Tammy Bjelland 0:00
The reason that hybrid is harder because you’re having to consider the experiences of multiple situations and not just one homogenous type of situation, which we’ve all been conditioned to expect in a work environment or even an educational environment.

Anne Bibb 0:18
Welcome to Unexpected Journey, the show where each week top professionals share work wisdom, and life lessons about their careers, and what they have learned about human experience in the workplace. I’m your host Anne Bibb. Today, we’re joined by Tammy bjelland, the founder and CEO of workplace lists, a training company that improves remote and hybrid team effectiveness by developing the capabilities that workers, managers and executives need to succeed in distributed environments. Before we begin, don’t forget to subscribe and leave your comments below. Now, let’s get started. So, Tammy, I am just so excited that you’re here. I’m thrilled that you joined us. And I’ve been looking forward to this conversation for a while.

Tammy Bjelland 1:09
Yeah, me too. I’m very excited to be here, and also to just have this conversation.

Anne Bibb 1:15
So one of the things that I’d like to kind of start out with is, what do you think is, when you first started Workplaceless, it was really focused on remote and helping remote teams succeed. But over the past three years, there’s really been a shift towards needing to help hybrid teams be successful, especially as organizations are coming out of the pandemic and trying to make that shift and deciding where they want to go. Organizations are trying to define what hybrid is, and I think everybody’s defining it differently. But where are you seeing the difference between what remote learning is and what hybrid learning is?

Tammy Bjelland 2:06
Yeah, so the difference between remote learning and hybrid learning is very similar to the difference between remote work and hybrid work. And that when you are coming from a place where everyone is remote, or everyone is co located, you have everyone on a level playing field, when you have everyone coming in with different experiences or different locations, you are automatically creating a difference or a disparity between the experience of those individuals. And so hybrid is harder. That’s the I would call it a cliche at this point. But as most cliches, it’s rooted in some truth. And that is that hybrid is harder, it is difficult to manage for all of the experiences that come in a hybrid

Anne Bibb 3:02
system, why is high? Why is hybrid harder though,

Tammy Bjelland 3:05
because you do have to manage all of those different experiences. So if you know that everyone is going to be remote, you’re everyone has at least one thing that makes them all equal. And that is that they are all working remotely. When you have a hybrid situation, some people are remote, some people come into the office, sometimes some people are in the office all the time. And so you’re managing for the expectations, and you’re managing for the experiences of all of those people. And that’s just a lot of variables. It’s just so many more variables when you introduce flexibility. And that introduces challenges, because it’s much easier to design a learning experience when or a work experience when you know exactly where and in what situation that audiences or that participant is going to be at?

Anne Bibb 4:01
Well, even when you do know it’s designing it is is different, because let’s think about it. There have been several situations where I’ve been the remote, one of either the only one or one of a couple. And there’s been a whole group of people in a conference room. And that situation of just working or learning is frustrating for the people on the remote end. So a hybrid situation. And I think this again, I’m gonna go back to what is hybrid, right? Because is that hybrid, a hybrid group? Or is hybrid going in and out of the office? People are defining it differently.

Tammy Bjelland 4:45
Yeah, in that situation of a meeting I would call that a you know, a hybrid meeting. And that hybrid work is when the the day to day workflows are composed of people who are either In the office or working at home, or a mix of all of those. And then the biggest challenge I think is and why it’s so hard is because of our, our biases. So one of the most pervasive, and the hardest to overcome is, is the idea of distance bias or proximity bias, which is the tendency to prioritize or to give, or to give greater importance to ideas, or people or things that are closer to us in space or time. And as an individual person, it’s really hard to, to overcome that bias. So all of those people that are sitting in a conference room, they’re thinking about their own experience, and they’re contributing their own thoughts and ideas to that meeting, they have to consciously remind themselves to consider the experience of the people who are not in that room physically. And that takes work that takes mental work, and even takes time as well. And so, the reason that hybrid is harder, because you’re having to consider the experiences of multiple situations, and not just one homogenous type of situation, which we’ve all been conditioned to expect in a work environment or even an educational environment.

Anne Bibb 6:26
So when you are thinking when, when we’re talking about hybrid learning, are you be Are we having conversations about educating and teaching in a hybrid fashion, or educating about management in a hybrid environment?

Tammy Bjelland 6:44
So hybrid learning, I would say is about the learning and development in a hybrid environment. Hybrid training is about training for hybrid work skills.

Anne Bibb 6:58
Words matter. Words matter, because hybrid training and hybrid learning are two different things.

Tammy Bjelland 7:03
Yeah. So that’s how I would, that’s how I would differentiate those those things. And of course, training is part of learning and development. But when you take just those terms, individually, hybrid learning hybrid training, I would probably actually add, you know, another another word in there, I would say hybrid work training, or hybrid skills training, to clarify that it’s about training individual contributors, and managers and executives to succeed in a hybrid work environment, whereas hybrid learning, to me would be like a shortened version of learning and development in a hybrid environment, which will include skills to succeed for, you know, in a flexible work environment, but it also involves a lot of other considerations, just about like the modalities of how you disseminate information, and, you know, what percentage of, of learning experiences do you make in person versus virtual? Do you make those experiences blended? So it’s, and not all learning and development content will be about hybrid work skills, you’ll also have, you know, additional skills that need to be developed that are specific to the business or specific to different functions. So, so those, you know, encompass very different conversations. And the people that are part of those conversations are, you know, there’s a Venn diagram, some people are very interested in both of those things. But for the most part, when you’re talking about hybrid learning and development, you’re talking to like l&d practitioners. Whereas when you’re talking about hybrid work skills, you’ll include those l&d practitioners, but also the individual contributors and managers and executives who are working in a hybrid environment also are interested in that.

Anne Bibb 9:02
What are some potential signs that somebody might have some unconscious bias,

Tammy Bjelland 9:07
some signs of unconscious bias related to distance bias would be always giving opportunities to individuals that you’ve just talked to or so that would be a recency bias. Always giving opportunities to individuals who are in the office, making decisions in an impromptu way, face to face with individuals or even if this can, you know, distance bias can also happen virtually. So, you know, you’re in a meeting with 10 people and those are the only people that that get to be in in the decision making process, when there might have been two people missing from that meeting that day, and not considering taking into account They’re their input. So distance bias can come in many shapes, and colors. And so just being aware of, you know, in this interaction in this decision that I’m making, am I considering the experience? And am I considering the input of everyone that needs to be involved, whether I can see them, you know, in the same room, or whether I can see them on Slack, making sure that you’re thinking about those individuals and making sure that people are included, no matter where they’re,they’re located.

Anne Bibb 10:42
And you mentioned, the demand for flexibility. And that’s something that we’re seeing in a lot of situations right now, especially as employees, employees are really driving the job market at this particular moment. Yes, we’re seeing 10s of 1000s of jobs that have been laid off, but we’re also seeing a high job market and a lot of jobs available. So it’s still an employee’s market. To how do you manage that employee experience when employees are demanding flexibility and specific boundaries? And and you balance that with business needs, especially when potentially that employee experience and the employees demands? Don’t necessarily go with the businesses? When those two things conflict?

Tammy Bjelland 11:40
Yeah, my first suggestion there would be to see whether it actually does conflict with with an actual need of the business, or a habit of the business or, ah, or a buyer.

Speaker 2 11:55
We’ve always done it that way. Exactly. We’ve always done it that way. Or it’s too, those words are the bane of my existence.

Tammy Bjelland 12:02
Yeah. Or it’s just too hard, or it takes too much time, or we would never get buy in from XYZ. And, and that isn’t a business need. Right. That is that is an indicator of a business say that

Unknown Speaker 12:17

Tammy Bjelland 12:19
blinders. That is not a business need. That is, you know, that is a roadblock, that that prevents real change from happening. And the risk for businesses that continue to respect the roadblocks is that they will lose out on top talent and they won’t be able to adapt when when times become really, really hard. And they need to make those changes. Companies that enable flexible work and are doing the work to, to invest in the skills and the infrastructure that are needed. They’re going to be able to pivot at a moment’s notice, when companies who are digging their heels in at changing the way that they work, they’re going to be stuck when something terrible inevitably happens. I mean, we saw it with COVID. We saw that that drastic shift to remote work, change happens and bad things happen. And we might be ready to

Anne Bibb 13:30
can we revisit that though, because it’s not even just about bad things happen. happening, to need change, in order to continue to have good things. You need to change. Thinking about companies, we have their startups happening every day, every day. And startups get to a certain point, and then they go over this hump to get to mid market. What got you to that face? doesn’t get you to enterprise. Yeah, you have to change how you do business, how you manage your clients, how you onboard how you find talent, who’s your talent? How your Do you need a customer success team? Does your customer success team onboard your clients? Or do you have a different team that does that? Or are they your operations team? I mean, how you do business from day one is not how you do business when you’re a $50 million company. So you have to change if you don’t change you are not going to grow.

Tammy Bjelland 14:33
Right? Yeah. What got you What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.

Anne Bibb 14:37
Exactly. Yeah. So that I mean, I think that as in bringing in new people and different diversity of thought will help you get there.

Tammy Bjelland 14:47
Yeah. Yeah. And it is, you know, your original question about, you know, this employee demand for flexibility versus like the business needs. I do want to say that, you know, they’re in caution against like change for change sake. Like that’s not necessarily what, what I’m talking about. And I know it’s not what you’re talking about. But if there is a real benefit to change, and we do know that shifting to flexible work, and you know, enabling autonomous work is a way to increase employee satisfaction, retention, and also just agility. If you know that there’s a benefit to be had. You owe it to all the stakeholders involved to explore how that can actually happen in your organization.

Anne Bibb 15:42
Autonomous work, I’m guessing that includes something like asynchronous work, it does,

Tammy Bjelland 15:47
yeah, autonomous work is enabled by an async first approach. But autonomous work is is that ability to choose when you work, how you work, and it gives you ownership of, of the work that you do.

Anne Bibb 16:06
What is asynchronous. Asynchronous communication

Tammy Bjelland 16:09
is communication, that does not happen in real time. So there’s an expected delay that happens between messages. We use a sink all the time, text messages, email, old fashioned letters, I mean, we are, we have been communicating asynchronously as long as we’ve been writing. This is versus synchronous communication, which is real time communication, like phone calls, video calls, meetings. And an async first approach is an approach that defaults to async, before moving to synchronous conversation, so this sounds, you know, kind of vague. But you know, there are lots of elements that actually go into an async first approach, a commitment to documentation and writing lots and lots of writing. And with that comes with a commitment to reading documentation. That’s usually the part that reading and writing, yes, is arithmatic as well.

Tammy Bjelland 17:20
There’s your job, there might be arithmetic. But, you know, so So writing, well, writing concisely keeping documents up to date, a lot of async is about having access to information without human beings as gatekeepers, so you know, being able to find the information on your own without interrupting somebody else’s workflow. And that means that documentation needs to be clear, it needs to be concise, and it needs to be accessible, you need to be able to find it in the moment that you need it. And it also involves a lot of restructuring of work processes. Because as I mentioned before, we’ve been conditioned to think of work happening in an office and work is this free flow of conversation and ideas, and we have all these serendipitous aha moments. And that’s really how work gets done. When in reality, a lot of a lot of work happens because of it happens because we have built that structure to allow for those ideas and to allow for the work to be accomplished. And that can be done remotely, it can be done in a hybrid environment. But it takes a reframing and it takes a restructuring of processes. And that does take time, and it takes trial and error. And that can be challenging for everyone involved. Especially leaders, leaders, struggle, there needs to be a clear goal in mind as well. And there needs to be trust, there needs to be psychological safety, there needs to be, you know, that space and grace for people to try new things and fail and give feedback and know that that feedback is going to be taken as its intended. And also, you know, knowing that that feedback is actually going to be implemented.

Anne Bibb 19:25
So if somebody’s listening right now, and they’re like, my company needs to go async first, but they want to take it to their executives. So but they haven’t gotten on board yet. What is your recommendation for how that individual can pitch async first, to their leadership team? What do they say? How do they do it?

Tammy Bjelland 19:48
Yeah, so number one, I would recommend learning about the benefits of async. So you know, people who are resistant to change are going to be be more receptive to the outcomes or the benefits of changing so you know, I want to go async first is just not going to get you very far, unless that unless, you know, that you’re talking to, you know, has already bought in. So, um, so some of the challenges that are fairly ubiquitous, and you know, especially knowledge based businesses are burnout, too many zoom meetings, spending too much time trying to find information, information silos, like these are challenges that a lot of organizations have. And as companies grow, and as we continue contributing to this body of knowledge, it becomes, you know, a business imperative to enable individuals to access all of that information in a timely way. So presenting a sink first, as a way to alleviate or mitigate some of those challenges is a good way to start the conversation about converting to an async first approach, I would also suggest that, you know, you very rarely are you going to see organizations, you know, make a full on change of everything and every way that they work, you can start with really tiny actions. And you can start with a couple of bold experiments to coincide with that. But often, you’re going to have to have a mixture of some, some of those things, you know, bold experiment, and then tiny actions. So there are things that can be done, even if you are not a decision maker in your organization to adopt more async first approaches. And we cover a lot of those in our async at work course, which is really geared toward individual contributors and leaders. So we give examples of what you can do, whether you’re a decision maker or not,

Anne Bibb 22:00
I don’t know if you have this data on you. But do you have like an average amount of time saved? by an organization that has moved? async?

Tammy Bjelland 22:10
Yeah, it really, really depends. Like, it’s really hard to gather that data, and especially from a third party like like us, because you have to, the organization has to gather, like time spent on on activities before, like an intervention like this, or a change like this. And a lot of organizations just don’t have that information or that data. So we do have, you know, some data that shows that, you know, people who implement the the concepts in asynch at work course that they’ve saved, on average, like two to three hours per week.

Anne Bibb 22:51
Which is that per person? Yeah. So if you’re 100 person organization, then that would mean on average, you’re saving two to 300 hours per week. Yeah. And if your average staff per hour rate, let’s just say $10. Just to make it easy. Yeah. I mean, that adds up,

Tammy Bjelland 23:22
it definitely adds up. It’s not insignificant. What, what is hard to measure, is just, you know, what? They were spending their time on before, right? Because if the organization isn’t collecting that information, it’s it’s sort of hard to gather that data. It sounds

Anne Bibb 23:45
to me like, if somebody’s trying to pitch asynch, to their leadership, that bottom line is something that they should at least start looking at that data. Yeah. And try and figure out where dollars could be saved.

Tammy Bjelland 24:05
Yeah. And sometimes the dollars are not necessarily related to like straight time, you know, the value of time sometimes it’s with with attrition, right? So if you have really high rates of attrition, you know, consider making changes whether it’s an async first approach, if you discover, you know, through an employee survey, that burnout from meetings and burnout from, you know, too much in communication, you know, if that’s a result of the survey, consider implementing more async practices, and see if that has an impact on on attrition or on employee satisfaction. I mean, there are a lot of metrics that can be that can be looked up to see what kind of impact asynch has, but employee satisfaction, time saved and time spent on deep work. That is Definitely a metric that, you know, when we work with clients, we suggest people actually, you know, think about before implementing any change, and then also like revisiting that afterwards, because that is such a big impact on overall, like productivity as well as satisfaction. And just like calmness in the workplace, just having like a stretch of time where you can focus on on tasks that take up a lot of cognitive effort can make a big difference in the satisfaction of an employee.

Anne Bibb 25:43
Absolutely. So what if somebody’s listening to you? And they’re like, Wow, she’s so successful, she’s accomplished a lot. I really want to follow in her footsteps. Ah, Tammy, when I grow up, what is your advice to that individual? That is maybe as a supervisor, right now wants to work their way up or a director? What would you tell them?

Tammy Bjelland 26:11
Ah, so my advice, let’s see, I, I would say like lots of trial and error. So I’m one of those people that I get really excited about new possibilities really easily. Now, I don’t know if that’s really advice. I don’t know if I can, like, tell somebody else to be excited about new possibilities. But

Anne Bibb 26:31
be excited. Tammy be excited. Oh, so

Tammy Bjelland 26:34
I think one of the things that that I would suggest is, like when you’re presented with a challenge, or like a failure even, it’s like, what, what can possibly come of this and like getting excited about that aspect of you this second

Anne Bibb 26:50
person this week, I’ve talked to you that said, I get excited when I fail, because that means that I’m going to learn something from it and be successful.

Tammy Bjelland 26:58
Yeah. And so it’s not like, like, definitely the learning from it. But also, I’m like, Oh, well, this didn’t work out this way. But like, think about what could happen the next time, especially if you are going into business on your own, I think that going into that unknown or unexpected journey will you know, having that kind of outlook will be very helpful. Because especially you know, when you’re starting out, and you’re trying, or you’re not when you’re starting out, I mean, I’ve been in business for 11 years, and it’s changed so much from when I started that I just need to be okay, with every day, you know, waking up in the end, the possibility that like the direction of my business could completely change. And, you know, part of that is scary and frustrating. And then a lot of it is just really exciting. And then the other thing too, I have one other piece of advice. And this can be really hard, especially for people who are introverts, is business in general, like, you can only succeed based on your relationships, like it really does come down to the connections that you make, whether it’s with your customers, you know, getting to really know the people that are buying the thing that you’re selling, or your team members, you know, your mentors, your peers, and even your competitors. Like, it really comes down to having authentic connections and understanding people. And I say that that’s hard as an introvert just because sometimes it can be really tempting to just stay within yourself and just try to create things and hope that people will come. And really, all of the success that I’ve had has come from, you know, the relationships that I’ve built.

Anne Bibb 29:00
I remember a conversation that we had probably five or six years ago. And you said, I don’t want to be the face of my company.

Tammy Bjelland 29:13
No, wish it I went through to the end it is true because I am an introvert. So I don’t necessarily like I would love to be unknown, really. But I know, I also know that I’m not going to achieve the results that I want for the business. If I do that,

Anne Bibb 29:34
and I’m sitting here doing the same thing. I’m like, I’m out there my face is that like, I’m on the podcast, everything has my name on it, and I’m doing the same exact thing you are. We’re two peas in a pod. And at the same time, there’s another part of me that’s like, can we just go cuddle up and like Netflix for the next 48 hours?

Tammy Bjelland 29:53
Yeah, and I just want to put some really great content out there. But yes,

Anne Bibb 29:59
like can I do that? Behind the scenes stuff and somebody else. Yeah, but at the same time, we’re also both very good at what we do.

Tammy Bjelland 30:08
We are we’re gonna what we do and and, you know, other people benefit, I think from seeing the humans behind the work.

Anne Bibb 30:18
And we’ve made some great friendships along the way.

Tammy Bjelland 30:22
We have Yeah. And so so yeah. So that’s my, my final piece of advice is that, you know, really focus on on relationships. And I’m not saying that if you focus on relationships, everything will be easy. It won’t, but you’ll at least have like a network of support, and also ideas and feedback. And that is really valuable,

Anne Bibb 30:45
very valuable. There have been so many times that even bouncing ideas off. I mean, I was able to test one of your betas one time, that was awesome. Yeah, exactly. So that’s been great. So Tammy, if somebody wanted to reach out to you two questions, one, why would somebody reach out to you and two, how, how would somebody reach out to you?

Tammy Bjelland 31:09
I would say that I hope that people will reach out to me if they just want to learn more, or even just connect and say, Hi, I’m open to all sorts of connections. But if you are really interested in learning more about async first, or if you’re interested about learning about hybrid skills for managers, or individual contributors, you can reach me on LinkedIn. I’m @Tammybjelland. So I’m sure

Anne Bibb 31:33
we spell that for everybody. And there will be links below.

Tammy Bjelland 31:40
Also, and it does roll off your tongue now it might dutifully, it’s perfect. So yeah, so I’m on LinkedIn, and I’m also on Twitter. My handle is at @Tammybjelland. So you can find me there.

Anne Bibb 31:56
Wonderful. Thank you, Tammy. It was great. I know that this is probably every we talk a lot. But this is the first time we’ve recorded our conversation. No, no, I love it. We haven’t for posterity. Thank you, everybody for joining us. And I look forward to seeing you all again next week.

Speaker 2 32:16
As we wrap the episode up, we would like to take this time to thank you for joining us this week on unexpected journey. Our guests information will be linked in the episode description along with a link to our company website, RemoteEvolution.com, and our hosts’ website Annebibb.com. Please don’t forget to like subscribe and share on your favorite podcast app and on our YouTube channel so that you never miss an episode and we can continue to bring them to you. Let us know your thoughts on what we discussed in the comment section. And once again, thank you for joining us. We hope to see you again next week for another episode of Unexpected Journey.


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