Nomad or Nomad Not: Is Albania Ready to Lead the Remote Work Revolution?

Nomad or Nomad Not: Is Albania Ready to Lead the Remote Work Revolution?

Introduction: The Past Meets the Present

A year ago, as I disembarked in Tirana, Albania, it struck me that I was stepping into a world misunderstood by many. The rhetoric surrounding Albania often conjured images more suitable for a crime thriller than a potential haven for digital nomads. However, the story has taken a radical turn in just a year, and I’ve been fortunate to witness and even partake in this transformation.

My Ringside Seat to Change

In the last 12 months, Albania has gone from being a question mark on the map to a topic of discussion in digital nomad circles. From my various roles—advising on the digital nomad visa, experimenting with a pop-up nomad village in Vlora, and being a part of different entrepreneurial ecosystems—I’ve been able to see the nation not just adapt, but evolve.

The Adaptability Quotient

In a short span, Albania has demonstrated an uncanny ability to respond to the needs of its ever-growing international community. To illustrate this point, let’s talk about coffee—something digital nomads consume in industrial quantities. A year ago, you’d have been hard-pressed to find cafes offering plant-based milk. Today, oat milk lattes are as common as the delicious traditional burek (okay, almost 🙂). It’s a small but telling sign of how quickly the country can adapt.

The New Frontier: Vlora’s Digital Nomad Village

One of the most compelling attributes of Albania for digital nomads is the nation’s tapestry of smaller cities, each imbued with its own unique flavor and opportunities. Coupled with the seasonality of bustling tourist destinations for only a few months a year, Albania poses an intriguing problem and opportunity. Many smaller cities in the country face declining populations, in part due to a significant brain drain, which makes Albania one of the most affected regions in Europe in this regard. Yet, paradoxically, this challenge is what makes Albania particularly alluring for the nomad community.

I had the unique opportunity to be part of establishing the first (pop-up) digital nomad village in Vlora. It was a great learning curve, understanding what it takes and what is still needed to establish a village successfully. I’ll give you a hint it goes way beyond merely installing high-speed Wi-Fi or adapting spaces to cater for co-working.

Now, why is the idea of smaller cities and seasonality so important here? Much like Madeira Island in Portugal, where I’ve spent a considerable amount of time, Albania offers diverse locales that can cater to different “categories” of nomads. Whether you’re a mountain-lover or a beach bum, prefer the hustle and bustle of a city or the serenity of a lakeside retreat, Albania’s geographical diversity accommodates you—all often within a one to two-hour drive from one another.

Moreover, the concept of seasonality can turn into a significant advantage. Take the example of Bansko in Bulgaria—a winter wonderland that transforms into a digital nomad hotspot during off-season months. Similarly, many tourist areas in Albania could follow suit, capitalizing on the six to nine months of the year when the tourists are away to become year-round destinations for digital nomads. Imagine towns bustling in the summer with vacationers, but from autumn to spring, these same places could be teeming with digital nomads, working from cafes or co-working spaces set amid a backdrop of natural beauty.

The Digital Nomad Visa: Not Just Another Policy

When Albania rolled out its digital nomad visa, it wasn’t just a signal to the world; it was a promise to build a sustainable ecosystem for remote work. Having provided input and feedback during the early stages of this visa, it’s heartening to see the government taking tangible steps toward a flexible, yet stable, framework for digital nomadism.

The Community: The Soul of Nomadism

Community is the cornerstone of any thriving digital nomad destination. Sure, nomads are initially attracted by the beautiful beaches and natural landscapes. But what makes them stay? A sense of belonging. To become more than just a pit stop for digital nomad tourists, Albania needs to focus on community-building efforts. These efforts need to be strategic and tailored to the unique characteristics of nomads, who are not mere tourists. And this leads us to a vital question: Is Albania ready for it?

This is about more than just populating co-working spaces or organizing weekly social events. It’s about understanding the unique needs of digital nomads, who are not tourists in the traditional sense. In a rapidly globalizing world, good food, scenic backdrops, and affordable living are not enough to make people stay. There has to be a sense of community, of belonging.

The “Great But” Phenomenon

The overwhelming feedback I’ve gathered resonates with a recurring theme: “It’s great, but…” It seems Albania still has some homework to do, especially when it comes to community building. While the country has made commendable strides in attracting digital nomads, retaining them is the next big challenge.

The Path Forward: Retaining the Nomad

With an influx of countries rolling out digital nomad visas, the competition to attract this mobile workforce is fiercer than ever. And here lies the crux: While we’ve successfully created the frameworks, the next step is to populate these frameworks with lived experiences. The focus should now shift from policies to people. This is not just the government’s task but a collective endeavor for all stakeholders involved, including nomads themselves.

Conclusion: A Journey, Not a Destination

So, where does Albania go from here? The work is far from done, but the course is set. I remain optimistic as part of a collective effort to elevate Albania’s status as a go-to destination for digital nomads. The country has moved past the stage of mere potential—it’s time for actualization.

As someone who has seen the commitment and resources being directed toward making this dream a reality, I’m hopeful for what another year of concerted effort can bring to this beautiful country.

The 25 Hour Workweek

The 25 Hour Workweek

When I tell people I work 25 hours a week, they look at me skeptically: “How can you manage a business working part-time only?” or “I couldn’t do that, I love working too much”.

Funny enough, I love what I do more than ever. 

It so happens I do.

Let me elaborate on this. 

In most countries, the workweek is around 35 to 40 hours a week, so around 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.

Now looking at the 25-hour workweek, that means 10 to 15 hours less per week. That makes it 3 hours less per day, so 5 hours of work per day when working for 5 days a week.

What does this mean in terms of work productivity?

The more working time you have, the more space left for distractions, and the more time you spend on pointless tasks. It becomes easier to get sidetracked and lose focus.

The challenges here are to project manage your own time and use your efforts strategically.

Better manage your to-do list

So why do so many people struggle with managing their week? There are several reasons, the easiest one is that “we have always done it that way”. Another one has to do with the journey of leaders, still today, some leaders adopt a parenting style, rather than a coaching and mentoring one. Putting out fires rather than coming up with long-term solutions.

Here’s a simple exercise to begin with.

Look at your list of tasks for today and predict how much time you need to allocate to each of them. Make a note as you go through your day of the things you have completed, and of any distractions and breaks you took. At the end of the day, reassess that list and note down which tasks you effectively completed and how long it took you to do them. Be honest with yourself.

After that, have a look at the things you do every day, which one of them are things that it makes a difference if you do them? Are these things that you love, you excel at? The mantra for me we should be spending 80% of our time doing things that we excel at. Unfortunately in the past, that wasn’t always the case for me. More than that, when I look around at my peers, I see a lot of them also struggling and sinking into tasks that shouldn’t be on their plate in the first place. 

Here is a couple of questions I ask myself on a frequent basis when evaluating tasks I do. 

Does it add value to the business?

Will it make a difference if it’s done by me? 

Will I be quicker, more efficient? 

Is this the best use of my time? 

Is it a one-off or a repeat task?

Do I like doing it?

Is there potential for growth? 

The tasks that really make a difference, impact the business, and can only be done by you should be at the top of your list. If you focus those 5 hours a day on completing these tasks, at the end of the week your performance will have peaked.

We often prioritize tasks that are the most pleasurable or interesting for us instead of really focusing on those that will bring the best results for the business. It’s only natural that we are this selfish when we have to spend many hours working. Pleasurable and interesting activities, however, keep us engaged and energized. Hence this is questionable but not the worst situation. The opposite, however, is. I am talking about taking up a lot of our time for repetitive tasks, not our strengths.

This, in exchange, makes people want to be as effective as possible with their time, understand the business better, know and use their strengths, hunt for opportunities to be successful, and drive value by submitting high-quality work.

When I did this exercise with a CEO a few months ago and analyzed where his time was spent, we realized that out of his 80+ hour work week in the best scenario, he spent 15 hours doing things that he is good at and passionate about, and that makes a difference if he makes them.

Understandable we won’t always be in the position to remove tasks from our task list immediately, especially if we are working within a corporate setting. But it will give us a a guide, an understanding, even a goal maybe. If you have the possibility to use your entrepreneurial spirit , figure out how to best remove those tasks from your to do list. Is it by the use of technology? Maybe you can outsource it, maybe a colleague is better suited and interested to preforme. It might be their opportunity for growth.

Use technology to your advantage

The current development of time-saving technology allows for people to take over more creative and strategic tasks, rather than manual administration processes that used to consume most of their working time. Think about the tools and technology that can actually help you reduce working hours.

To create this article I’m personally using one time-hacking tool, Otter, a voice transcribing tool. That’s where I record most of my content to create the first draft of my blog posts. It allows me to simply record my thoughts and ideas when I feel the most inspired, sparing me a good half an hour organizing my thoughts into topics and then writing everything down. 

Effectively divide work in your team

Reducing your workweek time also demands something that many leaders and teams don’t often consider: to better distribute work considering the talents and skills of your people. Some of the tasks I did were extremely tiresome and time-consuming for me, as they were not my strengths, nor I enjoyed doing them. Hence, they have now been delegated to better-skilled team members that can more easily and rapidly complete them.

So work productivity does not equal the number of hours you spend in front of a computer. It’s about how much you get done in the shortest amount of time.

And while it sounds quite simple, it does require you to:

– set up the work environment that’s more adjusted to the task at hand (to avoid distractions or to gain inspiration)

– identify which work habits take your focus away (frequent breaks, checking up emails and messages frequently, social media)

– understand which lifestyle habits prevent you from being focused (unhealthy food, lack of exercise and hydration and bad sleep patterns for example)

I believe that every person should treat themselves like a high-performance athlete. You’re in fact a corporate athlete, and with that, comes all the responsibilities and demands.

High productivity requires preparation and time

Now, achieving high productivity requires the right mindset as well as soft and hard skills training. It’s a process, it won’t happen overnight and there’s a learning curve before you feel you have reached cruising speed or stabilized.

I have invested time in developing the necessary skills, and I would say that on an average day today, I’ll get twice as much done compared to what I used to. 

Moreover, my work is much more valuable than it used to be for the business. And the 25-hour work week keeps me sharp and focused on the things that I know make a difference.

Be flexible when meeting the business needs

You are not obligated to do 25 hours every week only and guarantee that you don’t go beyond or beneath it.

Some weeks require more time investment from me than others and that’s absolutely natural. It is always possible to balance it out later. When you set a weekly number of hours, it should act more as a guide, not a rule.

My weekly work nowadays encompasses coaching and spending time with my clients, business strategy and development, some marketing tasks, analyzing business data, and giving peer guidance.

As you can deduce from this list, it’s only natural that in some weeks the workload increases, especially when there is a higher number of speaking engagements, coaching work or when I’m working on new business services.

In those weeks, I adjust my schedule beforehand and follow through with my commitments. It’s as simple as that.

The benefits of working smart

One of the main benefits I’ve noticed after starting the 25h-workweek is an increase in mental clarity throughout the day.

In the past, I used to go on my tangent for 8 or even 12 hours a day, 6 to 7 days a week. That left me both mentally and physically exhausted. I have now stopped having those yo-yo peaks in performance, the ups and the downs with brain fog and tiredness that come from forcing myself to work long hours.

I have been experiencing a high increase in creativity, a positive mental framework, a healthy work-life balance, and even more business awareness with many of those aha moments when I realize something crucial for the business.

Less and less, I spend 2 or 3 hours looking at something without being able to get ahead of it. Or those moments when I was almost breaking after 3 months of working and felt I needed time off.

The challenge is launched 

As a coach and slow digital nomad, I have met many leaders and professionals who seem to be on the edge of burnout and have very little time to handle all the demands of their position.

Most of them seem to live inside a bubble of constant demands and responsibilities: to inspire and motivate their teams, embody the company culture, get and give feedback from employees, inform everyone about business developments, balance the needs of all stakeholders, empower, train, and offer their people opportunities for development, and the list goes on.

At the end of the day, they are left with little or no time to focus on developing themselves as professionals and get stuck in a hamster wheel.

While this may seem counterintuitive, these are the best people to start a 25-hour workweek challenge.

Limiting yourself to working on what are your core strengths, the tasks you excel at and make the business thrive, will allow you to understand where your input and attention are really needed, which tasks can be delegated, and which ones are, in fact, not crucial to the success of your business and organizational culture.

Hard? Very likely to be.

Rewarding? Without a doubt.


Lately, due to my consultancy work and my own leadership experience, I have come to appreciate even more how much of a dealbreaker leadership is. Great leadership is key to keeping the organization’s mission and values alive, driving business results, achieving consistent high performance as well as forging a connection between all stakeholders.

Many leaders draft business strategies but then fail when it comes to their execution. They have ideas aplenty, the workload is heavy, and they are too caught up in their own obligations to truly be able to meet the real needs and demands of all stakeholders.

That’s why I have recently started drafting a program for busy leaders who wish to win back time for their personal lives, while at the same time, achieve successful business outcomes and lead organizations with a high-performance culture.

If you wish to learn more about it, feel free to reach out. I’d love to help.

B4P: Putting people first in your organization

B4P: Putting people first in your organization

*This article was originally published on


Be a human-centric organization

Let’s start with the following assumption: Organizations are made of people, period!
Not just processes, products, or services, but People. Nope, it’s not a spelling mistake People with a capital P. 

B4P stands for Purpose, People, Planet, and Profit. We started with the first B4P – Purpose article; it’s time to rethink what business stands for! 

Yet, most companies already claim to put the Human at the center. The business world is full of nice brochures, posters on the wall, CEOs, and boards of directors proclaiming how their businesses are soo human-centric. If that is the case, though, why are we seeing unprecedented rates of people quitting their jobs? In fact, one in five workers around the globe is still planning to resign in 2022 (PwC, “Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2022”).

Why are all the metrics rapidly falling? I am talking about metrics like job satisfaction, employee engagement, time in the company, etc. Additionally, do you think if we were to ask the employees of these companies if their organization is indeed human-centric we would get the same answers as the CEOs and board of directors? 

Some would say that the essence of this approach is quite easy to explain. Professor Denis Dauchy, from EDHEC Business School in Paris, would probably ask: “What about the execution?” Putting people at the center of everything you do in your business could indeed be harder to execute.


The power of a People First Culture

How do we guarantee that we prioritize our people and ensure we have their best interests at heart? And why should we do it in the first place?

Now, while it can seem to be counterintuitive, the reasoning behind it is that when you put the people first, they will put you first, too.

The more you give back to people, the more people will actually be inclined to give back to you. Even at the more basic level, you might have seen that.

I remember when I first read Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsiseh, how amazed I was by how a single ‘random act of kindness’ would lead to a snowball effect. I like to think that the same applies here too.

Let me showcase it with a simple example. I remember a case of an employee of mine a few years back when we were still in the company’s early days.

She was hired as a ‘jackie of all trades’ and tasked to review our website and explore ways to improve it. At the time, she was working at an hourly rate. This meant that the more hours she did, the more work she had and the more income she would receive. This employee put her hand up and said, “I appreciate that you are trying to look after me by giving me more work, but I’m actually not the best suited for this task. I think someone else would be more suitable to perform it and would most likely cost less than me because they will be twice as effective.”

Nothing I didn’t know already, but she was right; my intention was to keep her engaged and, indeed give her more work. Hers was to give back to me by appreciating my effort and being honest about it.

This is a very simple example of where these giving exchanges can happen. (Side note: she is still working with us today, and her role has developed in a completely different way, one that is close to what she loves doing. That someone else is also still working with us).

There are surely exceptions; if you are familiar with the work of Adam Grant, you will recall his “Are you a giver or a taker?” Ted Talk, where he classifies people into givers, takers, and matchers.

If your business is full of takers, this could be problematic. It might be a bit more work, but with a bit of work, you will have created a company where everyone is working towards making your business sustainable and profitable by engaging all the humans, leaders, clients, and partners. All working in unison, coming up with innovative ideas.


Design a holistic employee experience (EX)

It is important to be completely holistic in your employee experience, from recruitment to career growth and even off-boarding.

Leaders often ask organizational change experts to improve their leadership model, culture, or recruitment. The truth is that these aspects don’t work in isolation. It is, of course, possible to improve these areas and processes, but the overall employee experience is 360º, and all these pieces need to come together at some point. The earlier, the better it is for the overall employee experience. Unfortunately, very often, I see these different elements not only not being aligned but also working against each other. Sometimes for one division to succeed and hit its targets, it comes at a cost for other divisions. 

Some companies already plan an onboarding flow to guarantee that their new employees adjust to the company culture and design a career plan with plenty of learning and development in the organization. 

But if we want to be truly holistic, we need to shift the needle on both ends. In the recruitment process, we need to create a robust process that allows us to find people that are a great fit for our desired culture and counter the need to quickly fill roles with the long-term goal of finding the right person. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that companies with low turnover rates, especially during probation, usually take longer to fill the positions. 


Why does employee off-boarding matter?

On the other end, is it possible that we need to shift our mindset a little bit when it comes to off-boarding? Or at least challenge it?

Allow me to elaborate. We sometimes relate to staff as assets of the company. It might be time to ‘retire’ that word altogether. Whilst I agree with the essence of it, I no longer like it for the connotation that it brings with it: the concept of ownership of assets and even the fact that assets usually depreciate or have a usage/lifespan after which it is fully depreciated. 

I much rather like to think of employees as partners for a particular time span. I don’t promise them employment forever, and they don’t belong to me. I am aware that they may decide to pursue other opportunities at some point. In fact, I think we should accept that and factor it into our employee experience from the beginning. Some progressive companies already do that, we learned a great deal by understanding how companies like Morningstar or Netflix do off-board differently. 

Rarely I see companies doing off-boarding well. I think it’s a shame as it makes good business sense. Here are just a couple of reasons why: 

  • Last chance to understand where things went wrong
  • Opportunity to improve or make the role more attractive for the next starter
  • Understand how to find the next person or simple how to ‘pitch’ the position better in a crowded marketplace
  • Opportunity to keep the employee engaged for future opportunities
  • Engage the employee for a future reference or even for referrals for his position


All these aspects are areas that can contribute greatly to savings in the recruitment process as well as in operational costs.

Lastly, the world is watching. Have you ever seen a celebrity break up? Or even a breakup in your close circle? Well, everyone is judging or at least has an opinion.

Support your people each step of the way, as all these different phases should work in unison. If you fail at one of them, it may, in fact, disrupt your relationship with the other members of the organization.

If you ask me, the best way forward is to choose a holistic approach to humans in organizations by joining forces across different departments such as Recruitment, People and Culture, Compensation & Benefits, and Human Resources Information, which many times work separately and as different units.



This article is part of a series on the B4P Framework.

Forward-thinking organizations are orienting their actions not only to their consumers (B2C), other businesses (B2B), or profit but also towards people, purpose, and the planet.

In this series, you will learn a bit more about the importance of directing your organization’s actions towards these 4Ps – purpose, people, planet, and profit – and gain some insight into how it can be done.


Have you enjoyed reading this piece?

Then feel free to share it with your network and anyone who can benefit from its content.

How Do You Connect To Your Team In A Virtual Setting?

How Do You Connect To Your Team In A Virtual Setting?

Remote work is here to stay, no doubts about that.

So now that leaders and teams no longer look at working in a virtual setting as a temporary solution for the COVID pandemic crisis but actually wish to continue working in such a work model, some questions arise.

How can we deal with the change of setting? And what has really changed in the way people interact with each other?

There are still many leaders making an extreme effort to keep the same face-to-face initiatives while working remotely, while others have felt an increased need to try something different.

Get To Know Your People and Be Present

Let me share with you an example of one of the leaders that I coach.

So, this leader was saying, “Catching up with people is taking a lot of my time. As a result, my days are quite packed, and I’m spending half an hour with each of them every week, plus the team meetings. I mean, we have really connected well over the pandemic crisis, but I need to focus on my own work. Any advice for that?”

And I asked her a simple question, “How did you do it before in a physical setting, face-to-face?” She stopped and went quiet for a minute. And then she said, “Oh, I didn’t actually do it.”

So if you have 12 employees on your team, spending 30 minutes with each of them weekly totals 6 hours per week of bonding.

After she realized the impact of this change, she said, “Wow, I’m spending six-hour quality time with my team, yet we’re getting more stuff done than ever before. And yes I’m busy, but I’m actually not working extra hours.”

This is a simple example of how many leaders have shifted the way they drive their teams in a remote setting. In an effort to not lose the connection with the people, leaders have started setting up catch-up calls and team meetings with the purpose of bonding and supporting each other.

Create an Interactive Online Environment

As a fully remote worker, I am pleased to find that the resistance to online settings has decreased.

In our organization, we used to run a lot of in-person workshops; however, after COVID they had to be moved to a remote setting. This meant a reassessment of how and why we ran these sessions: what was the expected learning outcome in such a different setting? We were known for doing very interactive workshops. The question was, how could we translate the same interactivity into the virtual world?

How many times have you heard, “Online training is not as interactive, good, and effective as face-to-face?”

Well, we didn’t accept that and committed ourselves to changing the mindset of our partners and clients.

I can recall the numerous below-average face-to-face training sessions that I attended in my career.

So, is it actually the case that face-to-face training is more effective, or is it purely the fact that we remember some of the great good in-person sessions we had?

Haven’t we all had very poor face-to-face ones as well? Is it the setting or the way it is facilitated?

In our particular case, our participants never said: “I wish this had been face-to-face, it would have been way more interactive.”

I’ve been blessed to have been part of virtual teams for some years now. These teams have bonded quite well and some of us are still in contact.

Many people claim that it does take energy and conscious effort to lead remote teams. It does, but the truth is that it takes the same amount of energy and effort as when you choose to connect in a physical setting. I learned a great deal about this myself during my Global Executive MBA at the IE Business School.

There are, of course, elements that I do enjoy doing in a face-to-face setting. For example, at the beginning of a client engagement, it is nice to meet the participants in person.

However, with the development of technology, it is possible that we are fine-tuning the new norm and that some of these first encounters become less needed and necessary?

Begin Each Meeting with an Ice-Breaker

We have our team weekly meetings at the Great Shift which take one hour. We call them a lobby meeting, like if you’re meeting someone in the lobby on the way to your office desk and have a quick chat to go.

Before we begin those meetings, we always ask everyone an icebreaker question where we talk about our days, talk about how we feel, or simply ask random questions to have a laugh and get to know the person behind the screen. Understand that they are a human too and connect with them. This can be the most random question, such as, “What’s your favorite movie?” or “What’s your go-to TV series when you’re down?” Just the other week the question was, “If you were to be a cake, which cake would you be?”

Little things go a long way, that for us is replacing the casual, the water cooler.

Set Opportunities for Regular Interactions

What do some of our partners do? I was recently speaking to a startup in Singapore that has developed a virtual setting meant to connect anyone in the team at any time. It is like an office where people can go “sit” and have a conversation. So, employees can access the virtual network anytime to engage with others, exchange ideas, have meetings, or simply chat.

There is also this other startup that randomly matches people in the whole organization for 10-minute catch-ups. It’s completely voluntary, but these are the things that can be implemented without much difficulty, and, in some way, partly replace the daily interactions we used to have in an office setting.

In our organization, we also use internal communication software, Slack. I’ve personally used this for many years now, in different teams and in different settings, including in some of the mentoring I do in startups and on different professional networks. It not only makes the communication flow more efficiently, but it’s also a great means to share non-company updates.

Make Work Fun

I’ve mentored a company in the US that had 10 different recreation Slack channels, and its employees found so much about each other through them. Just by looking at the channel, I couldn’t believe people would connect so easily.

We have also created different channels in our team’s Slack channel from funny photos on the #frozen-screens-on-zoom channel to #bookjunkies where we share our best readings, and the #mental_health channel where we check in with each other, share our struggles, and challenges and post what we did to pamper ourselves on our monthly mental health day, and even a #ladies_lounge (I have no idea what happens there).

While it’s up to all everyone in the team to contribute and come up with those channels, they are captained by our project manager, Helena Cada, who meticulously keeps an eye on the app and looks at ways to improve it.

Build Trust

Yet another question that arises when working remotely is how to adjust to working with team members you’ve never met in person.

Of course, it’s great when you have met your team before, but when not, how can you actually make it work?

It’s arguably the same concept. There are a lot of things you can do in a virtual setting to build a meaningful connection. So far, I have only had the chance to meet one of my team members in person due to the travel restriction induced by Covid-19; however, none of the other collaborators have met before and I still believe this is the best team I have ever worked with.

I always make a conscious effort to build a solid relationship with every team member we onboard by scheduling regular one-on-one meetings. It is also a common practice for everyone to support and be empathic with each other. In reality, I believe that creating empathy and psychological safety is the foundation of a great team and the ultimate ingredient to building trust, and I believe this holds true for everyone on our team. Even our interview process is designed for applicants to meet as many team members as possible during the interview process.

Set Clear Expectations on Communication

There are incredible tools to learn more about each of your team members.

Take the 16 Personalities Test, for example, which we normally use in our team to better understand each other, and understand how we can better integrate everyone’s different ways of working.

Another important thing we also do is a working agreement, where you discuss with your collaborators how they want to be communicated to and with what kind of medium they want to use. For example, I have never in a team meeting forced anyone to turn on their cameras and that’s not something we demand anyone to do, but people voluntarily put their cameras on. Although I must admit I prefer seeing people on camera, my belief is that people should have the freedom to turn the camera off at times if they feel so. I would estimate that cameras are on 80% of the meeting times, yet, it’s not a mandate. 

Let Adults be Adults

Everyone is treated the exact same way in our company, regardless of their level of experience. And everyone responds the exact same way and treats each other accordingly.

Ricardo Semler used to say that when you treat people like grown-ups, they actually act like grownups. And I’m a strong believer in that, that if we treat people like adults, they will act like responsible adults. So far, from my own experience, this is true.

In our team, everyone is accountable for the work they have committed to do and has full responsibility to perform their tasks and ask for help and input whenever needed. By recognizing everyone is human and that there is always room and space for improvement, we openly discuss our mistakes without feeling judged; we even regularly do it in our monthly retrospective sessions.

Every team member behaves like a responsible adult that is empowered and capable of making both wise and bold decisions. And because transparency is encouraged, every one of us feels comfortable communicating our real thoughts and ideas regarding any process we are required feedback from.

And all this is done remotely without strict supervision or any sort of tracking system.

The knowledge and insights shared here with you are based on hands-on practices that have been working with the GS team and the teams we coach, so we do hope they will resonate with you.

We understand that every organization is different and, therefore, has different needs. So, if you are looking for solutions on how to build more cohesive remote teams, feel free to reach out, we’re happy to support you.

2022: The year of the Great Awakening

2022: The year of the Great Awakening

I was at the Future of Work micro-conference that took place in February in Madeira Island and was asked if the power had shifted from employers to employees.

I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot lately, and I don’t think it has actually shifted. But what I think has been happening over the last year and a half, is that people are awakening to better ways of working and healthier work cultures with better leadership styles.

So, it’s not that the power has shifted to the workers, they are just claiming to not have their own power being taken away by an organization and their leaders. They have decided not to compromise, or at least not in the long term.

The requirements and needs of the workforce have increased. Now it’s not only important to have a great work environment. The talent wants to choose where to work from, work for a purpose beyond profit, perhaps have shares in your company and unlimited holidays and while we are at it, a 4-day workweek.

2022, is for me the year of the Great Awakening.

What do I mean by that?

Well, in 2020, a large majority of the workforce jumped into hybrid and remote work. At first, people simply accepted that they would have to adjust and balance personal with professional life for the upcoming months. A good portion of those people thought it would only be temporary and that was just their reality at that moment.

In 2021, that way of thinking started changing. The vast majority of people began thinking: “You know what, I’m actually enjoying this. There is more to life than just work. I do take great pride in my work, but it shouldn’t be the only thing that defines me. Work serves me to finance my lifestyle but it is not what I should be living for. It feels good not to organise my whole life around work anymore.”

Now, in 2022, that’s when the real mindset change took place. And that’s why I’m calling it the year of the Great Awakening. This is the year people started fully realising that it is possible to continue working remotely and recognising the benefits associated with it. After two years, the work is still being done and businesses are (not only) still up and running successfully, many are indeed thriving.
Work-life integration is possible after all.

Nowadays, more and more companies are adopting remote work and human-centric systems.
Take Safety Wing, Remote or Gitlab as good examples. Remote’s Handbook is even made public to help other companies adopt some proven, successful practices that support remote work.

And the workforce understood that they could actually work for companies like these that are more focused on giving people more flexibility and autonomy, more work-life integration, more chances to work at home or from anywhere they wish to, to have a healthier balance between personal, social, and professional life. To also spend more time with their loved ones, to see their kids being raised, to look after their pets and dogs.

And even if they are not aware that there are organisations offering all these options, people are quitting their jobs: the Big Quit movement that started in 2021, has now expanded throughout the globe. Change is no longer an option for all the leaders out there. When they don’t enable it, their people are the ones that make it happen.

When we look at some data from this year alone, 20% of the workforce around the globe feels disengaged at work, 41% plans to resign from their jobs and 46% of workers consider relocating and working remotely. For close to 50% of Gen Zs and Millennials office or hybrid work is no longer an option.

More and more, I see the people around me becoming increasingly selective with the list of companies they’d consider working for. When in an interview, questions regarding the company’s culture, environment, work policies, and flexibility are asked. They don’t want just a job – the role and career (progression) matter less than their own well-being and satisfaction or happiness.

And according to Gartner, these are some of the trends you can expect to observe this year:

  • shorter workweeks will become more attractive than salary increases;
  • employee turnover will continue to rise as people choose to work remotely or in a hybrid mode refusing to go back to the office;
  • employee well-being becomes a new metric companies will take into account;
  • an increased need of organizations to have a designated HR employee overlooking the question of purpose.

As I mentioned in my article The War for Talent in August last year: “In the past, the workforce was trying to get the best work-life balance out of the job they had. Nowadays, people look for jobs based on their lifestyle choices and are less likely to make sacrifices for a career than ever before.”

While it may seem like a gigantic step to upgrade your organization’s culture and leadership style, if you want to capitalize on a motivated and dedicated workforce that will move mountains for you, open yourself to creating a whole new way of working that fits both the business and the workforce.

We are living in exciting times when it comes to co-creating the future of work. It is not that we are reinventing the wheel as many of the workplace practices being adopted today have already been proposed and even tested by different maverick entrepreneurs who challenged the status quo in their own organizations. However, only now do we see a collective movement of employees and employers increasingly taking steps that challenge the way we do work and run organizations.

In my personal opinion, we are building better, sustainable work ethics where all spheres of our lives can be better integrated. People will finally be able to look at their work and professional life in a different light. We will not only work to have a source of income or something that will give us a certain social status, but to support a business we believe in, to give back to the community, to get involved in projects with different people, to challenge ourselves to keep learning throughout our lives and developing various skills and abilities.

As the Great Awakening is loading, I look forward to continuing witnessing and catalysing the shifts and upgrades that are taking place in organisations around the world. This change movement will define how we do work in the years to come.

Put Life First: The New Frontiers of Work

Put Life First: The New Frontiers of Work

Innovate your organization’s culture: create a social agreement, reduce working hours and travel

A few months ago, not long after The Great Resignation started escalating all across the globe, I wrote The War of Talent.

The fact that people are changing their values, changing their lifestyle, changing jobs, and moving to different countries or even other areas within the same country to look for better work-life balance is one of the things I heavily focused on in that article.

And as I wrote it, I, myself, was undergoing a major change in lifestyle while moving from Australia to Europe.

After inevitably becoming a remote worker due to the pandemic, I also became a digital nomad.

And with my nomadic experience through Europe I just recently came up with a new term and concept: the frequent living city. Let me clarify it for you:

Everyone thinks of remote workers in many different ways. Generally, there is one big differentiation between them, two prevalent types: the ones that are based in the same location and live and work from there all the time and the ones that frequently move from one place to the other – the so-called digital nomads. For me, this is a misconception. Some digital nomads, myself included, spend a vast majority of their time in two or three different cities across different countries.

And throughout the whole year, we keep traveling back and forth to those same places that start to feel like home. And that’s what I like to call a frequent living city.

I often encounter remote workers looking for a community to engage with, craving real connections. And they are not only looking for it in their private and social lives but also at work. And a great number of these people are experiencing a better work-life integration while traveling: they have work meetings in the morning, have lunch with a friend, practice sports in the afternoon, send some work emails afterward, and later head out for dinner and a drink together with other members of their digital nomads’ community.

We often talk within the Semco ecosystem about the ideal groups of 10 people working on the same project, and I like to think that that’s actually basically pretty much what happens in social life as well.

If you think about it, the same is happening with these new communities of digital workers arising across the globe. There are several groups being formed by people with shared interests: fitness, music, dance, yoga, language learning, parties, and the list goes on.

More and more, different people from different places (be it nomads, ex-pats, or locals) work remotely from the same location and get together to form communities.

One of the places I am happy to have as my frequent living city is Madrid. It is a city that enhances my creativity, a place where I feel motivated and inspired. Whenever here, I find it very easy to write new content pieces. I guess that’s what also happens when you are in your own office at home, at a local café or even in a specific location at your workplace, isn’t it?

Even pre-COVID, the world was moving towards an era where you would use different spaces for different purposes. And that actually proved itself to be very handy as one would not feel stuck between the same walls, surrounded by the same people every single day.

Diversity in landscape and environment always allows for fresh, new ideas to emerge.

For me, being a remote worker, being a global citizen, being a nomad, is actually how I find and keep my balance. I can spend some time with my family back in Germany, visit some of my longtime friends there as well, be in a university environment when attending an IE Business School gathering in Dubai and get back into my work, sports, and social routine when returning to Madeira.

This variety of environments and places ultimately creates a lot of diversity of thinking for me which is not only important for my content work but also something I quite enjoy.

An analogy that came to mind is the scene from the movie Dead Poets Society (1989). The part where Professor Keating (Robbie Williams) stands on the table, ‘to remind himself that he must constantly look at things in a different way’. Sounds familiar? Could that be what remote workers are doing at the moment, and getting a different perspective. That may be why they’re actually so productive in different ways. Suddenly the work that I didn’t use to be able to finish in nine hours, now I finish in six.

Isn’t being more productive and accomplishing more in less time what we should all be striving for?

For me, that’s the only way forward: having people give it their best, working in the best environment possible, in the best location for them. And most importantly, actually trusting them to decide the how, where, and when. This is empowering employees to make the best possible decisions not only for their work but also for their private lives.

Create a social agreement stating what is expected from your team. I personally don’t like checking on people, I’d rather let go of control and trust them to do their jobs the best they can.

And this is why this agreement works: it states what is expected from each person. There are questions you can and maybe should ask, like:

  • Can you deliver that in a given timeframe?
  • What could stop you from doing that?
  • What support do you need from me?

And then just trust that they will actually get it done.

Ever since I’ve moved to different ways of working years ago and accelerated the journey after joining the Semco Style family, I find myself being surprised every single day: how much we can actually get done, and how much more productive the business is. And all this without me having to constantly check on anyone.

This month we had already a great example happening that could portray what I mean. On the first Friday of the month, we shut down the office for the entire day – our new Mental Health practice.

And if I look at it, in four days of work, I do not have the feeling we got less done. Granted this was the first time we’re doing it and there is still room for improvement.

I can see how on the last day of work, one or more team members might have done a few more extra hours. But again, this probably balances out by having a full day off on Friday. And I don’t see that being an issue, quite the opposite.

I have already mentioned such a similar experiment from the government of Iceland in the Full Time = Dinosaurs? webinar last month and even quite recently read a similar study performed by Atlassian: 6 individual contributors and one manager working across different areas and locations trialed working only 4 days per week for 9 weeks. Even though employees felt pressured to have work delivered on time, they were constantly looking forward to their 3-day weekend.

And guess what? It was a successful experiment, their productivity was not affected, pretty much the contrary.

Would you also dare try it in your own organization?

If you worry about the commitment and performance of your employees I would suggest letting yourself be surprised.

I know I can trust my team to get the work done. In fact, I know that by working differently, they are actually starting to think and make decisions like owners.

And I see this happening every day.

Just recently we had a new employee start working with us. Two of them actually, and they started within one week of each other.
In a little over a month, both of them are making decisions that I couldn’t be more proud of. They are just working completely entrepreneurial: giving direction by going where we feel there is a market for it, researching, testing, iterating. They’re talking to each other, collaborating, and coming up with great initiatives and insights.

One of them is traveling and will be away for a few weeks in Lisbon, a city she has previously called home. It was never a question and she knew she did not need to consult me on whether or not she could do it.

I’m actually looking forward to seeing her work in a different environment and what kind of sparks it creates for her. I can’t wait for her to experience what I have been experiencing for the past few months. Maybe it will become one of her frequent living cities?

So, I challenge you once more with another thought: if you want to create diversity, if you’re looking at enabling people to be their best, and to work at their best, should you maybe even encourage your team members to travel and go to different places? Places where they may be challenged emotionally but also stimulated in a different way?

That’s it for the day, I believe there’s already quite a few Food for Thought in this piece.

As always I’d love to hear your thoughts and am looking forward to hearing your comments and feedback.