Episode 20 – flexibility and foresight into the future of work – with Nola Simon
A hybrid/remote consultant and sought-after authority in the field, Nola Simon has over a decade of experience working in a hybrid or remote fashion while tending billion dollar relationships. Nola is the creator of the Hybrid/Remote Centre of Excellence, a platform for professionals to learn, exchange ideas and knowledge. As a writer, podcaster, and consultant, she provides innovative strategy and insights into the future of work and distributed work. And, as a dynamic speaker, Nola helps individuals and organizations navigate the rapidly changing world of work and to create a flexible, inclusive future by inspiring individuals and organizations to operationalize change.
After a dramatic exit from her corporate job, Nola Simon invites us to learn from the past as we design a more human-centric workscape. Touching on the importance of flexibility, Simon encourages building leadership skills to become more adept at managing a dispersed workforce. We examine the disconnect between leaders and employees, the need for clear and effective communication and examples of leaders’ efforts to build their understanding of both employee and customer experience. Simon emphasizes how critical it is to define the tasks that are necessary to drive results, and to honour the need for employee mastery and autonomy to drive better business outcomes.
00:04:00 Why the Hybrid / Remote Centre of Excellence?
00:06:00 Prepandemic report card
00:07:10 Going into the office after feeling sick
00:15:04 Ergonomics and leadership blindness
00:20:30 Egocentric bias and a quest for control
00:26:19 Leadership skills for results-only work
00:28:50 The importance of connection
00:31:22 Building a personal brand to boost connection
IMAGE CREDITS (see images on Youtube video)
Nola’s wrecked car - credit Nola Simon
graphic with #leadership blindness - credit Clare Kumar
Salesforce logo - credit Salesforce
Leadership Marc Benioff - credit LinkedIn
Slack logo - credit Salesforce
People in zoom boxes - credit Canva
Working Remotely vs. In-Office (employees) - credit Staples Canada & Angus Reid - The Future of Work - Trend Report 2022
Daniel Pink - credit Daniel Pink
Sharath Jeevan - author Intrinsic - credit Goodreads
Tom Peters headshot - credit Tom Peters
ep 17 Offsites: The Key to Building Connection - with Sally Page - credit Happy Space
Learn more about and follow guest(s):
Highly sensitive executive coach and productivity catalyst, Clare Kumar, explores the intersection of productivity and inclusivity continually asking how can we invite the richest contribution from all. She coaches individuals in sidestepping burnout and cultivating sustainable performance, and inspires leaders to design inclusive performance thereby inviting teams to reach their full potential. As a speaker, Clare mic-drops “thought balms” in keynotes and workshops, whether virtual or in-person. She invites connection through her online community committed to designing sustainable and inclusive performance, the Happy Space Pod. Why? Because everyone deserves a Happy Space.
Believing that productivity is personal, the podcast is produced in a variety of formats so you can enjoy it in the medium you prefer:
Listen to the audio right here or on your fave podcast platform.
If you prefer to watch video, check out the episode on YouTube.
If you prefer to read, please see the transcript below.
Ready to learn more, or want to find out more about coaching with Clare or hiring her for your next engaging event? Contact Clare here.
If you enjoyed this episode, please leave a heartfelt review as this will help other listeners discover the podcast. Please invite your colleagues, friends, and family to listen as well. Together we can design a more inclusive world where everyone can make their richest contribution.
And don't forget, everyone (including YOU) deserves a Happy Space.
Audio and Video Editing by: To Be Reel
Production Assistant: Luis Rodriguez
Song Credit: Cali by Wataboi from Pixabay
Nola Simon: These 20 years of working that's made me successful, is that actually worthwhile anymore? How do I pivot? Do I have to relearn? And I don't want to relearn. There's resistance. It's also a challenge to your authority, to your sense of purpose, to your sense of what makes you important as a leader.
Clare Kumar: You’re listening to episode 20 of the Happy Space Podcast. Today we're exploring flexibility and foresight into the future of work with futurist, Nola Simon. Welcome to the Happy Space Podcast, where we talk about designing inclusive performance through the lens of a highly sensitive productivity catalyst. that's me! Executive coach, speaker, and brand collaborator, Clare Kumar. Join conversations with authors, culture shapers, space designers, and creators of products, services, and customer experience as we highlight astonishing contributions, tempting a more tender world. We know that diversity leads to richer results.
So let's accept that productivity is personal. And commit to designing with respect for humanity. I aim to leave you with ideas to better support your family, colleagues, customers, community, and not least of all yourself. For everyone including you deserves a Happy Space.
Nola Simon is one of the insightful people I stumbled upon on LinkedIn during the past year. Repeatedly struck by her commentary on the evolution of work and sensing much alignment with my mission of designing inclusive performance, I reached out to Nola to learn more about her mission with the Hybrid/Remote Center of Excellence, the platform for professionals to learn, exchange ideas, and knowledge.
Our 20-minute get-to-know-you chat evolved into over an hour of comparing notes and exploring questions that have as yet been unanswered. Nola Simon is a hybrid/remote consultant with over a decade of experience working some version of hybrid or remote while managing billion-dollar relationships to today being a sought-after authority in the field.
As a writer, podcaster, and consultant, she provides innovative strategies and insights into the future of work and distributive work. As a dynamic speaker, Nola helps individuals and organizations navigate the rapidly changing world of work and succeed in a flexible, inclusive future. You know, she had me at that. With her unique perspective as a futurist, combining her expertise in hybrid and remote work with her insights into the future of technology, society, and culture, Nola inspires and enables individuals and organizations to operationalize change. She's a change management specialist. We'll touch on leadership challenges like egocentric bias and being layers away from customer and employee experience.
We'll talk about the need for intentional thought about the design of hybrid work and the importance of connection. We’ll start though by looking back at a pivotal moment in Nola's career and what led up to a commute that sent Nola to the hospital and to court. Enjoy!
Nola Simon, I'm thrilled to have you join today and for our listeners to hear all your insights and provocative thoughts around the future of work, hybrid, remote, and whatever variation is going on. I'm really interested to have your perspective. The question I want to kick off with is, you know, you've started the Hybrid/Remote Center of Excellence and I thought, you know, I really want to start by understanding what that is and how you named it.
Nola Simon: Okay, so it started out actually as a blog and initially I called it the Janice Oasis because the Roman God, Janice looks both to the past and to the future, right?
But somebody told me that that was a little bit too cutesy. And really what I decided to do was actually rebrand it. I created a podcast, but then I rebranded it into the Hybrid/Remote Center of Excellence. And really what that is is an opportunity to really bring people together to determine what the future of work is that we want to see in the world, right?
So right at the moment, hybrid/remote is an entry point into the future of work. it's very topical. Everybody's trying to decide what we do with, you know, the office, whether we go back several times a week, whether we work from home remotely, whether we actually become digital nomads and travel around the world, whether we, you know, just kind of combine it all and do pieces of it by doing locations. Right? So how do you get the best of all worlds? Right? And that's really what the podcast is about, is bringing people on to talk about different aspects of flexibility and foresight and what this is going to look like in the future.
There's definitely strong threads of leadership, there's strong threads of management, upskilling changing. What skills have to change? What do we have to adapt? What can we bring from the past that's excellent into the future? And how do we make it all livable? Right? How do we just make sure that it’s human?
Clare Kumar: I'm going to ask you, and maybe this is really tough to do, but how would you rate, if you were going to give a report card to how we were in 2019 and up till March 2020, there are a number of leaders who think “just give me the way it was”. What kind of score would you give us?
Nola Simon: I think that workloads were off the charts and I think that there was not enough flexibility. I think our scores actually really were very low in terms of being human-centric. I actually had to leave a role because I had a massive accident the one day that I went into Toronto to commute. I was working from home four days a week.
I had to commute one day, but I had been working 14-hour days at home, developed pneumonia and didn't know it and passed out at the wheel, right? Because I was overworking. And that actually only got worse during the pandemic because you know, people weren't commuting, they weren't actually leaving their desks, right?
They were working and overworking just because there was nothing else to do either, right? So, I don't think they were very good to begin with in 2019, and I personally don't want to go back to that.
Clare Kumar: Yeah. I just want to pause on that story, because that's a dramatic story. So you're working 14-hour days. You have a day where you're required to go to the office. On that day, when you're recovering from pneumonia, you still have pneumonia, something happens there and you pass out at the wheel. Give us just a little bit more of what happened then in, even to the point of deciding to go into work that day knowing you're coming through or out of pneumonia, what was going through your mind in that decision-making moment of I have to go to the office?
Nola Simon: So I actually didn't know I had pneumonia, so I had had a bad cold. So I had taken a, I think I took four days off work. And then of course, like I was working from home. So I think I took four days of actual sick time.
And then I worked one day, and then the following week I worked from home. And then I was actually starting to feel better. So that day that I went, I was actually starting to feel better. But I also had been invited to actually do marketing. I'd had this idea about reducing silos in the organization, so I'd actually contacted the CEO of the American division.
Presented, pitched my idea basically, and I was actually asked to present at like the quarterly ask-me-anything meeting, and I had to go and meet the marketing team to plan that session. It was important, but it wasn't just that part. It wasn't just like the day-to-day stuff. It was just like, “I'm really motivated to go, and I'm feeling better, I'm going to go”. Everybody else, when they have a car accident on the way to work, they get to call their boss and say, “Hey, this is what happened”. I got to call the executive vice president and said, “hi, can you tell the CEO I can't come in?”
So yeah, that was fun. But I was feeling better, but halfway down, I was almost actually there. I had opened the window because I had started not to feel great and then I closed it because it started to rain. When I closed the window, the change in air pressure actually collapsed my lung, and I had a double fully loaded concrete hauler, destroyed my car, made a million people late for work. And of course missed my beautiful ask me anything once in a lifetime opportunity, right?
Clare Kumar: Well the reason I was hoping to hear more about your story there is because I really want that there's a gray element when people are not feeling well. “Am I too sick to go in?”
And then the situation changed in real time for you on that journey in. So I just wanted to sort of echo the point there. It's not black and white. You're not sick and not sick. You're somewhere on the continuum of feeling great. And in a day it can shift, in an hour, it can shift. And how do we dance with all of that?
How do we navigate all of that? Do we feel safe enough to make a decision? It reminds me, so I started work in 1990 and I was living in Waterloo at that time and driving to Brampton. And that was about, I think 115 kilometers each way. And I had been waitressing at night, so my clock was evenings, evening school, evening work, you know, get up late. I had to be in Brampton for eight in the morning. Our working hours were eight till four. I, you know, flipping that clock took some effort. And then three times in the first two weeks, it took me three hours to get to work one way.
There was so much snow as blizzard snow. I passed 18 trucks in the ditch. And I remember still going through my mind was, “oh my goodness, I'm going to get fired if I don't get to work.” And it's ludicrous, right? We had, this was the time when we had Apple SE thirties. They were marketed as portable. They were luggable, like you needed a set of wheels to put that thing on, right? And you know, if you didn't get out of the office before the door shut down, because we were connected to the factory at that time. And they were working seven to three. We worked close to them, eight to four.
If you didn't leave at a time when the regular doors were open, you kind of had to walk around. So this whole thing was a, you know, a bit of a disaster, but you could take your computer home with you. I just remember that feeling though, of feeling like I'm going to lose my job. I started in February and like I said, three times in the first two weeks, three hours to get to work.
And you, I was taking my life. My life was at risk on that road. No doubt. When you're passing 18 trucks. Right. So, whew. Have we not learned something and will not hybrid need to continue just because life happens? Nevermind covid, flu, colds, caregiving, stuff still happens. So the need for hybrid now that we know we can connect, I kind of want to do a survey on LinkedIn. What are the reasons leaders, that you think it's fine for someone to stay home, even if you want people in the office and you've got committed days in the office where you've negotiated that, what are the reasons that are actually okay?
Nola Simon: Well, and I think leaders don't actually know their true story either, because I actually didn't even understand, but like when I had that accident and I went into court, because they pull your license when you have an accident like that. And I defended myself. I felt my defence was that I was sick. The way that legislation is written, you have to be a hundred percent healthy, otherwise it's your fault.
Clare Kumar: Just for listeners, this is for Ontario?
Nola Simon: Yes. Ontario law in Canada. So I don't know what other law is, but that was interesting to me because I'm like, it's not even what the leader actually feels is relevant and what's applicable. It's really what the law supports, right? And most people, nobody I'd ever talked to understood that at all. I didn't understand that until I was in front of the judge.
Clare Kumar: That's a fine time to learn.
Nola Simon: Not a great way to find out. I called my husband at lunch and I'm like, “my lawyer's an idiot. I'm my lawyer. That was not smart”
Clare Kumar: Well, there's no idiot there. There's just not knowing. And to your point, there's a lot of not knowing. I think it also extends to ergonomics. Which we've seen, you know, we've seen very few companies, I think, I don't know what the percentage is of companies that have had the foresight to say, you're working from home. You have to work from home. Let's make sure you're working safely. Like, the health and safety standards for the office really needed to be met at home. And I bet the percentage is extremely low. And I've seen some surveys talking about the number of people who still say their office at home is, you know, carpal tunnel, rotator cuff, low back pain, all kinds of ergonomic issues.
Right. And to your point about not knowing, what do you think it is? Is it a lack of knowledge? Is it willing blindness, is it not wanting to really understand this until we, you know, get a slap in the face with the increase in benefit payments… Like what’s behind the leaders not knowing these kinds of things?
Nola Simon: I think it's a combination. It's partly communication because you know, there's usually like at least seven layers between online staff and C-suite. But it's also a worldview, right? So people in C-Suite aren't typing all the time, right?
They're not sedentary all the time. They're not given the same type of tasks. And if they did ever do those types of tasks, it's probably several years ago. The work environment and the demands have changed, right? So they're filtering decision-making through their own worldview, based on their own reality, and hopefully they are getting input.
But again, all of that input that's coming from the frontline is likely filtered through managers and VPs and you know, various different people throughout the organization. So it's like a game of telephone. Is that information really tracking through the organization so that the people who are actually making decisions really are armed with the reality of what it is for the individual worker?
I don't think it's intentional. I don't think there's malicious intent for the most part of leaders and managers and CEOs and whatnot to do badly by their employees. I honestly think that they just haven't necessarily been intentional enough and strategic enough to make sure that they've got a well-rounded view of all of the information that they need to in order to make better decisions.
Clare Kumar: I love that point. It makes me think of two things. Number one, the Home Depot Canada, who I was just at a media event with, and I got to meet their senior buyers in different categories and they told me they go and spend time in the store with the customers actually living it regularly. And so, and I think the new CEO of Starbucks is going to spend half a day a month in stores.
There's nothing better than, you know, that intentional commitment to understanding. Then I look at Salesforce, and we were talking about Salesforce in the pre-interview, and I want to bring that up now because not only have they mandated people back to work, and this is with the departure of the former Co-CEO, I think it's Brett Taylor, and now it's Jack Benioff, who's the sole CEO.
Today they announced that The Future Forum, which has been a research hub pioneered by Slack which has brought people together and I think they've been regularly surveying at least 10,000 people to understand what's going on. That's been shut down so what's going on with, and if you can speak to Salesforce leadership in particular, I'm really interested, but in general, that to me says, “I don't want to know.”
Nola Simon: My impression from what I've read so far is it really is about control and how they really want to develop the business going forward. And it's, again, coming back to worldview, how they perceive that it's necessary for them to be able to lead and manage and they don't clearly understand how they can do that.
Clare Kumar: Don't you think a new leader and it's that leader's worldview?
Nola Simon: But he's not new. Right? So this is where it's like, you know, it's, it's going from like a Co-CEO situation to an individual CEO situation. So to me, I don't know why the other guy left. I don't know enough details around that.
My suspicion is this might actually be the root of what the departure might be. Because again, it comes back to different worldviews. Where are we investing the time? About how we're investing in people and upskilling and unlearning what we knew and redoing it where that future of work is going. To me, that logically tracks that he's feeling that he has to shut that down because it doesn't fit with his perception of where the future is. So pure speculation.
Clare Kumar: I'm curious too, because I think, you know, this sense of inclusivity and embracing humanity is very leadership driven. And this is a move in the other direction. it seems to be, and it's I think yes. Control. It's, it's leaders' feeling they're doing the best thing for the business. But I wonder, is it, and so it's an interesting to observe and to see what the outcome is. There were a lot of people following that future forum and the research that's coming out of it. Yeah.
Nola Simon: But I mean, from my recollection, and I may be wrong, is Future Forum was actually started by Slack. And then Salesforce bought Slack, so I think this is merger and acquisition-related too, and this is probably an amalgamation and a culture issue at its heart as well too.
Clare Kumar: Yeah. Yeah. I want to jump off your comment that it's about control and following that, leader's thought of what's best for the business, which I totally get. I've also observed something else at play. I think control of the employees and potentially a lack of trust is the most common reason that's talked about.
“I need people in their chairs. I want people back in the office.” I see a couple of other things too at play and I wonder if you can let me know what you think about them. Number one is sort of an egocentric bias, which would be around the way I work is the way you ought to work. And so it's just this belief that I know this works for me, therefore it should work for you.
And number two, I think it is far more complex and challenging to manage people dispersed in geography and in time where you can go out your office outside your office door and you can see the 20 people on your team and that constancy, that opportunity for spontaneous, “oh my gosh, I see you Nola.
Oh my gosh, yes, I know I owe you that report.” There's no visual mental trigger that comes from having somebody three hours away and you just never, you don't see them. So can you comment on your thoughts on both of those things, that egocentric bias and also this quest for convenience, that it's just easier for the leadership brain to actually respond to people who are present?
Nola Simon: Yep. So in terms of the egocentric bias, I mean, definitely that's true. I also think it's related to, you know, the way that people have always worked, right? So it's a worldview. It's like, this is how I used to work. This is always worked. This is what's made me successful.
And if that's actually not true anymore, then all of my experience, is that worthwhile? Can that actually translate into something that's worthwhile in the future? So it becomes actually, it's fear-based. We talked about that in our pre-interview as well too. It's like, you know, this 20 years of working that's made me successful, is that actually worthwhile anymore, right?
How do I pivot? Do I have to relearn? And I don't want to relearn. There’s resistance.
Clare Kumar: That takes work, that's uncomfortable. That takes work to learn and grow, and the plate is already full.
Nola Simon: Yeah. And you are in control. It's also a challenge to your authority, to your sense of purpose, to your sense of what makes you important as a leader. A lot of people do actually get into leadership management because they are drawn to power, right? Not necessarily true for everyone, right? But when you can't see people and you walk into a room and you see people reacting to your presence, you don't get that on Zoom or WebEx or Teams or whatever, right? So are you not getting the validation that you need as a person, as a leader? Because on Zoom, everybody's box is the same size.
Clare Kumar: Yeah. The status is gone.
Nola Simon: The status is gone. Right? So it's a better perception of loss as well too. So that's why a lot of people necessarily might want to go back to 2019 because over the pandemic and all of the changes that have been happening to them too, there's a sense of loss of what they don't have anymore.
And you hear it when people talk about wanting to go back to the office because they're extroverts and they want to be about around people, and then they get to the office and then nobody's there. And they're, they're on Zoom and it's like, why did I commute to be on Zoom? Well, why did you want to go into the office in the first place?
Well, I wanted to go because there are going to be people here. Well, you're asking people to commute solely for your validation, right? So again, it comes to this question of what is the commute worthwhile? Like, what is the office for and what are those reasons that are valid to bring people in?
Clare Kumar: Some of the research I've seen, it will talk to a desired state and it's very quite evenly split between the people that want to be in the office the entire time, people that want to be in home the entire time, and the remaining third are, give me a mix of both, please and thank you. The other thing that I saw in terms of research was that the reason to go into work was actually to get work done was the number one reason. Connection was not the number one reason.
So it's interesting. It's actually to be able to get work done. It might be because there's construction going on at home or kids or, you know, the home setup isn't conducive to focus and actually work is better. The, I know, the different situations can be so varied and maybe there's the leader privilege there too, saying, well, I've got my own office at home.
That worked fine. But I actually, you know, in personality and temperament, more extroverts likely in the leadership position, so more tendency to want to have that. So there's a big invitation I think that comes out of this, which is to say you really have to understand the different variety of temperaments and traits that are out there.
To understand what's really best for someone, rather than making an assumption that this would be so much better for me and I feel better going into the office, and you should too. You know, it's not necessarily going to be the case. So moving from there to think about what leaders ought to be concerned about.
Results-only work. yes. And understanding that. And making that a priority. Can you talk a little bit about that and potentially what leadership skills, upskilling, you mentioned off the top, what do leaders need to learn to be able to be comfortable looking at that?
Nola Simon: I mean, they have to consider how work is being done and what is actually being achieved, like the tasks that are assigned to a particular person. What tasks are actually necessary to drive the bottom line, right? Is everything that everybody. Every single person is doing actually contributing to the bottom line, or is that busy work that really has developed over the years? That doesn't necessarily have to be done.
And you know, the job could actually be crafted into something that's going to optimize the skills of the individual that's going to alleviate workload, allow them more flexibility, and then actually make sure that, you know, they're performing well within their job and it's also going to help drive the business. That's where that personalization, that job crafting, that driving for results, if you can optimize the personal mastery, the autonomy, the choice, that's going to drive better business outcomes.
Clare Kumar: You’re making me think of Daniel Pink's work.
Nola Simon: Yeah, exactly. But it's also Sharath Jeevan, I actually had him on my podcast as well too. His book is called “Intrinsic”. And he does an excellent job of laying that out as well too. But, it comes to that intrinsic motivation, right? How do you craft the work so that you're creating better jobs overall?
And then, how do you drive for the outcomes? I mean, you have to be very clear in terms of what it is you want, right? Are you clear on your mission, your vision, your values? And is that communication filtering through your organization all the way down through every single level, and everybody's on that same page, understanding how they actually contribute, because there's lots of studies as this is too, people show up to work and they have no idea how the work that they do actually helps the company. Which is shocking to me. Why do those jobs exist if nobody actually knows how they can shape it to the bottom line?
Clare Kumar: I was looking at Tom Peters' “In Search of Excellence” this morning, and it's absolutely a clear point to make sure that the employees understand their connection to the value of what the organization does as key for intrinsic motivation. You know, I can imagine a lot of task-focused people are purely thinking of, what do I need to actually accomplish? And that drives the bottom line. Tell me your perspective on connection. And I hate the term soft skills, but this ability to build relationship and connection as the lubricant to get work done that needs to be made time for.
What's your view on that? Because I can imagine many, many people just completely just saying, no, let's get to the to-do list. Nevermind Nola. Hi. How are you? How was your weekend? Nevermind that. Just give me the task list.
Nola Simon: Well, I mean, relationship fuels everything. So people who tend to be like that tend to not…
That's how silos really developed within an organization, right? Because they're not connecting, they're not making the time for other people who have jobs that aren't necessarily deeply connected into what it is they have to actually complete, right? So they may successfully achieve those particular tasks, but in the longer term, achievement, right? So those tasks are usually related to some project that has bigger impact. They're going to actually be kind of shooting themselves on their foot by not building up those relationships because something's going to happen, right? So like your VPN's going to go down your, you know, your funding's going to go awry.
You're not going to get access to a particular drive that you need access to, right? You're going to need somebody's help somewhere. Maybe you need a communications team to filter out a message to the rest of the department, right? Or the rest of the organization. Those relationships are going to be what get you to success, because you're going to be pulling in all of those details to make sure that it's a holistic project that's touching everybody that it needs to touch. And those soft skills, those soft skills are going to be what elevate it, right?
Clare Kumar: Hundred percent, hundred percent. It's a practical thought here for someone who's thinking, “oh my gosh, I haven't really thought about being intentional about relationship building.” Do you have any thoughts now, especially as we're dispersed and we're not, maybe not seeing each other the same way we used to? What can organizations do to effectively build that connection between employees? What does it look like?
Nola Simon: So, I mean, for me, I'll give you my personal example. So I worked for the American division for a company for 16 years. And when I went to actually go transfer to the Canadian division, I realized that nobody in Canada knew what I did, even knew where the American division was and had no idea or no understanding of how my skills were relevant to Canada. And so I actually started using social media skills internally to build a personal brand. But I use like Microsoft tools, so Office 365 and, and Yammer. but then I also started using LinkedIn, right? And so, social media is a great way to get in front of people and have people notice you and use that visibility to actually build relationships.
Clare Kumar: What do you architect in your business to invite those connections, which you know, if your personal brand builders get it, awesome, they'll be doing their thing. For the people that haven't heard Nola Simon say, “do this, this is really powerful.”, the leader has a responsibility, I think, to design in opportunities for connection. If they want to be ultimately successful and foster that you'll leave it up to everyone to figure it out on their own, it may or may not happen. So what can a leader do to honour the fact that relationships are so important in a very, you know, very results-focused environment? How do we keep that attention to relationship?
Nola Simon: Well, I think that it has to be time devoted to it. So I think that there has to be like communication basically to make sure that people understand that it's safe to really take that time to connect, that you can approach people that you find interesting. I actually found that with the work that I was doing with the Yammer and whatnot, I could approach people who were EVPs and VPs in completely different areas of the company because I could send them a note like, our chief economist regularly is on TV, or she was, she's not mine anymore, but anyways. She sent me a note one day because I had sent her like a shout-out, basically saying, “Hey, your work actually really helped me in my job.”
And she called me and I nearly fell off my chair because like this woman was like on, you know, CTV news and you know, she gets consulted by Ottawa and stuff like that. And she called me and she's like, “you know what, nobody ever tells me thank you.” So she's like, “thank you for telling me. Thank you.”
Clare Kumar: Oh, how lovely. But that's exactly where I was going. You know, it needs to be honoured and it needs to be from the leadership level said that, you know, making time for this is not only okay, it's actually important. And so to see the leadership team, and this is why not to beat Salesforce up, but they're an initiative I believe they had, which I don't know if they have anymore, was quarterly bringing everyone together.
To really intentionally have time for relationship build. And I mentioned this in my, in episode 17, I talked about an offsite in the winter where you're sure you have an activity that's focused on building the team, but you have all of the around time which is really unscripted. And in the unscripted moments come the one-on-one connections and seeing people interact and coming to a fuller understanding of people.
I had an idea for a corporate intranet. Back in 2001 before Facebook as the thing we needed. So you and I are totally on the same page. Clearly aligned and a lot of what we think about, and your ideas are refreshing. So your goal is to have organizations work with you to what? What's your offering?
Nola Simon: To really clearly develop and design a hybrid/remote that works for right now, but is also future-focused. So it's going to be a solution that, you know, 5, 10 years from now you can adapt and change to make sure that you're staying competitive, you're building an attractive employer brand, because people are attracted to the flexibility and the, you know, time, location, flexibility that you're building into what you design. But you're again, making it human-centric. The work is going to be better and people are going to feel better working for you.
Clare Kumar: And this is what I keep saying, if you design for wellbeing, the productivity will flow. Right, exactly.
Nola Simon: And remote, actually, I went from a hybrid situation that I worked for seven years into a hundred percent remote. And I did not like remote because remote, people resort to defaults. They think they understand what remote is. There's also often a lot more intention put into hybrid design because there's a perception that it's going to be harder to manage because you've got multiple locations, right? So there's more thought, more intention put into hybrid, remote is just like, we're not going to see you.
So you do whatever you want. So for example, when I went from hybrid to a hundred percent remote, I lost access to the building I had worked in for 16 years because nobody ever thought that somebody in the role that I went to was going to want to come in and volunteer. So I was doing a lot of work with employee resource groups.
I founded an employee resource group when the pandemic started for caregivers. And all of a sudden I couldn't walk into the building. My manager couldn't give me access because he didn't have access. His manager couldn't give him access because he didn't have access. I had to work my own personal network to say, “hi, I'd like to volunteer, could you let me in the door.” Wow. And that is disengaging. So it's like, “hi, I'm doing all of this for free, but I can't even get in the building.”
Clare Kumar: Yeah. You don't feel a part of, you don't feel like you're belonging in that case.
Nola Simon: But whose responsibility is that? And that's where, you know, the role of, like the head of remote where somebody's responsible for how the policy is structured, how it's designed, the decisions that filter from C-Suite to the frontline, how that's the story is told, how that tracks through the division, you know, all the different channels that you use to communicate that, the processes and procedures that build it up, that head of remote can be critical because for my case, I didn't know who to take it to. It wasn't building security responsibility. It wasn't my manager's responsibility. It wasn't my former manager's responsibility. HR had no understanding of it. I stepped on so many toes to be able to even do the work that I was doing for free. And like, most people wouldn't even pursue it.
Clare Kumar: Oh, I get you.
Nola Simon: So that's where it's like you really have to look at what the employee experience is and have that design be intentional to make sure that you understand how people are living what you've designed. Because policy only becomes alive when people actually use it and put it in place.
Clare Kumar: That's a great point to end on. Thank you for all these insights we've gotten. We've explored a bunch in our conversation and I invite people to check out your podcast. So would you like to tell people how to find it and where they can connect with you?
Nola Simon: Oh, sure. Of course. It's the Hybrid/Remote Center of Excellence. It's on all major podcast players. Typically Apple or Spotify are great but you can also find it on YouTube and you can find me on LinkedIn or Twitter. So Nola Simon.
Clare Kumar: Yeah, you've got an easy name to spell it and fine.
Nola Simon: So you'd be surprised. A lot of people used to call in and they’d say, “hi, Melissa.” I'm like, okay. I think because there's an S in the middle. Don't call me Melissa. I won't answer anymore.
Clare Kumar: Well, Nola, thank you so much for joining me today, and I hope the listeners out there found this really informative. Definitely check out Nola's podcast. And I know we'll be speaking again. Come follow our conversations on LinkedIn, won't you? Because Nola is putting out amazing content all the time and you'll find us there interacting most definitely for months and years to come. So without any further ado, thank you so much Nola for joining us and I wish all the best.
Nola Simon: Thank you so much, Clare!
Thank you so much for listening. You can find all of the Happy Space Podcast episodes over at happyspacepod.com. That is also where you'll find a link to our online community. Please leave a review over at Apple Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you tune in, and if you liked what you heard, please share. After all, doesn't everyone deserve a Happy Space?