Episode 7

Making remote work for you with Zoltan Vass

The Problem Busters talk remote work and how to do it well with expert Zoltan Vass of London Tech Advocates. What do teams and individuals need to focus on in order to do remote working right? And does remote work hold more promise that simply a way to get through consecutive lockdowns? Are geographically-diverse teams the way to driving business growth and diversity of knowledge?

From his London home, Zoltan reflects on his Serbian background and pan-european experience of over 20 years building and running highly-functioning remote teams across multiple geographies. He brings a unique perspective to the concept of remote work and how to do it well.

About the show:

Problem Busters is a show that explores solutions to the biggest and the smallest of problems. Hosts Jonathan Goodwin and Oliver Happy discuss making the world a better place with guests from far and wide.

About our guest:

Zoltan Vass is a remote delivery and innovation consultant with over 20 years experience in sourcing and growing remote teams. His background in project delivery brings a unique perspective to the logistics of effective management in a remote setting.

Zoltan is a co-founder and active member of Tech London Advocates (TLA), a unique collection of tech leaders, experts and investors who form a combined strength of opinion in tech. Zoltan believes strongly in the potential globally-distributed teams offer to both economic growth and diversity.

Show mentions:

  • Many companies think that remote working is just sitting with a computer at a desk, but there is a lot more to remote working than that.
  • 04:32 It's important to realise that remote working is the future and is underlined by issues including cyber security, work life balance and more.
  • Most companies have been forced to work remotely and this is why the experience to many are not as expected. It wasn't planned.
  • Once people know how to operate in a digital space, they can connect with talent outside their home market
  • 05:45 Remote working and digital collaboration is crucial for the UK economy
  • Studies indicate a large number of CEOs see a proportion of their workforce continuing to work remotely after the pandemic.
  • 07:45 Advice for moving towards remote working and recognising that people need greater flexibility - leading to some companies offering a more hybrid environment
  • There are companies that will offer great flexibility post-pandemic and that will attract more talent
  • The hybrid environment we are likely to see will be a bridging state to a future, more fully remote working environment
  • The effect of remote working on people and businesses depends on the business and their working culture.
  • I see that if remote work is done carefully, then productivity can increase significantly.
  • Survey with Loughborough university and collaborating on research around remote working challenges
  • We are seeing remote leadership emerge as one of the key issues with running remote teams
  • 12:00 The Zoltan Vass framework to help understand the remote working. You need dedicated space to work.
  • You need dedicated space to work, a desk, lighting and this is the bare minimum.
  • Need to look at body and soul - as employees as humans. Mental fitness, physical fitness are so important for productivity.
  • If productivity drops for someone, it could be due to many factors at home as well as at work in this new working world.
  • The hard pillars of need the basic technology standard, cybersecurity and policies and procedures
  • Soft pillars of ownership and collaboration.
  • 14:30 The future of work.
  • Diversity is critical to innovation. If we bring in people who have different perspectives, it helps innovation.
  • Tech London Advocates Remote Working Group bring different perspectives to the topic and this is critical to bring innovation and to think outside the box.
  • When it comes to diversity, it's really important that we understand that there are really talented people who are disabled and just can't go to the office. Now these people become available to us and our teams.
  • How can we help unemployed people to be re-employed?
  • 17:00 How can we upskill and retrain people from industries such as hospitality, into tech and digital industries?
  • Take the customer service industry. It's just training people on the tech that is needed to help people transition into the industry.
  • How leadership and management needs to change to facilitate remote working.
  • 19:45 Leading in a digital space is not enough. You need to manage and also deliver.
  • If you are a leader in a remote company you need to make sure that people can approach you and that they can see you are doing something. <----
  • Doing and delivering becomes so important. Staying close to employees and creating a culture where they can reach you.
  • 21:00 The three levels of communication and getting things done
  • Slack as a really powerful tool and I really believe many companies underestimate the need to have this in the mix of communication tools.
  • There is a need to centralise and keep everything in the cloud. You can't store data on different platforms and different places.
  • Having something in email is not centralised and is a lot harder to hand over between people
  • Version control is so important and can waste a lot of time.
  • Building a truly remote team unlocks access to a truly diverse group of talented people across the globe.
  • Engaging with talent across the globe is what unlocks the potential to innovate.
  • 26:00 How we live our lives and our work is certainly changing. How we lived until 2 years ago is now going to be different.
  • 27:00 Advice to help avoid pitfalls of overwork and burning out.
  • I realised that I need to set boundaries and set a routine.
  • Waking up early, spending 15 minutes thinking through priorities, some meditation, push ups and then starting the day.
  • Looking into emails, then having breakfast
  • I really recommend a 10-20 minute nap after lunch to help increase productivity.
  • We all have to set boundaries, and at a given time, close your laptop and stop.
  • How you close your day is really important.
  • This could be going to a walk, walking the dog, doing exercise.
  • Set crystal clear digital boundaries and don't check emails on your phone after work.
  • Companies need to learn not to expect people to respond after hours
  • Covid is adding a lot more pressure, as is the temporary home-work environment but I strongly believe as we move out of this phase we will see a lot more benefits.
  • Companies need to open up and embrace mental health, mental fitness and the very high possibility that issues will come up in the next few years due to stress.
  • 32:00 It's important to train hiring managers around hiring people from different cultures, so that we understand diversity and can better identify talent.
  • It is really important that cultural differences are on the agenda and that people are talking about how to help diverse groups work together
  • Companies that have never had globally remote teams are truly entering new territory here and it's vital they understand how to build and support remote teams.
  • The double whammy of not seeing people face to face any more, combined with not seeing friends and family face to face during lockdown.
  • 36:00 There is a trend towards companies starting hubs in distibuted locations, perhaps in co-working spaces, so that teams can gather at a local base.
  • There is an interest in redesigning workplaces to make them less dry and more interesting.
  • Tech companies like Google have been leading the way with £1,000 per employee to set up their working space from home.
  • Book - Minter Dial - You Lead
  • What book inspired you recently?
  • Book - Minter Dial - You Lead. Minter Dial is a management consultant for blue chip companies and keynote speaker who has had a big impact on me.
  • Who do you most look up to in the world?
  • Russ Shaw - Co-founder of Tech London Advocates (TLA/GTA) had a massive and positive impact on my life. He is both experienced and yet down to earth and is growing an amazing community with Tech London Advocates
  • Movie - Mindhunter series
  • TV series - Vikings
  • DNA testing to find out the mix of your genes
  • Tech - a really reliable laptop
  • Tech - a Jabra corded headset for calls
  • Quest 2 - virtual reality
  • PS4 online gaming and wishing I had a PS5 (if the crypto miners hadn't got in first)
  • Tech - High fi system - Yamaha amplifiers and Odil speakers
  • Earfun uBoom bluetooth speakers
  • People I look up to - Ros shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates
  • Tech London Advocates as a source of best practice and the future of work.
  • https://zoltanvass.com for more detail on my work.
  • My advice for thriving in the remote world? Have crystal clear boundaries, raise your concerns and be open to change.

Logo and concept by Christy O'Connor

About the Podcast

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Problem Busters
Highlighting people with ideas

About your hosts

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Oliver Happy

Oliver works in tech and builds things that help improve people’s lives. He hosts indie podcasts Old Fox Young Fox, Problem Busters and Gone Workabout. Oliver is a Kiwi, travels a lot, eats a lot and loves sharing good ideas. He is determined to leave the world in a better state than he found it.
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Jon Goodwin

Jon Goodwin works in financial tech implementing clever solutions that help simplify business processes every day. His passions include science, engineering and dreaming up solutions to common problems. In his spare time he is a multimedia producer & friendly co-host of two podcasts the Bouyon Boys and Problem Busters.