68 - This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things (Remote Work)

Remote. Hybrid. WTF are we even talking about anymore? Tyson and Alexa make some sense of this hot mess with Kaleem Clarkson, COO of Blend Me, Inc., a former engineer turned remote and hybrid work consultant-extraordinaire. They discuss the data that supports RTO decisions (or lack thereof), how to find the warm and fuzzies with remote colleagues, and the employer’s role in combating isolation.


Check out Blend Me, Inc

Follow Kaleem on Twitter (@kaleemclarkson) or connect on LinkedIn.


Release Date: October 19, 2022

l[00:00:00] Announcer: Warning. This podcast is about the realities of working in People Operations. This is not a stuck-up PC compliance-based or employment law podcast about stuffy, outdated HR practices. Shit will get real here and we assume no responsibility.

[00:00:16] Alexa Baggio: Just another day in the office.

[00:00:18] Tyson Mackenzie: There's nothing better than a bunch of people who work in HR getting around the table and sharing these stories. We have this out-of-body experience in HR where you're like, "[unintelligible 00:00:26]."

[00:00:26] Alexa: It's not that bad.

[00:00:26] Tyson: HR is not bad. It's not.

[00:00:29] Alexa: Come hang out with Tyson and I on this podcast, we'll make you laugh.

[00:00:31] Tyson: This is the People Problems podcast with Alexa Baggio and Tyson Mackenzie.

[00:00:38] Alexa: What's up, Tyson?

[00:00:39] Tyson: Not too much. I'm super excited. We are honestly like-- I'm on a high after last night's pop session. We did the live session that we've been like chatting about for so long with art of compensation.

[00:00:50] Alexa: Nice, the art of compensation. Cool.

[00:00:52] Tyson: Yes, was totally fun. There was like a group of us that got together and we just learn from one another. I ask people to come to the session with questions about comp or problems, challenges that they're working through and we just talked it through and there was so much engagement. It was just like, I don't know. It makes my soul feel happy when a bunch of HR folk get together and just share stories and everything like that.

[00:01:15] Alexa: I love it.

[00:01:16] Tyson: Other than that, on the day we're recording this it's July 28th, which is my birthday.

[00:01:20] Alexa: How did I miss that? Happy Birthday, Tyson.

[00:01:23] Tyson: Entering a new decade.

[00:01:25] Alexa: A new decade.

[00:01:27] Tyson: Thank you.

[00:01:28] Alexa: That's a proper interjection. I like that.

[00:01:30] Tyson: Leo season is upon us.

[00:01:32] Alexa: It's the first day of Leo season. I didn't realize you were so early in the Leo season.

[00:01:38] Tyson: Leo season started on like the 21st but what today is which is really exciting is a new moon in Leo.

[00:01:44] Alexa: There we go, okay. [crosstalk]

[00:01:45] Tyson: [unintelligible 00:01:45] manifesting. Just like manifest your dreams. Get your tiger's eye and your citrine and just kill this Leo season and start manifesting all your dreams.

[00:01:58] Alexa: All right. I need to manifest my dreams. Is that my takeaway here?

[00:02:01] Tyson: Yes, that's what we're doing today on the new moon.

[00:02:04] Alexa: I'll continue to manifest my dreams. I'll try to come up with some-- Other than kissing my crystals that I don't have, is there any other way I can manifest my dreams in Leo season, Tyson?

[00:02:13] Tyson: I saw this gray thing today. It was someone they were recommending a ritual to write down your dream as if you're telling a friend. So like, hey, friend, I just want to let you know that this is what I'm doing right now, and almost like as if you did achieve your dream and write it down on a piece of paper, old school style and then wrap it up and just save it. Because you're putting that shit out into the universe.

[00:02:34] Alexa: Cool. On it.

[00:02:35] Tyson: Everyone should try that. Although by the time this podcast comes out, we're going to be like way out of Leo season.

[00:02:40] Alexa: Yes, because you're dating us pretty heavily which is a no, no in podcasts. But that's okay. All right, cool. I've got no real news other than New Moon and Leo. I'm also a Leo.

[00:02:53] Tyson: That's trouble.

[00:02:53] Alexa: It's trouble. Double Leos is trouble. I guess considering talking of trouble, let me get us into some trouble real quick and remind everybody that today's episode is brought to you by our squad at The People Ops Society. Join Tyson, myself and a bunch of our guests, a lot of our listeners in the Pop's community forum which Tyson just mentioned. You can download awesome resources and templates shared by peers, get access to cool free courses like Tyson's Art of Compensation course.

Which will be available on demand by the time this comes out. You can use the code PEOPLEPROBLEMS@peopleopsociety.com to get 20% off your membership today. Again, use the code peopleproblems, all caps, all one-word @peopleopsociety.com. Then our shameless plug at the top here, which is make sure to follow us on all things social, People Problems Pod, HR Shook, and theinfluenchr spelled with an HR on Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, all the things.

With that, I think I'll just read us right into our wonderful guest, Kaleem Clarkson who you can follow @KaleemClarkson if you're following my little intro here. He is the COO of Blendme Inc., a remote People Operations consultancy that helps startups and small businesses transform into high-functioning remote or hybrid remote workplaces. He has been featured in the Harvard Business Review and named one of LinkedIn's top 10 voices in remote work. He's passionate about work-life integration and the remote employee experience. Welcome.

[00:04:07] Kaleem Clarkson: Hey, what's up?

[00:04:09] Alexa: How are we doing?

[00:04:10] Kaleem: I'm doing well. I'm doing well.

[00:04:12] Alexa: I'm going to guess you're not a Leo.

[00:04:14] Kaleem: I don't even know what you're talking about, so I'm going to put that on the list of I don't know.

[00:04:18] Tyson: When's your birthday? I feel like we need to iron this out before we can have [unintelligible 00:04:22]

[00:04:23] Alexa: Tyson needs to vet you. Tyson needs to vet your star sign.

[00:04:26] Kaleem: Okay, I am a Virgo. Which basically means I can fly to the moon.

[00:04:34] Alexa: Does it?

[00:04:34] Tyson: I was a Virgo. My baby is a Virgo.

[00:04:40] Alexa: Rose is a Virgo?

[00:04:42] Tyson: Yes, my baby is a Virgo. It probably means that you're very type A.

[00:04:46] Alexa: I'm not getting that at all. I'm not sensing a type A, whatsoever here.

[00:04:50] Kaleem: Type A is what? Introvert?

[00:04:53] Alexa: No.

[00:04:55] Tyson: No, not necessarily, but very organized and you like things done a specific way. Is it your way or the highway a little bit, maybe?

[00:05:04] Kaleem: No.

[00:05:05] Alexa: Assuming he's a COO.

[00:05:08] Kaleem: Yes.

[00:05:09] Alexa: He's an operator.

[00:05:10] Kaleem: I'm very collaborative. Listen, I don't mind talking about-- There's an episode, I watch Jalen & Jacoby and they talk about regional or cultural. It's a thing that they do. Is this phrase regional, like it's in the regional area, or is it a cultural thing? I'm just going to put signs in cultural. It's on the list of white people. It's fixated on white people. It's okay. If they were foliage, antioxidants.

[00:05:38] Alexa: Oh, antioxidants.

[00:05:39] Kaleem: I don't know. It's--

[00:05:42] Alexa: Crystals and star signs.

[00:05:43] Kaleem: Yes. Crystal and star signs.

[00:05:44] Alexa: I'll give you that.

[00:05:45] Kaleem: You know what I mean? I don't know.

[00:05:46] Tyson: Let me just take a sip of my electrolytes. Just give me a second.


[00:05:53] Kaleem: By the way-

[00:05:54] Alexa: Her superfoods.

[00:05:55] Kaleem: -I'm in a mixed marriage. We're a biracial family, so they're just jokes people, so lighten up.

[00:06:01] Alexa: All good. I like that. Speaking of jokes, tell us how you got into the wild and wonderful world of remote work experience. I know this is a super hot topic now. We want to talk to you about all the hot-button things, but how did you get into this work?

[00:06:15] Kaleem: I think like a lot of people by accident. You get into these different things by accident. I'm a former front-end engineer by trade. Shout out to the Drupal community. I developed in Drupal. I was at a conference in 2012 in Denver called DrupalCon Denver. This individual named Matt Westgate, CEO from a company called Lullabot and they do huge websites, like the grammys.com, marthastewart.com, and georgia.gov, et cetera. The list goes on. I remember just being in the session and he was talking about why they decided to become a fully distributed company. I'd never heard the term fully distributed before.

He then went on to explain why he didn't want to call themselves a virtual company because then their large clients might not think that they're real or whatever. Interestingly enough, he didn't want to call them a remote company because that word remote has a feeling behind it. He didn't want his employees to feel like they were apart from something, so he went to fully distributed. He's showing pictures of his company, all their employees all over the country, hiking, doing fun outdoors activities, et cetera, then the big picture of the annual retreat. The annual retreat in Florida that they do every year, a week long. It was just magical. The pictures-- We're used to these pictures now. Everyone's doing this thing now.

[00:07:43] Alexa: This was 2012?

[00:07:45] Kaleem: It was 2012. This hit me really hard-

[00:07:48] Alexa: Before it was cool.

[00:07:49] Kaleem: Yes. It hit me really hard. Again, shout out to a lot of the web developers in the Drupal community, WordPress, et cetera, anyone. Because I learned most of the things that I know today from the Drupal community, from an industry that was already remote. Yes, people were like, "Oh, you're ahead of the curve." Well, mind you, I was probably eight years behind the curve for some of these other developers. It was just a really cool presentation when he was talking about it and showing the retreat.

When I flew home, my partner, she has her master's degree from University of Connecticut, Organizational Development and Human Resources, the IO space. She was just frustrated looking for jobs at that time. There were no People Ops jobs at that time. I believe Laszlo-- What's his name? Is it Bock Laszlo? Laszlo Bock?

[00:08:36] Alexa: Laszlo Bock. Yes.

[00:08:38] Kaleem: All right. I always mix 'em up.

[00:08:39] Alexa: Maslow's hierarchy.

[00:08:41] Kaleem: I don't believe he came out and determined that phrase of People Operations. It wasn't really used yet. CHROs weren't even that popular at that time. They were, but they weren't. She was just really frustrated that her $50,000 degree masters. People were mostly concerned about, "Do you have benefits experience?" She's like, "Look, this is about leadership. This is the seat at the table. You got to come on board." She was just getting frustrated. Like, "Okay, great, but do you do benefits?" It's like, "No. No."

Anyway, that frustration just led to me, I started reading the books Rework by DHH and Jason Fried. Of course, read The Year Without Pants, which is another great book that a lot of people don't know about. It's another one. I think that's 2013. Then we incorporated in 2013. That's how we got started.

[00:09:31] Alexa: That's very cool. What have you learned? Just so people have an idea here. Let's call it the period of 2013 to 2020, what was the perception and the major sticking points of moving people to remote, and what was a lot of the work you were doing? Very explicitly, I'm going to ask you this question again, but post-2020, because what I'm really curious to hear is the mindset shift with the organizations you've been working with.

[00:10:00] Kaleem: Yes, absolutely.

[00:10:01] Alexa: Maybe where some of the movement has gone and maybe where there are still sticking points. What was it like '13 to 2020?

[00:10:07] Kaleem: Yes, so before March of 2020, we'll just be specific. Before March of 2020, the reputation of remote work was like, I don't know, when I told people that I work remotely, like people look at me like.

[00:10:20] Tyson: Like you don't work? Lazy.

[00:10:23] Kaleem: People would be like, people always have this like, "Oh, does that mean you're just like a freelancer and you don't work?"

[00:10:28] Kaleem: Right. I think I got ones like, "Oh, so you're on Craigslist and you have those weird ads?"

[00:10:35] Alexa: Are you in coffee shops all day?

[00:10:37] Kaleem: No, I'm not, Craigslist Day and we can have a great time at this time, maybe a year. No, I'm--

[00:10:43] Alexa: Misconnections.

[00:10:45] Kaleem: Right, right. Does Craigslist still exist?

[00:10:48] Alexa: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. Still exists.

[00:10:51] Kaleem: Yes. Anyway, that was the general reputation from the general public. The first thing that we decided, because we were both frustrated with the industry. Still today, our motto is if you do not have any remote work like you have no interest in remote work, whether that is-- we define remote work three different types. Fully remote, which is no office and you're going to work from wherever.

Hybrid remote, which has a wide range, but basically a combination, some variation, some combination or just telecom you, which how we defined it is you're required to go into the office a majority of the work week, but you could work from home once a week or like if you have a doctor's appointment. If you don't offer any of those things, we wouldn't even talk to you. For us, so rewinding back to the general public thought, we were quite Craigslist workers. If you weren't a remote worker already from an organizational perspective, from businesses, it can't be done. That was the attitude it can't be done. We can't trust that they're working.

[00:11:55] Alexa: I was going to say, I remember my first foray-- the anecdote that sticks in my mind, I'm sure you remember this because I'm pretty sure it was in that period, is when Yahoo went fully distributed. I think it was right when they hired Marissa Meyer as CEO and they went fully distributed and it was like this big deal that they thought it was going to be this great thing. Then it was like--

[00:12:15] Kaleem: You actually have it flipped around actually. You actually have it flipped. Marissa Meyer, they were all-- [crosstalk]

[00:12:20] Alexa: She came in, it was like, you're all coming back?

[00:12:22] Kaleem: You're all coming into the office. That's what I knew.

[00:12:24] Alexa: It was something to do with her but they've been remote for like a year and it was like this big deal that they were going to go fully remote and then, yes, you're right. She came in and was like, "No chance. You're all coming back."

[00:12:37] Tyson: What a nightmare.

[00:12:37] Alexa: What a nightmare. She didn't do very well. Just for the record.

[00:12:42] Kaleem: I mean, I don't even know what she's doing these days. I actually read an article recently where she talks about, it was really blown out of proportion. I was like, come on, you had-- she actually had like a nanny set up in her office [unintelligible 00:12:56] because she had a baby. That was a big thing at that time, like a female CEO having a baby at that time. I remember that like yes, it was a big deal. She was like, "Well, I didn't everyone come back to office?" It was like, well, [unintelligible 00:13:08].

Going back to that last question, how we worked with organizations? We didn't work with organizations who had no interest of being remote. At the time, we were only working with companies that were already remote. We were dealing with challenges that they were having as a remote company, so just a little bit different. For example, inclusion and diversity was something that we did a good amount of work. How do we developers, we all know technology, how do we increase our diversity? Internal communication. It was mostly about how could they do remote work better. That was the big difference.

[00:13:52] Alexa: Cool.

[00:13:53] Kaleem: Fast forward to March of 20. Everyone loves remote work now. At this time, the articles were coming out, if you remember, "Oh my gosh, I can't believe how productive I am, I can't believe this works. This is great. I can actually get stuff done."

[00:14:09] Alexa: I just did one of these when that happened. I've been saying this shit for years, come on. Tyson, you've been promoted as well before the pandemic as well, right?

[00:14:17] Tyson: Yes. I always had that option, but I think what was funny when the pandemic happened is there was this like phase where like right after everyone scrambled to go remote, everyone was like, "Oh, yes, I'd like to go back to the office", but then it like went on for too long, like six months and then like a year. Now everyone's like, there's no way in hell that I'm going back to the office. I did find that there was like this like little group that wanted to go back.

[00:14:45] Kaleem: Yes. It actually went up and down. It's interesting you say that because I've talked about that before. We call it the honeymoon period. That's what we use for terminology. Right when everyone went remote, all of the articles by all the top publications were all about how great it is right?

[00:15:02] Tyson: It was like [unintelligible 00:15:03].

[00:15:04] Alexa: Then everyone's like, get your screaming kids out of the Zoom call. I don't have enough hands. I'm still expected to work with my kids like my kids are here.

[00:15:12] Kaleem: I think school being remote school in the beginning, just push people over the edge. Then you start seeing, "Oh, this isn't for me." Then again, back to what you're saying, Tyson. There was another wave of, "Oh, well, this is actually really good. I'm getting used to it." Now, we have people saying they don't want to go to the office, and now we're having CEOs saying, you must go to the office. With no data to back any of that. As People Operations, as Pops professionals, we're just stuck in the middle because all of the data that we have shows a lot of productivity, and it's able to work, but then you have leadership telling you we need to bring everybody back.

How do you craft the message that that's the truth? Because everybody can see through bullshit. Don't tell me it's about productivity. Don't tell me it's about culture, because you didn't really care about culture before the pandemic. It's a lot of mixed messages right now.

[00:16:10] Alexa: It's also really interesting to think about. I think of it from the business perspective, and I'm like, what would I have to know or believe in order to justify the expense of the office? Especially public companies, if you're like, "Hey, you're going to save $10 million a year not paying real estate leases. You're going to use some of that for remote office support. You'd be like, "Cool. Great. Huge cost savings. Love that for the company. That's the right decision."

I wonder what they have to think other than, like, you're not working if you're not being watched, which is gross, to think that it's worth pulling people back in that aggressively to just be like, "No, you got to be here." Do you think it's just that people are, like, stuck in the FaceTime thing, if you're not here and I can't see you, you're not working?

[00:16:54] Kaleem: I'm trying to understand. I'm really trying to understand because you just broke it down. A very basic situation. Do you have any data that says that we are not as productive or as profitable? I'm sorry, the last thing we're in the people's face, I should have started with this. Were you assessing the culture in the engagement levels prior to the pandemic? Are you able to assess those during the pandemic? We even say, hopefully, someday the pandemic will be over, can you give yourself a little bit of time to assess those levels without making any changes to the policy after we're able to get together more safely?

We're starting to see people get together a lot more safely because you need this data to tell you what it is. If there's no data, then why are you making the choice? It was funny. I was listening to one of your episodes and I do have to say, I was a little stressed out because we did after the schedule, or actually, I picked the wrong date or something. I did something messed up. The OG Connie episode was unbelievable. Connie Marie, she was just [unintelligible 00:18:06]. Talking about unions and just talking about some of the challenges that have moved up. Shout out to Connie.

[00:18:13] Alexa: Shout out to Connie.

[00:18:14] Kaleem: Connie Marie. She was throwing down some knowledge so go back and listen to that episode. I would love to kind of ask her, what do you think? Is this a generational thing? Number one, which I do not believe it is.

A lot of people jump to that, but I actually don't believe that. Is it a situation of HR and leadership? Let's just say leadership, not just HR. Is it a situation of leadership just being too used to the way things used to be done?

[00:18:46] Alexa: I'm going to vote for that one.

[00:18:47] Tyson: I think there's definitely a lot of that. I think what was one of the problems early on in the Pandemic was that we just shifted to remote so quickly and we were just doing everything from an operation standpoint, like, "How are we going to get people internet? How are we going to get their computers?" I remember it's a scramble. I went into my office and ransack the place and took my ergonomic chair and all my stuff. It was just like a free for all and there wasn't enough thought.

Maybe we'll get into this with what you do, but there wasn't enough thought in how to transition. How do we turn what we had from a culture perspective into a remote experience? Companies that I think had a really strong culture before, there was like a huge loss. People felt as though something was taken and they were grieving the culture that they would have had in the office. I'm thinking like tech. The people that loved their office space versus in other industries where people maybe there wasn't as strong as good of a culture, office culture.

They were originally pretty happy to move into this remote. I don't know. I'd love to talk a little bit more about that just in terms of now that we've been here for a while, if we're choosing to be remote and stay remote, how do we make that? How do we basically have the culture that we had in a remote world? Because there's just some things you can't do.

[00:20:07] Kaleem: Yes and no. I'm going to disagree with you and that's what's great about these podcasts. [crosstalk] I actually disagree with you. The comment that you made right there about, I actually understood what you were saying, but I just want to redefine some of the words that we're using just so that we're clear. From our experience, organizations that had a great culture were very successful in the transition of going to remote.

Now, let's all, and this is very difficult, we don't use the word culture. We try not to use the word culture [unintelligible 00:20:44] because nobody knows what the hell it means. Nobody knows what it means. [crosstalk] There's no scholar years ago came out and said, this is what it is, and we just move forward. It's become like this generic word that encompasses everything. Tyson, we use employee experience mostly. Actually, remote employee experience. What I feel like you're describing though is you're describing people who are missing the connections.

[00:21:20] Tyson: Yes.

[00:21:21] Kaleem: Culture is about so many things, right? How do you get the job done?

[00:21:24] Alexa: The way we do shit around here? [crosstalk]

[00:21:25] Kaleem: [unintelligible 00:21:25] The way we do shit around here. There's a whole bunch of things that come up with culture and I believe that's why it's so hard to define. It's a culmination of so many things. I believe what you're talking about is connections. How do we maintain those personal connections because we are a tribal species. I learned this from watching cartoons with my daughter. We're not the hedgehog. The hedgehog is an animal that lives in isolation and I never knew that. We're not that. We're a tribal species, hence why we've always had tribes.

[00:22:00] Alexa: We create connection.

[00:22:02] Kaleem: Right. To me, it's not actually the companies who had a great culture that have the biggest challenge. What remote work has done has exposed companies with bad culture, bad practices, bad everything. It's really exposed it. I think that's the really, really big difference.

[00:22:23] Alexa: Yes. I think that's a great point. A good designation. I also think what's really interesting about like when everyone went remote and a lot of these poor cultures got called on their bullshit, these people were like, "Why the fuck am I doing this? 10 hours a day in front of a screen?" Is the other thing that people forget is-- look, one thing I'll step back and say is I actually don't believe, and you may or may not agree with me here, Kaleem, but I don't believe everyone needs to be making these decisions about remote or in office or all these things on these grand policy levels.

I just call bullshit on that whole operation. I think to your earlier point, that's some old school thinking, which is like, this is exactly how this has to be done versus being like, if it's not a problem with the existing team that you're working with, then don't make it a problem. Don't make it a policy, don't make it a problem. We can be a little more flexible.

[00:23:11] Tyson: The challenge with that is having the infrastructure, right?

[00:23:15] Alexa: For sure.

[00:23:20] Tyson: Yes, Alexa, Now I'm coming at you Alexa. No, I do believe you need a policy. Because what happens is, we're just not adults. That's the problem. You can't give us nice things. For me, the only reason why, and that's what we do, is we do write policy and we actually do believe that there should be a company-wide policy. The reason that is, is because managers are not all created equal. Basically, you're going to have an old school manager over here that leads a team and you're going to have a new school team. The exact same team. The exact same function of a team. Then this manager over here is going to be like, "You know what? Work perfectly fine. You can live wherever you want."

[00:24:02] Alexa: I hear you. Policy doesn't fix human nature. You're still going to have different interpretations of that fucking policy.

[00:24:09] Kaleem: Not if it's written correctly. The policy that we have is like, look, the manager cannot require you to come into the office five days a week. For every good thing that you're thinking of, you got to play devil's advocate. That's why we say, look, we got to write a policy that's flexible back to your point. That gives autonomy to teams, team leaders. At the same time, that policy does not allow a team leader to create massive inequalities within the same functions of job responsibilities.

[00:24:40] Alexa: Can you give us an example of that? Where did that happen?

[00:24:42] Kaleem: That example of team A, team B. Two marketing teams. Let's just say, your company's so big, you have two marketing teams that are doing similar things. The marketing team A has a manager that's like, "No, I want everybody in the office as much as possible." Marketing team B's. Like, "No, we're remote." Now you have these two receptive employees that are doing a similar function but are being treated differently. That creates major, major, major problems. Yes, we should have to have a policy, but unfortunately, we have people that are just assholes and don't know how to speak and be straight up to talks.

[00:25:19] Alexa: We have people problems. Is that what you're saying?

[00:25:20] Kaleem: Yes, we have people problems but come on, bro. The question is, did I get the job done at this date? That's a yes or a no question. I don't need you to elaborate. I need you to just give me a yes or no. Is that a yes? [unintelligible 00:25:31]?

[00:25:31] Tyson: We're still forgetting something though. Because when I think back to some of the greatest moments, like when I was still working, I used to work hybrid. I could be remote versus not. What I think about is some of the greatest feelings that I had at work where I felt the most engaged was when I was in person with my team or with my boss. You're just vibing off one another and you're getting into that really good rhythm and that sort of thing.

I'm wondering is there-- You get that warm, fussy feeling. You mentioned at the beginning, your definition like people who are totally remote. I'm guessing that there has to be something where people-- There's still something where people are getting together.

[00:26:19] Kaleem: Tyson, you're serving this up just like an iron Mike Tyson punch. You're serving it up right now and you are 100% correct. The in-person retreat is a vital component to a remote-first company. You can't have a fully engaged remote-first company in my opinion without having an in-person retreat.

[00:26:45] Tyson: Wait, what kind of things were they doing at the retreat?

[00:26:47] Kaleem: Interestingly enough, a colleague of mine from hopefully you all have heard of the company Doist, they are thought leaders in the remote workspace. Chase Warrington. Shout out to Chase. He's the head of remote at Doist, they've been doing this a long time. 150 people globally. They just had their retreat in Austria.

[00:27:07] Alexa: Nice.

[00:27:08] Kaleem: We probably heard this phrase before and it was the first time they got together in three years. You definitely heard this, pandemic remote work is not normal remote work.

[00:27:21] Alexa: Agreed.

[00:27:22] Kaleem: Pandemic remote is not normal remote work.

[00:27:25] Tyson: You got kids at home, you're being a school teacher.

[00:27:27] Kaleem: I think that's--

[00:27:29] Alexa: Mentally, you're still like, this is temporary and--

[00:27:32] Tyson: You're locked down.

[00:27:33] Alexa: The difference.

[00:27:34] Kaleem: Even if it's not those remote-first companies, I'm fully remote. I struggled during the pandemic. The remote first companies did struggle. Now, they didn't struggle with operations, onboarding, and all the important things that we were talking about earlier. You know what they did struggle with? Take a guess. We have been talking about it.

[00:27:54] Tyson: Connections.

[00:27:56] Kaleem: Yes. They all struggle with connections because they couldn't do the things that they were normally used to. We're talking about annual retreats, we're talking about regional team retreats, we're talking about going to conferences as a team. We're talking about volunteering as a team. There are so many things that you can do when it comes to employee engagement and being in person. Back to your statement, Tyson, you are correct. In-person connections are critical. What we talk about with organizations is, number one, that in-person culture that you were talking about, and I'm using the word again in the beginning, you actually can't replicate that.

[00:28:33] Alexa: That's not the goal. I don't think that's the goal.

[00:28:36] Tyson: That's a realization I think people had to come to.

[00:28:41] Alexa: Yes.

[00:28:41] Kaleem: You have to say, look, we're no longer 100% in the office. That does not exist anymore. What we're going to create is a different thing. Now, we're talking about hybrid. Right now we're talking about fully remote. When we talk with companies, we say that the first thing that you need to do or multiple things. One of the most important things is developing a social connection strategy.

We say social on purpose and we separate those into three different types of connections. Professional, like mentors at the office, professional colleagues and associations, other things like that. Then you have lifestyle. Hobbies, kayaking, friendships, just having friends around things you like. Then we have intimate. Something a lot of people don't believe organizations should be a part of that intimate relationships.

[00:29:32] Alexa: Isn't it like one in three marriages is started at work or something? I don't know why we think romance is not allowed in the office. It's fucking there anyway.

[00:29:40] Kaleem: I know that Alexa.

[00:29:43] Alexa: Don't quote me on that. It's something ridiculous like one in four marriages or something.

[00:29:47] Kaleem: Thank you so much.

[00:29:48] Alexa: It's crazy.

[00:29:49] Kaleem: That's a value proposition [crosstalk]

[00:29:50] Alexa: [unintelligible 00:29:50] talks about that a lot. It's a ridiculous number.

[00:29:52] Kaleem: That is on our website.

[00:29:53] Alexa: It's a ridiculous number.

[00:29:55] Kaleem: That value proposition got to go on our website. Thank you.

[00:29:57] Alexa: I have set up two sets of colleagues in my history that are now married--

[00:30:03] Kaleem: That is amazing.

[00:30:03] Alexa: Fantastic couples, what?

[00:30:05] Kaleem: I didn't even think of that. I didn't think about that research. Thank you so much.

[00:30:08] Alexa: You're welcome.

[00:30:08] Kaleem: -right there.

[00:30:09] Alexa: That's my gift to you.

[00:30:10] Kaleem: Right. Say that you have LGBTQ couple. You need to ensure that they have opportunities to go out there and connect with other people in their community. Religion is another intimate connection type. In order for you to be successful, you have to schedule these in a remote-first company, whether that is hybrid or fully remote. Everything has to be scheduled and planned so people can prepare. What we talk about is looking two years out, and first start with an assessment.

That means, what are your people missing for connections? Identify what they're missing. Then design a plan that's going to satisfy all those types of connections and start two years out. Start with the annual retreat. Is that in person? Then it has to be a shift of virtual too. Connections can happen virtually too. That's a real connection. You need to splice in all of those and make sure that you have a really good plethora of different modalities. I'm still that for my HigherEd days of teaching-learning syllabus. You have different modalities for everybody and you have to plan it out.

A virtual fun event, making after-hour stuff. Then maybe you do a workshop that's virtual, then maybe some in-person meetups and conferences, and then the annual retreat. If you're listening and you're going to go remote or you're going to add hybrid remote as a major function, start with that social connection strategy plan and start building it out and then post it.

[00:31:39] Alexa: Whose responsibility is this?

[00:31:42] Kaleem: We know. We know.

[00:31:44] Alexa: No, say it. I need you to say it.

[00:31:45] Kaleem: Yes. It's the People Ops team. It is.

[00:31:49] Alexa: Yes. Well, see, I love this conversation because this is Tyson and I, we did this on a prior episode that hasn't been released by the time we're talking about this, but where we talk about this misconception that HR is party planners. You start talking about all this connection and in person and how do we get the 22-year-olds to mingle together and we got to do happy hours. It's like, okay, buying the beer and booking the bar does not need to be the People Ops team's job but the design of this social connection strategy absolutely fucking is.

It absolutely fucking is. The party planner is just a derivative of that. I'm in events, I get it. I pay planners to do certain parts of the event planning, but the format, the strategy, the connections, the speakers, the style, what the fuck are you going to take from coming to this for a day? That's at the executive level. That comes from the leadership team, that comes from my best and brightest. Who books the caterer? We have people part of the same team, but we have people that do that exact operations function.

[00:32:47] Kaleem: Yes. There's no doubt that in that social connection strategy, that is a high-level planning session. That's the CEO, that's the COO, that's the CTO and that's the VP or--

[00:32:59] Tyson: THRO.

[00:33:01] Kaleem: THRO. That's it. Those people are planning what. Based on data too though, you got to put out the data to see, okay, people are saying that they don't feel there's enough professional development, they're not connecting with colleagues, they don't have lifestyle. You're going to do the data first but you're absolutely correct, Alexa. I agree. I think it's a people function

[00:33:20] Alexa: It's so funny because I think I love everything you're saying. It's funny, I think about--

[00:33:23] Kaleem: [unintelligible 00:33:23]

[00:33:23] Alexa: Yes, it's people, it's people. Well, I just hear people being like and specifically people in the People Ops profession being like, "Oh, what do I do for more engagement and more this?" I'm like, first of all, I'm not sure engagement is what you're going for here. I think what you're going for is Tyson's word connection. I think you're actually trying to get people connected. If you're going to do that, they talk about how younger people need to be more in the office.

I think the New York Times just had this big Sunday expose about your first, your early work friends, and how they're very formative in your life. I have to read it, but a bunch of people have sent it to me. I remember the first time I ever worked remote. I was working in New York City, I was a salesperson at a FinTech company and I had really close like probably 15 people that I was really close to at work.

It was a bunch of 20-somethings. Half of them were sleeping together. We were doing all stupid shit on the weekends together. Then the Hurricane Sandy hit. All of New York downtown was done and our office was in the flat hour. We didn't have power. We were all remote working in my 500-square-foot New York City apartment. I was like, "Oh, man, I hate this." I could never work from home. I'm dying to get back to the routine. What I didn't have was the opportunity at that time where the flexibility to say, "Hey, when the 456 train doesn't work for everyone on the Upper East Side on Thursday, you don't have to be in for the 847 huddle.

You can just take that remotely", and that's a different conversation but people think about these connections like, "Oh, I can't replicate", to Tyson's earlier point, "I can't replicate this exact same cultural benefit with a hybrid or a remote workforce." The answer is like, no, you're not going to have a bunch of 26-year-olds or 25-year-olds sitting in cubicles right next to each other all day but you can get those people together in meaningful ways that still build relationships for them and get them in front of higher-ups. You have to sit down and be fucking deliberate about it. It's not like, "Oh, we just have a happy hour." It's like, "If nobody-- that doesn't, that's not enough." It's got to be very deliberate about who's there? What's the benefit? Why? How often?

[00:35:18] Tyson: We talk about the social side of thing, which is great. When I'm looking back on my early career being in an office, so yes, the social thing was fun, sure, but what about the development?

[00:35:30] Kaleem: Sure. Yes. So much, yes.

[00:35:32] Tyson: When I'm thinking about my early days, I used to get grabbed by my boss, "Here, come into this meeting. I have a good conversation I want you to be a part of. Come into this meeting." I got so much exposure from being with her and with my team, which is hard. Out of sight out of mind, when you're remote?

[00:35:49] Kaleem: Yes. A couple things that I have challenges with, I've ripped a couple of articles talking about, "If you're remote, you're not going to get promoted. If you're remote, you're not going to-- Even the 20-something somethings, they need to be together." It's like, "How do you all know this?"

[00:36:05] Tyson: Wait, hold on though. I would challenge you and say, if everybody's remote, I would expect that there's more of a level playing field, but if we're talking about a hybrid--

[00:36:14] Kaleem: No. I'm asking you, Tyson, and all these phrases are great. What I'm saying is this, how does anyone know?

[00:36:19] Alexa: You're saying we need data?

[00:36:21] Kaleem: We haven't been remote long enough to have real data on this. These are all studies done a long time ago with outdated technology. Everyone's full of shit. They're just coming up with reasons as to like, "Oh, this can't work. This is bullshit. There's plenty of companies that have done this that are successful. Go look at those companies." Versus saying, "Oh, well it can't be done." I disagree. Onboarding."Oh, it can't be done. No, it can be."

You know what it takes? It takes someone that you're going to pay to design an asynchronous onboarding platform that you can implement all of these things that we were talking about. Like a video from the CEO talking about what was the spark that made me start this company? It's a lot of work, but it can't be done. Now back to development, same thing. Think about this. Who do you think has the largest [unintelligible 00:37:06] class? Think about higher education. We have Ivy League schools providing full PhDs and master's level schools with online education. It's the truth.

[00:37:19] Alexa: It's the truth. However, if you want to go down to LND route here, nothing about online higher education is done very well right now. I'm taking a course at Cornell right now and it is just to see what it's like because like, "Oh, professional development, all these things. Let me check out this HR course." It is a fucking joke. Just the portal to log in is a joke.

[00:37:42] Kaleem: Right. We're talking online courses have been done. We've given degrees for over 15 years. You're having a bad experience, but there are great experiences out there too.

[00:37:53] Tyson: Totally.

[00:37:53] Kaleem: University of Southern New Hampshire is crushing it. You have freaking Georgia Techs doing really great with their programs. I hear what you're saying, but just with everything, you have good and you have bad. The point is, is that's an important modality in a space that's training people to go out into the professional space, but we can't have people do those things in the professional space. I just feel like it just hasn't been done.

[00:38:18] Alexa: You're basically saying to, Tyson, to come back to your question or your point that maybe the harder or more important part of the social connection strategy you mentioned is the professional piece, which is, what are the right ways to get--

[00:38:33] Kaleem: No. I'm not saying that at all. Absolutely.

[00:38:34] Alexa: Not necessarily that it's the most important. I think Tyson's trying to double-click on that might be the hardest one to think about designing in a way that people actually feel like it maybe is as good or improved from where you could follow your boss around the office.

[00:38:48] Tyson: It's definitely not like a course. It's not the stuff that you learn sitting down in a university course. Also, higher ed is like the most old school, slows to adopt new technology. They're not a good example.

[00:39:01] Alexa: It's actual joke.

[00:39:02] Tyson: There are some really good virtual trainings. There's an Adobe program that's amazing, that actually really is great.

[00:39:10] Alexa: You're not talking about training. You're talking about you followed your boss into meetings.

[00:39:15] Kaleem: You were talking about-

[00:39:16] Tyson: Absolutely.

[00:39:17] Kaleem: -learning through osmosis. I think if you were to do research, the learning through osmosis is not very high. Everyone assumes that, but it's actually not that high. Guess what? It's not scalable. When you start talking about companies hiring globally and across the country in a region, it might be a little bit scalable, but to scale osmosis on a grand national remote, it's not done very well. You just have to plan what you're learning and development's going to look like. It has to be scheduled, it has to be planned. You have mentors, you have cohorts. You have to design all of these things to provide really meaningful learning. Yes. Is it as easy? I'm not going to say it's more difficult, but it takes planning just like everything else.

[00:40:04] Alexa: Just different.

[00:40:05] Tyson: That's the key takeaway, I think, of this entire conversation, really, is that we can't just think that what we did in the office is going to translate to the remote world. Like, it does have to be redesigned. Like social, all that. It has to be deliberate, has to be redesigned.

[00:40:20] Alexa: Right. I think that's why people panicked. Is everyone like, oh, all that small chitchat [unintelligible 00:40:25] kitchen and all the-- It's like, yes. A lot of those connections were fun. I think about the couple. They never really had a good boss, sadly but the couple of people I work for where I did learn from them, a lot of it was in their professional interaction that I could sit on a Zoom now and probably get the same things. Then there are these little moments where you have a conversation in the kitchen, or we never had a water cooler because who the fuck still has water coolers?

There are these little moments where someone crack a joke or they say something out loud because you're sitting around your colleagues and it would go somewhere. You pick things up that way but that's a trade-off. The trade-off is that I don't spend 45 minutes in traffic on the train every morning anymore, and therefore, I am much more loyal to my employer, which now happens to be myself. At the time, getting to the 847 huddle on a broken train is half the reason I started to hate that place.

[00:41:14] Kaleem: Then proximity biases. When you talk about proximity bias, it's like, well, that's your performance management failing. You guys should do way better than that. You should be promoting people based on performance and if you don't have those metrics, create-- if you don't have KPIs, you don't have measurable metrics that you're not using to give people advancement, then your systems are failing. It's basically a failed process.

[00:41:37] Alexa: I think we just give too much weight, maybe to some of those connections. I agree with Tyson that you need the social connections. You need the strategy we talked about. I think that's awesome but some of that water cooler shit is like it's just not valuable time. Well, if you thought about it as a missed opportunity, a lot of it's just talking shit.

If you thought of it as like, let's call it 20% of your time, it's like between all the shit you were doing in the office, 20% of your time with this little bullshit, is that the best use of that 20% of your time? Probably not. You could probably get more development out of doing other things or just going enjoying those better connections with your peers instead of listening to your boss bitch about the secretary or whatever.

[00:42:20] Kaleem: Right. The water cooler thing is like, what if you don't like sports, and all the people are sitting around the water cooler talking about sports?

[00:42:26] Alexa: Oh, my God. I used to live in Boston, talked about not like in sports.

[00:42:31] Kaleem: The one thing I wanted to mention, too, about the idea of mentorships and isolation and loneliness and [unintelligible 00:42:38].

[00:42:38] Alexa: It's not good for anybody.

[00:42:41] Kaleem: No. It's not good for anyone

[00:42:41] Alexa: Isolation is not good for people. Just the downside of remote work.

[00:42:44] Kaleem: Right. It is not good and that's why we're saying employers need to take on the responsibility of ensuring we're actually doing a workshop of leadership's role in maintaining and ensuring connections. That is leadership's role because look, if we're telling you the biggest downfall to remote work is isolation, loneliness and disconnection, and maybe proximity bias, why don't we work on those things? Those are the things we need to be focusing on.

[00:43:10] Tyson: I would be curious if some of those teams have had that before. Like pre-pandemic as well. Some of the managers that weren't as great at building connection on their team, it's the same, right?

[00:43:21] Kaleem: Yes.

[00:43:21] Alexa: Bad management is the root of all evil?

[00:43:26] Kaleem: I want to bring something up. I'm going to put this podcast on because I know we're running out of time.

[00:43:31] Alexa: Shake it up.

[00:43:33] Kaleem: This is a big topic, and I heard you talk about it in the Pops meeting last night.

[00:43:37] Alexa: Yes.

[00:43:38] Kaleem: What is your stance? What are both of your stances? I'd love to hear from what the group might have talked about. What is the current stance on location-dependent pay versus location-independent pay? I love to hear your thoughts.

[00:43:54] Alexa: I'll go first because I think Tyson's really the true master on this one. I want her to close this out. I think for lots of reasons but the really obvious fucking reasons, which are-- that it is increasingly possible to find out information about pay equity. It is only going to be more so that if you want to be again from the business perspective, if you want to be a competitive employer, then location-based pay is not your friend because you should be paying a three-year senior developer, whatever, insert title here the same, regardless of where they choose to live.

I'm not going to dock you because you live in North Dakota. I'm also not going to give you more because you live in New York. I'll probably base my payoff of New York levels because I want to be competitive but you choose to live there now. If I'm fully remote, you choose to live there. Yes, I get it. It's hard for some people to work but my strategy would be that you should be paying at the top of the location bands, in part with the more expensive cities, and you should not probably be docking people based on where they work. That's my two cents is, you can get transparency, you can get equity, you can get all those things if you just float to the highest level. Look, I get that's expensive, so it makes hiring a much riskier proposition to do that. It's a more expensive strategy, but I just can't imagine a world where you have an employee who does the exact same job in two states and one goes, "I make $20,000 a year less because I live in North Dakota," and I'm the business owner who wants to pay that employee $20,000 less because I want to [unintelligible 00:45:28] the system. If those two people find out, I'm fucked. That is just such a bad look.

[00:45:33] Kaleem: Tyson, what's your thoughts?

[00:45:36] Tyson: I'm going to be that HR asshole. It depends.

[00:45:39] Kaleem: No, no, no. You can't take the 50 [unintelligible 00:45:41].

[00:45:43] Tyson: Let me explain. I think that, first of all, not every company has the goal of paying people at the highest. That's not everybody's strategy.

[00:45:54] Kaleem: No, that's not what we're asking you, Tyson. We're not asking you that. If you had a magic wand, what would you do, Tyson?

[00:46:00] Tyson: All right. Obviously, if I had a magic wand, I'd say, "Pay everybody at the top," but I don't think that that's realistic. I think what needs to be done is we need to really dive deeper into what the type of role is, what the value is of that role to the company, how difficult it is to hire. For example, I don't think that there's necessarily a reason to pay payroll at the highest or IT at the highest because I think that, strategically, an organization can find that work, too.

Here, everyone's going to come at me with their pitchforks at this point, but I do think that there are certain roles that-- This is how most companies are operating now anyways. There are certain roles that are more strategically valuable to the organization, more competitive, and those are the roles that we need to start matching the market in the highest, if that's the role that we need to attract. I would say, it's not a one-size-fits-all for a company, and it's not a one-size-fits-all for each of the roles. Again, come at me with your pitchforks.

[00:46:57] Alexa: I just think location doesn't fucking matter.

[00:46:59] Kaleem: You did say, though, just to clarify because I need a stance, you did say, if you had a magic wand, you'd pay everyone the same.

[00:47:06] Tyson: I think so. I also think--

[00:47:08] Kaleem: Okay, cool. There's two of you paying everyone the same, I actually disagree, Alexa. I disagree.

[00:47:16] Alexa: I'm paying you the same regardless of your location. I am paying you maybe differently based on-

[00:47:21] Kaleem: Of course.

[00:47:22] Alexa: -what I can afford, experience, all the things.

[00:47:24] Kaleem: Let's put aside-- Sometimes you do have to state that stuff because, again, us people, we're not good people, we're going to take this conversation aside. Equal role, equal everything, one lives in North Dakota, one lives in California. You both theoretically feel like they should be paid the same. Theoretically.

[00:47:42] Tyson: Hold on, hold on. Just to be clear, I also want to ask you for a clarifying question. Are you basing that because you're thinking about cost of living or cost of labor?

[00:47:53] Kaleem: No, you can't do this. This is not how a debate works.


[00:47:59] Tyson: Sorry, I ruined the punchline.

[00:48:01] Alexa: Let's get your opinion on the table.

[00:48:02] Kaleem: You've already told me, two equal people, same seniority, same everything, they're twins.

[00:48:06] Alexa: If [unintelligible 00:48:07] the exact same candidates with the exact same experience today-

[00:48:11] Kaleem: Literally twins.

[00:48:11] Alexa: -based on what I can afford as a business, I would offer them the same amount of money regardless of where they live.

[00:48:17] Kaleem: Tyson, you don't have a yes or no? You're going to do the same.

[00:48:20] Tyson: I think, in 10 years, yes, but we're not there yet.

[00:48:23] Alexa: We're not there yet.

[00:48:24] Kaleem: Tyson, ruined my punchline a little bit. It's cool. Basically, I disagree. The reason why I disagree is, my heart says yes. Just like Tyson and just like Alexa, my heart says, "Obviously, [unintelligible 00:48:38] the same." That makes the most sense. The problem is, is that I don't believe that it's fair. Why is it not fair? Because paying is not just about the salary, it's also about disposable income in that area.

Everyone says, "No, it's not." No, no, I'm saying, two identical people, two exact same situations, identical except for where they live, because everybody says, "What if that person has to deal with living at home with parents, and this person blah-blah-blah." No, two identical people, twins, that's why I used the word twins, even DNA, even race, in two different locations, same job, I do feel like that there needs to be some sort of cost-of-living piece of your salary because it's about disposable income. That's why, when you travel with government, there's per diems for each place that you go to. A hamburger in San Francisco costs different than a hamburger in Idaho or Maine.

[00:49:37] Alexa: I get that, but the problem is, now, when you layer in all this flexibility, everyone doesn't have a choice but some people do. What do you do? Discriminate by choice? You can't do that.

[00:49:47] Kaleem: But you're discriminating by your choice because, basically, everyone doesn't have the choice to move from where they are. There are different circumstances as to why you can't move.

[00:49:57] Alexa: Of course.

[00:49:57] Kaleem: Are you going to penalize the person?

[00:50:00] Alexa: In my scenario, you don't penalize anybody. The people in the middle of the country with the cheaper cost of living get the benefit of me paying everyone like they live in New York.

[00:50:08] Tyson: Are you saying the penalty is that that's not disposable income?

[00:50:11] Kaleem: Then that's not fair.

[00:50:12] Alexa: The person in New York gets less disposable income than the person in Utah?

[00:50:15] Kaleem: Absolutely. Yes. What do you mean?

[00:50:16] Alexa: Your disposable income's not my problem. I don't know what you are cost of living is.

[00:50:22] Kaleem: Salaries and the reason why per diems are designed the way they are is because in different areas you have less revenue or cash to do the exact same thing. That's why government entities, whenever you travel, you have to choose the location you're traveling to and that per diem that you get for food is at a different cost.

[00:50:42] Tyson: The problem is though, from what I saw, is that companies are actually building their comp not on cost of living. They're building it off of cost of labor. They're looking at how much it costs in that city. Like in Canada, we have northern places, northern provinces and it's like some things are obviously more expensive. You could buy a house a lot cheaper out in the country than you could anywhere else, but the problem is it's super hard to get people there, so people pay more money to get them to work there.

That's why most companies use cost of labor versus cost of living. The thing is why I said in 10 years is that right now, yes the cost of labor is still going to be higher in New York and San Francisco, but over time as things peter out and people start moving out into the country sort of thing, then that cost of labor is going to equalize.

[00:51:36] Kaleem: I love Buffer and I love what they created. I do agree though, and I think this is a interesting point and I love the way Buffer has done everything that they've done. They actually have taken away location pay. The company that I'm using an example that had the best payroll calculator, they decided, "You know what, we're getting rid of it." I love their original model. Their original model was, the salary is available for everyone's salary is available online. Which I love that like every person, even the CEO what they make. Government does it, so I don't think it's a problem. Corporate can do it too.

[00:52:06] Tyson: Except government's often unionized.

[00:52:10] Kaleem: Government's not unionized. I work for-- I don't have a union and I work for the state. If you work for the state, you just basically have to publish all salaries. You have to publish all salaries.

[00:52:19] Tyson: My Canadian perspective is that in government union-- [crosstalk]

[00:52:23] Kaleem: Oh, you're in Canada? Basically--

[00:52:25] Alexa: The state departments in the US also have very strict salary bans. You're not going to see anything crazy there. [unintelligible 00:52:31]

[00:52:31] Kaleem: Federal state and city governments all have to post everyone's salaries. Just to let you know.

[00:52:38] Tyson: Makes sense.

[00:52:39] Kaleem: Anyway, I think posting salaries is important transparency strip. What I loved about Buffer is they had this salary calculator and it was available for you to view it ahead of time before you're applying. What they did is, is they only gave it a little bit of a percentage of the cost of living. For example, you can see the breakdown; how many years you've been there, there's a little piece, there's a percentages of each one and then the cost of living, I wanted to say was something like 4% or 5% of your salary.

That would change based on where you live. I know it's controversial. Everyone expects me to go the other way, that's why I love to bring it up. In theory, my heart says yes, but then it does eliminate the competitive advantage of hiring some people in different areas, right?

[00:53:26] Alexa: Yes. I think it's all about market dynamics. It's like all this breakdown by cost of living all that, that's great on a person-to-person basis. The reality is it's a labor market. It's a market you go make a market, you put a price in there and you see what you can get and if you don't get enough back, then you raise the fucking price. That's how this actually works.

[00:53:45] Kaleem: That's how it's going to work

[00:53:45] Alexa: If I'm a small business, I know I operate at a disadvantage for a lot of the things I need to hire for to big corporations. I also know exactly what that's going to give me from a candidate pool and that's one of the things I know going into these conversations is like, if you're looking for top market pay and a bunch of stability, don't come work here. That's not why you work with me, that's not the benefits I add there. You can find those other places and I'll help you, but that's not here.

[00:54:10] Kaleem: I actually don't know the solution. I just love bringing it up because it's such a hot topic and I just don't know the solution because you know?

[00:54:17] Alexa: Yes, I just think people want it to be super clean and super easy and it's one of these like to Tyson's favorite point, "It fucking depends."

[00:54:24] Kaleem: I'm like, what's the long-term impact too? Is that going to crush cities? Is that going to crush highly populated areas and are those people going to be able to get jobs?

[00:54:35] Alexa: It's entirely possible that it winds up hurting the labor markets in those cities because, for example, and people forget this, most job creation and most economic growth comes from growth companies hiring new jobs that never existed before. That's how the economy-- that's why I watch the jobs report every quarter. The single most important thing you can do for economic growth is add new jobs to the economy, which happens with groups like me that are small business that turned into big businesses. If I know as a small business that most of my labor pool is not going to come from these very expensive markets because I simply cannot afford them.

[00:55:09] Kaleem: Afford it.

[00:55:10] Alexa: I am paying a livable wage in certain parts of the country. I'm going to get a bias in my labor pool to that part of the country because it's just where I can be competitive.

[00:55:22] Kaleem: It's almost like what you're saying is the market will dictate how everything flows. Back to Tyson's point, don't use the cost of living, you use-- what's the phrase again?

[00:55:32] Alexa: Cost of labor.

[00:55:32] Tyson: Cost of labor.

[00:55:33] Kaleem: Cost of labor. It's an interesting challenge.

[00:55:36] Tyson: It is.

[00:55:36] Kaleem: It's an interesting challenge and problem.

[00:55:37] Alexa: It's fascinating to see where it goes.

[00:55:39] Kaleem: What do you do [unintelligible 00:55:40]

[00:55:40] Alexa: Thank you for bringing it up. It's messy. I think it's messier than people realize. There's a lot of dynamics in play. Well, sadly, we are out of time. We were going to do a people problem, but your equal pay by location is-- [crosstalk]

[00:55:53] Kaleem: Ask me one question and I'll go quick. You can edit it out or something.

[00:55:56] Tyson: All right, let's do it.

[00:55:56] Kaleem: Let's do it.


[00:56:08] Tyson: How do you deal with coworkers who perceive you as a threat to their job or career?

[00:56:12] Alexa: Fuck them. I'm just kidding. [laughs]

[00:56:15] Tyson: Honestly though.

[00:56:16] Alexa: I want Kaleem's response.

[00:56:20] Kaleem: I think you just basically have to have a sit-down meeting with that person and just explain what your goals are as a professional. Like, this is what I'm looking to do, this is how I want to do it. I apologize if it's going to step on your feet. Are there ways for us to collaborate so we can both get what we want? Unless I'm actually going for that person's job, which is boss, I think you have to state your intentions and you have to state ways for you to potentially collaborate I think.

[00:56:44] Alexa: That's a good answer. I like that.


[00:56:46] Kaleem: What else you got?

[00:56:48] Tyson: I'm just going to say from the great words of Beyonce, you can't break my soul honestly.

[00:56:52] Alexa: Such a good song. A song repeat right now.

[00:56:55] Tyson: Totally. I do not let other people's insecurities cramp my style. That's a them problem. It's not a me problem. I'm going to continue to strive. If they have a problem with that, I think that I can build enough strong relationships. I think I have enough strong relationships that would back me sort of thing if that makes sense. People aren't going to think that I'm some, like, I don't know, whatever.

[00:57:21] Kaleem: I like confrontations. I personally like confrontation, so I'm definitely skeptical.

[00:57:25] Alexa: I wasn't picking up on that either. Type A [unintelligible 00:57:27], I would never have guessed that.

[00:57:30] Kaleem: I'm definitely calling that person saying, "Listen, we going to talk."

[00:57:33] Alexa: That's the Virgo in you.

[00:57:34] Kaleem: [unintelligible 00:57:34] sabotaging my shit and we're trying to do the same thing. I don't want your job, I want the job above you. If we're both going for it, may the best person win. How can we both get this in together? I like to try to turn enemies into friends.

[00:57:50] Alexa: Frenemies.

[00:57:51] Kaleem: Me growing up in Maine, being the only black person in a whole area, I turn a lot of enemies into friends.

[00:57:57] Alexa: My answer is probably between the two of you, which is like, you can't let other people affect your shit. Also, if this person perceives you as a threat, it's probably because they're insecure about something about them. The best thing you can do is figure out what that is, then try to position it as a win-win. My success is your success. What are you trying to get out of this? I think the answer's probably somewhere in the middle. Thank you for doing this. How can people get in touch with you if they like what we have to say, Kaleem?

[00:58:21] Kaleem: You can get in touch with me on Twitter @kaleemclarkson, Linkedin is where I'm mostly on, I'm at Kaleem Clarkson. Check out our website blendmeinc.com. Also, check out our remote work community for location-independent professionals at remotelyone.com. Also, check out our podcast called Remotely We Are One.

[00:58:41] Alexa: Remotely We Are One. I love it. Thanks for being here dude. Much appreciated.

[00:58:44] Tyson: Thanks.

[00:58:44] Kaleem: Awesome. Thank you. Peace.


[00:59:11] [END OF AUDIO]

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