When it comes to helping companies understand remote work, Marissa Goldberg is the person to talk to. And with remote work now fundamentally altering the way many of us work, there's no better time to have this conversation.
For a lot of us, our sense of identity is or has been closely tied with work. Well, Marissa says that's all changing (and about time, too). Remote work offers a different, often healthier relationship to work. And, depending on how companies approach it, remote work can be a huge strength: studies show that remote work usually helps employees be more productive and happier. But there are some ground-level understandings that have to be in place first, which include reevaluating and redefining the relationship between employees, companies, and life outside of work.
We get into a lot of best practices for remote work today, as well as waxing poetic on all that remote work can do for all kinds of different folks. (Full disclosure: we're full-on remote at Team SPI and we love it.) We also talk about the new community Marissa's designing to reject hustle culture, the power of introverts in digital communities, architecting a community to avoid burnout, and a lot more.
Marissa Goldberg has been working remotely since 2015 and has managed distributed team members across 20+ countries. In 2018, she started Remote Work Prep to help companies create effective virtual environments for remote employees. She aims to help others thrive remotely without going through years of trial and error.
In This Episode:
- Why remote work can be your greatest enemy … or your greatest strength
- Creating a sense of place, structure, and permission in a remote environment
- “Pandemic remote” vs “real remote”
- Is a company a community?
- Forging bonds with a remote team
- Creating a stronger sense of identity outside of work
- How remote work provides opportunities to the disability community
- Why remote work enables better productivity
- Rejecting hustle culture through community, and why rest is not the “opposite” of work
- How Marissa's structuring the onboarding funnel for her new online community
- Architecting a community to avoid burnout
- Introverts as leaders in digital communities
- Challenging your reality at every moment
- Think Again by Adam Grant
The CX 005: Pandemic Remote, Real Remote, and Rejecting Hustle Culture with Marissa Goldberg
Tony Bacigalupo: Our guest today is Marissa Goldberg, founder of Remote Work Prep.We're going to get into the role that the workplace plays in our social lives. How much does our employer really matter when it comes to how we find belonging, how we make friends, how we develop our identity? What happens when a company goes too far to try and play this role? And how is all of this shifting now in this new emerging post-pandemic world that's coming, where companies are still trying to figure out how much to embrace remote and how much to embrace face-to-face again?
All this and more on The Community Experience.
Marissa Goldberg: So one, pandemic remote, like we talked about, is very different from normal remote. And a lot of companies aren't recognizing that. They aren't seeing that they attempted to go remote overnight with no training, nothing. And now they're trying to kind of revert back to what it was, but it's never going to go back to what it was.
Tony:That's Marissa Goldberg, founder of Remote Work Prep. Marissa has so much wisdom to share when it comes to companies dealing with remote work.
Jillian Benbow: We also talked to Marissa about her new community that she's launching for ambitious people who reject hustle culture. We get into her launch plans, her growth strategy and why we think she is totally set up for success.
Tony: We also touch a little bit on introverts and how introverts can actually be really awesome community organizers. We are probably going to have to do a whole episode just on that, but it's very exciting to at least touch on it. Let's get into the conversation. Here is our interview with Marissa Goldberg of Remote Work Prep on The Community Experience.
Okay. Marissa, I'm so excited to have you on the program. Thank you so much for joining us.
Marissa: Thanks for having me.
Tony: Tell me first a little bit about your experience with remote work. You've had some experience yourself with it, you now have experience helping other people with it. How did you end up remote working and how did you end up deciding to help other people with it?
Marissa: It really happened accident. I was in a toxic workplace. I was looking for any other job to get me out. The first job I got happened to be remote and I just fell in love with it. I fell in love with the autonomy, I fell in love with how I could control everything about my work environment and then that optimized my work. It was just lovely.
So then I think it was around 2018 when I went to go look for a new position, I found that there weren't a lot of remote work opportunities out there. So that was about three years into my remote work journey. And I was like, "Oh, I need to help create more of these." So I started Remote Work Prep on the side. It was just to help companies transition to a positive and healthy work environment. And yeah, 2020 happened. We definitely didn't see that coming. Everything exploded. So yeah, what started as an accidental falling into kind of thing turned into my full-time job. So, yeah.
Tony: Incredible. And so you just happened to really set up shop just in time for this incredible outpouring of people who desperately need your help. That's wild.
And now we've got this dynamic of, well, some of these companies realized that, hey, this can be awesome. Let's integrate this into our permanent planning, whereas perhaps other people haven't had the greatest experience or haven't created the greatest experience and are maybe now thinking, "Woof, glad this is over. Let's go back to exactly the way it was." So what are you seeing? How are you seeing people responding?
Marissa: I am seeing mostly a positive response, honestly, which actually was surprising to me. I was very worried that switching to remote overnight was actually going to have a detrimental effect, long-term effect on it, because people were just going to have the pandemic remote experience and not see what a normal remote experience could actually be like, but people have even liked the awful version. And so once they see the actual version of what it can possibly be, I think the response is only going to be greater and more positive towards it.
Tony: Yeah. You tweeted something recently: “pandemic remote is not normal remote.” Two very different things. In terms of the experience that people are having, you mentioned a toxic work environment, I'm curious what you see happening in terms of the relationships between members of a team when a company goes remote. I'm sure it's creating new challenges, new opportunities. How are you kind of helping your clients with regards to that?
Marissa: It's interesting because if you use remote as an umbrella, it's really hard to say because every single company is doing it differently right now. And a lot of companies are replicating what they did in-office, which doesn't work going remote. So for the companies that embrace remote for what it is and incorporate new ways of doing work, it's amazing. I've had the closest connections to my coworkers when I'm on remote teams. So it really depends on how those companies do things.
Tony: Okay. So I'm going to put you on the spot a tiny bit. What would be an example, maybe of something that a company does in-person that doesn't necessarily translate so well online, and maybe what would be an example of something that if you are leaning into the remote side of things would work better, that maybe wouldn't work in-person?
Marissa: So on the individual side of things, when it comes to remote, you're given this autonomy and you're given this freedom, and people are very used to companies making decisions on where they work, when they work and how they work. So this freedom is awesome versus, "Oh my gosh, I'm free. This is great." But then it's overwhelming because you don't know how to make these decisions and you can get overwhelmed by decision fatigue, or you could just revert to whatever is decided for you because you're so used to it and you don't want to deal with it.
So intentionally coming up with those decisions and putting it as a forefront and recognizing this is a new thing for me, I need to understand how to do this, then personalizing it to you. It could be either your greatest enemy or your greatest strength, depending on how you approach that. And it's very different from how you would approach in the office.
On the company side of things, they've tended to default to the systems that have been in place forever. So nine-to-five workplace where things that they consider serendipity, which are chance encounters like coffee talks and all of that stuff, they aren't chance encounters. They happen because of structure and permission.
So structure because everybody's in the office nine-to-five in the same physical environment and permission because they haven't said, "Oh, this is not allowed. You're not allowed to talk about that at coffee." So when they go remote and they think it's just going to happen, they aren't taking into account that it requires structure and permission.
So putting in place communities and things like that, so that they can all come together. And then also the permission side of things, because when people go remote, they think that they're not going to work as much when actually they work more, and they tend to be afraid of anything that might be seen as not working. So you have to be very explicit in saying, "Hey, you can talk to your coworkers about human things outside of work," I would say that would be one example.
Tony: I think what you're describing, giving people the appropriate amount of structure and permission, it's a bit of a fluid thing right now. And I'm noticing that there's this trend emerging of proximity chat spaces and kind of virtual presence, creating some sense of place. Do you see that as playing a role in this or where do you see people finding that sense of structure and place and permission?
Marissa: Yeah. So everybody's still figuring it out. I know for companies that have been doing it for a while, it tends to be a couple of things. So one, is having a specific time for coffee break, where they have a link, anyone can join, you talk about whatever that's non-work-related, and it tends to be a recurring thing.
There's also things like lightning talks, where one person presents for 15 minutes on a topic they're interested in, and it tends to be things outside of work. So it could be gardening or arts and crafts or whatever they're interested in. They'll talk about it for 15 minutes and then 15 minutes for answering questions.
Then there's also the more A-sync that doesn't require you to be right there. So creating Slack channels for specific interests, and then people will be like, "Oh, I watched this TV show." And then everybody will be chatting on there while the TV show is playing for them so that they get feedback. So there's a lot of different avenues to go in and honestly, I think there's more avenues to go in when you're remote than there is in-person. So there's a lot of opportunity.
Jillian: It's interesting because there's just such a range, right? As the pandemic is hypothetically ending, hopefully ending, some companies are going back and they're like, "Hey, you need to come back in." And it's kind of all over the board as far as the companies I find, especially in the — ironically in the tech industry, in Denver, in particular, there's been so much money on the office space to be super cool, kegs and ping pong and pool tables, that they're like, "No, you need to come back." Even though they're the most equipped to be remote or be flexible. And then some other companies are like, "Hey, you know what? It's up to you. We're going to reduce the office space and you can do whatever." I'm interested, do you ever work with companies or people at companies where the company is kind of like, "Hey, you need to come back." And then employees are kind of like, "Yeah, we don't want to."
Marissa: I actually have not worked with any companies like that. Most of the time once they start working with me, they can see the benefits of remote and they actually have an increase in productivity and happiness and all these different things. So they're like, "Why go back in-person?" And I am actually based in Denver too. So I know all about those.
Jillian: Colorado girls. Yeah.
Marissa: Yeah. There's a couple of things here. So one, pandemic remote, like we talked about, is very different from normal remote. And a lot of companies aren't recognizing that. They aren't seeing that they attempted to go remote overnight with no training, nothing. And now they're trying to kind of revert back to what it was, but it's never going to go back to what it was. People have seen what remote can be like. And then the team members that or some of the most proactive members of your team, aren't going to accept less autonomy now. And in order to stay competitive and in order to have those people on your team, you need to be able to provide them with a work environment that they want to be in.
Jillian: Absolutely. And I think there's already a trend, we've seen it. I think Tony, New York City is a prime example of this where people are saying, "Hey, if I don't need to live where this office is, I'm going to go where I want to go." And now the companies that are saying come back, people are like, "No," because there are more remote opportunities popping up, which is fantastic. But I've noticed quite a few friends who have been able to be remote and have left physically wherever it is that that office is. And now the offices are saying, "No, we want you in-person." And they're actively looking for something with more flexibility, which is exciting.
Marissa: Yeah. We have seen a wave of people resigning from companies that are requesting them to go back in-person. And what you talk about is true. We used to move to places just because that's where the jobs were, even if we were horribly unhappy in the places we were at.
Jillian: That was my entire childhood, was following my dad's jobs around the country and the world.
Marissa: It's awful though, because there's so much more out there than work and it's important to be happy where you live too. So that's how I landed in Colorado too. This is just where I'm happiest. I bought a home here, set up shop here. I'm not near any of the jobs that I should be, but I'm so happy here because this is where my community is.
When you think about it that way too, you chose places that maybe didn't make you happy, and you might have been surrounded by people that you couldn't connect with because you're not in an area that made you happy, you're not in an area that made them happy. It's this whole disruption. So it's going to be interesting to see how people come about to this realization and where they go, because that's a big choice too. There's so many possibilities now, where do you land?
Jillian: Absolutely. And if companies don't follow in suit, they're really going to have a higher hiring crisis that some... I mean, some already are facing that. Especially us in Colorado — Tony, you'll laugh because it gets so expensive to live here. But there's a lot of shortages just because people either can't afford to live here based on the ... It's a whole other conversation. But point being, giving people that flexibility, the companies that aren't giving that flexibility are really going to have to either step it up or just they're going to have to pay a whole lot more. I think it's a win for us whatever they do.
Marissa: I agree.
Tony: It's interesting to me because having gotten into co-working in the ... Whatever, 2007 was when I started, I had this kind of dream of, man, wouldn't it be nice if one day the idea of working nine-to-five, Monday to Friday in a central office, wasn't the norm anymore. And I feel like that was really starting to change even before the pandemic. And now it's just really out the window that we don't assume that that's the way that things go.
But I think it's safe to say that working nine-to-five, Monday to Friday in the office is — it's not assumed that that's what we mean when we're talking about regular full-time work.
What I'm wondering about since we're thinking of things in terms of community is, we used to have that be the norm. Monday to Friday, nine-to-five-ish, you're at work. Then you go home and you've got your family, or you've got whatever you've got outside of work. And I wonder what role the company plays in someone's sense of community and belonging? And I realized this is going to vary widely based on different people's lifestyles and professions, but I'd just love to get your thoughts on, Marissa, is a company team a community? And what role does it play or should it play or could it play?
Marissa: In my personal opinion, I feel that we tie too much to our work. We tie our health insurance to it. So it's our health, it's the people we hang out with, it's all of these different things that aren't necessarily healthy. And I think that's why we're seeing a loneliness crisis, because when HR is choosing the people that you spend all your time with, and then you're using that as your friendships, you're not going to get a close connection.
HR can't really pick the people that align with your values. HR is picking people within a certain vicinity. So you're not seeing all the diverse people that you could be connected with. There's a lot happening there. I do feel like it's too tied together right now. And I'm interested to see how remote unravels that. So when you go remote, it can be very isolating to some people when they start.
Because like I said, they're used to these decisions being made by their company and then they're not anymore. And that's rough. You have to go out and do things yourself and figure things out. And most people don't realize that too. They don't recognize that decision shift that's being made. But if you do recognize it and you do embrace it, what can happen is the closest connections of your life. So you're choosing who you're working around now.
It's a really cool thing because instead of it just being just people in your division or just people at your company, it could be, I used to work in software engineering, you could be a software engineer at a totally different company that I'm co-working with at a space. And we're brainstorming together and we're chatting and we can talk about so many different things than just what's happening at my company. And that kind of breaks that tie. And it also is really good for your identity. So I see a lot of people tying their identity to work. This helps break that. You are more than just who you're working for. And when you have this kind of thing, where you're choosing who you spend your time with, you get to make that.
Tony: When we have more freedom, we have more responsibility and we don't necessarily realize the implications of that right away. But so yes, great that we can choose in some cases more so than before where and when and how and with whom we work.
And I got to see firsthand in co-working spaces earlier on that there's just something so powerful about knowing that you're in an environment where everyone's choosing to sit next to the person they're sitting next to. And if for whatever reason you want to change that up, you can. You can move around in a space. You can move to a different space and you can make that decision.
Yeah. And so once you learn how to wield that power and get comfortable with its implications, really amazing things can happen and amazing collaborations can happen, friendships can happen, you get invited to things you wouldn't have otherwise. I didn't realize it was going to end up being a conversation about why co-working is awesome, but I'm glad we talked about it. And it can be an informal thing, right?
Marissa: Yeah. It's even beyond co-working though. Yeah, I'm now friends with people all around the world too. I'm working with people everywhere. And what you'll see coming back to you once we switch from pandemic remote to normal remote is there's these team retreats that happen. This is really standard across companies that have been doing remote for a while. So we're talking Doist, GitLab, Buffer, et cetera, where everybody flies into one city once or twice a year, and then you just create experiences together.
And it's something you don't see happen in-office. So this is why I'm saying, I'm closer to these people than I ever was with anyone in the office, because we traveled to a totally new country together. And we went on all these adventures together. And then we came back and we had a tightly formed bond and we kept it going virtually. There's a lot of potential there to just open your worldview to.
Jillian: It's such a great thing. And you think about the companies that spend a lot of money on rent and the operations and whatnot, that might sound just impossible. But for SPI does the same thing. Unfortunately, Tony and I joined right in the pandemic. So we have not even met in-person yet, but we look forward to that day. But there is something just so magical about getting a remote team together in a neutral place and having fun. Renting a house and doing... I was going to say a high ropes course, but I actually hate those.
So doing something really fun, that's not scary. But I think this also overlaps into just community in general, especially these digital communities we're creating to have the potential, if it makes sense for that community, if it's safe and whatnot. But to have the opportunity for in-person get togethers for the exact same reasons. It's something we're looking at with our SPI Pro, we're going to start just kind of empowering members and also hosting where we are different, small meetups for people just in those areas. And there's something really fun about that. Just getting to make that connection and then build that bond in-person. There's something beautiful about this multi-access hybrid life.
Marissa: And using it where it's best. So we used in-person for everything before, and that took a really big hit on our deep work and being able to get things done and being able to optimize our environment to work best for us. And I want to go back to Tony's point about how people would get dressed or do whatever and that side of things. It also ties back to identity.
So before this call, we were talking about hair colors. And one of the first things I did when I went remote is I dyed my hair purple. I was like, "This is me. I can finally do it. I'm out of a corporate environment where I'm not going to be judged for this." And you can be part of a community if you can't be yourself. And so this lets you open that up and also introduce new parts of your identity too.
So one of the things that I talk about is how I was not a morning person. Mornings are awful. Waking up to an alarm is the worst. And then I went remote and I stopped using an alarm to get up. And all of a sudden I was waking up naturally. And now I wake up naturally at 6:30 in the morning and I'm the happiest person in the world. All of a sudden I'm a morning person now. So that ties back to the identity thing too. All these things that you're realizing about yourself once you eliminate the things that sucked.
Tony: So it sounds like we have an opportunity to not necessarily compartmentalize, but design for the different dynamics of relationship. That in the workplace, we can have more effective ways of working that align with our lifestyles better. We can have healthier ways of connecting with our coworkers and maybe we can do a lot in terms of forging meaningful bonds and trust between coworkers, just with an annual retreat.
That just that one thing can really, really go far in terms of forging those bonds that will continue throughout the year, while also now making some room for you to not identify with that as being your community, as being your identity. That now you do have this room for this other part of your life, where you could find other purple haired friends to hang out with in your local environment or online — that helps you to kind of own a little bit of who you really are outside of the workplace. There's a little individuation there too. So it sounds like we can kind of do both better.
Marissa: Yeah, absolutely. By designing for the individual, you are designing for the community. So that's just where it is. And I think too, you gain these skills around communicating virtually and all of a sudden, you don't have to rely on who's directly in your area. If you want to move to the middle of nowhere, you can still find friends because you have these skills built up to communicate with anyone anywhere.
Jillian: That's one of my favorite things about how technology has launched this idea of digital communities in particular, because it used to be, if you were a kid in rural Wyoming, that was your reality, but now you can connect online to whatever interests you can conjure up in your head, which is something really beautiful because I think the loneliness, as we know, is just an epidemic. And being able to find your people, regardless of geography, is beautiful. I mean, it's kind of like online dating, right? Look at all the wonderful relationships and people who have found each other that might not have met in-person otherwise.
Marissa: Yeah. I mean, I was that kid in the middle of nowhere town that had no one to connect with because I was this little bookworm nerd and no one else seemed to be like me. And I wish I could have told that person back then that there's going to be so many more opportunities to meet people just like you.
Jillian: It's so true. I think we'd be remiss too if we didn't bring up remote work ... for all of us able-bodied people, it's like this kind of, ooh, this perk. But I think just allowing this to become a part of the norm is really helpful for the disability community as well. Because a lot of people might want to work or need to work, but can't physically get to an office or whatever the situation may be.
And this opens up amazing opportunities, both for companies to hire smart, wonderful people, but also for people who couldn't get those traditional roles, they have access. And I think that's huge. And also of course, let's not forget the environment, all this going up the stairs commuting versus driving for 45 minutes, it's wonderful. I just love remote work so much.
Tony: It certainly takes a load off the traffic infrastructure and rush hour.
Marissa: Yeah. Well, back to the — for people with disabilities and such, I do have a chronic condition that leaves me bedridden sometimes. And what would happen before is that it would end up affecting my work because that would be seen as less professional because I couldn't come into the office. Now I've Zoomed up really fast because I can always work from bed now. It's very easy.
But I've had way more promotions while remote, because that kind of thing is not tied to it. It's about my output, it's about what I put out there and what I create. And instead of being about butts in the seat, you are sitting in the office and you came in before your boss and you left afterwards, but what did you actually do? Did you actually provide the company some value instead of that being the judgment towards promotions? It's solely about what you produce and how much value you provide.
Jillian: That's so true. And especially because in-person offices, you sometimes, you're at the whim of whatever your boss, whatever their scope of what life is, whatever they think. And so say if you get debilitating migraines and you're always out of the office, they're just going to get irritated with your chronic conditions, especially a lot of people don't understand and the whole invisible diseases, they're just like, "Nope, I don't know what that is so it's fake."
But yeah, the reality is, it isn't. Well, first of all, it is not fake. But also, yeah, you get judged on things that … it's kind of messed up. And if it's just output-based, you can really prove everybody's capable. It's fine and you don't have to be discriminated against because of your boss wanting you to physically be there.
Marissa: Yeah. And it goes back to the nine-to-five being a relic of the past. The Monday through Friday, nine-to-five: one, people don't work their best hours during that range. The average person does not do that. So there's that, plus, if you get your work done in two hours, go do whatever you want to do, go refresh yourself, go pick up your kids from school if you want to spend more time with them. There's so much more that you could be doing with that time that could lead you to be a happier person. And then that goes back to the company. I think we kind of missed that part too. It's not just good for the individual, it's good for the company in terms of loyalty, in terms of how much they're able to produce, in terms of not burning out so it's more sustainable. There's a lot of factors that are good for the business too.
Jillian: I also think just giving yourself permission to recognize, I'm like you Marissa, I'm not a morning person at all. And I'm not super productive in the morning. I'm still like — I need lots of coffee and time and mornings are for coffee and contemplation, if anyone knows that reference, from Stranger Things, if you didn't. I find if I let myself in the morning and go water the garden and kind of just wake up the way I want to wake up and then I might even take an hour and go on a bike ride.
And I have the privilege to do that because I work for a company that truly does understand remote work, which is fantastic. But I know that at 6:00 PM when everyone else is off having dinner, I might just fire off a whole day's worth of work in an hour because I'm super hyper-focused at that time. And so just one, recognizing when you're productive, but two, hopefully being in an environment where you can leverage that. And then enjoying your life, it's such a pleasure to have an income source where you're happy and you get to do the work on your terms. It's a great thing. I'm so excited for more people to get to experience that.
Tony: So I wanted to bring up, you mentioned community design, and I know that you yourself are launching a new community. And I'm very excited about this specifically because it's new to you. And I just know that you put so much thought into the experience that people have interacting with one another historically in the workplace, but now in this new community.
And as somebody who ran a coworking space that had some startups in it, but was specifically for people who — in my mind, who wanted to live a little bit more of a sustainable lifestyle while building their businesses, spoke to me very personally. You posted in the beginning of June that you were creating a community for ambitious people who reject hustle culture, and what a hook.
Jillian and I actually DM'd this link to each other. We were like, "Are we going to apply to this?" And we didn't apply, but I would have, I actually had the link pinned and then I didn't apply in time. Tell me a little bit about why did you decide to do it? And yeah, what's the plan?
Marissa: Yeah. Yeah. So this goes back to, honestly, my childhood. I grew up incredibly poor and I got into the tech industry. I've had an incredible ride and it's been lovely, but there's this thought that you have to hustle, you have to work 24/7, you have to do all of these things. And I did them and yes, I've been successful, but I've also burnt out and almost lost all of it because of it.
And then I learned through falling into remote work and figuring out how to optimize my environment and figuring out that rest isn't the opposite of work, it's just one piece of work. And incorporating that in to optimize my work to be even better. All these different things made me realize, "Wow, that's completely false." This narrative that we're all kind of fed, that we should be working all the time and that's going to be the best for us, doesn't work at all and it's not sustainable.
And I was looking for a community where people felt the same way, because I knew I couldn't be the only one. And I couldn't find one. So finally I was just like, "You know what? I'm going to make it." Because it needs to be put out there. We need to realize it. And we need to have a community of people that can feed off of each other in a positive way. Instead of being like, "Oh, you didn't work 24/7, you are awful." More like, "Oh, hey, you took a shower in the middle of the day that made your brainstorming just fall into perfect rhythm afterwards. That's really cool. What else can we do like that, that could really help increase our productivity while making us happier and be sustainable long term?"
So yeah, I'm starting a community. It's very new to me. I'm a very introverted person. So this is not something anyone expected from me personally, but I'm putting it out there. I put out applications to be founding members. So I'm accepting 50 founding members. Those approvals go out this week. Yeah. I decided against using tools like Slack, because I feel like they are very reactive unless you set up tools and measures to make them more healthy and it's not automatic. And I feel like people joining this community might be more new to it. So I wanted something more calm. So I went with Geneva, which has a lot of different cool features. So it'll be interesting. Yeah. Yeah. It'll be interesting to try it out and I'm sure there's going to be a lot of lessons that I learn.
Jillian: That's the great thing about community, you're never done. You're always building, you're testing, you're throwing things at the wall. Yeah. I think you'll do amazing just because you understand remote culture so well, you already have a step up. You just listen to your community and see what they want and then you do it within reason.
Marissa: Honestly, that's why I put out those applications. I was like, "Okay, so we're going to have these founding members." And then I started getting the answers back and they were just amazing. I was like, "Wow, I'm going to learn so much just from the people in the first 50 person cohort." It's great.
Jillian: What do you think your goal is with this community? What do you hope it achieves?
Marissa: I have a really big vision for it. I want to change the entire culture. I don't want hustle culture to be the default. I want the kid that's just like me growing up in a poor environment to realize that there's other routes and you don't have to burn yourself out to get there. Yeah. So I have a big vision, starting small, but yeah. A big view of things in the future.
Jillian: Hey, 50 founding members, I don't think you're starting small. I think you're just jumping right in there. Yeah. That is great. I think it will be wonderful. Have you thought much about growth and scaling?
Marissa: Yeah. So I really want to be intentional about it. One of the things about me is that I overthink everything. So that's definitely part of it. And when I looked at it, I was like, "Okay. So I have been a part of many virtual communities in the past. What did I like? What did I hate? What did I think I could do better?" And so one of the things was I feel like the onboarding process, it could really use some work.
So typically when you're onboarded to a community you just apply and then they give you access and then they're like, "Throw your introduction into the introduction channel." And that's pretty much the end of it. I want it to be more intentional. And this is just my view of things right now as a beginner, so we'll see what happens. But what I want to happen is that instead of just allowing people in at all times, it's going to be once a month where there's like a group of people that are in at the same time.
So you have a group of people at the same level as you, and then they're joining. And they're going through almost an onboarding funnel where they get introduced to people and they talk one-on-one with people. And they just form connections early on, versus just throwing your introduction and just hoping people will respond. I'm hoping it's going to be more of a proactive aspect to make people feel the community is welcoming them with open arms. Instead of them kind of coming into a place where they might not feel totally welcome or they feel like they're intruding. So that's a place that I'm going to be starting with.
Jillian: For someone who claimed to be a beginner in community building, you get it, you get it. Onboarding is so important. We do a quarterly cohort, and so how you're doing monthly and the handholding in is going to just be so impactful. I just want to look at your metrics so bad, it's going to be great. I am curious if you're willing to share what's your plan or what's the process to get people to meet one-on-one like you were saying. When a group first comes in, how are you organizing that behind the scenes to ensure people are getting matched in meeting?
Marissa: Yeah. So there's a couple of things. So first, I haven't done this yet, so just know that. So I send out the approvals to the founding members this week. They'll be joining, I'm hoping to set up kind of a, oh, this is our initial first event kind of hype event. I've been doing virtual events for a while. So I know how to make them like you're not being lectured to, you're all in this together.
So there's features like in Hopin where you can connect with people automatically, it's almost a chat relay kind of thing for networking. So I'm going to be doing something similar to that where people are just connected. I also have information up front because of they applied to this community. So I know what they're looking to get out of it. I also know what people have experienced in from those answers as well.
So I'm going to match people based off of that. I used to be in data engineering so I'm looking at all of this and I'm like, "Oh, what can I use out of here? How can I make this fit better?" So yeah, that's definitely a part of it. Also be a founding member — so this is hopefully going to be a paid community at some point, that's my goal. And the founding members are all free, but the part of being free is that they're a founding member. They contribute to the community. They're posting and they're hosting events and doing this stuff. So basically by agreeing to be a founding member, they're agreeing to be the integral piece of the community. And so it's not just going to be on me. It's going to be kind of distributed across everyone. And that's the point, I don't want this community to be about me. And that would be very draining for me as an introvert if it was. But it's about everybody.
Jillian: Well, you know you have a successful community when you can walk away and they don't notice, they keep going. You're always there — I like to joke that you're the cruise ship events director in a way. But ultimately you want people to find those connections and continue engaging with each other and coming up with ideas and events without you. My goal is always, make a community that they need you, but they don't need you day to day.
Marissa: Yeah. I'm very excited to get to that point.
Tony: It's one of the most important parts of maintaining a sustainable community is guarding against the potential for your own burnout. You're wise to be architecting for that early because people can very easily when they start a new community, make mistakes that they don't realize they're making, that they're just very passionate. They want to take on a lot of responsibility. They want to put themselves out there, but then they're creating this relationship between the community and them that's very dependent and very kind of personality-driven.
And I'm speaking from experience here. I think that's one of the reasons and there's several others, why introverts actually, I think, make for great community organizers, which I think Jillian, we should do probably a whole episode on and find somebody who can really speak to that.
Jillian: I know it doesn't seem like it, but I totally identify as an introvert. I actually think community management is a fantastic career paths for introverts, digital community. You certainly have to put yourself out there. I think I'm more of an ambivert.
Marissa: I am totally on the opposite. I'm total introvert, zero level extrovert. But when I first started considering it, I actually reached out to several big people in community. I'm like, "Have you ever seen an introvert to a community before? Is this even possible?" And they were like, "Honestly, most of us are introverts." It actually ends up working out in your favor. So I just decided to trust them without totally believing them and try to jump in myself.
Jillian: I actually think digital community is a great place for introverts in general, because it's someone who may not be comfortable having a conversation at a party, can have a really in-depth conversation with a group of people in a way that they're comfortable. It's pretty cool. I mean, we also get the dark side of that, of course, which is a whole other episode, which is the keyboard warriors or the people who troll and just disrupt, that wouldn't ever say any of that to your face. It can get kind of ugly in that sense. But yeah, overall I think introverts are very good at managing communities.
And we also have the boundaries. We already kind of have built in boundaries because we need to protect our energy. And having strong boundaries is such a huge part of a community. To be like, "Hey, you can message me all weekend, but I am not responding until Monday. And you need to know that and accept that," things like that. And I'm perfectly fine turning things off and walking away because I need that personally to recharge myself. I think you're going to do great. We all make mistakes. Community is messy and you just learn from it and you pivot. And the community usually is more than happy if they're included in the decision-making and the thoughts and the processes, they're usually more than happy to pivot with you.
Marissa: Thank you. Thank you. I'm looking forward to it. I'm terrified, but also looking forward to it.
Jillian: It's going to be great.
Tony: So Marissa, tell us where can we find you? Where can we find out more about what you're up to? Give us some links.
Marissa: You can follow me on Twitter. That's where I'm most active, @Mar15a is my Twitter handle. You can check out Remote Work Prep. That's my company. If you're looking to transition to a positive and effective remote workplace. I'm about to launch a cohort-based course for remote leaders. So if you're a manager who went remote overnight, or if you're a manager, who's just been in endless virtual meetings, I can show you a better way to do things and I want to help you get there. So check out Mastering Remote Leadership. It's a new Maven course. It's live for four weeks, starting in July 19th.
Tony: Amazing. Thank you so much, Marissa. And before we let you go, we do have a final round of rapid fire questions we want to throw at you. Some of these are kind of meant to just see what pops into your head. So, Jillian, do you want to take these? Or do you want me to do it?
Jillian: Yeah. I love asking these questions. Okay. Marissa, when you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Marissa: All of the things. Architect, literary agent. So many things.
Jillian: I wanted to be an architect until I was in college and had friends in the architecture school. And they were always up to 3:00, 4:00 AM building things. And I was like, "Yeah, maybe I don't want to do that."
Marissa: I finished the first part of the degree, I was there. I did that. Yeah. That's what made me step out. Yeah.
Jillian: Yeah. How would you define community?
Marissa: Community is a place where people can be themselves and can become better versions of themselves through others.
Jillian: I love that. This is my favorite question, because all the responses are just different in the best way. You know what I mean? They're all correct and there's no wrong answer. Right? Okay. What is something on your bucket list that you have done?
Marissa: Oh my gosh. I have no clue. On my bucket list. Starting my own company. That would probably be something. That was definitely on my bucket list. I really wanted to help others.
Jillian: Yeah. That's amazing. That's a huge one.
Marissa: Yeah. And hitting the three-year mark, I really didn't think that would happen.
Jillian: Yeah. We need to celebrate more people who launched their own business and are able to live off of it. That is amazing. Okay. And then on the flip of that is, what is something on your bucket list that you have not done but want to?
Marissa: I want to change hustle culture. That's probably on my bucket list. I don't want it to be the standard. Change something really big that will have a positive effect on other people. So that would probably be what I would specifically say, but that's what I'm attacking with the hustle culture.
Tony: You're well on your way.
Jillian: What is a book that you are loving right now?
Marissa: I'm really bad with names, but there's a book by Adam Grant that he came out with this year on how rethinking things is good and shouldn't be looked down upon. And I really loved that book. Yeah. So that would be the one from this year. Yeah.
Tony: Think Again.
Marissa: Think Again. Yes.
Jillian: There we go. Think Again by Adam Grant. Okay. We know you live in Denver and you chose that specifically, but if you could live anywhere else, where would you live?
Marissa: I wouldn't.
Tony: I knew you were going to say that.
Marissa: Yeah. I had the choice of anywhere, this is where I really love to be. I literally could live anywhere.
Jillian: Fair enough. Fair enough. No Bali?
Jillian: All right. And how do you want to be remembered?
Marissa: Oh, just by someone who helped others. That's it. Yeah.
Jillian: I love it.
Tony: That was an amazing rapid fire round. Marissa, thank you so much. Best of luck with your awesome new community. I know Jillian and I will be following along with great interest and keep doing all the great work you're doing.
Marissa: Yes. Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it and yeah, I hope you both have a lovely day.
Tony: Thanks, Marissa.
Jillian: Wow. Well, that was Marissa of Remote Work Prep. What a great interview, Tony? That was just so fun.
Tony: Yeah. I think that the topic of belonging in the workplace and the role that your job plays in terms of your identity, your friendship network, all those things, it's a really important thing for us to get a handle on. And the fact that companies are in this transitionary place where they've gone remote, and now they're maybe going back to in-person or not. It's creating some challenges and it's creating lots of opportunities.
Jillian: Absolutely. I think too, we work remotely and we do want to address — we realize not everybody has the type of job that you can work remotely. So we do acknowledge that. But for those of us who are able to do this in some capacity, it was a great talk. And I think that can bring us into, we had two pretty big takeaways from this interview. The first one is just giving yourself permission to explore the different ways to have relationships with your coworkers that are outside that traditional talk at the water cooler trope.
Tony: Right. Looking for what is an effective way to forge trust and relationship with coworkers. Could that be through special interest channels on Slack or whatever your chat or asynchronous app is. And could you potentially have kind of a big gathering once a year, a big retreat type thing where deep bonds can really be forged and then build off of that trust and those relationships that are built during that kind of one-off thing for the rest of the year?
Jillian: Absolutely. At our company, we have several Slack channels that we have full shenanigans in, but one of my favorites is our vinyl club. Actually today we have our vinyl happy hour and Tony sent me the record this month.
Tony: Did it get there in time?
Jillian: It did not it.
Tony: Damn it.
Jillian: But thanks to technology I've listened digitally. Yeah. That's one great example, that was just coworkers. So I was not in the record game, but we have some serious vinyl enthusiasts at our company. So they took it upon themselves to create a vinyl club. And then with an open door of whoever wanted to join, could join. And now it's pretty much most of the company.
Tony: It's an amazing example.
Jillian: And we have a great time. Yeah. And I'm looking forward to happy hour tonight. Our theme this month was brunch music and Tony sent me some pretty groovy brunch music, I must say. But that's just one example of how we're forging relationships outside of work talk. We're also really fortunate that we have A plus-plus team that I would hang out with even if I didn't work with. So that helps.
Tony: Absolutely. And then at the same time, part of what drives the dynamic around the workplace and belonging is how much are people allowing themselves to have their identity tied up with where they work? How can you cultivate an environment around you and hang out with people, even during the work day who are more aligned with the kind of people you would want to be hanging out with?
Now, if we're looking at a world where people can be remote full-time or even part-time, you've got a lot more flexibility about who you spend your time with. Now, I think that's a huge, amazing opportunity that people still have to kind of get the hang of the implications to that.
Jillian: And that is a wonderful segue into the other key point from this interview, which is the importance of learning how to recognize, how to wield the power of remote work schedule so that you can play to your strengths and also make room in the day for the things that bring you joy in your life.
And this is one of my favorite things about remote work in particular, especially the huge caveat that if you work for a company that understands remote work, giving yourself the permission to take opportunities, to go on that bike ride at noon, because it's just beautiful outside and the weather's perfect, knowing that you're super productive time is from 2:00 to 4:00 in the afternoon, and that you will still get the work done, but the output will be the same if not better, but you still get to make time for the things you love.
And I think to Marissa's point that pandemic remote is not real remote, that's not what it normally is like, I think that's important too, because I think there's a lot of people that got thrown into remote that were not set up for success. And we all, especially us parents, really felt ... I mean, even as someone who was remote before the pandemic, it was still harder during, especially at the beginning of the pandemic.
When you have a kid at home, your spouse or partner might be home too. Everyone's fighting for the bandwidth. There's just so many disruptions. And also just the fear of the unknown. That, I just want to call attention to. You definitely have the opportunity to be a terrible employee as a remote worker and kind of fly under the radar. But I think if you are in a position that is valuable to you and you want to do good, I would argue that both of us are in that position right now with our roles, it's very easy to work too much.
And so giving yourself the permission to do the work and get what needs to be done, done, but also take opportunities where you can ... I'm much more productive in remote work.
Tony: Same. It's incredible. And we got into a conversation a little bit about accessibility, and I did want to add that there's so much nuance to that, and another topic we can spend a lot of time in. But there are a lot of things that I would kind of put in that spectrum of accessibility, that don't end up involving doctor's notes. Don't have neat diagnoses. I mean, I've dealt with different degrees of anxiety, but sometimes I just need to be able to get away from the fluorescent lights and the noise.
And sometimes I just need to be able to lay down and close my eyes for a few minutes and it would mean the world to me. And I've been in situations where even in my own office that I'm running, I don't have somewhere where I can go where I can just rest and not be on. And that can be a real challenge. If I know that I have the flexibility to allow myself to do that in a more flexible kind of work situation, means a lot to a lot of people.
Jillian: We grew up in this society and this way of life where the nine-to-five is just the end all be all. And our whole lives revolve around it in some capacity. And so we really just need to be okay with challenging that at every corner. We do not need to be beholden to the corporate overlord. I'm going to get into a whole tangent so I'm going to stop myself.
Think about, even if you do work at an office or a school or somewhere, don't just take what's always been as the way it has to be. I think that's a wonderful place to end. Challenge your reality at every moment.
Tony: Free your mind. All right y'all, thank you so much for joining us for this episode. I hope it was as amazing for you as it was for us. And we'll catch you next time. Thank you.
Jillian: Yeah. Hit us up on twitter @TeamSPI and let us know how you challenge your every day. How do you stick it to the man?
Tony: Tell us how you stick it to the man. There you go. All right. Thanks y'all.
Jillian: Take care.
Tony: This has been The Community Experience. For more information on this episode, including links and show notes, head to SmartPassiveIncome.com/listen.
Jillian: Marissa is the founder of Remote Work Prep. Check her out on Twitter at @Mar15sa, which is spelled M-A-R-1-5-S-A. Make sure to sign up for her newsletter at Remote Work Prep so you can stay in the know on her future mastering remote cohorts. Your hosts are me, Jillian Benbow and Tony Bacigalupo. The Community Experience is a production of SPI Media.
Tony: Our executive producer is Matt Gartland. Our series producers are David Grabowski and senior producer Sara Jane Hess. Editing and sound designed by Duncan Brown, music by David Grabowski.
Jillian: See you next time.
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