Inside this episode

In today’s episode, I’m joined by Michael Tempest, a Senior engineering team lead at Spendesk and creator of and together we will be answering that very polarising question. Does remote work… Work?

Host: Aaron Rackley

Guest: Michael Tempest

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Show Transcript

These transcripts where auto generated by Descript. If you see any issues, please do reach out and we can rectify the issues.


Aaron Rackley: [00:00:00] Hey everyone, and welcome to the Tech Leadership Decoded podcast, where through conversations, we unravel the intricacies of leadership in the tech industry. My name is Aaron, and I'm a tech lead here based in London, UK. And in today's episode, I'm joined by Michael Tempest, senior engineering team lead at SpenDesk and creator of thinkasync.

xyz. And together, we're going to be answering that very polarizing question, does remote work work? I really hope you enjoyed today's episode, and if you do, please can you take a moment to like this episode and review it on the platform you're listening to it on. It really helps us reach more people like you through that algorithm juice.

And with that, let's get into today's episode.

Okay, um, thank you for joining me today, Michael. How are you doing?

Michael Tempest: Yeah, doing really well. Thank you. Um, how about you?

Aaron Rackley: Yeah, not too bad. Um, we've just said before, before we start recording, I've got a few days off work, so it's going to be a nice little relaxing one for me today, hopefully. That's good.

[00:01:00] Fresh day. Um, so before we get into the topic. of remote work, which is actually a topic that I'm really excited to talk about. And I say that a lot on this podcast. I always say I'm really excited to talk about it, but generally remote work is a conversation that is very hot topic for me personally at the moment, because we just had a change at work as well, um, which means more people going back into the office.

Um, so there's been a little bit of debate about that at work before we get into that conversation. Do you want to just take five minutes, let everyone know about you, your background and why you want to talk about today?

Michael Tempest: Yeah, of course. Um, so, so Michael Tempest, um, I'm currently a senior engineering team leader at a company called Spendesk.

Um, I've been in tech for a while. I don't know how many years, like you lose track eventually. Um, going from engineer [00:02:00] to, to like a tech lead and then engineer manager and again, more into the leadership aspect of things. Um, and as the same with everybody else, the pandemic hit. Um, and we all got forced remote.

Uh, as part of that, I started looking into. Because I recognize that remote working was different to being in the office. You can't just take the practices of the office and put them remote and it just work. So I did start doing some light touch, uh, looking in there. And then what actually really spurred it on was once the pandemic lifted, um, I was at home looking after my wife who, um, unfortunately got long COVID, which meant that I was doing a lot of the school runs, looking after the kids.

Like I needed quite a bit of flexibility. And then there were rumors that, you know, people starting to return to the office and they were starting to get these conversations up. So I really want it to prove that remote working could work. And the only way to do that was to really drive it forwards with.

[00:03:00] Um, the team that I was working with, with the people I was working with and really experiment with it and show that this thing can work as long as you've got the right, uh, attitude and, and the ability to experiment a little bit more and get feedback and trust of people. Um, so that's, that's kind of where I started and how I've ended up where I am today, talking from a remote working, but also asynchronous working perspective.

Aaron Rackley: Okay, so. We joked about this on, um, in the channel beforehand when we, uh, introduced it. But yay or nay to remote work?

Michael Tempest: Do you know what? It's a, it's a very easy answer of it depends because it has to be for the individual, for them to decide. Now I like, I prefer the option of hybrid. So you have an option of an office existing.[00:04:00]

But you've also got the option to work remotely because there are some scenarios and some personality types that prefer to be around people, right? People are energized by other people. I'm not one of those people, right? So working remote works quite well for me. Um, but I still go into the office to meet with people, but it's not forced, right?

And I think that's the main thing is it's not that remote is better or worse. It's that it should be an option. To work wherever works best for you as an individual. So that you can give the most to the company.

Aaron Rackley: No, it doesn't make sense. Um, I think you can ask that online and get the most crazy responses in your Twitter feed or your LinkedIn feeds and the arguments that are happening on there are extremely um, polarizing.

So Got that bit out of the way. [00:05:00] Let's talk about how it can work, right? And then how it can't work and then what we can do to evaluate. So what do you see are the key benefits of working remotely compared to working in the office?

Michael Tempest: Uh, the number one key benefit is the flexibility, right? Is it's allowing people to Work in a way that puts and I know a lot of people are going to go, well, that's not the way you should think about things, but puts work second, like to me, life should always come before work, right?

Like, yes, you should be passionate about what you do. You should love what you do. Um, but it's not everything. Right? Life is there to be lived. Therefore, remote work really helps support that. Um, if I take you to, so, you mentioned about some of the comments that you get when like, you see some of these threads.

One thing that I really [00:06:00] hate to see is um, when they have that remote workers and then they show a picture of somebody that's incredibly unhealthy and they're in bed and they're just like lazy in their pyjamas and it's, it's not the reality. It's the reality if you want it to be. Um, but what I find is that remote work actually gives you more ability to do some of those things.

As an example, I've been able to, um, now I work in a fully remote company. I've been able to go to the gym pretty much every single day for the past year. Right. And that is something that remote gives you that ability to do. Anytime I go into the office. It's not quite the same. Yes, you could squeeze it in at lunch, but the travel alone means that you're exhausted.

People love to talk in the office as well. So it's like you, you are also stuck on other people's times. Um, so that's the big one, right? Is the flexibility. Uh, the second [00:07:00] one is, is focus. Yeah. So it gives you that time back to really focus on activities. Now there's a lot of research out there about focus time being such a huge beneficial to actively getting work done rather than spending meeting after meeting, talking about stuff, you act, you have that time to go, this is the time where I actually get the results of that meeting actively done.

You can't do that in the office because there is a constant disruption. There's, there's either meetings, there's conversations, you get pulled into stuff. As an example, when I go into the office, I, I basically say those days are a write off, right? That's for me to socialize with the team, but also talk to people in different teams and build those connections because building connections in remote is a little bit hard.

We'll probably go into that a little bit later. Um, but again, the, the [00:08:00] focus time improvement. Remote working is, is massive, but in order to do that, you have to put in the right practices to make that happen because what happened quite early in the pandemic was everybody went to remote work and they took all of the practices they had in the office with them, which meant that everybody was in meetings all day, every day.

So it's a real, um, effort to pull people out of that and go, you have to increase the focus time and decrease. The amount of time otherwise, you're not getting that benefit from remote working. Yeah,

Aaron Rackley: you know, i'm i'm seeing the same thing um In general as well, with me, my friends, colleagues and stuff that I work with in other places, they're saying the exact same thing, it's like any day you do go in at the moment, it is kind of just like a write off of meetings or just that's the day when everyone can actually see you so they're going to bombard you with the questions, right, because they know you can't run away.[00:09:00]

The, so. When you first transitioned to start having remote work, um, and you started looking at this from a leadership point of view, what kind of things did you see at first wasn't working and you started to try and address first?

Michael Tempest: Um, yeah, so the, the biggest things I saw first was That that mean thing, right?

And people not having focus time. So speaking with engineers, all I would get back was I'm in meetings all day or I'm never get any time to actually doing engineering or, um, it was. A very similar theme, right? So once you realize that that's the feedback, it's then a chance to look at how do we change this?

Right? What is it that is causing all of these meetings to happen? And a lot of it comes down to, um, [00:10:00] some of it is people reactionary and being used to what they The way they used to work, right? If you want something doing, you go and ask, like, Bill at a desk, right? Yeah. Or you just send a message to somebody and expect somebody to respond straight away, or you do it in a, in a meeting.

Whereas we really need to do is focus on how do we give enough information that we can continue doing other things while we wait for that thing to happen, right? Nothing we do should really be an emergency. And if it is, that's where you have stuff like incident process, right? It should be a rarity that you need somebody right then at that moment.

So once I realized that the meeting thing was a real problem with the team, it was then a case of let's put processes in place to reduce that. So the first thing was have a huge review of all of our meetings that we were having as part of like standard agile processes. [00:11:00] What value do they bring us? Okay, that doesn't bring any value.

We took it out. Okay. These two are very similar. We just merge them. Um, and once we got that into a semi decent place, it was then pushing it even further by going, okay, now we have this meeting as an example with, uh, something like refinement, where you would bring some, uh, user stories, refine them.

Everybody would go, yeah, this is great. Let's move on. What we're finding was that we could probably do a fair bit of that asynchronous. So we brought in practices to go put up the ticket or whatever you want to do for refinement. Two, three days before the refinement session. And what you found is that the majority of people then actually refined it before it even got to the session.

So some of those sessions went down from traditionally two hours to 15 minutes, 20 minutes, because so much had already been done up front. Um, [00:12:00] so what you're doing in that scenario is you're reducing the meetings by looking at the value aspect first, and then actually looking at the meeting and going, right, how can I asynchronize this?

So that I spend less time in that zone, um, I can increase my focus time.

Aaron Rackley: So you mentioned there that one of the solutions you were looking at is what you can do to reduce the meetings and looking outside of those work factors. But what, uh, what things do you think you can do during meetings to make them a bit more easier in the remote settings?

Michael Tempest: Hmm. Yeah. So the biggest one is an agenda. Like there's the amount of times I've seen a meeting come through and there's no agenda, there's no outcome. It's just a random title. There's no help to anyone because nobody can prepare for it. The most important thing to get a meeting to be successful [00:13:00] is, is the upfront.

Effort that you put into it. So an agenda and outcome really think about who you need there, but also give people enough information that they can delegate if they need to. So one of the practices that, um, I've started bringing in more is if a meeting doesn't have an agenda, you can pretty much decline it.

Because it means that it's almost saying I've not really put much effort into this. So you just need to show up. And I know that's not the case, right? Like everybody's busy. Everybody's got stuff to do. But if you put that extra effort and that, uh, upfront planning in place. Yeah. It shows a level of respect to other people of I've thought about this.

This is what we're aiming for. On top of that, you should always, um, let's look at two things. So one is you should try and async as much as the meeting [00:14:00] as possible. But the second thing is having a central space to collaborate. So let's go over the async one. First is have a document ready to go, right?

Like if you're going to present slides in a meeting, post them out as part of the message. You know that you're going to use them, let somebody look through them already. Give any documentation that they need beforehand. If you want people to contribute, comment, or give thoughts, give them all the information beforehand, so the meeting could actually be reviewing what everybody's put.

On the other side of that, when we look at the central collaboration, there's so many whiteboarding tools out there now, like the pandemic that shots that stuff in, yeah, like you've got like Miro, Whimsical, um, you've also got like whiteboard on zoom and Slack. So use that in order to give people all the information that they need central.[00:15:00]

Right. You're not excluding anybody. There's nothing worse than if you're remote. And some people are in the office, them using a whiteboard in the office because you can't see it. It doesn't matter how good the camera is. You are excluded because everybody is surrounded by that board. So it's making sure that whatever it is that you're contributing to is centrally available to everybody.

It also helps with audit trail, right? Is you can do it before, during and after. It also makes the meeting a little bit more enjoyable because everybody's involved. Yeah. Um, one of the big learnings that I found from asynchronous working and remote working is you can actively give a chance to those people that struggle to voice themselves in meetings.

Yeah. So as a leader, one of the things I always used to get told was, Oh, the people that are quiet in meetings, you've got to get them to talk more, get them to talk more. And [00:16:00] at the time I thought, Oh yeah, of course, of course you do. Um, but over the years, I've realized that that's not always the right personality type, but you can't force people into that bucket.

So what this does is it gives those people that do struggle to speak out in meetings, um, over like a synchronous meetings, a chance to verbalize their thoughts. Um, so those are like the biggest things I find make a meeting more impactful. Like with the summary being just put the effort in upfront and you will.

Not only have the people attending appreciate it more, but you'll end up with much better outputs. Yeah,

Aaron Rackley: no, 100 percent great. One thing that, um, I have been hearing, um, in the Slack channels and stuff that I'm part of is this idea that they're finding that a lot of people are having, like you say, a lot more meetings since coming remote, [00:17:00] and we were having a chat about this in one of the Channels and what you think about your input on this is like, do you think that's because they haven't thought of they haven't got the other side of the collaboration or work remotely?

Correct. Yeah. So it means that they're not constantly having that kind of like feedback and communication, like maybe teams is not set up well, or they're not using slack or whatever, and which is meaning that they're trying to overcompensate by the amount of meetings they're

Michael Tempest: having. Potentially, um, there could be multiple.

Reasons for it, right? Like the, the big one I've noticed is, is that people don't feel like they can stop and review. Right. They, they believe that the stuff they've put in has always worked and therefore will always work. Um, so that's a big one that I always encourage people to do is. really review the ways that you work, because that will change forever, right?

You will [00:18:00] never get to a point where what you got will always work because team dynamic changes that you get new people in, people leave, you also have different things that you might end up delivering. So just because you're looking after product X like six months ago, doesn't mean you're looking after it now.

So the way you deliver might change. Therefore you should always review that stuff. Um, and it can be that you're so efficient now that you don't need that meeting that was there before. So it's always a case of reviewing those. When you see a lot of people having meeting after meeting after meeting, it's because they haven't either reviewed or they're falling back on the synchronous style of working because that's what they know.

Right. They don't, they've not experimented. They don't give themselves the time to prepare and, and actually have these things thought out in a way that means, [00:19:00] um, okay, today I'm going to spend an hour preparing this. Um, document and this meeting and stuff and then send it out versus I'm just going to book a meeting and we'll talk about it then, right?

You can see why a lot of people prefer the other one because that's the way they've always done it, right? It's easy to book in a meeting and say, we will talk about that thing at this point on that day. Um, so it's, it's about encouraging those practices of don't think that way. First, think about how can you avoid needing to book that meeting in the first place.

Aaron Rackley: Yeah, that makes, makes a lot of sense. Like you say, the key word, I guess, is asynchronous, right? Doing things when you need, like, filling up that time. Um, what kind of tools are you guys using for your full remote daily?

Michael Tempest: So, um, zoom for video [00:20:00] calls, um, slack for communication. Then we have notion as our knowledge base.

Um. And then, and then bits and pieces in between, um, I've used multiple different versions of these things like teams or, um, or Google. And what I've found is it's not the tool specifically. It's how you utilize it because it doesn't matter what tool you do. You can use it incorrectly or use it for the thing that it wasn't really intended, but you've kind of just forced it to work that way.

So as another example is always review the tools you're using and how you're using them. And I don't mean from a company level every single time, but just as a team, right? Like you look at something like Slack, is that the right channel for us to be talking about this? Do we have enough channels? Do we have too, uh, too few?

Um. [00:21:00] Are we using these channels correctly? Like the, the big thing when it comes to communication is for remote work to work. It has to be transparent. Now you can't be transparent with everything, but we know that there's a level of politics. There's also a level of stuff that you just cannot talk about openly all the time.

But you should always default to transparency when it comes to tools like Slack and Teams, where there's open communication, because the more information you give to people. The easier it is for them to align, understand, and deliver on that thing.

Aaron Rackley: Yeah, no, our company just moved from Slack to Teams, uh, literally beginning of this year and it's, it's been, it's been tough just because I just don't think we all know how to use Teams yet effectively.

So there's a lot of miscommunications, a lot of like missed, missed chats and channels and stuff. So yeah, we're in that, that phase at the [00:22:00] moment where we're trying to adjust. Um, to doing that. So like you say, reflecting definitely needs to happen there.

Michael Tempest: Yes. It's, um, I think you also have a similar problem with Slack anyway, right?

Is the larger the company, the more communication you've got, the more likely you are to miss it. And as a leader, it's your responsibility to help people manage that communication load, right? You can, you can manage it to a certain degree within your team of. Okay. We've got too much going on or we're not talking enough, but you won't be able to manage everybody's.

So that's where you work with your team to go, okay, you've missed this message. Why do you think that happened? Right. And then work with them on their method of keeping that stuff up because. Everybody's different how they manage communication. Some people prefer to keep everything until like the end of the day and then go through it.

Some people like to keep on top of it. Like me, I cannot [00:23:00] stand seeing an unread message. Um, but I've got a method which means that I don't have to deal with it straight away. I just have to put it into my notion database to deal with it later, but it at least keeps things clear. Like I say, most of it is people have different ways of dealing with this as a leader.

It's your task to help them improve that on the other side. If you, um, are really passionate about this stuff. Then look at it from a company level, right? And really put in places, um, practices that really help people use these tools effectively. So for example, with teams, it could, it could be that everybody's trying to use it their own way, but there are ways that you can have a trap channel structure, a naming convention, um, best practices that.

I mean, the, the communication isn't one thing after another, right? There's, there's some of those [00:24:00] communications where people will put one word. Hello is the worst in the world, right? Like somebody puts hello and you just thought, what am I supposed to do with this? Um, but there's also like those examples where people go, they, they give you a question and you know that there's more there, but you have to really pull it out of the, if you put standards in place, it doesn't matter what tool you use them.

The communication standards will help those tools actually adopt across the company in a much better way.

Aaron Rackley: Yeah, I think, I think what you're saying is important because when you've, what I've noticed is as you move to remote is that now you're using more tools, if anything, and I think having some structure and rules around, this is my personal opinion, like when to send an email, when it should be a message on Slack or Teams, or when it should be a meeting.

Like, I think even though those levels of. Discussion need to happen because if you've got four [00:25:00] to five, I don't know how many everyone has been, if you have four or five different messaging avenues, you're not going to be keeping on top of them all day, are you? So they, I, in my opinion, I think they have to have some

Michael Tempest: rules around it.

Yes, I completely agree. Um, you, you almost. This is what I was saying about it doesn't matter at all, right? It's how you use it. So there's, there's key things that you have to have when it comes to any type of business is a knowledge base somewhere to actually plan and do the work communication. Um, and that could be video, audio, whatever, but you have to assign like the king.

Of those things so for communication as a company you should go Okay We default to email or we default to slack because otherwise you end up with a message in teams a message in slack a message in email and then somebody will send you a Text message right and before you know it you you're watching all these different channels if you know that you only have Slack to monitor [00:26:00] that makes things so much easier to deal with, because then you could even get to a point where, okay, I'm going to automate all my emails to actually show up in Slack or the opposite way around.

Right. Yeah. Um, but by choosing as a company, your default agreement that this is our knowledge base, this is our communication. You set that standard and it means that even though you've got 15 tools, there's only three that you really care about. Yeah.

Aaron Rackley: As a leader, um, what are some of the common challenges you think you face now that you're managing remote teams and what would you do to overcome


Michael Tempest: of them?

I think I've been quite lucky. Um, in, in the people that I've ever worked with, I've always been incredibly remote positive, right? So they've been able to adapt. They've been able to, to move forward with this stuff, really take it by like the horns and just keep charging forwards. [00:27:00] Um, the, the biggest problems that you have.

are more around how do you support them in gaining connections? And how do you also support yourself, right? Like, because you've got to do a bit of self reflection of, wait, how do I build connections remotely? Like that's the biggest challenge. Yeah.

Aaron Rackley: I think that was going to be, that was going to be the next question.

Uh, which is like, um, how do you keep team cohesion, right? How do you build that sense of belonging in a company that. People don't see each other face

Michael Tempest: to face. Yeah, um, it's, it's getting involved, right? There's two ways of getting involved. Um, one is purely social, right? So if there is an office, occasionally show up, start introducing yourself to people.

You know you've got somebody who is the social person in your group. Get them to like, help you, um, connect with other people, go to [00:28:00] the, the Christmas parties or whatever. But as a leader, the real important part is. Organizing those social interactions as a squad, right? Not that that that's a little bit separate to, um, building connections within a company, but building connections as a squad is also really important.

So actually organizing those times to meet face to face. Still focusing on flexibility so that you're not like completely chaos in somebody's calendar, but, and also making those sessions really, really empowered. So I'm not talking about, Oh, we'll meet up and we'll work in an office, right? You meet up to socialize, to understand each other and work with each other.

So those memories that you build last for the next three to six months. On top of that, within a team, you encourage pairing, knowledge sharing, like, you give more delegation to the team to organize themselves. [00:29:00] If you give them that, then they will build their connections internally as a team. Far better than if you were in the office.

Because they'll build their own reports with each other.

Aaron Rackley: Yeah, I think that's important because I think one thing you miss with remote working and conversations is you miss the nuance in how people communicate face to face, right? Your texts, when you're writing text messages, it can be very. Sound very blunt and very rude and and then but you can realize having conversations people They're normally a jokey person.

They always say something in a very jesty way, right and you build that communication that Understanding with each other, but you definitely can lose that

Michael Tempest: With text. Yes, you can That's why Synchronous is still important. I am I want people to understand that the message I try and share is to think async, which is default to asynchronous and then move [00:30:00] across to synchronous.

It doesn't mean that asynchronous is always the way to work. Um, because some of these, I mean, it can end up like you end like a 20, 30 thread message, which would have been solved if somebody had just jumped on a call. Right. And you've got to help people understand those. to almost stop, reflect and go, actually, should we just jump on a call and handle this?

And then you end up with a much more, um, uh, fuller engagement. And that also helps build those connections. So if we go back to the topic of building connections outside of your own team or your squad, um, the other part of doing it, especially in a leader's position is. Get your engineers, uh, your designers, whoever you're leading to work with different teams, work with different people, because what they'll see is not only meet other people, um, and build those connections, but they'll [00:31:00] also see how those other people are working and maybe even adopt that back into your own team or adopt changes into theirs.

But if you build those connections through work, it means that. Eventually you get to a point where those connections have just naturally built themselves. One of the things Spendest does really well, um, uh, twice, cause I've only been there for just about a year, but they've held a hackathon. Um, and the hackathon is incredibly well organized and has a remote aspect as well.

So you don't all have to be. In a physical location, they really support the remote, but that builds huge connections as well because there are people you will work with in those that you can build a connection and continue talking to afterwards. Um, and it's great. And I think more companies need to adopt that level of hackathon for connection building rather than product delivery.


Aaron Rackley: other [00:32:00] thing that I think is interesting to have a quick conversation on is like. This work life balance, um, because you mentioned it at the beginning, obviously, the difference back on remote is now that you're working from home more, which means you can do different things, but I think it can also go on the negative side as well, where people can end up working too much, or, you know, or not knowing when to stop, because like for a lot of people, they might not have a spare office in their house, or they can't separate it.

Right. where they're working from the rest of their day. So how, how do you deal with that as a leader?

Michael Tempest: It's, uh, a lot of it is down to routine, right? Is helping people build the routine that works for them and also making sure that you don't celebrate that behavior of overworking, right? Constantly check in with them to make sure. Hold on a minute. You ain't doing too many [00:33:00] hours, are you? Like, we should be focusing on what you deliver, not how many hours you work, right?

Like, you have to be really careful that, um, you keep an eye on people's mental health when they're remote. Because it is harder to see than being in the office. Like, you get all the benefits of, um, work life balance. As long as you keep a very close check on them. There's been multiple times where I've caught myself being sat here until seven, eight o'clock at night.

But then I just take that time somewhere else. And as long as you've got a supportive network and a supportive manager, that's exactly how it should be, right? You, when I talk about flexible working, it should be do what you need to do to deliver whatever it is that you're trying to deliver. Um, but don't push yourself to a point where you're like.

Doing 50, 60, 70 hour weeks. [00:34:00] Yeah. Unless you really want to, right? Like, some people absolutely love it. But, it's definitely not something, um, that a leader should encourage. So, one to ones are key. I've always said that one to ones are the most important thing that a leader can do. And if, as a leader, you are not having them either regularly, they are not the most important thing on your, um, list.

Or they're not that, um, fruitful, then like give up because you're not serving your, your direct reports properly because they've got no avenue to feedback. They've got no, you can't build trust out of that. So like one to ones are the number one most important thing that any leader should have. Um, because you keep people, you can keep an eye on people's mental health, you can understand their feedback and their frustrations.

Um. [00:35:00] And you can, you can make sure that remote work is working for them. Like you said, with the, let's look at some examples of how you can separate your home life to your work life. One is if you, if you are in a position where you're working from your living room or from your kitchen. Make sure that it's in a way that means that you can still separate by either Making a fake commute.

So starting the day by walking out the house and going for a walk or maybe even doing some yoga Something that means that this is my body preparing for my day to start and then the same at the end of the day something to close off the day, right? That could be reading a book, going on a walk. It could be, uh, anything, right?

As long as there's something that you do in the morning and you do in the evening that says, this is my day complete. If you've got a laptop or something like that. [00:36:00] Um, I think most people do now when they're remote working, you close that thing up and you chuck it away, right? That, that should be your representation of.

This is my work and I put it away and I tidied that up and then it's completely gone, right? That's really important that if, if work is in your space, you have to have a way to visibly try and shut it down. Yeah,

Aaron Rackley: no, interesting. Definitely, definitely get a habit of breaking up your beginning and end of your work day.

Definitely. So I want to touch on one more thing before, um, before we end really, because I'm already seeing the time it's getting on nice and long. Um, Why do you think companies are starting to ask everyone to come back

Michael Tempest: now? That is a controversial question

Aaron Rackley: I know there's not

Michael Tempest: a one answer. [00:37:00] Yeah, it's

Aaron Rackley: Interesting thing to ask people. I think at

Michael Tempest: the moment. I don't know I think if I if I get my political brain out of the way a little bit I think that it's similar to what I mentioned earlier around the synchronous working Right. People default to that because that's what they know.

I think people are returning to the office or forcing a mandate to return to office because that's what they know. And the unknown scares them. What I really struggle with is the, the remote versus office, like, debate shouldn't really be the debate. The debate should be, are we able to deliver work no matter where we work from?

And you see so much data one side. Not the other. Yeah. And that makes me feel like it's, well, actually, I, it's [00:38:00] based on feeling that people are t are asking people to return to the office and it's not data driven. Yeah. I think it's based on feeling, it means that it's like, well, I'm scared of that remote thing because I can't keep an eye on people and if I can't see people, then how do I know they're not just watching Netflix all day?

Aaron Rackley: Yeah. No, I think So this, this is where. Um, my visual understanding of it comes from at the moment is the same thing, similar to that is that a lot of companies that I know of that are asking to come back and not really giving a reason and like you say that, that makes you think that maybe there's a fear to it because if they can't tell you that there's a reason for is there productivity drop, you know, is there anything like that?

They can't give you feedback on that. It's probably because they're not measuring it and they don't really know. Um, yeah. So that's, that's really interesting. Um, I think we'll never know, but there's lots of books, right? There's a lot of books, a lot of research on showing it does work [00:39:00] for not every company, but it does work for a vast majority of companies.

So, um, like, like your company and a lot of others that are completely remote first. So we shall see where that goes in a few more years, I think.

Michael Tempest: Yeah, we we've gone past the point now where. Return to office will go for everybody. Um, and I, I have a really strong belief in the community that is around flexible working, right?

That they've changed the way that they've communicated to remove away from remote working and talk about flexible working, because that's the real message is if you can offer somebody to work from. Anywhere that works for them, why wouldn't you? Yeah, right. As long as they're still producing what you expect to be produced, then I don't see the problem.

Um, and I think that's where, that's where a lot of people [00:40:00] need a lot more guidance in how to make the flexible working work. Yeah. Um, and that it isn't, like we mentioned right at the start, it isn't. Taking all the things you've always done. It's about experimentation, feedback, trust, alignment. Um, the biggest thing that can help with, and then it's one of the things that spend desk, um, well, I say one of the things, another thing spend desk does quite well is, is sharing that message.

All the way from the top all the way down right and it keeps that alignment and that's why Remote working can work because everybody's on the same page Everybody knows what they're focused on and everyone knows what they need to deliver Yeah,

Aaron Rackley: and maybe don't put random videos on tiktok show pretending that you're not doing anything all day.

That's yeah

Michael Tempest: Yeah, it's uh But but even then it you've got to um, you've got to [00:41:00] As a CEO, you've gotta balance that stuff out with reality. Yeah. Right. You know, those people are probably doing that too. Like rubbish . Yeah. Like to, to kind of, uh, get a reaction . Um, but you've got to then look at your workforce and go, look, do I actually believe that these people are being like this?

Mm-Hmm. Um, yeah, it's, uh, I just

Aaron Rackley: don't think you can lie with facts. Right. If you know the, the output is there, then you can't argue with it. Can you really? So,

Michael Tempest: no. No. I think, uh, a lot of it comes down to trust. Yeah, you have to trust by default.

Aaron Rackley: Cool. Um, I'm gonna have to wrap it up just because I don't want to waste too much time.

But um, before we go, I like to ask everyone who comes on the podcast to recommend a book and That book doesn't have to be tech related leadership related. It can be anything you like so, you know, desert island kind of This kind of style. Um, [00:42:00] so do you have a recommendation that I can put on my

Michael Tempest: bookshelf?

I do i've got one right on my desk. Um, I mean i've got absolutely tons, right? Um, but Uh, I should really say one of my remote ones, right? But I

Aaron Rackley: I think why don't we do a remote one for the topic of today and then you can have Another one. Yeah.

Michael Tempest: So effective remote work by James Sania. Um, incredible book, incredible guy, right?

Um, but his book is incredibly easy to work with. It gives you so much scope for how to apply those learnings. To your, your team, your company as an individual, right? It's not built specifically for leaders. It's built for everyone to understand how you can effectively work in a remote world. Yeah. Um, that was an absolute life changer for me.

Uh, it really helped me on the start of this journey. And then the other one, um, which is a little bit different is, uh, is building [00:43:00] a second brain by, uh, to go to go for say, um, it's, it's

Aaron Rackley: incredible. She started reading it actually. Um, it was one of my 20, 24. Um, resolutions just to finally sit down and read it and really think about it as a concept.

So yeah, please do

Michael Tempest: explain. Yes, it's um, it's a fantastic way for those people that want to learn the world. But not try and keep it all in your head. I think, uh, over time people have realized that our brain is not there to be a database of all things. And we've got enough technology now that we can build our own database of those things.

But not everything that goes in your head is going to be useful right now, but it could be in the future. Um, so this is part of, uh, I don't, I don't know if it's happening to every leader, but productivity is definitely. Uh, a big key factor for me now of how [00:44:00] to, how to be more productive myself, as well as help others.

And this book really helps you figure that stuff out in a way that you can treat it as a project and, and, and understand productivity, but it also gives you the ability to go to your direct reports and go, how are you note taking, how are you still sorting that stuff? Are you, are you spending too much time on keeping your notes organized?

Versus actively being useful with them. Yeah. Um, so yeah, that one's, uh, that one's a really good, uh, recommendation. Brilliant. No,

Aaron Rackley: I, as I said, I, I've just started reading that one. Let's build a second brain one. So I need to finish that. But, um, where can everyone find you online, my friend?

Michael Tempest: Uh, so you can find me at, um, thinkasync.

xyz. Um, Recently just had a refresh of the website. Uh, thanks to a close friend of mine who, um, [00:45:00] absolute wizard. Um, and then from there, everything else, spiders, um, for, to all the different places, uh, is still early journey, but. Over time, I want to really, uh, give people the tools they need to adopt a better working practice to really make flexible working work for wherever they are.

Aaron Rackley: No, a hundred percent. We'll definitely link all of that in the show notes. But again, it's been a great conversation. Um, this is something I've been wanting to talk about for quite a while, so I've been happy for you to come on and really delve into the topic, and I think it's going to be a polarizing topic for a very long time.

Um, so I'll probably revisit this again in a year's time, and maybe you should come back on and we'll have another chat and see how it's been going, but um

Michael Tempest: Yeah, I'd love to, I'd love to.

Aaron Rackley: But yeah, thank you for coming on, and I appreciate

Michael Tempest: it. Alright, cheers, thank you very much.