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Scott Berkun On Spark.Me: How To Work Without Pants And Not Creep Out Your Colleagues


By Tena Šojer, June 23, 2014

I’m just going to tell you the secret straight away: the key to working in your underware and not getting sacked is working remotely, and according to Berkun, this is the future of all work, not just the techy startup reality. He decided to experiment with the remote working model and see what other work conventions like a fixed workplace are completely redundant and reiterated just out of habit. Think you really need to dress up or use email? Think again.

At some point, Berkun quit his corporate job at Microsoft to become a writer, and five books and many speeches later, he came to one very logical conclusion:

There is a trap in being paid to write and talk, like I do. After a while people like me distance themselves from what they talk about. We talk about work or startups, and in truth we haven’t taken a part in any of that in ages.

So when he got a chance to roll up his sleeves and join the WordPress team, he did not hesitate. His only condition was that he could write a book about it, and open source WordPress had no need to be closed off when it comes to their business. In WordPress and his book The Year Without Pants, Berkun decided to test if remote working might just be the future we need to pursue.

Why Are We Disengaged From Our Work?

According to one survey, 72% of American adults are not engaged about their job, and more than half of them are actively disengaged, not caring if people say they don’t care. Imagine if you had to fly with an actively disengaged pilot or get under the knife of ad surgeon. What this means is that there is something wrong with work. So how can we change it?
To sum his experiences up, Berkun focused on three big questions three big questions regarding work:

  • Is there a reason behind the old work conventions, like 9 to 5 jobs, dress codes, meetings and strict hierarchy?
  • Do we really have to use email?
  • Does your work location even matter?

No, No And No

We believe that traditions and conventions are there for a reason, but what for the most part, we do conventions because we’re not that good at change. The truth is, things can be done differently.

Most of the things we do out of habit don’t actually help us be more productive in this day and age. Wearing a suit in no way changes the output you give, and if you work best while riding a jeep through a safari, that’s where you should work from. The general rule of the thumb is that the more your work is done through a screen, the less your location matters– and so does wearing pants.

Email, the communication channel we all use excessively, is actually bad for communication, it’s limiting, and hinders group interaction, Berkun remarks. There are many excellent communication channels you can use when working remotely and they should be chosen according to the particular needs of your team. In WordPRess, they used some of the simplest (and oldest) solutions like IRC, but also Skype for private chats, and specially designed WordPress Theme P2 for team communication. Try different solutions out for size and see what works for you, but the most important part of working remotely is communicating actively and working on your communication skills. 

Berkun himself was taken on as an experiment, to see if a hierarchy-free company like WordPress could use a project manager, and he decided to follow that lead and manage by experiment. It’s something we should all do more often in work and business:

Ask yourself when is the last time you experimented, did something when you weren’t sure of the outcome?

Do experiment, Berkun encourages you. Work from home, work from coffee shops, see what works for you. We are different people and have different preferences, but we all learn only from new experiences. And the experiments you will learn the most from are the ones you are most scared of.

 


Author:

Tena Šojer

Tena graduated from University of Zagreb with a masters degree in English and Anthropology. Her interests are writing, science, technology and education, and her goal in life is to find a way to pursue them all at the same time. She is currently writing for Netokracija, working with a great team to bring the best internet and tech related news to the Balkans.

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