#112: WFH Roundup, Freelance Skills, Hustle Traps, Meta-Crisis, Hiring by Lottery Responses
🌴 Work, life & what matters
October 17th, 2020 - Greetings from Mexico! I’ve been enjoying being in one place for a few weeks and have started playing around with a few creative projects (see below). If you’re discovering this from a friend or the web, consider signing up for a weekly dose of work, life & what matters:
#1 Work from home roundup
I was urging companies much earlier this year to go all-in on working from home because I saw it as a free strategic option. The uncertainty was baked in so the earlier a company shifted to fully-remote the quicker they could develop the new capabilities to thrive in the new environment.
It seems that companies like Google and Facebook saw this option and took it as another way to solidify their dominant market position. Now we’re seeing the mainstream corporate companies follow suit.
I used to think that most companies made their own decisions. However, experience in Board rooms showed that most big companies prefer to play follow the leader. They see what innovative companies like GE (in the past) and google (now) do first and then try to quickly follow their lead. For an individual’s career, its a better strategy to fail copying someone else than to do something bold and fail without anyone to blame.
Many Boards meet in September and October and it seems that there has been an awakening that this remote work thing is sticking around. Here’s a few notable stories I picked up on:
#1 ~2500 employees at Dropbox (memo)
People can work from home permanently and drop into several “studios” in strategic cities (“San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, and Dublin to start) or on-demand spaces in other geographies”.) In addition, they are also making the moves to tap into the advantages of asynchronous working which is really the holy grail of modern work.
#2 Germany Considering Making WFH a right (link)
They already have one of the shortest legal workweeks (32 hours) and have been working on legislation to guarantee remote work since 2019
#3 More companies extending WFH until summer 2021 (link)
The smart companies did this already and many others are following suit
5,200 Docusign employeed can work from home until summer 2021
32,000 Ford Employees can stay remote until summer 2021
4,000 Corporate Starbucks employees can work from home until October 2021
REI Abandoned its still under construction HQ building and told its 1,200 employees to work from home
#4 The “trillion dollar” office economy is under pressure
This essay from Steve LeVine dives into the massive economy that revolves around the routines of the white-collar office worker.
According to a survey by the National League of Cities, 90% of cities expect an average 13% decline in revenue next year — mostly income and sales taxes, the revenue associated with white-collar workers. It’s the highest decline in the survey since the financial crash. Houston, for instance, had a 13% drop in sales tax in May, 17% in April, and 10% in March. “This has been a 50-state natural disaster of sorts,” says Mark Hamrick, chief economist at Bankrate, “where the buildings have been left standing and largely vacant.”
#5 More people starting to test location independence
I just had a US friend relocate to Florida from the northeast, a UK friend relocate to an island in Portugal and have another US friend joining down here in Mexico. It seems young people are deciding that they if they are going to be working remotely, they might as well take advantage of living in a cheaper location or having a better climate.
The owner of the co-living space I stayed in in Gran Canaria has rented a hotel and is inviting remote workers from Europe to join in November (link)
Other countries are starting to offer long-term working visas as well. Thailand added a long-stay nomad visa, Antigua and Barbuda created nomad visa programs, Aruba launched one earlier this year, and Croatia is launching one soon.
This is just the start of how countries think about immigration and labor and the way we think about the relationship between work and where people can live is entering new territory.
How’s it going at your company? Send me your thoughts and I’ll share with other readers…
#2 Freelancing Basics
I’ve started playing around with video and recorded a number of short videos about freelance consulting, something a number of people have reached about lately. I don’t have any goals with this other than to use it as a WIP wiki of things worth sharing on freelancing. Perhaps I’ll turn it into a paid course down the road, but we will see.
Here are the initial videos I’ve recorded
Send me your questions and topics and I’ll keep putting up more videos as I go
#3 Reader Responses: Hiring By Lottery
I had a number of great responses to my thoughts on “hiring randomly.”
Recruiters are on board! It was nice to get confirmation from a few recruiters on the front lines that they think their current process is not all that great and thought it might be worth trying something like this.
Small companies? I got some good pushback from one reader that this probably isn’t a great fit for small companies, which I agree with. However, I still think there is an opportunity to use minimum credentials for screening and making the application processes as simple as possible. Too many small companies copy what large companies do but lack the resources. I think these companies should be more open to creative solutions to get a broader candidate pool while not increases resources
Too easy to fire? One person also made the argument that hiring by lottery might make it easier to fire people because people are not as bought into the narrative that they hired the most skilled person through a vetting process. It would definitely take time to get used to but this critique is probably the best one. People often feel more comfortable asking lottery winners for handouts because they perceive their windfall to be 100% from luck.
A missing piece? One thing that might pair well with a lottery is a probation period where people are taking part in training but do not have to fully commit to the job. At Zappos.com they are famous for paying people to leave the company after training and Coinbase recently took a similar approach for people that wanted to opt-out of its new direction. Paying a generous severance after an extended training period could help flip the recruiting process to spending more time with employees (or contractors at first) could be a better allocation of resources and time. It might look like this:
#4 Hustle Traps
I extended my essay on “hustle traps” from the newsletter last month. My motivation is to help people avoid these traps as they take the leap to self-employment or start creating onlines.
Hustle Trap (noun): A mental model built on legacy ideas of how one should work and live that leads to burnout, anxiety or the sense of being trapped. Often obvious in retrospect.
The dopamine bomb of internet fame
Copying the tactics of a guru who isn’t you
The productivity trap / streak trap
The desire to prove yourself, especially to your parents
Chasing “audience” over people you actually want to engage with
Chasing status to calm your insecurities
Not changing your environment or making new friends
Not taking time off
An income goal as the metric of success
The “I am a x” identity trap
📖 Byrne Hobart has a great essay on “The Social Capital Stall Behind America’s Gerontocracy.” It’s a dive into some of the downstream effects from some of what I mentioned in my Boomer Blockade piece:
At one level, this could be viewed as a positive development. Perhaps we’ve gotten so good at identifying talented leaders that the same natural talents will be at the top of their career for decades. Perhaps Marvel Comics and Star Wars have fully fleshed out all of the compelling narratives the world needs. Christmas music, too, may be a solved problem. But it creates a strange syncopation of ambition. In a healthy society, people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s can believe that they could be at the top of their career with 10 years hard work. But it’s disconcerting for this thought to be most realistic for people over 65.
📖 Andrew Taggart has a fantastic essay on the meta-crisis and how it relates to the liberal arts. I think it pulls together a lot of the themes he has been talking about for the past few years.
We’re now in a position to join together the two aspects of the meta-crisis. We’re groundless in the specific sense in which we have no shared vision of the good as well as no way of converging upon such a shared vision. And we are homeless inasmuch as we can’t seem to come to rest in our being.
That’s all this week. My favorite part of this newsletter is starting conversations with people and learning from my readers. Don’t be afraid to hit reply and let me know what’s on your mind!
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