Tag Archives: virtual offices

A Salute to my Virtual Community of Global Voting Volunteers

community

Photo by Vonecia Carswell on Unsplash

My first experience with an online office was back when I worked as a journalist for Politics Daily, a daily new magazine run by AOL. At the time, not having a bricks and mortar office was a fairly radical idea (Remember those days? Sigh.). But with a global team spread out across the US and Europe, our Editor-in-Chief decided that we could make it work as a virtual newsroom.

She was right. Every day, we logged on to our assorted shared spaces – which in those days consisted of email, twitter, and our content management system (CMS) platform. We talked about the news. We pitched stories. We shared jokes. Over time, we traded personal updates.

After two short years, AOL purchased The Huffington Post and that was the end of our lovely journalistic experiment. What I missed most when we closed that publication down – more than the fast pace of a newsroom or the thrill of the odd byline that went vital – was the camaraderie. During those two years, I formed some really close bonds with my fellow writers and editors. And while I knew we’d all stay in touch through Facebook and the odd work gig – and we have – I also knew it wouldn’t be quite the same.

I feel the same way now. Since mid-March, I’ve worked with a group of global volunteers whose job it has been to register Americans living overseas to vote. In previous years, Vote from Abroad conducted a fairly straightforward Get Out the Vote mission through registration tables at assorted conferences, town halls and universities scattered across the globe. But this year, amidst the backdrop of a global pandemic, getting out the vote was not so simple. The entire operation had to shift online.

Which meant that everything had to be created from scratch – the entire communications plan, as well as it’s implementation. I won’t even pretend to take credit for that. We had some absolutely fantastic volunteers who took the lead – some of whom even chose to work part-time in 2020 to free up time for the cause.

As with my stint at Politics Daily, over time, this “job” wove itself into my daily life. For the last several months, I’ve been dipping and out of our online platforms – Slack, Canva, and a gazillion different google docs and sites – several times a day. Every morning, I’ve sat down and manned the Twitter account, posting our content and fielding questions from voters abroad.

Every week, without fail, the global communications team has met up virtually on a Tuesday evening to hash out our strategy for the coming week/month. When we started, the whole thing was literally a work in progress. But over time, it took shape and by October, we’d tripled the amount of visits to our website over 2016.

Those meetings officially end this evening. And even if there is a prolonged recount and this whole thing drags on beyond election night, our work is basically done. Many of us will carry on and collaborate on other aspects of voting education and mobilization overseas. Lord knows there will always be more elections.

But the energy and purpose that fills an election – especially THIS election during THIS year – will end. And while I’ll certainly welcome the time that frees up in my calendar to devote to other things, I will also be sad. I’ll miss the jokes, I’ll miss the community, and I’ll miss the feel of working towards something larger than myself.

With the onset of the pandemic, there’s been a debate over whether or not virtual communities can be as powerful as real ones. I don’t know the answer to that. But I do know that this virtual community rocked.

So here’s to a job well done, guys. It’s been a great ride.

Tips For Adulthood: Five New Trends In Work

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

Lately, I’ve been struck by how much the nature of work seems to be changing right now.

Not just because of the seemingly endless recession that’s sapping all of our jobs and igniting political and social change across the globe.

But also because the very definition of work – what it means and how it’s carried out – seems to be in so much flux.

To wit, here are five new trends in the way we conduct work:

1. Offices are a thing of the past. These days, it’s all about the virtual company. Abolishing most – if not all – of a company’s physical space saves a ton of money. It’s also ecologically friendly, productivity-enhancing (no commute!) and tends to make workers happier. As this fascinating case study of Inc. magazine details, there are some hurdles companies need to overcome as they transition to the virtual office (i.e. how to maintain a vibrant organizational culture.) And you definitely don’t want to do it if you have children or other dependents at home while you’re trying to work. But at least for certain jobs, telecommuting  is emerging as an efficient business model, according to the latest research.

2. If you need to set up an office, shared work space is where it’s at. With independent workers now comprising a full 30% of the workforce in the United States, shared office spaces – the term of art is coffice – are proliferating around the globe. (Why do I love this term so much? I think it’s because it reminds me of coffee.) Apparently, coffices have become particularly attractive for female entrepreneurs, as a space in which to network and share ideas.

3. Think in terms of income streams, not jobs. This comes from career coach Ford R. Myers, author of Get The Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring. Some 6.9 million Americans, or 4.8 percent of the U.S. workforce, hold multiple jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But Myers says that this doesn’t necessarily mean that all of these people are working a double shift just to pay the bills. Rather, they are more likely doing part-time contract work, running a side business, or teaching a course – in short, building flexibility into their work life – by thinking in terms of multiple income streams, rather than multiple jobs. Or, as blogger and business communications guru Chris Brogan puts it, work will be more modular in natureSounds good to me.

4. Working fewer hours can make you more productive. Yeah, yeah. I know. We’ve heard it all before. The Four Hour Work Week and all that good stuff. But it turns out that it might be true. According to a recent study in published in Psychological Review, the key to great success is working harder in short bursts of time. Researchers found that across professions, productivity is enhanced when you work in short, highly-focused bursts with no distractions, rather than across long periods of time. As someone who’s always put in long days, this is music to my ears.

5. Internships aren’t just for college kids anymore. Rather, unpaid adult internships are the new normal. This is either exciting vis à vis the whole concept of “second acts.” Or just a horrifying sign of the dire economic straits in which we find ourselves. But it’s a reality. In a country with an unemployment rate hovering steadily just below 10%, more and more college graduates and even middle-aged professionals are willing to work for free in hopes that it will help them land a paying gig. Yikes.

Image: Day 308/365  – Rough Day At The Office by Kevin H. via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.