zoom and then celebrate with your team all raising glasses remotely too. None of this is either/or. Face-to-face work is great, but like all things, there is a point of diminishing returns, and I think that point, for many sorts of work, is far under the 40-hours-in-an-office mark.
People are figuring out how to manage people and manage workflow when team members aren’t right in front of them—and this won’t immediately stop once life goes back to normal. I don’t think anyone can argue that remote work can’t work. It has. I certainly don’t think that many organizations will choose to remain 100% remote in the future. But they will probably be less rigid about expecting all work to happen in the office.
Q: Many successful companies were caught off guard with their emergency preparedness as the pandemic’s impact was reaching the US workplace. How can those companies (who have been fortunate enough to work from home during these times) learn from this experience?
It’s really amazing that this did catch companies off guard as much as it did. Not because the pandemic itself could be anticipated, but there are lots of emergencies that can preclude in-office work. Plenty of organizations operate in places where snow can shut down a city for a week. A major bridge malfunction can make it nearly impossible to get to an office.
Did people not think about these things? Hopefully, organizations learn that making it possible for people to work remotely isn’t just about work/life balance. It’s about being adaptable when we can’t control outside conditions. In general, I think a lot of organizations are learning that it pays to think through bad scenarios, so they can make workplaces more resilient.
Listen to The New Corner Office
If you want to tune-in to The New Corner Office, check it out on Laura’s website!
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Rachel Pelta is a Content Coordinator for FlexJobs. With professional experience in job placement and as a manager, she creates content to help people succeed in their job search, and to help managers get the best out of their staff.…Read More >
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