Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg has launched a new blog and podcast at Distributed.blog where he will be sharing what he has learned over the past 15 years of managing a distributed workforce. In 2019, Automattic now employs more than 900 people from 68 countries who have all worked in a distributed fashion since day one.
“With the Distributed podcast I wanted to take a closer look at how some of the most innovative companies and brilliant minds think about the future of work,” Mullenweg said. “Not just the binary questions of ‘remote work’ vs. ‘office work,’ but the wider spectrum of what’s possible and why it matters. How can we work better and smarter in the decades to come—and what’s the moral imperative driving our desire to change?”
The first episode of the podcast features Upwork CEO Stephane Kasriel, who is deeply embedded in the labor market for remote work. His company offers a global platform for connecting businesses with freelancers. Upwork went public in 2018 and is expected to do more than $1.7 billion in business this year. Kasriel has a wealth of knowledge to share from his experience managing more than 1,100 remote freelancers in 500 cities, in addition to 400 on-site employees.
“Our mission at this company is to create economic opportunities for people to have better lives, and the way we measure that is how much money goes into people’s pockets,” Kasriel said.
Both Mullenweg and Kasriel are passionate about seeing more companies embrace remote work and the first part of the podcast goes deeper into what is currently broken about work. Those living in big cities are often paid well for their talents and expertise but will spend a large portion of that money on the cost of living. Kasriel said he believes Upwork can be a “driving force in creating a better future” by championing remote work as the economic catalyst for improving working conditions across the globe.
“This distributed-company movement is the awakening of the tech industry [to the reality] that we are part of the problem,” Kasriel said. “Part of the reason why jobs have been destroyed in plenty of places in the country while all the new jobs were created in a small number of areas is because of tech.”
For those who are curious about how CEOs and managers make distributed work a success, the first episode includes discussions on some of the more practical issues of managing a remote work force. Mullenweg and Kasriel discuss the challenges of working across timezones, strategies for improving communication and preventing employees from feeling a sense of isolation, and managing productivity and performance.
The topics included in the episode are even applicable for smaller distributed companies that are just starting out. Kasriel shared tips on establishing a strong culture of employee satisfaction for both on-site employees and those working remotely, navigating conflict, integrating new employees into remote culture, and allowing people to “delocate” from on-site work.
After listening to this episode, I found that Mullenweg and Kasriel presented a compelling case that distributed work is not just a buzzword in the tech industry. It is actually a movement with a powerful economic impact that is poised to change the world. Remote work also has the added benefit of creating opportunities for people who have a difficult time participating in the traditional labor market, effectively increasing the diversity of a company’s employees by offering a more inclusive model for working.
The podcast is produced by Mark Armstrong and the team at Charts & Leisure. There’s a lot of valuable information efficiently packed into just 37 minutes. If you manage a distributed team or are part of one, this is a high quality new show to add to your subscriptions.