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Debunking ridiculous remote work myths (and some serious survival tips)

(BUSINESS) People new to remote work (or sending their teams home) are still nervous and have no concept of what really happens when people work from home. We’ll debunk that.

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With an entire nation (or planet) moving to a remote workforce in the midst of a global pandemic, we’re hearing some pretty wild misunderstandings of what remote work is, and how it functions effectively. Bosses are scrambling to buy up spying tech for some good ol’ hamfisted enforcement.

For those of us who have been remote for ages, it’s fascinating to watch the transition. And also offensive. People tweeting about getting to take naps and not wear pants. That’s not remote work, that’s just you being unsupervised like a child for five minutes, KEVIN.

I was chatting with my buddy Michael Pascuzzi about remote work (full disclosure, he’s a Moderator in our Remote Digital Jobs group) and despite cracking many jokes, we realized there is a lot of noise to cut through.

In the spirit of offering meat for you in these hungry times, Michael offered to put his thoughts on paper. And why should you listen to him? It’s because he has worked for several tech companies, both startups and enterprises including TrackingPoint, 3DR, and H.P. He currently works remotely for Crayon, a Norwegian Digital Transformation, and Cloud Services company. He holds an M.B.A. in Digital Media Management from St. Edward’s University and a B.A. in Art History from the University of Connecticut. He’s also wonderfully weird. And a remote worker.


In his own words below:

So you’re working remotely now. Cool.

At first, it feels.. strange. But, as you get into it, you’ll get comfortable with your routine.

I’m sure you have a preconceived notion of remote workers. You probably thought this type of work was just for Unabombers and nomads. Maybe you don’t think you have a real job any longer because you’re doing it in your Underoos.

While, yes, working from home does allow you the option to work in your underwear, you still probably shouldn’t. There’s a lot to working from home and getting work done. You’re going to get a crash course in the coming weeks. I’m going to give you a leg up on your peers by telling you what you really need to know and what nobody else is telling you about remote work.

The following is a cheat sheet to getting ahead of your peers – and maybe make a case for you to continue in this lifestyle after the pandemic has subsided.

1. Working remotely doesn’t mean playtime

Right now, you’re roughly one week into your new working arrangement. You’ve got your table, your computer, and your whole set up. You’re also taking advantage of:
– The creature comforts of home
– Nobody looking over your shoulder

Irish coffees for breakfast, no pants-wearing, and naps during lunch are all available to you now that you work from home. And let’s not forget about #WhiteClawWednesdays!

These are all terrible ideas.

Here’s why:

If you come to a phone/video meeting drunk, we’ll know. If you’re on a video call with bedhead and a wrinkled shirt, we’ll assume you’re unprofessional. White Claw Wednesdays are probably okay in moderation, but taking a shot every time Karen says something annoying on a conference call is a bad idea!

Working from home should be an enjoyable and comfortable experience, but it shouldn’t be fun. It’s still work; and work sucks.

2. Working remotely should give you a better work/life balance:

Initially, you’ll find it hard for you and for your employer to separate your work hours from your life hours. Staying working only during your work hours is VITAL to keeping your sanity. Microsoft Office 365 has a tool that measures your wellbeing in “My Analytics.” Below is a picture of my wellbeing for this month. It’s not good.

digital accounting of wellbeing

The leadership team and managers at my company stress wellbeing. We take that chart seriously, and failing to have quiet days doesn’t make you look like a hard worker. Hard workers get shit done 8-5.

3. Working remotely also doesn’t mean firing the nanny

Working remotely doesn’t equal additional family time. Your work hours are your work hours. The pandemic quarantine doesn’t leave a whole lot of options for families to coexist without overlapping.

And it’s okay to occasionally have a “coworker.” But, you need to create your own private workspace within the hustle and bustle of homeschooling going on around you.

Here are a few more best practices you won’t read anywhere else:

You’ll need to learn to distance yourself from “work” when no longer at your “office.” This means powering down at the end of the day. Having a work/life balance when you work from home tends to swing in the opposite direction than you probably assumed; work can take over your life.

  • You’re going to have to turn off mobile notifications 100% of the time. It’s a pandemic, you’re not traveling; you don’t need them on – ever.
  • Turn off your computer at the end of the day. It’s good for your computer, and it’s fantastic for your mental health.
  • If your manager needs to reach you or you need to contact a direct report, just follow the wise words of Kim Possible: Call me, beep me if you wanna reach me.
  • You must wear pants. (FYI guys, dark leggings look like real pants and are super comfortable) Get ready for your day as if it were a regular office. Take a shower, shave, comb your hair, eat breakfast in the kitchen, wear jewelry. Look like you give a damn.

  • You must turn on your camera for video calls (and please don’t take your laptop into the bathroom. no field trips). Nonverbal communication accounts for 93% of all communication. We need to see your face, your posture, your eyerolls.
  • All of your calls should be video calls. You’ll find you’ll miss humans if you do not see them daily.
  • Clean the room (or at least directly behind you). We shouldn’t see laundry and quarantine snacks in the background. We absolutely should never HEAR you opening a bag of chips.
  • Close your door. Kitchen, office, bedroom… whatever you’re using needs to be YOUR space. It’s your office. Your clubhouse. Only one Homer allowed.

And for the love of all that isn’t COVID, please wear pants.

More resources:

I’m on a team at Crayon that freely consults on working remotely and cloud technology. This isn’t a sales pitch. If you have questions or need productivity tips, you can always email my team directly at contact.us@crayon.com.

Meanwhile, here are some additional resources to dig into:

  1. 20 tips for working from home
  2. Guide to engaging a distributed workforce
  3. Top 15 tips to effectively manage remote employees
  4. How to make working from home work for you

The American Genius is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

Business News

Coca Cola drops 200 brands, most you’ve never heard of

(BUSINESS NEWS) Coca Cola hopes to revitalize their drink arsenal by rolling back some “underperforming” brands (that you might not have known they were still making.)

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Woman drinking Coca Cola against plain wall

2020 has forced a lot of businesses to return to their proverbial drawing boards, and the Coca Cola Company is no exception. Last week, Coca Cola announced in a corporate blog post that they are halting the production of 200 of their beverage brands.

In the words of Cath Coetzer, the head of global marketing for Coca Cola, the restructuring will “accelerate [Coke’s] transformation into a total beverage company”.

“We’re prioritizing bets that have scale potential across beverage categories, consumer need states and drinking occasions,” Coetzer added. “Because scale is the algorithm that truly drives growth.”

That’s… a surprising amount of technical beverage jargon, Cath.

Coca Cola is already the leading manufacturer of non-alcoholic drinks on the planet. It’s hard to imagine their scope becoming any more “total.” But this strategy shift comes as the consumer thirst for soda is drying up.

Soda consumption has steadily fallen over the last ten consecutive years, thanks to a swath of modern studies that link excess sugar intake with negative health outcomes like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

In light of this research, regional sales taxes on drinks with added sugar have been debated across the country, despite aggressive corporate lobbying against it. All this has meant that beverage companies have had no choice but to pivot hard.

Take Odwalla, a Coca Cola brand that touted its vitamin content and servings of produce, which was discontinued earlier this year. Despite being marketed as a health brand, Odwalla flavors contained whopping amounts of added sugar: Their popular “superfood” flavor quietly boasted 47 grams per bottle.

The brands affected by Coke’s recent soda cull also include TAB diet soda, ZICO coconut water, and Coca Cola Life, plus internationally marketed drink brands like Vegibeta of Japan and Kuat of Brazil.

Condensing their portfolio allows Coca Cola to prioritize their most profitable products and invest in more new beverage trendsetters that better fit the times, like sparkling water, coffee, or even cannabis-infused products.

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Uber and Lyft face the music as employee ruling is upheld

(BUSINESS NEWS) The battle for Uber and Lyft drivers’ status continues, and despite company protests, the official ruling has been upheld.

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Interior of Uber and Lyft rideshare looking out on palm trees

A gig economy has its pros and cons. For anyone who has ever been an independent contractor, done freelance work, or worked for companies like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash, the pros are clear – you get to work when you want, where you want and how much you want. Flexibility and gigs go hand in hand.

And the cons? Well, those are a little more complex. Without a W2 linking you directly to the company, you as an independent contractor don’t receive the same rights and perks that your 9-5 employee friends might. For example, your employer is not required to provide a healthcare option for you. You are also not entitled to earned time off or minimum wage.

So which is better?

The gig economy conundrum has made its way all the way to an appellate court in California last week. The ruling was that Uber and Lyft must classify their drivers as employees.

Back in May, Attorney General Xavier Becerra and city attorneys from L.A., San Diego and San Francisco brought forth a lawsuit that argues Uber and Lyft gain an unfair, unlawful competitive advantage by not classifying their workers as W2s.

Uber and Lyft responded to the suit, stating that if they were to reclassify their drivers as employees, their companies would be irreparably harmed – though the judge in last week’s ruling negated that claim, stating that neither company would suffer any “grave or irreparable harm by being prohibited from violating the law” and also that the financial burden of converting workers to employees “do[es] not rise to the level of irreparable harm.” Essentially, the judge called their BS.

Additionally, according to the judge, there is nothing that would prevent Uber and Lyft from offering flexibility and independence to their drivers – and they have had plenty of time to transition their drivers from independent contractors to employees (the gig worker bill that spurred this lawsuit was decided in 2018). Seems fair to me!

However, there is an oppositional proposition on the ballot that muddies the waters. Proposition 22, if passed, is a measure that would keep rideshare drivers and delivery workers classified as independent contractors, meaning that those workers from Uber and Lyft would be exempt from the new state law that classifies them as W-2 employees. And you might be surprised to know how many of the app-based rideshare workers are in favor of Prop 22!

In a class-action lawsuit, Uber has been accused of encouraging drivers and delivery workers to support Prop 22 via the company’s driver-scheduling app. It appears, unfortunately, that Uber is manipulating its workforce by wrongly hanging their jobs over their heads.

On this matter, Gig Workers Rising stated: “If Uber and Lyft are successful in passing Prop. 22 and undo the will of the people, they will inspire countless other corporations to adapt their business models and misclassify workers in order to further enrich the wealthy few at the expense of their workforce.”

Ultimately, the fate of California Uber and Lyft driver’s in still in question. It’s unclear if the question we should be asking is, will Lyft drivers have proper healthcare through their jobs or will they have jobs at all. All of this is occurring at a time where millions are jobless and 158,000 individuals sought unemployment support this week due to COVID-19 layoffs.

Personally, I have little sympathy for tech-giants that rake in billions off the backs of the exploited working-class. If the CEO of Uber is an ostentatious billionaire, then his employees should have health insurance. Clear and simple.

The scariest part of the gig economy is that workers have become increasingly happy to work for a company that gives them little to no benefits. More companies are dissolving or combining positions so that they can further bypass their responsibilities to their employees. Let us not be fooled: The dispute over whether or not to make Uber and Lyft workers W2 employees does not affect the health of the companies themselves. What it will affect is how fat the bonuses will be the big guys at the top, and that’s exactly why the companies are so adverse to the ruling. They’d rather their workers suffer than lose a single dime.

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Business News

Bay Area co-living startup strands hundreds of renters at dire time

(BUSINESS NEWS) They’re blaming COVID for failing as a co-living space, but it looks like trouble was well established even before now.

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Person packed a bag and walking away from co-living space.

Over the last few years, “co-living” startups have become increasingly common in tech-rich cities like San Francisco. These companies lease large houses, then rent individual bedrooms for as much as $2,000 per month in hopes of attracting the young professionals who make up the tech industry. Many offer food, cleaning services, group activities, and hotel-quality accommodations to do so.

But the true value in co-living companies lies in their role as a third party: Smoothing over relations, providing hassle free income to homeowners and improved accountability to tenants… in theory, anyway. The reality has proved the opposite can just as easily be true.

In a September company email, Bay Area co-living startup HubHaus released a statement that claimed they were “unable to pay October rent” on their leased properties. Hubhaus also claimed to have “no funds available to pay any amounts that may be owed landlords, tenants, trade creditors, or contractors.”

This left hundreds of SF Bay Area renters scrambling to arrange shelter with little notice, with the start of a second major COVID-19 outbreak on the horizon.

HubHaus exhibited plenty of red flags leading up to this revelation. Employees complained of insufficient or late payment. The company stopped paying utilities during the spring, and they quietly discontinued cleaning services while tenants continued to pay for them.

Businesses like HubHaus charge prices that could rent a private home in most of the rest of the country, in exchange for a room in a house of 10 or more people. PodShare is a similar example: Another Bay Area-based co-living startup, whose offerings include “$1,200 bunk beds” in a shared, hostel-like environment.

As a former Bay Area resident, it’s hard not to be angry about these stories. But they have been the unfortunate reality since long before the pandemic. Many urbanites across the country cannot afford to opt out of a shared living situation, and these business models only exacerbate the race to the bottom of city living standards.

HubHaus capitalized on this situation and took advantage of their tenants, who were simply looking for an affordable place to live in a market where that’s increasingly hard to find.

They’ve tried to place the blame for their failure on COVID-19 — but all signs seem to indicate that they had it coming.

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