In our first episode of Distributed Discussions, host Ali Greene takes a deep dive into Ayodeji Jeremiah’s experience with remote work and gets him to share the incredible things he discovered through the Oyster Remote Ready program.
Ayodeji Jeremiah is the chief operations officer at BELAY Associates. He has become an expert and passionate advocate for working remotely in all sectors of corporate. In this episode, he shares his thoughts on why it shouldn’t be necessary for the world to go back to work in offices post-COVID at all.
Ayodeji shares great insights on the benefits for both employees and companies of working remotely and also highlights the challenges faced by all. While there are ways to overcome these challenges, we still have a long way to go when it comes to changing the legacy mindsets.
He encourages companies to re-imagine the way they work when attempting to go remote, rather than simply trying to recreate the office environment at home to avoid fatiguing their employees.
Introductions and Getting Started Remotely
Ali: Hello, everybody and welcome to Oyster’s Distributed Discussions. Today, I’m talking to Ayodeji who is joining us from Lagos, Nigeria. He is a Senior Executive with experience spanning the whole range of business from executive support to communications, marketing, corporate executive, and internal com to people operations and talent management. We’re going to dive in today and talk a little bit about how remote work has changed the way that Ayodeji approaches work from this hometown.
He’s married, with a four-year-old daughter, loves drinking Coca-Cola on ice, and enjoys Basmati rice with vegetable beef sauce any day. That sounds really good to me. I just finished lunch but maybe that would’ve been a better choice. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Ayodeji: I’m glad to be here. Hi, everyone. I’m glad to be part of this. Thank you very much for having me.
Ali: Yes. Thank you so much for joining. I’d love to hear a little bit more about what life is like for you working remotely in Nigeria. Have you always worked remotely? How has remote work changed your approach to the work that you do?
Ayodeji: I’ve worked remotely part-time, so to speak. It wasn’t something I did by choice. It’s something that I have to take up. I had a couple of health issues a couple of years back. I was a managing editor of a magazine based in Lagos at that point in time. We have people that are working with us based in different parts of the world. Even though we had a lot of […] in Lagos, I will not leave the house or the hospital to actually go to work.
You know how magazines are, they have to come out. You can’t say because the managing editor is ill, it’s not going to come out. I found myself asking my family to bring my laptop first of all to the hospital where I was. I started working from the hospital, collaborating with my colleagues, writers, graphic designers, printers, my salespeople.
When I got back home because it was quite a long stretch of time that I was out of work for, I found myself still continuing working from home using my laptop for emails and other stuff like that. That was how I actually was more or less drawn into working remotely with people. Even after that ended, I found out that it was a better, easier option. A better way of working with people, really.
I could get talent from almost anywhere in the world. I could get a graphic designer in the United States. I could get a writer from South Africa. I could collaborate with somebody in England. Especially for a magazine, you don’t be tethered to our base here in Lagos. That’s how I just got into it.
Eventually, when I moved onto a corporate communications firm, we had an office in L.A. We had a couple of people there. Then we had an office here in Lagos. Our clients were based in China. Again, I found myself working sometimes remotely with our colleagues in L.A., with our clients in China. It just continued like that. And then, of course, COVID happened last year and everybody was thrown into working remotely. I just had an edge, so to speak. The only difference was that now, I was introduced to more tools for working remotely. That was my story.
I think It’s an easier way of life. It’s a better way of doing things. It’s good for the individual. It’s good for the family. It’s also fantastic for the environment. I’ve been reading that carbon footprints have been cut short in the past year due to the fact we have all been working from home. That’s just it really.
Ali: I think that it’s an amazing summary of all of the benefits of working remotely. It’s so incredible that you had such a hardship to kick off the journey and still were able to really look at those benefits. I’m glad to hear you’re in good health now hopefully.
Adjusting to the Transition
Ali: I’m curious when you made that transition, obviously, it wasn’t necessarily your choice, but what was the initial reaction of your teammates in the office? How did you help them adjust to the fact that they were still going to be collaborating with you? They just weren’t going to be seeing you in person as often.
Ayodeji: At the magazine, it was easier. I was more or less like the top boss so it was easy for me to get everybody on board, so to speak. For those that have any kind of challenges, I was just, let me know what your challenge is and we will sort it out. Luckily, for me, I had a couple of people who are a bit techy. These are people that will easily learn technology very fast or easily learn new tricks. It wasn’t much of a problem.
However, at the communications firm, it was a difficult challenge because we were used to—even though we have offices in L.A.—doing things physically with everybody around, gathering together for meetings. Those in L.A. would join us via video. It really didn’t even occur to anybody the fact that people were joining us via video meant that we were more or less like a hybrid company at that point in time.
It was not a challenge, for now—environment, hybrids—not fully remote, but we made things work. It was easier at the magazine than at the communications firm.
Ali: What you’re saying about the communications firm is really interesting because up until last year, remote work was still very niche. Not everyone knew about it. Not everybody could understand how it works, so even the terminology that we’re using today might not have existed at that larger scale back then. Thinking about it, yes, we were a hybrid office but we didn’t know it and therefore we couldn’t adjust to the challenges. It’s really fascinating.
Remote Work Challenges
Ali: I’d love to ask you a few more questions about the challenges of your experience there because when you’re describing the team to me, the first thing that came to mind was like, wow, okay. You’re in Lagos, you have co-workers in L.A, you have clients in China. How did you handle time zone issues? How did you really build trust with people knowing that maybe you aren’t seeing everybody at their most energetic or awake selves due to those time zone differences?
Ayodeji: It was a big challenge because L.A. to Lagos is nine hours. Lagos to China is about another nine hours. You’re talking about an 18-hour difference. Sometimes, when we have projects, it is a bit of a difficulty. There was also the language challenge sometimes. We call our Chinese clients.
A lot of the time, trust was built basically by ensuring that we communicated either by picking up the phone or by email. Letting people know, this is where we are on this. This is what we’re doing about this. If you don’t hear from us, don’t think we are not working. Communication really was keeping that up and running, was the most important thing.
At that point in time, it was more of phone calls, emails, and WeChat. We use WeChat because of our clients in China because that’s what’s allowed there. That was basically the form of communication we use. Showing that communication was ongoing is extremely really important.
Ali: That’s a really good point to touch on because you’re describing communication without all of the fancy tools, which I’m sure we’ll talk about in a little bit. You were able to make communication work just with phone calls and email.
On Remote Work Tools
Ali: Through that and now with COVID, there’s so much attention on flashy new tools. We’re recording this podcast over Zoom today. We initially got introduced on Slack. What is your opinion about this influx of tools and attention on tools versus the behaviors needed to work successfully remotely?
Ayodeji: The tools coming in right now actually are great. The most important thing is each person or company must decide which tools work best for them. They already have a particular way at their work, so in getting introduced to any new tool, what are we trying to achieve, and which tool works best for us?
There are quite a myriad of tools out there. It’s on us to be careful in picking which one do you want to use, which one works best for us. Sometimes, for people who are not very familiar with all those tools, it can be a bit difficult especially if you’re in administration or HR and you have to make choices for the company, for your people. For those who are a bit more familiar—they know the pros and the cons of each tool, technology, or software—it’s easier to decide and sell it to the team and say, look, this tool is best for this. This tool is best for that.
I hope I’m not jumping the gun. For example, the new company I just joined. I introduced them actually to Slack. Everybody just fell in love with it. We’re now using that to communicate. It’s just a question of the right person understanding the tools, understanding how the company works, and then setting the benefits to the people and making the most of it.
Ali: That sounds great. I’d love to hear a little bit more about why you decided to introduce Slack to your current company. What were they using before? How has collaboration with the team changed since you made that introduction?
Ayodeji: It’s actually a new company. It was just formed last year. It’s a startup, really. Luckily, I’m one of the few people that joined them at their foundation stage. We’re just about a dozen of us right now.
We had our initial meeting, getting to know everybody. We have been communicating via email up to that point in time. It just occurred to me, okay, what tool will work best for us as a team going forward? The email has its great benefits. It just clicked that, okay, Slack will be great. We’re still a small team. We can even use the free version—the basic free vision. I just suggested it to my CEO and he said, okay, let’s try it out.
I signed up for it and ran it for everybody. I even put together a small manual introducing it to people who are not familiar with it. When I did, a couple of people have heard of it, but they have not used it before. Some have used it before, but everybody’s on board right now. We’re enjoying the benefits.
Ali: I use Slack now for personal conversations as well, which is quite funny how this tool for business has evolved so much and changed how people communicate. I do think it’s important, like you mentioned, to put together a manual because even though I’ve used Slack in the last few companies or few projects that I’ve worked on, every team approaches it quite differently. Creating those norms of how to interact with the tool and how to use the tool are really important.
Remote Work Pre and Post COVID
Ali: I’d love to learn a little bit more about your experience with remote work previous to COVID and now during COVID because you’ve had a chance to really acclimate yourself to some remote work best practices. You knew what it felt like to work remotely especially at times where maybe your co-workers were not. Now, seeing the whole world has to really jump in and adapt to working from home, I’m curious what you’ve noticed that are core parts of remote work that people struggle with. Is there anything new that you’ve learned about yourself as a remote worker?
Ayodeji: Thank you very much. The major difference between pre-COVID and post-COVID as a remote work is the fact that number one, there is now a lot more knowledge about remote work and what it’s all about. A lot of people are now knowledgeable about it. Some people are even just getting to know that remote work has been around for 6, 7, 8, 10 years ago. That’s one.
The second thing. I think what has happened in the past one year is that there is now a lot more information that has been synthesized and put together by companies like Oyster and a couple of other companies like Remote, Remotive. All of this information is now helping people like us to like, oh, we’ve always known this but we didn’t know this is why, this is so. I hope you understand what I’m trying to say.
The information has always been there, but it was not put together. It was not easily accessible, but now, the information is easily accessible, is there in a structured format. Managers, administrators of companies can now easily go online, out of […] and other places, get this information, and make use of it. That has been the major difference for me between pre-COVID and post-COVID.
In terms of how it has changed me, I’ve always been an indoor person even before COVID so it hasn’t really changed me much. It hasn’t changed my personality much. I help people who struggle because they are older people. While I may not be in their shoes, I try to empathize with them.
Of course, again, I was talking about information. The information is now available to help people cope. When I meet such people who are struggling, even if I don’t know what to do, I simply go online and ask someone or seek information somewhere. How do we help someone who is struggling? Working indoors, not stepping out.
For someone like me, I just fell into it. I’ve always been an indoor person. I go out once in a while. When I go take a break, I’ll probably take a walk down to the neighborhood supermarket or pharmacy with my daughter for 30 minutes and then we come back. For me, it hasn’t been much of a struggle. It hasn’t really changed the ways of my life.
The major difference is that nowadays, I don’t have to commute unlike before when there was some sort of rush hour and I was working […] and then there was some sort of rush hour commute. Now, I don’t have to wake up at 5:00 AM to leave my house at 6:00 AM and drive up for two hours before I get to work. That has ended in the past year. I’m definitely not looking forward to looking back to that.
Ali: I think you’re not alone. People all over the world are realizing that waking up early for a long commute to do work that you can do perfectly while at home—given you have a strong internet and a laptop or a computer to work from—is a little bit silly for some of the reasons you mentioned already.
Ayodeji: Yeah. The only challenge, for example, in […], there is still a bit of struggle with companies accepting remote work especially when those companies are small businesses and are not owned by multinationals or foreign entities. There has been a lot of struggle accepting it and allowing people to actually work from home. We will get there. We hopefully will get there.
On Companies Resisting Remote & Their Responsibilities
Ali: Do you have any insight as to why they’re resistant to accepting?
Ayodeji: Yes. Number one, there is the traditional mindset. I think that’s not just because of where we are based or where we come from. It’s all over the world. The mindset that if people are not seen physically, they are not working. That mindset is actually much more peculiar to the environment I come from. It’s only very few people that believe that when you are in your house or you’re somewhere, you’re actually working.
There’s a lot of belief that work is measured by hours you show up even though from experience now, it’s obvious that people can spend 10 hours in an office and get only one hour of work done or two hours of work done. They could be in their house and get six hours of work done. The challenge would be getting a mindset shift from measuring productivity by time or measuring productivity by output. That’s a major thing.
Secondly, I’ve heard some people say, we have power challenges here in Nigeria. Power supply is […]. A lot of people rely on the native power supply—generators, solar power, inverters—to get power supply. Not a lot of workers can’t actually afford this. Companies are not willing to like, okay, because you’re working from home, we will give you some incentive to either power your generator, to get an old inverter, to get a solar system, or something like that.
Again, if you look at it from another angle, getting people into the office also requires they offer to power the generator at their office, which costs money. That money that is used to power the generators at their office isn’t spread out amongst the staff to give them some weekly stipend to power their generators in their houses. That’s another angle to me.
The third one is the internet. The internet in Nigeria—even though it’s better than most of the parts of Africa—is still a bit of a challenge especially if you don’t have the money to actually pay for extremely very good internet. If you’re going to be streaming live videos or large graphics, anything that is beyond just normal email, you will need to spend some good money to get really good internet. That’s another challenge.
Companies are wondering how to solve that internet issue, how to solve the power issue. I think they don’t look for the easiest solution. Let everybody come to one location. We will get one Internet, we will get one power supply, and we will just take it from there. I think that’s really the issue. That willingness to break the status quo is not just there. Most of these companies are small companies.
Ali: This is really interesting to think about from the standpoint of a small company. I’ve had similar conversations around what larger companies, multinational companies, or fully-distributed companies should do when it comes to addressing some of these challenges. I’m curious if you have a perspective to share on whose responsibility should it be?
Some of the conversations that I’ve had is, if you’re a company that wants to hire worldwide, then it should be the company’s responsibility to ensure that you offer an employee benefit to help support paying for the internet or getting the Internet set up in people’s homes. Which is a little bit different than just one company creating one office.
What happens when multiple companies come together and are able to offer this type of accessibility? Do you have any thoughts of what that would look like, or if that is a responsibility that companies should be thinking about?
Ayodeji: I think it’s a responsibility of the company to think about because if you are really a fully-distributed remote company—people working from different parts of the world—number one, you’ve taken off your one major cost which is office space. With an office space comes all the other additional costs. You have to pay for power. You have to pay for the internet. You have to pay for the telephone. You have to pay for cleaners to come in and clean and maintain the place. You have to pay for facility management and so many other things I can’t even begin to think of right now.
Those costs, why don’t you take it—you’re probably not going to be spending as much when you send some stipend to your staff and you say to them, look, this might not be up to what you’re spending but let’s meet halfway. We’re giving you 50% of your internet cost every month or something like that. I’m sure there can always be a way around it.
Some companies would prefer the subscription-based system whereby, okay, let’s have the internet subscriber you want to use, the ISP you want to use, and then we will make payments directly. Sometimes, you don’t even have to give the money to the staff. You can pay for subscriptions directly.
There are several ways to work around this depending on the company, the resources available, where your staff is located in different parts of the world, and things like that. At the end of the day, it’s a win-win really when companies can set up and offer some kind of stipend to staff to support them working from home.
What Businesses Should Know about Remote Workers (Especially when Recruiting!)
Ayodeji: Number one, I think the first major challenge is the company’s understanding what remote is all about. When we were undergoing the Remote Ready Program of Oyster, one of the things that we were taught which has really stayed with me is the fact that there’s a difference between being remote locally in one geographical location and being remote distributed. There’s a big difference in that.
Ali: Yeah. I couldn’t agree more. I’m curious, what else do you think businesses should know about remote workers worldwide especially from parts of the world where they might not be used to hiring or employing people? What should they know? What should they be doing to make the remote work experience successful in those places?
I found out from having conversations with people that a lot of managers, a lot of company owners don’t understand this. That’s the first step. What kind of remote company are you? Are you hybrid? Are you fully remote? Are you partially remote?
“There’s a difference between being remote locally in one geographical location and being remote distributed. There’s a big difference in that.
Once you’re able to answer that question, then the second step is where do we want to hire people from? One of the challenges I had, while I was job searching, was seeing a job post, then applying for the job post, being shortlisted only to get an email asking where I am located. It seems as if I’m not based in L.A. I’m not based in New York. I’m not based in London. I’m wondering, okay, but you didn’t put that in the job description. Now you are putting this out.
They will go like, oh, sorry, this job is only for remote contiguous to the U.S., or remote contiguous to England, or remote contiguous to some other location like that. That’s the first thing companies need to do. They have to understand the fact that when people are looking for remote jobs, they come from different parts of the world.
A lot of people have gone out of their way to ensure that they’re not just setting arbitrarily. I went out of my way to ensure that I was only looking for jobs or companies that are fully-remote and are looking to hire anywhere, any part of the world. Even at that, I still ended up with companies that they’re saying, oh, we are only hiring from Canada, from the United States, from England, or something like that. That understanding is extremely important.
Once that understanding is there, it will help enable managers, company owners, and founders to create wonderful experiences for their staff or prospective staff that they want to hire.
Ali: Yeah. I couldn’t agree more. I wanted to ask you this in a little bit, but since we’re talking about it, I think it’s a really great point to bring up hiring from a candidate perspective. You shared already how frustrating it could be to see a remote job but then it’s not truly remote because you have to be located in a certain country.
What do you think people, operations teams, or recruiters should know from a candidate perspective on the remote hiring process? Where do you think companies can do better? What information do you think they need to share with candidates upfront? Tell me a little bit more about your job search experience.
Ayodeji: The first thing is ensuring that your application process is very, very seamless. For example, if you’re applying to a company in the United States and the position is based in the United States, the U.S. mandates that companies must make some declaration.
For example, are you African-American? Are you Hispanic? They will ask all these questions. Then, of course, they will ask whether you wanted to tell your gender or not. They will ask whether you’re a veteran or non-veteran. It’s understanding that that actually has to do with U.S. companies hiring workers and that kind of thing.
If you have a position that is not U.S. contiguous, you’re U.S. company hiring, and you’ve done your research, and you find out that all of those are not necessary, it creates a platform whereby if candidates log in, all they have to fill in is anything that has to do with just the job and not necessarily all those kind of information that are not necessary for candidates outside of the U.S. That’s one.
The second thing would be for people operations managers to create job descriptions that are not only DEI-sensitive but also remote-sensitive if they’re hiring remotely. I don’t know if they have to take up lessons with Oyster just to understand that when you’re creating a job description for a remote role, there are some terms you should use, and you have to be very honest when creating all of that information so that you don’t mislead candidates who are trying to apply.
Job searching is a full-time job on its own. It can be quite frustrating. It’s really nice if companies can make it easy for people that are seeking remote roles by creating very remote-friendly, DEI-sensitive job descriptions. That would make things a lot easier for everybody. But If I see a job, the first thing I’ll do is of course read through.
In fact, before I start reading the requirements or whether I’m qualified or not, I usually scroll to the end to see where they’re hiring from. If they say specifically a certain country, provide that information up front. It enables everybody not to waste their time. Time is one thing that a lot of candidates do not have because every day, people are going online trying to search for a job and that kind of thing. Make it easier for people to be able to apply. That I think is […].
Ali: Yeah. I’m really curious if you have any examples of how to make job postings more remote-friendly? What areas of job postings have you found the most misleading in the past?
Ayodeji: Last year, LinkedIn introduced the remote option, and that was quite helpful. Before, jobs have to be linked to a certain location when you’re posting the job, but then around May last year, they introduced that option. I think every other job portal and company will also do that. I know Indeed has done that. I know that Glassdoor has done that and a couple of other portals have gone ahead to also introduce that option. I think that’s the first option.
Once that is there, it now makes it easy for people to now filter based on other factors. Once the outcome is there, the rest will fall in place really.
Ali: I think that’s really important. From the opposite perspective, I had run a people operations team in the past and I remember it must have been about four years ago and we were getting our applicant tracking system up, so as people applied for jobs we could organize like this application is for designs, this application is for engineering. Even within that system, we were almost forced to put in a location because the system itself said there’s an error in your job posting if there’s no location.
At this time, it was a fully remote company so we wanted it to be remote worldwide anywhere. Every time we put remote, it wouldn’t get syndicated to job boards like you’re talking about. I think it’s interesting how one good thing coming out of this crazy year that we all had is that systems that seemed obvious to a very small group of people are now starting to catch on. The tools can adapt as well because being able to filter by is this job remote, yes or no, is a huge time saver. As you said time is so valuable especially when you’re looking for jobs.
Ayodeji: That’s true. Like you said, it’s good that designers are catching up with making things easy. That’s good.
Ali: Do you think it’s important to continue to have open dialogue from a candidate perspective and an HR perspective to see how do we make sure the information is being communicated in a clear way so that that design can catch up eventually?
Ayodeji: Yes, I think it’s important to continue to have ongoing conversations. Like I said before, this thing is new to a lot of people. Sometimes when I hear certain conversations, I’m actually shocked and I try to hide my shock, because it’s coming from people—
Ali: Like what? Now you have us all curious.
Ayodeji: It’s coming from people who are highly experienced. You find out that they actually don’t understand a couple of things. I’ve mentioned before, for example, a lot of company leaders don’t know the difference between the fact that they are a globally distributed company, they are remote local, or they are remote distributed, those kinds of subtle differences that make a whole world of difference.
I have a funny one the other day. The candidate is a software engineer applying for this job, which was supposed to be remote. The company liked him and they wanted to set up an interview. Of course, he was expecting a Zoom interview. The next day, he gets an email asking you to come down to the office. They mentioned the office and he just started laughing. He was actually one hour away from that city by flight. He was like, hello, this is supposed to be a remote job.
He picks up the phone calls the recruiter and he was like, sorry, you’re asking me to come in physically? They said, yes. Well, you told me this was remote. Yes, remote, but only remote to this city. He was really furious with that. I think I just wasted my time and this and that. That’s one example. The understanding is not there. A lot of people, operations managers, HR people really need to educate themselves on the differences. Even the terminologies we use with remote work.
Another thing is, for example, your team is working remotely and then you expect them to be in front of the computer during work hours because you’re supposed to work from 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM or 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM. I actually heard about a particular manager that installed some sort of software monitoring their employees. Because the employee stood up to go and put some clothes in the washing machine, the manager was furious.
I hear stories like these and I’m like okay, that’s not a remote company. The only reason you’re operating remotely is because there are lockdowns in place and your staff cannot come to the office, obviously, you’re operating remotely. There’s no way your staff will be working remotely and you expect them to operate the same way.
A lot of companies are actually just duplicating the office model online and think that everything is going to just flow like that. When I heard of people having technology fatigue, the first thing that comes to my mind is the fact that you cannot be having meetings back to back to back online the same way you will meetings physically and not expect to get tired and get fatigued. There’s no way.
Ali: Yeah. I have new glasses just for that reason. I hear you.
Ayodeji: I actually have two. There’s my normal glasses and there is this. A lot of companies don’t really understand that, having meetings back to back the same way you will be having meetings physically on the ground. A lot of companies need to redesign the way they work online. If they really want to get this remote right, they need to redesign the way they work online compared to the way they used to work physically.
Unless you don’t want to go remotely and you are just waiting for lockdowns to be over, you just want everybody to get back to the office, and get back to how you used to work before. But if you really, really want to work remote properly, then you just have to redesign the way you work, the way you have meetings, the way you communicate, the way you relate with clients, and the way you do everything.
A CEO was telling me the other day, he got a phone call and usually, he will […] off on the next flight to go for the meeting. It was even the client that was telling him, you don’t have to come physically. I know you could. You’re just an hour’s flight, but you don’t have to. We’ll do this online. He sat back and was like, I need to reevaluate how I relate.
He didn’t even bother to ask the client if it was okay to have a video meeting. He just assumed that he had to get on the next flight. The client was like, no, you don’t have to. We could just have this meeting online and we could wrap up whatever it is we want to wrap up. Lots of redesigning has to be done by companies, by company leaders in terms of how they work if they really want to get this done properly.
Ali: I think it’s so important that business leaders are able to take that step back and say what are the things I need to unlearn? What are the things I need to forget about? Because if they’re just trying to recreate the office online, there missing so many of the amazing benefits of remote work that’s going to make their employees happier. It’s going to make the world happier, help the environment. Let someone throw in their laundry so they have clean clothes waiting for them when they finish a conference call, cut back on conference calls, to begin with.
I think it’s a really exciting time to be able to re-imagine what work should look like and re-imagine ways that people can collaborate together with all of the tools we have today.
Ayodeji: Yes. I think one thing COVID has done for us is it has opened our eyes and our minds to the fact that we could actually meet in a much better way. Of course, I’ve been talking about cutting our carbon footprint, and look at the way we’ve been able to do that willingly actually just by the fact that we’re not traveling as much as we used to. We’re not moving around in our cars as much as we used to. Even when or if COVID eventually stops, what stops us from continuing living like that?
It’s good for the planet. It’s good for your health. If you want to take on exercise, get on a bicycle, drive around your neighborhood. Take a walk. Nobody is saying you should hold up your house really. Yes, you can work remotely from your house, but you can also go out to co-work in spaces, some people do that. They would take two days from their house and they would do two days in co-working spaces. Some people would go to a bar or restaurants just with their laptop on the table and work from there half of the day.
There are different options, really. At the end of the day, being able to live a balanced life, I think that’s one thing the past year has taught all of us. We now have our children with us, running up and down all over the house. Now, it has become normal. You’re having a meeting, your daughter or son just walks up and shows their head behind the video. Everybody just smiles, laughs, and asks, hello, how are you?
That will not happen two or three years ago. Everybody will frown at you, out of place. But now, everybody accepts the fact that it’s normal to have children, and it’s normal to try and combine and balance work and family. It’s normal to want to have a normal life, have a balanced life, and not be so tired and fatigued all the time.
When I was working, like I said, I wake up at 05:00 AM, out of the house by 06:00 AM. My wife and I and our daughter, the first thing we do is we have to make a trip to the school, drop off our daughter at the school, then my wife drops off, and then I get off. By the time I get to work, I’ve already spent two hours. I used to eat breakfast in my car.
Luckily, I have someone that was driving, I have a driver, so I will have breakfast in the back of the car. I don’t think that’s a good way for anybody to eat. I don’t see any reason why there should be resistance to what we have seen and what we know can happen over the past year.
Luckily, technology has caught up with us, or we are the ones catching up with technology. Zoom has always been around. It was only in the last year they experienced enough growth. The same thing with Whereby that is based in Norway that is also a video conferencing platform.
There are so many tools that are just out there. All you have to do is just decide which one you want to use, and that makes life easy for everybody. The technology is there. If the willingness is there, I don’t see any reason why we should have any challenge. We’ve all seen what is possible. If governments can be having meetings virtually, why can’t companies be having meetings virtually? What stops companies from collaborating virtually and getting work done. We’ve seen that it’s possible.
We said actually in the past one year that productivity actually has gone up. Managers were scared that with remote work, productivity would take a dive. Instead, it has gone up. If there is any challenge that managers are facing right now, it’s how to ensure that the employees are engaged. How to ensure that there is no fatigue. How to ensure that there is no emotional distancing between yourselves, your colleagues, your managers, and the people you are working with.
Those are the challenges I think we should be facing right now, not debating whether remote work is good or not. I think we’ve passed that debate.
Ali: I couldn’t have said that better myself. I agree with so much of what you’re saying and I love that you’re bringing this to people’s attention.
Oyster’s Remote Ready Program
Ali: We’re nearing the end of time, but I have a couple of more questions and then a fun game I wanted to play. But I’m curious, you have all of this knowledge, this experience with working remotely. You and I got introduced because of a program that Oyster has put together called Remote Ready. I was hoping you could share a little bit about your experience working through the Remote Ready program. What are some of the benefits that you got out of that for other people that might be considering joining such a program?
Ayodeji: The Oyster Remote Ready program, I stumbled on it, so to speak, when I was job searching. I came across it on a job board. I clicked on it and then I got introduced to you. I think it’s one of the best experiences I’ve ever had because it provided information in a structured manner for me.
Whether you’re new to remote or you have been through remote before, Remote Ready is a fantastic program. I had a lot of fun. I love the way the program is structured. The fact that the lessons were not simple enough, I didn’t have to be in front of a video all the time receiving lessons. A lot of the lessons are asynchronous, and then once a week we have the synchronous lessons where we met. The assignments where we had to collaborate with all the people. It was designed such that if you have never worked remotely before, you’ll get up to speed in how to work remotely.
I was asked if there were any areas of improvement when we completed the program. The only thing I can say was I think I mentioned the fact that there should be more practical exercises for participants. Maybe that can be done once a week, maybe twice a week synchronously to get some people more up to speed particularly those who are not used to remote or asynchronous work. It’s been a fantastic program really. It’s one of the things that has made me fall in love with Oyster. It’s a fantastic program and you guys did extremely well. Thank you. It’s something I will always be grateful to you guys for.
Ali: We’re grateful to hear about your success stories and your experience going through them. As it relates to practical applications, maybe in six months after you’ve had all of these new experiences and challenges in your new role, you could come back and share some case studies with us. That would be really fun to do.
Ayodeji: That would be fantastic. No problem at all. I would love that.
The Remote Salary Debate
Ali: Awesome. Before you jump into a little bit of fun, I have one last quite controversial question for you. This is something I’ve been asking all of the podcast guests this season because I think that’s something that whether you’re a remote worker, a remote company, or a remote advocate, it is a hot topic and nobody really knows how to approach it, which is remote salaries.
There’s a big worldwide pay debate going on and I’m curious where you stand in companies that offer a flat salary for people regardless of their remote location or companies that are altering salary by geography.
Ayodeji: The question I always ask is this, do you employ people based on their skills and what they can offer, or do you employ them based on where they are located? Irrespective of where they are located, is that going to make a difference in their output? Whether I’m here in Lagos, if I decide to move to London tomorrow, or I decide to go to LA tomorrow, will my skills change? Will my output change? Will my contributions to the company change? I don’t think so.
Why are we making an issue out of paying people based on geography rather than based on their position and on their skills? I don’t know why companies are making an issue out of it. I think salaries should be independent of location. You actually hire someone because of what they can bring to the table. The truth of the matter is whether that person is working from their bedroom or working from the five-star hotel in Dubai, it doesn’t really matter, as long as they deliver on what they give or the value they can bring to the company.
A lot of workers will not be happy mentally, emotionally if we move from one place to another and you’re asking them to take a salary dive. I don’t know maybe if we set up […] on that, but normal human thinking would tell me that any average person would definitely not be happy with that. Why are we doing that? It doesn’t make any sense.
Ali: Thanks for sharing. I think again the common things that are coming up in our conversation today is really what is the value that you as a worker are providing the company, then pay accordingly to that. The value that you’re adding to the company, that’s your output. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get that done. I see those themes coming up today. I think they’re really important lessons for leaders to hear and think about how they can be incorporated into their strategies moving forward. Thank you so much for sharing.
Pearls of Wisdom
Ali: Before we end today, I’ve been doing a segment that I like to call pearls of wisdom. The way that this segment works, which is just a few minutes. I am going to pose a question and without much thinking, I just want you to fire back the first thing that comes to your mind, sound good?
Ayodeji: I’ll try.
Ali: All right. We’ll start with an easy one. What is your favorite remote work tool?
Ali: What is your favorite way to take a break from working too hard?
Ayodeji: Stand up from my table, go out, and play with my daughter.
Ali: What is the funniest moment that you’ve ever had working from home?
Ayodeji: At the early stages, there was a day I was having a meeting and then my daughter came into my office and she poked her head. Everybody saw her, but it was fun. The meeting was paused because of that and everybody was asking, oh, what’s your name? How old are you? She’s just four-years-old by the way. That really was funny because, at that point in time, we were still new and getting used to how people receive things like that. But over the past year, we’ve learned that it’s really normal. I think that was the funniest for me.
Ali: I think that might be my favorite change about remote work because of the pandemic. Before COVID, I think people thought maybe it was unprofessional or they would get embarrassed if the child interrupted a meeting. I love seeing more about my coworkers’ lives, and if their kids pop in and want to stay hi or learn what work is about, I just think it’s really fun and cool. I like seeing all these little humans around the world to join for meetings.
Ali: What is your personal biggest challenge when it comes to working remotely?
Ayodeji: I think I’m beginning to overcome that now—knowing when to logoff.
Ali: I think a lot of people can relate.
Ayodeji: You know what, I’m beginning to become more disciplined about that right now unless there is an earthquake or the world is crashing down. I know when to really log off now. I just close my laptop, stand up. Luckily, I have a dedicated space that I use for an office. I’m separated from my living area, bedrooms, and things like that. I just stand up, close my laptop, put off the lights, and I’m out.
Ali: And you’re out. Goodbye work. All right, so two more. This is my personal favorite. Who is someone—living, dead, real, or imaginary character that you would love to co-work with in real life?
Ayodeji: Did you say imaginary?
Ali: It could be imaginary.
Ayodeji: Okay, could it also be from a storybook?
Ali: Sure, now I’m really excited because I think you have someone in mind.
Ayodeji: I actually do. There is this character from Treasure Island, I’m trying to remember his name. Was it the captain of the ship or […]? I would love to work with him.
Ali: Would you be working on his ship or in a working place?
Ayodeji: I really can’t remember his name right now. No. Actually, the work would start from his house on an island and then we’ll go to the ship. From the ship to different locations.
Ali: Sounds perfect. Just cruising around the world working. Last but not the least, what is the best piece of advice that you have ever received?
Ayodeji: Take one day at a time. A couple of years ago, I’ve met a lot of motivational speakers and there is nothing wrong with trying to motivate people who will ask you, do you have a 5-year plan, do you have a 10-year plan? The past one year, as you know, even just having a six months plan is good enough.
Ali: A one-week plan, a one-day plan.
Ayodeji: Yes. In December 2019, I remember the company I was working for then, we had a retreat, we have this platform for 2020, and everything was set up. It was full proof, so to speak. Of course, within a matter of months, all that came crashing down. It had nothing to do with our knowledge. It had nothing to do with our skills. Something just happened and threw everybody off balance. Why don’t you just take it one day at a time? Have your one-day plan, your one-week-plan, and try and just cope, survive, and let the next day take care of its own troubles.
I’m not saying we should not plan. I’m not saying we should not get prepared. We cannot afford to be living life and trying to think 5, 10, or 20 years ahead, when we’re not even sure what will happen in the next 1-6 months. I don’t want to live like that. I’m working one day at a time, that’s it.
Ali: Being present. Yeah. Well, thank you so much for your one-day at a time taking some time out of your day to talk with us. I really appreciate it, and this was a very fun conversation. Any last words or any information? If people want to learn more about your experience working remotely, where can they find you?
Ayodeji: They can get in touch with me on LinkedIn. Just search for me, Ayodeji Jeremiah. I’m very easy to look for on LinkedIn. One of the best ways to reach me is by email, firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m ready to speak to people and […] people share my ideas and thoughts. That’s it.
Ali: Wonderful. Thank you for sharing your thoughts today. I hope you have a great weekend.
Ali: Take care.
Ayodeji: You too. Thank you very much for having me. Take care. Bye.