Axios CEO Jim VandeHei writes about the conflict brewing between management and workers over the future of work-from-anywhere policies. VandeHei notes he is worried about two big risks: “younger workers benefit more than they realize from being in the trenches, in person, grappling with tough, teaching moments. There is a magic in human interaction [and] it is way harder to create strong emotional bonds with colleagues and your company from your couch. People stay in jobs and thrive when they feel tight connections.”

In response, he offers four steps Axios takes to mitigate these risks:

  1. Hire self-motivated, driven people
  2. Create new human interactions
  3. Communicate until you annoy yourself
  4. Create new performance measurements

All of these steps ultimately speak to the importance of corporate culture and how to build it in a work-from-anywhere world. Corporate cultures often develop organically when everyone is in the same place, housed under the same roof. Sure, organizations can help culture along, but a meaningful portion of culture happens through the patterns and rituals of office life. And it happens serendipitously in-person because an organization’s culture is, in part, the amalgamation of its people.

When the pandemic hit companies tried to replicate some of these rituals in the digital realm – think Zoom happy hours and digital water colors – but their successes were largely short-lived. These approaches often miss the mark, because they force banter, but it is deeper human connection and shared culture that individuals really want. As Rita Ramakrishnan, head of people and talent at Cadre put it, “the single greatest indicator of retention and engagement is whether you have a best friend at work.”

Here are three mindsets to drive culture in a work-from-anywhere environment:

  1. Shift from an office-first to a remote-first mindset. In an office-first mindset, organizations helped culture along by offering amenities and decor that aligned with the culture they desired. And culture developed overtime through the events and gatherings that play out when everyone is in the building. Think welcome bagels, birthday lunches, and new parents stopping by with their babies. But work-from-anywhere requires a remote-first mindset. An often-overlooked aspect of remote workforces is that employees work and collaborate asynchronously. Sure, there are the Zoom calls, but the bulk of work, and communication, is happening asynchronously. This is especially true when teams span the globe.
  2. Be excessively intentional. It is not enough to think that the culture you want will develop naturally in a work-from-anywhere environment. Leaders need to be excessively intentional in their efforts to build the culture they want. Communicate until you annoy yourself, as VandeHei recommends. Build workflows and communication approaches that ensure everyone has equal access regardless of time zone or location. Create new remote-first cultural ties.
  3. Over invest in in-person experiences. It may seem counter intuitive, but remote-first organizations need to invest heavily in in-person gatherings. As Pamela Hinds and Brian Elliott wrote last year in Harvard Business Review, “plenty of research shows that our ability to connect meaningfully to others is less satisfying when we’re not physically present and that shared understanding is harder to establish and more likely to suffer from “drift” as we spend time apart. The absence of shared context, from body language to the type of snacks made available in the shared kitchen, dilutes these myriad of signals that convey culture.

Many companies lost their mooring when the pandemic hit. They went into triage mode, grasping onto the nearest video conferencing platform, and many have not reemerged. Now is the time to rethink your approach to culture.

Given the early mission of the internet to democratize information, it’s somewhat surprising that we don’t see more nonprofits operating in the tech space. Wikipedia is the strongest example of what that model might look like. In New York, The Driver Cooperative (TDC), is trying to launch a ridesharing app that would get closer to a nonprofit model:

When it rolls out to the pub­lic ear­ly next year, TDC will become New York City’s first work­er-owned rideshar­ing plat­form — owned by the dri­vers them­selves, rather than by big investors and exec­u­tives. Its founders’ brazen idea is that TDC can actu­al­ly gain a com­pet­i­tive advan­tage over Uber and Lyft — sav­ing mon­ey and fun­nel­ing those sav­ings back to dri­vers — by doing away with the most exploita­tive prac­tices of that dom­i­nant duop­oly. ​The way the [Uber] mod­el is orga­nized is extrac­tive. It takes out the mon­ey and doesn’t give back much. Imag­ine a com­pa­ny that doesn’t have any prof­its, but has cre­at­ed bil­lion­aires,” Lewis says. ​That mon­ey comes from drivers.”

TDC hopes it can also change the cost structure which could make them the low-cost provider:

By com­bin­ing the pur­chas­ing pow­er of all the mem­bers, they hope to low­er expens­es on costs like gas and insur­ance — expens­es that Uber and Lyft dri­vers must han­dle on their own. They project that this should all add up to 8 – 10% high­er earn­ings for dri­vers on every ride, even while being able to beat their com­peti­tors on fare prices. And if the coop has any prof­its left at the end of the year, they will be paid out to dri­vers as dividends.

It is very difficult to compete against an entrenched company in winner-take most markets. Being able to offer a comparable product at a lower price helps. Taking on nonprofit status could help companies achieve that. So as more markets mature, we might see competitors arise more frequently as nonprofits.

Here’s the full article on TDC.

…anyone can view rankings of the top eBirders in different hot spots, counties, states, and entire countries. You can even peruse a list of the top 100 eBirders in the world. These types of competitive lists have birthed trends like endless Big Years, in which birders constantly compete to see who can spot the most species in a year. In turn, such fads have spurred counterinitiatives, like the five-mile-radius challenge, which encourages birders to enjoy birds in local areas rather than seeking them out in far-flung places.

That is from a profile of eBird, an online database of bird sightings.

As of 2020, it has collected more than 860 million global bird observations from over 597,000 registered eBirders. By sheer numbers alone, eBird is one of the world’s largest citizen-science projects. It is now used to understand species distributions, population trends, migration pathways, and even habitat use….

At least 120 million observations are submitted per year, many through the handy eBird app, a kind of Strava-Yelp-Pokémon Go hybrid for birders. The app doesn’t ID birds for you—Cornell offers another app called Merlin for that—but instead provides an easy way to record and upload the birds you spot. To log sightings, you start a checklist (similar to the way you’d start a run on a smartwatch) and the app automatically pulls your location via GPS. You can choose hot spots near you, which generate lists of species you’re likely to see created from data submitted by users in those areas. The app tracks time and distance traveled while you “tick” species and numbers of birds seen and heard. It even lets you keep an offline checklist, so you aren’t inconvenienced without cell service. On the web platform, users can upload photos and audio recordings to beef up checklist documentation. Once submitted, the observations join thousands of others being made on the platform at any given time.

We’ve probably only started to scratch the surface of the things that we will track and catalog.

Here is the full story on Outside Magazine from Jessie Williamson.