So it’s clear that we need new approaches to work. Our dependence on location isn’t necessarily the best way to think about work. It worked for a long time after the post-industrial period, but now it’s time to rethink it as we kind of transition into a more digital and service based economy. I’m very lucky to work with some smart people and I’m very lucky to work with a guy who told me that Kavi – you can change the workplace.
You can change the world. Change is a very big thing and as we’re seeing today. In many of the conversations, the ability to ignite change and start change can be very difficult. But if you could take one small space and make it slightly better you are in effect changing the world and that’s why I’ve chosen to focus on the workplace.
I’m gonna talk to you today about a concept I called the remote work revolution. There are low work revolutions from my belief. This is the idea that talent is borderless and work is worthless. Work in the service sector economy can be done from anywhere if you have the right skills, if you want to travel, and you want to work at the same time.
I know a lot of young people who love to do remote work. This type of work is a viable solution to do both at the same time while earning a good income if you want to raise a family and spend more time with your family or a loved one. Or maybe you have to take care of someone who’s dealing with the family. Remote work is a viable solution to that.
Flexibility is where you can be at the office sometimes or you can be by your loved ones if you are bound by immigration meaning you cannot leave your country or you don’t have the means to leave your country to go to a better one. Remote work could be a viable solution to bring jobs to you if you want to earn a better wage.
This is the section of my talk I always say to the women who are out here if you want to earn more because you know you deserve it, which I do as well, remote work is a viable solution due to putting your talent in front of companies. Show that you are hungry for what you have to offer and that goes for challenges too. If you find that you’ve been depleted of the challenges in your local environment again there are many countries out there that need your thinking to help improve what’s going on in their parts of the world.
For companies it’s a huge opportunity. Not only does talent become available from everywhere but it brings down certain costs and infrastructure things like lease or rentals for office spaces, insurance premiums, those are things that they can actually diversify because talent is so global. And lastly governments if you look at Australia as an example we need more people to come to this country but if we’re gonna make it hard for them the time-being remote work is a potential way to bring in talent from India and Korea and China and Japan. And have their brain trust come to this country to help us improve what we stand for as Australians as well.
So I believe that remote work is important but I don’t believe everyone would choose to do it. However the choice should always be there. There may come a time in your life where you realize you need the flexibility of remote work and the idea here is that rather than us designing our lives around work we’re now designing work into our lives.
If you want to go have that child and go beyond maternity leave to try a whole new venture to try a whole new passion, remote work could be that solution for you. So I believe there are three layers here that everyone has to take part in for it to actually function.
The first is individuals. How do you make individual people attractive as remote workers so they get hired – how do we help companies become great places to work? How to facilitate remote work and how do we have government’s initiate legislation or other types of kickstart initiatives that can encourage remote working.
I’m going to start with individuals and there are three things I believe that us as individuals need to become great remote workers. For all of you here today I encourage you to think of these three qualities in your own lives and how you can improve them to become better workers. But also that when you’re in an interview environment push these three traits about yourself.
I guess the interviewer or the employer who’s interviewing you wants to know about your organizational skills. How organized are you? Are you someone that has to be chased for your to-do-list or are you someone that procrastinates a lot? If you can improve those types of skills around organization you’re going to become a much more attractive remote worker.
The second one is communication. How well do you speak to people? In fact, how effectively do you communicate to get a task done? At school or maybe in your office you have an idea that at the moment the better you are communicating the more attractive you will be as a remote worker.
And lastly, process. What do you bring to the table to effectively organize and communicate with a team with a group of students to collaborate or even to work autonomously because when you work remotely you’re going to be facing irregular hours and that’s going to mean communicating when you’re available. You will need to make sure that everything is organized and in place to get your work done and so the rest of your team can get their work done. It’s also going to need a lot of autonomy you’re gonna have independence to set your own schedule. But it’s also going to be very lonely.
You’re not gonna be seeing people for a long time. I work in a company with 26 people who are distributed across 10 countries. I actually just flew back yesterday from France after seeing them for our global off-site. I’m a bit jet-lagged. But it’s worth it knowing that I can see my colleagues once maybe twice a year. However most of the year is pretty lonely. I’m by myself. In our office jobs were so fine-tuned to be at our desk at 9:00 a.m. or maybe earlier. Maybe even staying in our desk longer past 5:00 p.m. so people think we’re working hard in remote workers our visit it’s always gonna be about what you got done that day. What you got done that week. Is the project moving forward that’s what’s important to the remote work environment.
And lastly how do you navigate very inconsistent workplace structures. I’ve worked on airport floors, I work at a desk in my house, I work at coffee shops, I work anywhere through stable Wi-Fi but I didn’t realize how difficult that would be after I left my cubicle. The more you can navigate these uncertainties around remote work the more attractive you would be to companies that are looking to hire you.
So I’m gonna take you to South Korea where a very unique experiment is taking place. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with South Korea but it actually has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. And a big component of that is related to the way they work they’re overworked. They worked really long hours and they work in a very competitive environment. And the reason that happened is because the company went from war-torn poverty after the Korean War into incredible fast-paced economic growth and change. Making them one of the kind of best examples of how you go from rags to riches.
In that 70 year period, they grew as manufacturers. They literally are big the biggest shipbuilders in the world and wanting the other things like TVs, cars, mobile phones, but as manufacturing declined they continued to work in that very hard work ethic that was no longer possible in a service sector based economy.
As they transition towards a service sector based economy this is giving my one bad joke but the ship literally sailed on them. To tie it back to the suicide problem this economic reality their inability to transition to the service sector based economy is freaking everybody out. Parents who don’t want to be a burden on their children because Korea is a very family unit country when you go into the workforce you’re not just supporting yourself and your spouse and your children, you’re supporting the rest of your family too. Parents do want to be a burden to that so they’re taking their lives. Young people coming out of the competitiveness of school and going into this work environment really working themselves to death.
So the Korean government said okay we need to change the way we think about work because the next generation of workers are going to be responsible for our economy and we cannot have them committing suicide of the rates that they’re doing so now. So they turn into companies they said we need to work together to figure out strategies to change the way people work. This is what they did. The government and companies got together and the government said look companies like Samsung, Kia, Kakao, all of you guys regula tons of money and with that money you’re gonna build these kind of co-working ventures – these places where students, entrepreneurs even existing companies can come and work together. We’ll teach them how to generate new ideas, how to generate new companies, how to work differently and in effect make them better workers that in turn will kick-start our economy again.
Those ideas come into shape for people like me coming to Korea to talk to kids and students and even existing established companies and saying this is why you should think about something like remote work or different strategies to help people think differently about work. Even something as simple as how do I talk to my parents about working in a start-up working virtually as opposed to going and working in a factory. How do I talk to my parents about if I fail at this company its not the end of the world I can start over again. Because those are still missing like South Korea
There’s also a lot of pure learning: how can students that have achieved this kind of work or entrepreneurs that kind of work in Korea talk to each other and share with each other and be a support base to each other, rather than being segregated and independent.
And lastly how can they build networks if I go ahead and build a company because of that that co-working space – what network and my building to then go so show someone else how to do it and how does that pump money back into the whole system so we’re continually recycling this knowledge that goes through to everybody.
For companies after talking at individuals, companies also have to play a part and how remote workers can be encouraged to do their best work in an environment. There’s three things there they have to do as well. One they’re going to have to start small. I think we all know far too well instances where we want to make big changes. We do very big things and when we fail big we never go back to trying that problem again. So by starting small and piloting and scaling accordingly you’re gonna see more companies that don’t promote work because they’re mitigating the risk and the uncertainty rather than going at everything in one big go.
Two they need to hire remote workers. I just showed you what it takes to be a great remote worker and if you have those skills – those organizational skills those communication skills and those process skills – and you bring that into the company, you’re making a stance to say these are the kinds of people we want to hire let’s hire more these people because if we know we have great organized, great communicating, great process-based people, will publicly be much easier trying to scale out of network options.
And lastly discrimination. You cannot discriminate when offering remote work as a company. Whether it’s for new mothers or for fathers who want to go to their new families if they have the opportunity to work remotely then it should also be given to Millennials who may not have children. Or other types of responsibilities like family. It may not look the same as that ability but it should be provided and it’s when you discriminate that the problems really start to occur. Now I had so I told you earlier in the individual section what you can do to improve yourself when you’re in these interviews or talking to employers about remote work.
In this instance you can actually ask employers “are they doing these things” do they have a pilot for remote work? Do they encourage hiring and other above workers? How do they give the opportunity for remote work to other people inside the organization?
In fact what kind of software are they using to talk to each other? To communicate with each other? What kind of rules and regulations do they have in place to meet the demands of a remote work environment? What kind of metrics are in place?
Again I’d said earlier that’s not about visibility, it’s about deliverability. What are you getting done and how are we going to measure that our remote workforce is doing really well if they’re doing really bad? And lastly what are the incentives? Is there something different beyond just bonus and a pay raise that will allow me to do great work?
And sometimes these can all be tied together. Can you imagine the incentive where because you did really well for six months you got a higher allowance to maybe improve your home office because that’s maybe where you work from. I am going to take you to Israel. Now I hope you’ve noticed this theme. I’m hopping around the world a bit because it’s a very globalized presentation and in Israel there’s a company called AppsFlyer; they’re a marketing company they decided to pilot a program that would encourage remote working inside the organization.
And what they did was they created a global employee exchange program. AppsFlyer has headquarters all around the world and they decided that when they hire new employees you have to spend one year working in the local environment. So if I work in Tel Aviv I’m gonna spend one year at the Tel Aviv office.
In that one year I’m gonna be taught how to organize myself, how to improve my communication skills, and how to improve my processes. And after one year if I myself and the company believe that I’ve done a good job I’m gonna be allowed to work from any one of their other offices around the world. Be that Sydney be that New York City. This isn’t complete remote work independence but it is a pilot and the starting kind of foundation for how we organize and facilitate great remote work.
Lastly I’m going to talk about governments because we need governments to protect workers. We need governments to think about how we never get the right legislation to facilitate this new kind of working especially this change in perception of working. For starters government needs to think about immigration.
I think mobility is one of the biggest issues of our time right now, especially as it pertains to work. If we don’t allow people to move freely to get better work from home jobs we’re going to stagnate our economies.
Australia is a good example of that right now. I’m going to share pretty big opinions but until we allow more people to come in with new ideas we’re gonna be pretty stuck as a country and so if we can’t open that up we’re not going to open up new possibilities, new types of companies, new types of industries beyond what we have right now.
In addition to that, there has to be legislation in place what gives companies through certain incentives or subsidies to hire these types of workers to think about work in this way. How are we putting retraining initiatives into place or legislation for education that will train students the skills that they need to navigate a new work market and then when we do have jobs how are they being protected for healthcare and insurance and retirement.
These are all big things that we need to think about not just for people who work in one space but for people who work in many different places. And then lastly what kind of Kickstarter initiatives can we put into place the grants are funding that will encourage individuals and companies and maybe even NGOs to think about training people to think about remote work.
So the last example I’m going to take you to use in Portland in the United States where an organization turned apprenticeships on its head.
I suppose in Australia we know apprenticeships to be a very big deal because we have a very big trade culture here or a trade culture includes plumbers, electricians, construction workers, and so on. Apprenticeships trained you to know how to do the job and they pay decently and make sure that you commit a certain amount of hours to relevant training internships on the other hand in the service sector. Largely you don’t really know if they work and if definitely most people will tell you well yeah they help you but for the large subset of people it didn’t really work.
So this organization took the idea on its head and went to service based industries and said we’re gonna actually make internships apprenticeships by law in the tech community and by doing that we’re going to make sure that companies bring in cohorts of apprenticeships. And we will pay them to work differently, to think differently, about their jobs and to prepare them for the realities of the new working dynamic. And if we train them well enough we hope that they will stay in these companies and these are big companies like Microsoft, Cisco they’re taking in these cohorts and they’re giving them these apprenticeships to actually train them on the job.
There’s always this fear that if I train my employees too much they’ll leave. Well if you train them too much and you treat them well they probably stay. But at least if they do leave they go back into the ecosystem of jobs that are much stronger that much more enriched and those skills are transferable even if the job goes away the skills are transferable.
So the last thing I leave you with is this kind of statement: no other generation has the freedom to carve out its own lifestyle. I grew up in a time where I’ve had the freedom to choose where I want to work. I live in Australia today not because I work in Australia. I live here because I love living here. This is my country and I love it so much.
My parents didn’t have that choice. They left their home country because they knew that if they had if they stayed where they were from they probably would have not been as successful as they are now. For them it was a huge gamble. For me and my girlfriend it wasn’t so much and so to all of you today whether you’re a parent or you’re a young student or you’re just entering the workforce for the first time I encourage you to take that freedom to choose to ask employers would you be interested if I were to remotely work.
Here’s how I’ll make that happen if you are in a company that you’re responsible for recruitment: think about hiring people, young kids, veterans in the field who facilitate or at least display the ideas of remote work because they will enrich your organization. And if you have an impact with the government I encourage you to think about how new legislation and new protection could actually facilitate remote work because if we can move talent around we’re gonna make the world so much better in terms of skills and in terms of the jobs that are available.