By Toby Feldman
Setting the scene:
Before we get into this, a quick intro is in order:
I’m Toby Feldman, 24 years old. I moved in March from London to Porto to join Infraspeak as a Brand Copywriter — so far, so good!
Right, back to the story.
The idea for this article came after a conversation with the wonderful Sofia Matos in the sparkly Infraspeak HQ, Porto (cough, cough). One day, sat at my desk, Sofia asked me what I was listening to. ‘A podcast’, I replied.
Many people baulk at the idea of listening to a pod whilst working, but I love them — I’m entertained just enough to avoid being sucked into the Twitter black hole but can still crack on and focus.
Sofia, surprisingly agreed but mentioned how our CEO, Felipe, likes to work in total silence. After some quick hoo-ha about how it’s interesting to compare how people like to work, this article was born. I asked colleagues to document their work preferences in a simple Google Form.
A microscope on work habits
That chat and this piece are anecdotal, but they touch on something deeper. As the much-documented shift to remote work continues to gather speed, so too is companies’ emphasis on understanding what makes employees tick.
Each employee is different. It’s an almost reductive thing to say, but it’s fundamental and true. Just as we associate flexibility and choice with where people work (remote/office/hybrid), so too should it apply to how people work.
A company culture that embraces the inherent differences in employees’ work habits is one where people will feel comfortable.
My ‘research’ revealed 3 major categories of Infraspeakers’ working habits:
Whilst none are groundbreaking in isolation (i.e., we all know some people listen to music when they work), what’s somewhat more intriguing is the variety of interpretations of each habit. It says a lot about the diversity of mind and soul that I work with.
Enough waffle, now: Let’s get started.
Virtually every respondent to my questionnaire mentioned music.
Starting with standard responses like “some good, old fashioned rock’n’roll” or “classical”, slowly moving up the ‘weird-o-meter’ with some “Hans Zimmer” hard-hitters from our Performance Copywriter Beatriz, before ending with the outright absurd!
One Infraspeaker is working alongside the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trial — it’s kinda genius. I turn to social media when monotony drags me down. If I had something as curious as that in my ear whilst editing simple copy, all momentary lapses in concentration would be filled with well… gossip!
We also had an awesome response from our Brazilian Infraspeaker Rafael Elias. He likes to divide his day into admin periods, which he accompanies with music, and more ‘interactive periods’ in the afternoon when his attention starts to wain and he likes to schedule his meetings for synchronous communication.
Finally, a shoutout to the Infraspeaker who likes to listen to white noise such as vacuum cleaners or hair-dryers for knuckling down — whatever floats your boat!
The calendar is king! My teammates shared innovative calendar uses which fit their working preferences.
Many people, like Pedro Sousa, schedule daily slots in their calendars to set and define their priorities. One colleague makes a point of putting all events into their calendar — walking the dog, coffee with auntie, taking a nap. That’s trust, transparency and time management taken to new heights!
Others, like José Forte, have carefully crafted specific working hours that best suit them. Zé blocks mid-morning and mid-afternoon for focus time, whilst many use their calendar to schedule meetings with themselves to ensure they stay on top of their to-do list! I learnt this recently and it’s a game-changer.
Finally, I loved this one from Luís Machado. He schedules internal meetings for his lunch slot so he can save time by eating + working before completely switching off for 30 minutes or so by playing some video games. It’s a really economical way of managing a lunch hour, and hats off for the creativity!
I’m honoured to work with some outrageously talented individuals, so it was quite humbling to see that they too are mere mortals who meticulously control their attention span to avoid distraction.
This was certainly the ‘category’ with the most curious answers.
We’ll start by going back to Mr Forte. He is regularly found working past midnight because it gives him extra flexibility in the day, but also because if everyone is asleep, they physically can’t distract him!
One colleague schedules ‘distraction time’ into their calendar specifically for mucking around on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok… if you’re going to succumb to their power, at least do it with some structure. I sympathise deeply with this.
Finally, and perhaps my favourite contribution from this entire exercise… over to Pedro Machado. He admitted to speaking instructions to himself out loud because his “attention span is that of a 2-week-old puppy”, adding “It gets ugly at times”, as he tells himself off for mistakes… Oh, to be a fly on that wall!
Apart from us being a silly bunch, did I learn anything concrete from this? I think so.
How well do you really know your colleagues? Would your company try something similar?
It’s pretty eye-opening to see such diversity in action from a team of over 160 people. The study resembles a microcosm of this company and its eclectic team. It allowed me to look outward for inspiration, and inward to scrutinise my working habits (some of which certainly need a polish).
People feel empowered enough to listen to the sweet sounds of a vacuum cleaner and whilst it sounds small, I accredit that to good decision-making and positive trickle-down culture. Ask yourselves: would you feel comfortable sharing this with your colleagues?
Infraspeak prides itself on being ‘people-first’. They prefer this term to ‘remote-first’ as it’s not just about letting employees work remotely and enjoy travelling, but also because they have several global offices that they are proud of. For my company, the in-office experience must be as empowering as the remote one.
This flexibility to choose where you work is maybe how many imagine a ‘modern, distributed company’, and don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome! But what this mini-project showed me, is how much further the trusting, holacratic employee model goes.