Bloom is urging corporate America to navigate the turbulence by resisting offering the unlimited freedom that many employees have come to expect. His prescription lies in creating a uniform schedule for employees – one designed to balance the benefits of working from home with the need for collaboration and equality.
Unless employers established a clear and level playing field, he said, the years ahead could remain filled with uncertainty and upheaval, for companies as well as employees.
“Revolutions are chaotic, and as we know from many revolutions in history, they’re often followed by further turmoil,” Bloom told me. “This has been a massive revolution – and we’re only halfway through.”
Here’s what else he had to say about WFH’s future:
GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz is embroiled in scandal as he faces a federal sex-trafficking investigation. We spoke with his former high school classmates, some of whom said they weren’t surprised:
One classmate became furious when Gaetz ran for the Florida House of Representatives in 2010 and asserted marriage ought to be between one man and one woman.
“I was so disgusted by it,” she told Insider this month. “I knew him to not believe that.”
She grew so angry that she blogged about Gaetz in March 2010, urging people to vote against him in the upcoming special election primary for a seat in the Sunshine State legislature.
“While the rest of us grew up, Gaetz stayed the same. He may have gotten his law degree and put on a suit and tie, but behind all that he’s still the same guy who takes out his cell phone to show friends naked pictures of the women he’s recently bedded,” she wrote in 2010.
“Often, I just came home crying,” one worker told Insider. She called her mom, asking: “What’s wrong with me? What do I do?”
She actively tried to act happier at work, meeting with other workers in the store for advice. But the negative feedback continued. She started not wanting to show up to her shifts. “I felt like I couldn’t be happy enough to work,” she said.
And so, two months after her first day, her mental health already feeling on the decline, she quit. “I just had to get out,” she said.
GlaxoSmithKline is the world’s largest vaccine business. But in the midst of the worst pandemic in a century, the company’s vaunted vaccine unit has yet to develop a coronavirus shot – and employees are leaving the company in hordes:
Three years after the Rockville ribbon cutting, reports began to trickle in of mysterious cases of pneumonia in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Soon, scientists would identify the cause as a new coronavirus, called SARS-CoV-2. Within weeks, the virus had spread globally. By early March, much of the world had shut down in an attempt to halt the spread.
It was the kind of event the Rockville center was built for. And GSK, a multinational pharma company based in the UK, was sitting on some of the most promising technology for rapidly responding to viruses.
But as the novel coronavirus emerged, GSK, the world’s largest vaccine business by revenue, was caught flatfooted.
This is a very unique time to build a business. Brick and mortar companies are struggling and local “mom & pop” shops are closing at a record pace. Yet, there’s record growth for online service providers like Netflix, Amazon, DoorDash, and Zoom.
The one thing all of these growing companies have in common? They support the “stay-at-home” lifestyle and the “new normal” of working remotely.
Entrepreneurs can learn from an evolving global economy and the new normal of work. Here’s how some businesses did it:
Restaurants admitted they can not replace the experience of dining in their establishments. But meals-to-go, with the inclusion of cashless payments, allowed restaurateurs to have a new lifeline.
Online shopping has been around for quite some time. When the pandemic hit, the retail industry embraced the new segment of customers – mall-goers – to encourage them to buy. Online purchasing and shipping options made the transition easy for customers, and Amazon has cashed in record profits.
Reduced movie-goers spending did not stop the entertainment industry from thriving. Companies pivoted to provide streaming services for stay-at-home amusement. Theaters, on the other hand, got destroyed, for obvious reasons.
Local tourism, virtual tours, and travel-to-nowhere flights and cruises allowed travel lust individuals to experience traveling albeit limited. Personally, I think this is an incredible time to travel (by car) because not many are!
What made some businesses thrive and some permanently close? They adapted to the disruption through innovation and hard work. These two characteristics are what entrepreneurs are made of.
My own COVID adaptation
Just like every business owner, I was really worried when the lockdown was announced in March 2020. We had several clients cancel their virtual assistant services that we provided. Nevertheless, my business thrived. Since COVID, I have experienced an over 100% growth in our virtual assistant staffing agency for entrepreneurs and startups all around the world.
That’s because last year, building a “virtual team” sounded cool, but today, it’s a necessity for businesses to survive the current economic conditions.
Yes, a virtual team is the “new normal” of work. It is about time you hire one.
My secret weapon
My executive assistant Ysabelle, who is virtual, starts working for me one hour before I even wake up. This arrangement works because the first thing I do when I wake up is grab my phone off of my nightstand to check my messages. Now, Ysabelle goes through my emails and clears out all the hundreds of messages that I shouldn’t be wasting my time on. She leaves the ones that need my attention marked as “unread” with a flag.
Because I have over 100 people on my team, she knows exactly who’s responsible for certain operations in the business. So when I get an email that requires action on someone else’s part, Ysabelle sends the email to that team member and responds to the sender that we’ve got it taken care of. The sender probably thinks I sent the response – and that’s the point.
You see, I didn’t need to be in that conversation. With Ysabelle’s help, I can focus on myself and the really important activities for the day.
Why did I share this with you? I want you to understand that you can only do so much. The biggest lie is “I was about to do something but I ran out of time.” It’s simply not true. You just don’t want to be held accountable, or you don’t have adequate help so you have to prioritize what you do and don’t do each day.
If you are the only one in your business who knows everything, you are going to be a slave to your business. One of my colleagues once said, “If you don’t have an assistant, you are one.” Think about that.
Remote work is no longer a thing of the past. I don’t believe it’s going to go away. The current global crisis was a catalyst for the growing move to a virtually connected world. There is hardly anything we do in our business that can’t be done remotely, unless you physically make, or build something. Entrepreneurs who can adapt and evolve to the new “virtual workplace” and see its benefits will be able to future-proof their business as the economy moves remote.
Insider interviewed five current and recently departed analysts in investment banking to get the perspective of junior bankers during the early years of their careers. All these bankers spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak freely about their experiences. Their identities are known to Insider.
“I’m working on a deal right now where some of my coworkers in the bank worked last night until 5:30 a.m,” one banker said. “Ninety-five hours a week, that’s nothing special. For the most part, everyone’s working those hours.”
Fine Brothers Entertainment, or FBE, is best known for its “react” videos, in which children, teens, adults, and FBE staff are filmed watching clips, listening to music, eating strange foods, and taking part in games.
FBE’s content has become a staple of YouTube, mirroring the trajectory of founders Benny and Rafi Fine themselves, who experienced meteoric success since their early videos. On YouTube, FBE has attracted 30 million subscribers, and in June 2020 it raked in 300 million views a month.
Yet interviews with 26 former employees and cast members paint a different picture. In addition to allegations that they experienced a toxic culture and racism when they worked there, some of these employees alleged that they experienced or witnessed casual sexism at the company that they said went to the top of management.
Just because all your friends jump off a bridge doesn’t mean you should, too.
This ominous parental warning seems apt for the times: Millions of Americans have taken the plunge into homeownership over the last year, but that may not be the right decision for everyone.
Home prices nationwide are hitting unprecedented peaks, propelled by low mortgage rates. The underlying problem is a grave imbalance between supply and demand. The infinitesimal number of homes for sale is outweighed by the enormous pandemic-fueled desire for a home of one’s own. Stay-at-home orders reminded people how much they crave bigger, better spaces to quarantine.
“Frankly, it may not make sense to buy at this moment,” said Scott Trench, the CEO of the real-estate-investing resource BiggerPockets. “Frantically trying to buy ‘something’ is a great way to make a bad purchase.”
The billionaire investor Chamath Palihapitiya says he loves SPACs because they level the playing field between ordinary folks and big Wall Street investors. The latter group is now pouncing on his three special-purpose acquisition companies amid a slump in performance.
In 2018, a Gallup poll found that more Americans were stressed, worried, and angered compared to the previous year. Considering all we’ve dealt with in the past three years, it’s reasonable to speculate that this statistic has skyrocketed.
In the last year alone, political divisions and “panger” – an actual term coined for “pandemic anger”- have put many Americans in a constant state of fight or flight.
I’m as angry as most people – and I’d say justifiably so. But as a mom of two toddlers struggling to keep my family safe and maintain a freelance writing career without the luxury of childcare, I don’t have time to argue endlessly on Twitter or bicker with my husband over whose turn it is to walk the dogs. I know that if I blow up at my toddler, the situation will only escalate. Although we may disagree on some issues or choose to behave differently (particularly when it comes to COVID protocols), I can’t afford to make an enemy of my neighbor or lose a valued friend. And so when my anger begins to feel unhealthy and unproductive, I make a concerted effort to let it go.
Below are the steps I take to let go of my anger so that I can focus on my family and be more productive at work.
1. I feel my feelings
Anger is a natural emotion, and there can be upsides to feeling it. Justifiable anger, for example, incited Black Americans and their allies to act on their beliefs and form what may be the largest political movement in US history. But even righteous anger can overwhelm and make a person behave irrationally when they don’t regulate their emotions. Anger can even make you sick, exhausting our bodies and weakening the immune system.
That’s why, when I feel my temperature begin to rise, I’ve learned to do the opposite of the urgency my body seems to be demanding. Instead of rushing headfirst into conflict, I consciously slow down, stop, and return to my emotions. Experts say that acknowledging and experiencing our emotions may prevent them from spiraling out of control. To be sure, in my experience, simply noticing my physical response and identifying the feeling can diffuse the situation enough and allow me to refocus on my work.
2. I seek out emotional validation
Of course, noticing a frustration doesn’t always make it go away – especially in the era of the coronavirus. With so many of us working from home under lockdown and deprived of many of the usual sources of pleasure and release, experts say it’s easy to get stuck in a negative mood.
To prevent minor annoyances from adding up and compounding into major resentments, I pick up the phone and call or text a friend. Licensed psychologist Guy Winch explained on Psychology Today why seeking out people who will understand, relate, and take your side is a good coping tactic.
“When we tell someone why we are extremely angry or upset and they totally get it truly,” Winch said, “it effectively validates our feelings. As a result, we experience tremendous relief and catharsis.”
3. I log off social media
I can tell my anger is misdirected when it seemingly arises out of nowhere, or when it’s disproportionate to its trigger. My husband catches a lot of undue flak, but my favorite place to misdirect my anger is online.
Whenever I feel a strong urge to lash out on social media, I try and pause first to consider whether or not my reaction is rational. Am I really angry at my cousin’s husband’s work colleague for posting a photo of themselves enjoying a round of drinks at a bar with their friends? Or is it more that I am mad at the fact that I, too, long to return to indoor dining, but we’ve made the personal choice to stay home until we’ve gotten our vaccines?
In these moments, I remind myself that a snide or self righteous remark will only make me feel worse, and that no amount of back and forth is going to make me feel better. At some point – hopefully before I injure a relationship – I log off and turn my attention back to work, or my kids.
Don’t get me wrong – whatever the disagreement, I like to think that I’m right. But, according to experts on intellectual humility, it makes us feel better when we accept we could be wrong.
Intellectual humility is an ability to meet opposing views with curiosity. It means setting aside your preconceived notions and being open to learning from the experiences of others.
Even in instances when you’re certain and strong in your conviction, it’s beneficial to recognize and regard another person’s opinion. Empathy – that is, putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes – “is one of the great teaching tools in shaping anger and aggression,” said Dr. Hans Steiner, a Stanford professor who’s spent decades studying anger and aggression.
5. I feel my softer feelings
While anger is classified as one of the four primary emotions (along with joy, sadness, and fear), it is often expressed in secondary ways. For example, I felt sad and fearful when I read a third surge of covid is hitting Michigan, and then I got mad to learn that one probably cause for the uptick is the fact that residents are moving about almost on par with pre-pandemic levels, taking far more “non-essential” trips than they did at the depths of the second wave in December.
While aggression may feel safer than the softer, more vulnerable emotions like sorrow or worry, it separates us from others and makes us feel more alone. Softer emotions, on the other hand, are key in building intimacy, coming together around a problem, and preventing polarization. In other words, don’t get mad, get clear – and then carry on with your workday.
The number one comment I hear from readers of my adult books on mental strength is, “I wish I would have learned these things sooner.” So I decided to write a mental strength book for kids.
And while my adult books focus on what not to do, the kids’ book focuses on what to do. If kids learn these skills now, they won’t grow up to develop the unhealthy habits that rob adults of mental strength.
It’s healthy for kids to feel sad. But what’s not healthy is allowing that sadness to turn into self-pity. When kids feel sorry for themselves, they insist their problems are too big to address and they become helpless and hopeless.
Exercise: Work with your child to create a list of activities they enjoy doing when they feel happy, like playing games or singing. Those are their “mood boosters.” When they start to feel sorry for themselves, encourage them to pick an activity from their mood boosters list to help them feel better.
2. They empower themselves
Whether kids are experiencing friendship drama or they’re struggling with homework they don’t understand, it’s essential for them to take responsibility for their choices.
Exercise: When your child blames other people for making them angry or ruining their day, point out how to change their language. Empower them to take responsibility by saying, “I’m angry,” rather than, “You make me mad.”
3. They adapt to change
From moving onto a new grade to trying a different sport, change is tough. Kids need confidence that they can adapt to those changes.
Exercise: Help your child label their feelings. Simply putting a name to an emotion – like sadness or anxiety – can take a lot of the sting out of them.
4. They focus on things they have control over
Kids can easily get caught up in worrying about things they have no control over – like who their teacher will be next year or whether their team will win the championship game. But worrying about things they can’t control drains them of the mental strength they need to be their best.
Exercise: When your child worries about something beyond their control, help them change the channel in their brain. Putting together a puzzle, coloring a picture, or playing a game can distract their brains and help them get refocused on things they can control.
5. They know when to say no
While you might think your kids say no to too often already – like when given opportunities to earn money or spend time with the family – it’s important for them to be able to say no to unhealthy things that come their way.
Exercise: Teach your child how to set boundaries by saying no to things they don’t want in their lives. Whether they decline a favor for a friend or they say no to someone who asks them to cheat, teach them to show self-respect by delivering a direct no.
6. They take calculated risks
While a child might be quick to take a physical risk (like a bike stunt), they might be slow to take a social risk (like making a new friend). It’s important for them to learn to assess risk and face healthy fears.
Exercise: Teach kids that their brain’s anxiety alarm is likely a bit faulty – everyone’s is. So while their brains and their bodies might react to giving a speech as if it’s a life or death situation, assure them that it’s OK to face healthy fears – even when their anxiety alarm bells are ringing.
7. They create their future
Kids won’t ever reach their greatest potential if they’re completely passive about their lives or overly critical of themselves. It’s important for them to get interested – and excited – about the type of future they can create for themselves.
Exercise: When your child says something like, “I’ll never be good at math,” ask them what they’d say to a friend who said that about themselves. They’d likely offer some kind words. Teach them to talk to themselves the same way they’d talk to a good friend.
8. They own their mistakes
It’s tempting for kids to hide their mistakes. After all, they don’t want to get in trouble. But they can’t learn from their mistakes unless they own up to them.
Exercise: When your kids make a mistake, help them set themselves up for success next time. If they forget to bring their homework to school, encourage them to start packing their bag the night before. Or, if they forget to do their chores, create a chart to remind them what to do.
9. They celebrate other people’s success
Feeling jealous and resentful of kids who get better grades or score more points in the games will only hold your child back in life. On the other hand, learning how to celebrate other people’s success will serve them well.
Exercise: Teach your child to “act like the person they want to become.” That doesn’t mean acting fake; instead, it’s about encouraging your child to act the way they want to feel. Acting confident leads to feelings of confidence.
10. They fail and try again
Kids who fear failure avoid new things or give up as soon as they experience a setback. They need to know that although failing feels bad, it can also be an important stepping stone to success.
Exercise: Talk about famous failures. When kids learn that successful scientists, inventors, and artists failed many times before succeeding, they see how to learn from failure.
11. They balance social time with alone time
It’s important for kids to feel comfortable socializing with others as well as to be able to do activities independently. Healthy independence helps kids feel more comfortable in their own skin.
Exercise: Encourage your child to do something fun all by themselves. With practice and support, they can learn that alone time doesn’t have to be boring and lonely.
12. They are thankful for what they have
Entitled kids grow up to be narcissistic adults. Grateful kids, however, grow up to become appreciative, happy adults.
Exercise: When your child receives a gift, talk about what it’s like for them to know that someone spent time picking that give out for them. Your conversation can help your child experience gratitude about the people who care about them – not just the material possessions they receive.
13. They persist
When faced with obstacles, kids are often quick to abandon their goals. Persistence, however, is the key to true success.
Exercise: Have your child write an encouraging, kind letter to themselves. Their letter might remind them why they should keep going when they’re struggling. When they’re tempted to quit, encourage them to read that letter to themselves. Hearing their own words cheer them can give them the strength they need to push through tough times.
The days of nine to five, Monday to Friday workschedules are numbered. The pandemic ushered in a new era of worker expectations, and this shift isn’t going away with any vaccine.
A huge portion of the global workforce has spent the better part of nine months working from home, adjusting to a new reality, and building new routines. The door to this new way of working wasn’t just opened. It was pulled right off of its hinges.
A November 2020 study from JLL found that, for the first time ever, workers value work-life balance more than a high salary (72% versus 69%). That same study found that 71% of workers expect more flexible schedules post-pandemic.
This isn’t a matter of employee entitlement and shouldn’t be viewed as a challenge businesses need to somehow overcome. It should be seen as an awakening to the needs of a new generation of workers. It’s an opportunity to build a workplace that values employee happiness as much as it does profit.
And to be clear, these two things aren’t mutually exclusive. There is no shortage of studies showing that employee happiness leads to greater productivity, retention, motivation, leadership, and more. Plus, the nine-to-five workday is a remnant of historical jobs and ways of working. It doesn’t map to when many of us are at our most creative, motivated, or productive.
Do the benefits of maintaining your status quo schedules and working arrangements outweigh the risks of possibly disengaging a huge part of your current and future employee base?
If you’ve come to the conclusion that change is necessary, here are three ways you can introduce schedule flexibility within your organization.
1. Availability hours versus working hours
One of the main hiccups involved in increasing scheduling flexibility is ensuring that your employees are available when you need them. If there’s an issue that needs solving or an opportunity you can jump on, will your team be there to act?
And while meetings might be changing, they’re not going away. For that reason alone, you need employee schedules to overlap at least to some degree. If you’ve ever worked at a company with international offices, you know how hard it can be to find appropriate meeting times when people are working different hours.
Whether you’re working remotely or in the office, one way to increase scheduling flexibility without creating a new set of issues for your business is to set a defined period of availability hours during the week. These are periods during which all employees need to be available – for meetings, communication, or time-sensitive tasks.
These periods shouldn’t be eight hours long. Instead, pick a period of three to four hours at the start or near the end of your typical workday. This should give your team ample time to interact with and support one another, while still providing far greater schedule flexibility. People will be able to drop off or pick up their kids from school, work late at night to avoid distractions, or simply take breaks as needed throughout the day.
While it might mean a change from your typical nine to five, availability hours should be a simple adjustment for your company – an easy trade-off to potentially increase employee happiness and productivity.
2. Weekend swap days
Is there a day in your week that is particularly chaotic? Maybe all of your kids’ extracurriculars line up and it’s nearly impossible to work regular hours or get anything done. Or maybe your partner has a weird schedule and everything falls on you?
One more question: Have you ever worked a weekend day just because you wanted distraction-free focus time?
Another way to introduce greater scheduling flexibility is by offering employees the opportunity to swap one working weekday with a Saturday or Sunday. This could see them working an adjusted week, like Sunday to Thursday, or splitting their week in two and taking Wednesdays off, for example.
This can be done as a one-off, allowing them to work a single weekend day when something comes up. But weekend swap days work much better when offered on a long term basis.
Give employees the option to work a weekend day for three- or six-month periods. This requires them to commit to a modified schedule upfront. The advantage there is it introduces stability week-to-week so the rest of your team gets familiar with their new schedule and won’t be guessing whether they’re in or out of the office day-to-day. And the employee gets to truly test whether the different schedule is a better fit for their lives.
Plus, by allowing certain roles – customer support being the biggie – to work weekends, you might even expand your service offering in the process.
3. Optional four-day work weeks
The movement behind four-day work weeks has been gaining steam for the better part of a decade. It has recently been thrust into the spotlight more widely as a result of COVID-19 but also because of several companies and even entire regions experimenting with this system. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern notably cited four-day weeks as a possible means of rebuilding the economy after the pandemic comes to a close.
While it’s clear many employees would love the added schedule flexibility, the four-day week represents the greatest logistical challenge for your company. There’s plenty to consider:
Will you set the specific third day off each week or let each employee decide?
Will you allow all employees to work four days, or will only some employees qualify?
Will you offer the same salary and benefits to employees working four days, or will these be adjusted?
Will people still work 40 hours during those four days, or will they work reduced hours?
Will you set a one-size fit all policy or allow managers decisional power on this?
Will you need to review any and all variable compensation plans?
Will this impact any funding programs your company may benefit from?
A four-day workweek does require a little more forethought and management, but you don’t have to jump in with both feet.
At Unito, we offer optional four-day weeks to employees who have been with the company for at least one year. We made this decision because we feel it’s essential for employees working four days to be very comfortable in their role and very capable of managing their schedule and responsibilities – which we felt was more realistic after working in the position for a year.
The decision to make the four-day week optional was a reflection of the fact that not all employees want this degree of schedule flexibility. This is especially true if your shortened week comes with a proportional decrease in salary – if people work 80% of the hours, they receive 80% of their salary. This may be a deterrent to some, though as mentioned above, work-life balance is more important than salary for a growing number of people.
This approach to the four-day week has allowed us to retain valued employees who really desired this type of arrangement, while most employees continued with their regular routines.
You have to stretch to get flexible
Changing your routine or your approach isn’t easy, but things truly worth doing rarely are. The impact a four-day week or flexible hours can have on your employees – and on your bottom line – in the long term is worth a bit of short term discomfort.
COVID-19 might have sped up the process a bit but these changes were always inevitable. Will your business be one of the first to adapt?
I launched my full-time voice-over career just last year, but even as a kid, I was always doing voice work in some way. I would constantly mimic the people I heard in commercials and on the radio and I made tons of prank phone calls, but I never really thought about it as something I could do as a career.
I went to Rutgers University to study journalism and visual arts. After working at MSNBC and a local news station for several years, I moved to Texas in 2016. There, I eventually switched over to a production company where I wrote and produced TV and radio ads.
One day, I was going over a client’s script with my colleagues. Just as a joke, I read the script out loud in the most over-the-top radio voice I could think of. They stopped and stared at me; then they said, “Wow, that was really good!”
I started doing voice-overs for the company and realized it was really fun.
I also think it also helped that I’m a very animated person and I enunciate well.
Then around January 2020, right before the pandemic, I was going through a divorce and felt unhappy going to work for nine hours a day. I told myself, “I’m going to quit my job, start freelancing, buy a school bus, and I’m going to travel.”
I made my own voice-over demo reel and made a profile on Fiverr and things surprisingly took off.
One of the first clients I got was Fiverr itself. I know they will hire new members to give them some credibility, so I think they just saw that I was new and they liked my demo. Now I book probably 90% of my work through Fiverr, where other companies will find me for their clients. I’ve done VOs for companies like, Valvoline, Community Coffee, Verizon, Accenture, and Amazon.
I always ask potential clients a few questions before accepting the job.
I ask how long the script is, what’s the audience and tone they’re going for, and whether or not the recording has to meet certain time requirements. My voice-overs typically run anywhere from 15 seconds to three minutes, but I’ve done some audio (usually for e-learning projects) that was as long as 20 minutes.
Generally, I practice a script a couple times and record it as many as four times, depending on how comfortable I am with the style and subject. Medical or technical copy can take me way longer. Then comes editing, which takes forever. I usually spend four times as long on editing as I do on recording, because I have to remove breaths, gaps, mess-ups, etc. I spend about 10% of my time practicing scripts, 30% recording them, and 60% editing the recording.
I’ve spent over $1,000 on equipment to produce the best quality voice-overs.
I work with a Rode NT USB mic, which costs about $170, and then I have a dinky HP laptop that I bought about a year ago. I definitely should have bought a more powerful one, but for now it gets the job done.
I also bought myself an Isovox, which is a soundproofed, square-shaped box you shove your head into. It’s super claustrophobic, but it makes my audio sound pretty great. I use a program called Audacity to edit my work.
Due to COVID-19, there are tons of phone recording jobs these days.
About 20% of my orders nowadays talk about safety precautions or mention COVID directly. Pretty much every company needs a new outgoing message saying, “Thank you for calling blah-blah. Here are the precautions we’re taking,” or, “We offer pick-ups and deliveries, etc.”
These are probably the most boring jobs, because they’re just so straightforward. Personally, my favorite assignments are when I get to feel like I’m acting and I can really get into a character.
Taking care of my voice is something I try not to be a diva about. Mainly, I just stay hydrated. I try not to record in the morning, when I sound congested and nasally. I also avoid recording when I’m tired or angry, because that’ll come through in my vocal quality.
I sometimes get weird and even creepy requests.
I’ve occasionally received requests from people (almost all of them men) for fetish-related “audio porn” although since I’ve raised my prices it’s gotten better. People will ask for burping recordings, or that I record the sound of myself being tickled. Somebody else asked me if I could simulate the sound of getting a wedgie while also talking about how the wedgie feels and how much I hate getting wedgies. I respond to those requests with, “I’m not interested, but good luck.”
As a freelancer, I’ve already surpassed my old full-time income. In January, I had my best week ever when I made about $3,300. February was my best month to date – I made just under $10,000 total. And even on my busiest days, I’m still only working from about 12 to 5 p.m. The amount of free time this career allows has been the biggest blessing, as it’s given me and my partner time to work on refurbishing our school bus.
If you want to get into this line of work, my advice is to work on your acting.
Even if you have a nice voice, doing voice-overs is really about being an actor more than anything. You have to be able to sound compelling and convincing.
There are websites specifically for finding voice-over work, like Voices.com, Voices123, and VoiceBunny. I went the Fiverr route because I’d used it in my previous lines of work. You can definitely land bigger jobs on the voice-over websites, whereas a lot of the Fiverr and Upwork roles are more for mom-and-pop places. I’ve had my share of big clients, but most of my work is for smaller companies.
You’re going to get a lot of rejections at the start, especially if you go the more traditional route of auditioning for roles. While I don’t audition for the work I get via Fiverr, I’m also on Upwork, where I audition for roles and lose a lot of them. You can do something you think is perfect and other people hate it. It’s hard sometimes, but I’ve learned to just power through and continually improve.
What parts of work will remain as they have been during the pandemic, and what other parts will bounce back to pre-COVID practices? At the risk of getting ahead of ourselves as new variants of COVID spread, I reached out to Elad Gil– who has been thinking about those questions, and has made some startup investments based on where he sees things heading.
Gil is a serial Silicon Valley startup founder, Google and Twitter alum, author of “High Growth Handbook,” and investor or advisor to companies such as Airbnb, Coinbase, Instacart, Square, and Stripe. Here is a transcript of our conversation, edited for clarity:
How do you think work will change after the pandemic?
There are two or three things that will definitely shift, and there are some things that there are bigger questions about. For example, we’re definitely going to see more out-of-office work. By that I mean, there’s a number of companies that will probably say from now on people can work out of the office two days a week and everybody’s going to be in the office on these three same days, or things like that. We’re going to see a broader mix of models than what traditionally existed.
To take a step back, we’re going to have all three extremes represented: We’re going to have companies that snap back, and largely everybody’s back in the office like they were before. There are going to be teams where it’s what I just mentioned, where it’s a little bit more of a mix. Then there’s teams where they really are going to go fully remote and distributed.
If you look at the history of companies that [went fully remote], you had a series of tech companies pre-COVID – there’s only three or four that I can think of that ever hit any real scale. By scale, I mean a few hundred people to a thousand-plus people and that’s GitLab, Zapier, and Automattic, and then it kind of fell off dramatically after that.
Pre-COVID there weren’t that many companies that actually had a true remote-first model, except for very large organizations. HP, Cisco, and companies like that actually had people who were already doing remote work before it was a big trend. The old incumbent companies were the ones that actually, in some cases, had the most flexible work-from-home policies or hire-somebody-randomly-in-Texas kind of policies.
We’re going to see all three models. Part of it will also be based on the stage of the team. And part of it is going to be the stage of the project. On average, the people that I’ve talked to have said that creative, early, creation-style projects tend to suffer a lot from remote work, while projects that are already up and running and have strong momentum, and it’s more a matter of turning the crank, tend to do better with remote work. A lot of the CEOs or executives I talk to seem to differentiate between those two types of work, and therefore the cadence and structures of work that is for them.
You’ve said previously that some startups think that they’re going to start remote, and see it as a way to accelerate things. But in fact, they’re struggling without having a physical presence.
Yeah, there’s a big mix. There are a handful of startups that I know, that are on the smaller side, that have decided to form a pod or bubble – almost like a work-life situation. And they’re sort of always together. I’ve seen other teams that are getting together in a park for a few hours every Monday, just so that they have a little bit more of that interpersonal contact and building of relationships, particularly if a lot of the people that they hired are now remote.
Half of a company will suddenly be remote employees that have never met each other. People are trying to compensate in different ways. Then you see other companies where they’re reopening in their offices, based on guidelines. They’re basically saying whoever wants to come back can, and whoever wants to stay remote can. Typically it’s about 20% or so of employees who end up coming back in. But many people are continuing to work remote.
So there will be these different styles of work represented – remote partially, fully, and also office-leaning. Do you think there’ll be a dominant model? And is there any read-through for offices and real estate?
I’ll tell you what my view is, and it may not be a correct view. It depends a little bit on the geography in which you’re based. We can also differentiate between what companies that already exist will do, and then what companies of the future will do. We can come back to that. But my guess at the default is that most companies will come back and have a headquarters and a physical presence, and all the rest. There’s enormous value to all the serendipity that happens in an organization, or between an organization, by having people co-located next to each other. Now, those companies may have more flexible work styles than they used to.
Like back to maybe three days a week, you’re remote, you can work wherever you want, and then everybody’s in the office on the same two days – there may be styles like that emerge. And there may also be companies that just say, we’re just snapping back 100% and that’s the way we want to run. That’s going to be the majority, if not the vast majority of companies. I do think there will be some companies that will continue to be remote-first or remote-only. Those are two important differences. Many of the remote-first companies that said that they’re going remote from now on have two or three characteristics. One characteristic is that many of them are still maintaining some physical office where people can congregate. The second characteristic is that many of them are in the Bay Area.
My chief of staff actually looked at this a few months ago. This is two or three months old now, but of the hundred, most valuable private tech companies by market cap, five or six of them announced that they’re going to remote-first. And all of them are in the Bay Area, even though only about half of the unicorn market cap in the US is in the Bay Area or half of those companies are in the Bay Area. So you’re basically selecting for companies that are in a region where governance is bad, where you’re worried about taxes and other things, and your employees may just not be happy to still live there. That’s part of the reason that we’re seeing that as well.
You made a distinction between existing companies and companies in the future. What do you expect for companies of the future in terms of approaching this?
There are some companies that have now been established as remote-first organizations, and they’re going to continue to try to scale that way. If you look at the amount of work that’s required to build a remote-first team early, you’re basically accelerating a large number of processes that usually come later in the life of a company, which can be very cumbersome processes.
GitLab has documented these things extremely well. They have an open corpus of information about how they run a remote company that’s been an incredibly valuable resource for everybody. If you talk to some of the leadership over there, they’ll often talk about how they’ve had to adopt OKRs earlier, have different types of goal setting at a very early stage of a company when normally it may come later.
You have to really focus on asynchronous communication. You have to focus on all these shifts. They usually don’t come until you have a few hundred people. Really what you’re doing is you’re asking a 10-person startup or a 20-person startup to increasingly act more like a three-, four-, or 500-person company. If you’re willing to adopt those processes, which come with their own overhead and their own friction and issues, it makes it dramatically easier to scale up. So it’s basically a tradeoff, and different founders will make different decisions about where they want to fall in terms of that tradeoff.
Do you think people realize there’s a trade-off?
It’s unclear. Because if you’re three people it’s not too bad, but once you hit 10, 20 people, coordination costs go up, and then once you’re at a hundred people, it’s really hard. And the other thing that people often do is they try to optimize for time zones and if possible keep people in the same time zone or close time zones, because if you start having around-the-clock groups of people working on the same project, that can become really hard as well.
What is the future of Silicon Valley, given the departure of prominent members of the tech community for Texas, Southern California, and Florida?
If you look at every industry on the planet, there are geographic clusters associated with that industry. And in most cases, when you ask people where you should go to be a practitioner of that industry, the same set of cities crop up. So for example, if you want to go into finance people say, ‘Oh, you should go to New York plus Connecticut.’ Or if you’re in Europe, go to London, or if you’re in Asia, go to Hong Kong or Shanghai. For movies, it’s going to Hollywood. If you’re in Africa, go to Lagos. There are very clear places. And if you think about those industries, you could do those jobs virtually from anywhere, right? You can write a movie script from anywhere. You can recruit actors from anywhere.
You can shoot anywhere in the world, you can digitally edit it. You can add a music score virtually. You can do all these things virtually now, and you could do those things for years, but nobody ever tells you, ‘Oh, you want to go into movies – you should really move to the Bay Area.’ Or same with finance, right? You can raise money anywhere. You can trade anywhere. You can come up with your trading strategies from anywhere, but everybody clusters. There’s a reason that people cluster, and we can get into all the different aspects of why, but the reality is geographic clusters exist for basically everything. So the question is, does COVID/the remote work that we’ve been thrust into, change that?
I think it will impact things somewhat. But the reality is ambitious people will continue to want to be amongst other driven, ambitious people working in the same industry. There are real effects to that in terms of information, sharing relationships, and all the rest of that. There’s a kind of serendipity that exists when lots and lots of people are in a cluster. If you’re online, maybe you reproduce that by having some online group, Twitter, or something else. But those ties are not as strong. If you can’t find an offline cluster, you have to find an online one, but eventually the offline ones will continue to dominate.
Now there’s a separate question, which is what share of that offline clustering will Silicon Valley continue to capture in the Bay Area? I do think that post COVID, the Bay area will be weaker than it was. I don’t think it’s going to be 80% weaker, but I could see it being 10% or 20% weaker because I know a lot of founders who are in LA, who are in New York, who are realizing there are these great other places to be with some density of other founders.
Then I see people going to Utah for some tech stuff, and Colorado for a variety of other company types. So organically, that’s where the best founders are going. There are some people going to Miami and Austin and things like that. And on an average, I feel like those are more investors or people who have already seen success. Of course there are a lot of young founders going to those places, too. But I probably know more people in LA who have migrated from the Bay Area than some of those other areas.
What about satellite offices? Some companies expect to have clusters of people in the headquarters, maybe in Seattle or San Francisco or somewhere, but then they’ll create a little office space wherever people are remotely. Does that seem like a trend that will take off?
That’s already been happening pre-COVID. I don’t think that’s anything new. I think before COVID, people would set up offices all over the place and they’d usually start with a second office, then a third office. Google actually really famously experimented with this like 10 or 15 years ago, when Larry Page said he wanted the best engineers, no matter where they are. They ended up with a very large number of people in onesy, twosies all over the world, and that failed miserably. And then they reconsolidated it. Now, the tooling is different now and there’s better ways to communicate and collaborate online, but the flip of it is, I do think there’s importance in face-to-face communications.
If you look at companies, when they had newer remote offices, you’d still find that many of the most ambitious people in the organization – that doesn’t mean the best, it just means the most ambitious – tended to cluster wherever the executive team and CEO were, because that gave them more face time with them. That gave them more ability to interact with them – you show up in person to a meeting, and you can chit chat after and pitch your favorite idea that you’re hoping to work on in the context of the company. It’s much harder to do that if you’re a thousand miles away. You just can’t walk that person back to their office and talk while you’re doing that. People tend to underweight the value of some of those interactions. And that happens already when you’re a thousand person company with 10 offices.
Is there anything that you feel like people are getting wrong, especially in terms of underestimating what things will be like after?
I do think things will be more flexible after, I just don’t think they will be the extreme of ‘everybody’s remote from now on.’ It’s interesting because early on in the pandemic I would talk to different people running companies and they’d say, wow, our company survey data is amazing. Our employees are super motivated. They’ve never been more productive.
The thing that somehow wasn’t incorporated as strongly was the fact that every other aspect of that person’s life had roughly dissipated. You couldn’t go to the gym at six, you couldn’t meet your friends, you couldn’t go to your ceramics class or whatever hobby you have. Everything except for work and family went away. So that’s what people focused on. And if people are more productive, it could be because they have shorter commutes and they save time that way.
But I think part of it too is just a lot of the rest of their life went away. Now when people do surveys, they tell me that one of the big shifts is people want more interaction in-person with their peers again. That’s the thing that they hear a lot of. And that’s why we may end up with people experimenting with these more – you’re in the office three days a week and everybody’s in Monday, Wednesday, Friday, but Tuesday, Thursday, you can do whatever you want. We’re more likely to land there than remote only.
The shift to remote work was fairly ad hoc at many companies, with Zoom and Slack and these other tools grafted onto the workflows for our teams. Do we need different tools than we have to make this scenario that you’re talking about work?
There are a lot of tools that are coming together trying to address different aspects of remote work. And in a subset of them are things like, what is a remote virtual space that you can go into and collaborate on? There were really early attempts at that years ago, but I think there’s the next versions of those. Huddle would be an example. I just built kind of a fun side project called Pluto. The name may change, but it’s basically a way for people to have serendipitous group events or company happy hours. There’s a variety of other people trying to do things like that.
How does one find your Pluto project?
It’s at Pluto.video. The name may change, but you should feel free to check it out. And if you do, my suggestion is just grab a bunch of friends and try it with them because it’s more interesting as a thing where – I’ve had like a hundred people on it at once and you fragment into different spaces, so it works pretty well for bigger groups. It’s just a side project right now. There’s stuff like that. But I think there’s a lot of different types of tooling.
The other piece of it is that already because of WebRTC and WebGL, the world was moving in a direction where every vertical enterprise application, up to a point, was having a collaborative version invented. Figma was one of the first, and it was built on a WebGL for collaborative design tools. But there’s people trying to do different forms of collaboration for financial planning tools. Github is a collaborative engineering tool. We’re going to eventually see this emergence of collaboration in almost everything.
One of the really interesting things is 10 years ago, when the first wave of social was happening, everybody was talking about the social enterprise and social products and every enterprise product would have social features. And I feel like now it’s finally happening, but we’re calling it collaboration. This is the right direction for a lot of the way people work. There’ll be a really interesting new wave of SaaS software that’s coming and that already has been existing.
Do you think people will be traveling more or less?
I recently invested in a company called TripActions, and they’re the sort of key breakout, 10-times better company in the corporate travel space. My opinion is that, number one, corporate travel is a massive TAM [Total Addressable Market] to begin with. It’s like a trillion-dollar TAM. Literally, I Googled it like three times, because I couldn’t believe it was so big. And there’s a few scenarios. Scenario one is corporate travel drops to some proportion of where it was and then takes time to recover from that baseline. I don’t think if that happens, it goes to 20% – maybe it goes to 70 or 80% of where it was and then it comes back.
Before the fall wave of COVID I was asking friends of mine who were running large sales teams – 1,000- or 2,000-person sales team – what proportion of their sales reps were traveling again. They said about 20%. The reason was their competitors’ reps were starting to show up places. So they felt like they had to go compete. It was just completely self-directed. They weren’t asking these people to go travel in the middle of it all. A chunk of the workforce will want to get back to it. Certain types of meetings may go away or the first meeting for something may decrease. But the flip of it is that if your competitor is showing up, you’re going to show up.
The second thing is there may be scenarios where certain teams who traditionally didn’t travel in a company travel much more now after COVID, because if you’re a remote team, you tend to get together more frequently in person. So your product team gets together. Your special functional team gets together every quarter. The entire company gets together every quarter. And people who normally wouldn’t travel, because they were all at HQ, are suddenly traveling potentially multiple times a quarter for the various off-sites with the various teams they’re part of. So corporate group travel may actually increase.
It’s possible we’re in a world where baseline travel decreases because of Zoom, and group travel increases, and we net out to zero. It’s possible it’s down a bit, it’s possible it’s up. It’s uncertain exactly where it lands, but I don’t believe the scenarios where it’s going to be a third of what it used to be. That just doesn’t strike me as realistic.
Professional life for many people involved going to some number of events and conferences every year. Will that change?
We’re going to see many more corporate events that stay remote and I think platforms like Hopin or Welcome will really benefit from that. And the side project that I mentioned is actually being used by some companies for the networking side of their events. Not for the event side, but more like, ‘Hey, we want to get people together to talk after.’ And that’s the thing that is really the hard part to recreate online, is that serendipity again of – hey, you’re at the Figma developer conference and you run into somebody and you have a really interesting conversation and then you suddenly have a job interview. You’re just sitting there consuming content. You don’t have that experience. These platforms will eventually add tooling that will help with that.
But I do think that half of the value of an event tends to be that side of it, the corporate networking or professional networking, and then the other half is the content and stuff. If the only thing that matters is content, that’s just going to be online because you can reach way more people. You can reach 10 times the audience by hosting an event online versus offline. If the offline networking and deal-making component is important, then you’ll still see those events happening. So I think it will be mixed.
My guess is that if people went to eight events a year, they go to two or three in person. But they’re in a nice location. They go for a few days. And the single day Midtown Manhattan hotel conference room, where people are presenting stuff the whole time, might slip away.
And if a company can get away not doing a road show for an IPO and they can just do Zoom all day, maybe that’s way better to do. Then you just saved a bunch of travel time. I do think some things will permanently shift or at least a chunk of them, a subset of that use case will permanently shift. But there are situations where that in-person interaction really does matter.
In my 20-plus years as a leadership coach and a human resources leader at a variety of companies, I have coached hundreds of people who are introverted skeptics, the hybrid personality type that can be both an obstacle and an asset in the workplace.
As introverts, these individuals prefer quiet to concentrate, are reflective and comfortable being alone, don’t enjoy group work, take their time making decisions, and feel drained after being in a crowd. As skeptics, they don’t accept information at face value. They question and challenge, value evidence and proof, and seek out problems to be solved and work to fix them.
Introverted skeptics tend to care deeply about the work they do and deliver thoughtful, well-reasoned solutions. They are often creative and have strong problem-solving skills including the ability to view an issue through multiple perspectives, connect dots, and identify opportunities, risks, and insights that others miss.
Challenges facing introverted skeptics
If you are an introverted skeptic, you may find yourself struggling because you don’t willingly engage collaborators or seek colleagues’ input – which may adversely affect the quality of your work or other peoples’ perception of it. You may be under-appreciated and overlooked because you don’t share your work and get support for your ideas as you go along. You may also become frustrated when people don’t embrace your solutions and recommendations – which were carefully constructed, but may seem to have come out of left field when they are finally unveiled to your stakeholders.
I often hear introverted skeptics express their frustration like this: “I’m not viewed as a strong contributor, because I’m labeled as negative or don’t speak enough in meetings. Of course, I don’t speak. No one is listening. I do great work and spend a lot of time doing things right, but I don’t get credit for the extras I contribute. Meanwhile, people who brag about lesser work and constantly kiss up get the promotions.”
As an introverted skeptic, you tend to toil in solitude, immerse yourself in the challenge at hand, and build a solution block by block. It’s likely you find this type of work exhilarating and working collectively to be tiring – so you may hesitate to present updates or seek feedback until you’ve addressed every last issue and question. Like many of us, you’re inclined to spend more time on the tasks you love and less on the stuff that’s unpleasant.
Professional success, however, often requires the steps you tend to avoid when it comes to showing your work and lauding your own efforts
In coaching sessions, introverted skeptics often identify their communication style as an underlying cause of challenges on the job. The good news is there are three simple, repeatable steps that will help you properly show your work and thrive professionally.
1. Engage stakeholders
With each new undertaking, determine who may ultimately be affected by the work you’re doing, who will have meaningful insights or points of view, and whose approval or help is required. Determine which relationships need to be managed – up, down, and sideways.
Commit to providing regular updates – even when there’s not much to report. This will keep your work top-of-mind among stakeholders, make them part of the project, and build understanding and buy-in.
2. Give your work a voice
Before you start work, share what you’re thinking and your proposed plan of action. This can be a simple email to those directly affected or, for large or complex projects, might warrant a group call or a presentation to your organization’s leadership. Ask for input regarding your approach, timing, and other considerations.
The bottom line is this: Your work doesn’t have a voice. It relies on you to share its value. Think of it like an uninterpreted data set that needs to be organized into a story to be understood and appreciated. When you keep that story to yourself, no one sees the value you create and your work won’t achieve its full potential.
3. Listen with an open mind
Be sincere when you ask for and evaluate input. Don’t let your skepticism close your mind and learn to value different perspectives. Incorporating good ideas, and even so-so ones, into your work will give your colleagues a stake in the project and ultimately improve the final product.
On the other hand, work completed in isolation, even great work, will have less impact and do less to bolster your reputation. Share your work, share the results, learn lessons from the process, and share those, too.
With these simple steps, you give people the opportunity to see what you’re doing, understand why you’re doing it, and help you succeed. Your work will be aligned with other efforts and the organization’s overall strategy – so it can have more impact. Showing your work will showcase your initiative and talent, grow your reputation as a collaborative team player, and increase appreciation for your contributions.
Beki Fraser is a certified business and leadership coach who worked 15 years as an HR leader for a variety of companies. She holds an MBA from the Yale School of Management. Learn more on her website.
Many employers have found to their surprise that remote work offers productivity and savings. Why return to the office, and continue paying that pricey lease, when your employees are just as productive from home? I can already hear the groan of discontent from parents around the country – particularly mothers. Indeed, studies have found that mothers suffer a gender disadvantage in the remote work environment. They are more likely to work with their children present. Their household chores increase when they work from home. They are more likely to report depression, anxiety, and loneliness than their husbands.
Regardless of how attentive their husbands are to the gender imbalance in child-rearing, the fact is that mothers of young and school-aged children tend to be the primary caregiver. They have found it more difficult to manage their maternal and remote work responsibilities during the health crisis.
Employers who decide to continue the experiment with remote work after the global health crisis must avoid contributing to this gender disparity. My research and discussions with mothers reveal a singular finding about how to close the gender gap from remote work: Remote work should be an option, not a requirement.
A case for in-person work
Just as parents realized they relied on school as a form of daycare, mothers have come to realize that they rely on in-person work as a break from their domestic roles. A study by Yale University found that mothers suffered the most due to the clash between the domestic and career roles while working from home. Going to work creates a clear demarcation between these roles.
One friend, I’ll call her M., recently took mental leave because she found the demands of remote work and child-rearing too overwhelming. “I found myself scolding my kids simply because they wanted to spend time with me. They are still too young to realize that they were interrupting my work.” M. is fortunate enough to have the option of paid leave. Now she’s afraid that her firm might decide to require remote work post-health-crisis. “I cannot wait to go back to the office, and I’m not sure if I can stay at home if we go full remote.”
The allure of going remote for some businesses is obvious. Firms can save significantly on fixed overhead costs if they downsize or even eliminate their office space entirely. Indeed, many firms are considering going hybrid – placing some of their workforce in-person and the rest remaining at home. Employers are conducting occupational analyses to determine who will stay remote and who will return to work.
Pressures on mothers
Employers should also consider the gender factor. Some accommodations should be made for mothers (and anyone else, frankly) experiencing difficulties with remote work. They should have the option to return to work even if their positions have been deemed suitable for working remote.
It’s important to note that this problem will not just go away when children return to school after the health crisis. Mothers of young children will continue to care for their children at home. Many parents will decide, regardless of the distress, to save on the costs of childcare and aftercare if at least one parent is working from home.
This is not just a matter of accommodating subjective preferences. The research shows significant mental health problems for many mothers working remotely due to the health crisis. Remote work has altered the work-life balance for many mothers in ways they never envisioned, and employers considering a permanent or hybrid remote work approach must keep mothers in mind.