Live more, work better

Conversations on making remote work more productive with Alexis, Bruno and Chris

Revolutions start with people. And as we’ve witnessed work undergoing the largest shift since the Industrial Revolution, it’s been people that have been central to this change.

We’ve uncoupled work from its moorings of time and place, and redefined what work means to us as individuals. And as we’ve done so, we’ve collectively realized that these norms we based our entire lives on were no longer true.

This shift is helping us live better lives. We’re more productive, happier, and we’re reconstructing work around the lives we want to build. We can enjoy those important moments with family and friends a little more, see the world and take our jobs with us, and reconnect with the deeply individual ways of working that make us thrive and be more creative.

But as with all new beginnings, we’ve still got a lot to learn — and unlearn. We’ve experienced new challenges of remote work, like back-to-back meetings, loneliness and isolation and connection issues — both technical and human.

We wanted to help solve some of these new challenges, which is why we launched Claap — so that we could focus on solving the issue of back-to-back meetings. But there are still challenges we don’t know how to solve. As we look forward to a remote-first future, we know that it’s going to take all of us trading our knowledge, sharing our stories, and learning from one another to make remote work work for everyone.

That’s why we launched Remote Works. Remote Works is a series of conversations with people all over the world. From productivity and working better to mental health, creativity and everything in between, we’re uncovering remote work secrets and sharing stories of real people who are making remote work work for them. 

In our first post, we talk to Alexis, Bruno and Chris on how building their own routines and rituals around remote working is making them more productive, creative, and ultimately, live better lives.

“Life becomes more about living than working.”

Bruno de Guerra Cunha, Partnerships Lead at Oyster, Portugal

Bruno usually goes surfing on Fridays. In those lulling hours of the afternoon when the waves are at their best and the meetings have slowed down, he heads to the beach.

“It’s how I decompress,” he says. “I grew up less than three minutes from the sea. You just go there, and you take a beat. There’s no wifi, or messages or emails in the ocean. It’s like my meditation — it makes me more creative at work, because I’ll just be there, and a thought just pops into my head.”

For a few hours it’s just Bruno, the board, and the swell of the waves that break the shore of the small beachside town near Porto, where he lives. Sometimes his dog comes too. And after he’s hit five good waves or so, he packs up, heads home, and heads back to his computer to finish off the working day.

This isn’t Bruno’s life all the time. He typically has to attend ten calls each day — and he’s learned a few techniques to make space for deep work and work in a way that works best for him. Sometimes, that includes surfing.

“I tend to batch up my calls so I can get more work done around them,” he says. “But after that, there’s no way I can be creative. That’s when I tend to head out for a walk. I’ll take a pen and paper to write some notes, and then I’ll come back later to do some planning or send some emails.

"We also default to async communication in a lot of ways, and we tend to do fully async weeks every few weeks, where we have no internal meetings at all. We can work through all the updates at our own pace."

The last time Bruno worked in an office, it was 2018 — and, he says, he spent €300 on some noise-canceling headphones just to be able to focus. 

“It seems so ridiculous, right?” he notes. “I believe that the nine to five doesn't really exist any more. A lot of people are creative, and they don’t work for the entire eight hours like that — they have bursts of good work throughout the day. So why be stranded at the office for eight hours? Now, I have three hours that I’m super productive and focused. I can take a break when I need to. I can have the afternoon to myself.

“That’s such a freeing thought. Because I work remotely, I can travel more, I can read more. Those things make me more creative and productive — because then life becomes more about living than working.”

“Meetings are the least productive way of getting things done.”

Alexis Haselberger, Time Management and Productivity Coach at Alexis Haselberger Coaching and Consulting, San Francisco

Alexis believes that if there’s one thing we’re getting wrong about remote working, it’s the meetings.

“Meetings are the least productive way of getting things done a lot of the time. So many of them can be done in an email, or asynchronously.

“But there’s this one specific piece we haven’t been able to figure out yet — we have no idea how to hold spontaneous conversation. And so what happened was that every single conversation that anyone needed to have with anyone else became a 30-minute meeting, even though when you tap a coworker on the shoulder, you only need them for two minutes.”

Alexis has been working remotely for a few years, teaching over 50,000 people globally to — in her words — “do more of what they want, less of what they don’t, and use their time more intentionally.

“I really think it's about taking stock of our own selves and what we need and then saying, ‘okay, here’s the specific targeted thing I can do to fix that’ instead of just saying, ‘what's the best practice?’

Alexis applies that to her own life too. She defines the structures and boundaries she needs to be productive on her own terms. At the start of the day she never checks her email before brushing her teeth — and at the end, she closes her office door, and she might go for a run as a “transition ritual”. She snoozes notifications so she can focus on deep work, and has created work and personal profiles on her computer so she doesn’t find herself working after hours.

“I think I value the freedom and autonomy,” she says. “I used to do a lot of in-person workshops — I don’t know if I really want to do that again because this is working. These are the reasons that I work for myself — and that lends itself really well to remote working. There’s a reason I was working remotely before. There’s a reason I’ll do it after.”

“Offices are great places to look busy, but bad places to be productive.”

Chris Herd, CEO and co-founder of Firstbase, Scotland

Chris finds it hard to wrap his brain around the way he was working before going remote. Specifically, what a “pollution-emitting steel box hurtling towards some packed expensive city” — his words — was doing for his productivity, not to mention his quality of life.

So, he decided not to do that anymore. Instead, he founded Firstbase, a remote-first that helps other companies do remote better, from the grey-hued city of Aberdeen, Scotland, where he grew up. 

“It’s about having that time back to invest in myself, more than anything else,” he says. “The reason we became remote was because we saw it as a massive quality of life increase. Everyone who's ever worked in an open plan office knows that it's become this place where people sit with noise-canceling headphones on each day just so they can try and focus on doing work.

“And they come in early, because it's the only time they can get anything done, or they stay late because they haven't got any work done during the day. And they're great places to feel busy, but really bad places to be productive.

“In a knowledge-based economy, companies are only as good as the people they employ. And companies can only be as good as the work they produce. Now, it doesn’t really make sense for me to not put my employees in the position to do great work. For me, that’s getting up super early, taking an hour off to work out or reinvigorate myself, and then get back to it in the afternoon.

“The world where we all carry a laptop to a building to sit in a seat for eight hours — it doesn’t make sense anymore. It baffles me that this continuation of industrial revolution norms has persisted for so long. For me, the better question is — how can work empower the life you want to live?”