#138: Pants-Optional Spreadsheeting: When the Analyst Works Remotely

These are interesting times in which we work, are they not? For many analysts, “remote work” is what they call “every weekday” or, for those who don’t have things fully figured out, “every day that ends in ‘Y.'” For other analysts, the current pandemic has forced them into being an unplanned — and not necessarily desired — full-time remote worker. Juggling kids, silencing pets, finding a horizontal work surface, and grappling with which pair of sweatpants to don are all the sorts of challenges (opportunities?!) that remote working can bring. On this show, we explore our experiences and thoughts and tips on the topic. Except for Tim, who thinks remote work is like in-office work: “Leave me alone, and just do your <bleep> job!”

People and Resources Mentioned in the Show

Episode Transcript

00:04 Announcer: Welcome to the Digital Analytics Power Hour. Tim, Michael, Moe, and the occasional guest, discussing digital analytics issues of the day. Find them on Facebook at facebook.com/analyticshour and their website, analyticshour.io. And now, the Digital Analytics Power Hour.

00:27 Michael Helbling: Hi everyone. Welcome to the Digital Analytics Power Hour. This is Episode 138. Hi Moe.

00:36 Moe Kiss: Hey.

00:36 MH: How are you doing?

00:37 MK: Oh yeah, I’m alright.

00:39 MH: Hey Tim, how are you doing?

00:41 Tim Wilson: I gotta say, it’s a little weird to not have all of us in the same room for this recording like we normally are.

00:46 MH: Yeah, right, normal, yeah. That we’ve had to engage in social distancing.

00:51 MK: You were really saving that up weren’t you?

00:54 MH: Yeah, that was one he didn’t let it on anywhere in the show prep.

01:00 TW: Might have only occurred to me 12 seconds ago.

01:02 MH: You know, we’re really in the midst of it, right now, in the words of Cardi B, “Coronavirus.” You know, the whole world is now basically working from home whether we like it or not. And as analytics professionals, we deal with being both remote and in the office, there’s some pros and cons to each, but we’ve never actually done a show where we talked about some of the things that go with working from home. I know Tim, you work from home pretty much full time, right? For many years now?

01:34 TW: Yeah, I think in the 12 years since I’ve been in Ohio, I was not working from home for maybe three of them. So…

01:41 MH: Oh okay, so that’s pretty legit. Moe, you work from home, what, just periodically or have you done long stints of working from home in your career?

01:50 MK: I haven’t done more than like a few weeks at a time, yeah.

01:54 MH: Okay, you know, current coronavirus situation notwithstanding.

01:58 MK: Yeah.

01:58 MH: And the same here, I think I’ve intermittently worked from home. So over the last five months, I worked from home after I started AGL analytics. In the first nine months before I moved to Atlanta when I joined Search Discovery, I worked remotely. So I’ve got some experience, but I think I’m probably in that group of people who, for whatever reason, I like and enjoy being in the office, but I still get a lot done when I’m at home too, but it’s interesting. Alright, so we’re gonna talk about it. And if you will remember a little while back, we actually got some tweets from our listeners and got some good tips and tricks from some of you which we’ll also try to share throughout the show as well. Well, it’s certainly not, what’s the right way to say this, not ideal, the way that we’re all getting to experiencing working from home. I mean my… ’cause my number one tip is when you’re shopping for a home, if you’re going to be working from home, you should buy a house with room for a space that you can set aside which I think may be a little tricky to do for people who find out on a week’s notice that they’re likely gonna be working from home.

03:05 TW: It’s like your dining room table is now your full-time office for the foreseeable future.

03:10 MK: Or one of my poor staff members who is stuck in China, went home to visit his parents for a week and now, whenever I’m on a Zoom call with him, his parents periodically walk behind because they live in a fairly small apartment and he was just meant to be there on holidays.

03:27 MH: Which the other… I think most typically when working from home, there is scheduled flexibility that comes in. So if you have kids, there’s the ability to kinda work around their schedules. I think there is definitely the unique situation now that many people are working from home for the first time while their children’s normal daycare or schooling routine is. So I think some of the thoughts as we were kind of prepping for this, there are things that are general things that are good for working remotely and there are… Honestly, there are a lot of blog posts and articles out there kinda making some of these points and some of them are actually not actually legit necessarily right now.

04:11 TW: Yeah, you may not be getting the best of it, yeah.

04:14 MK: Do you know what I would say though, ’cause my entire company went remote and we’re so blessed that we could do that very quickly. Learning to work from home when everyone else is in the same boat is actually kind of pleasant. I think when you start working from home, but everyone else in your company is not, it’s all on you to make it work. Whereas, when everyone’s in the same boat, it’s like the whole leadership team, everyone’s checking in on this stuff. People are being really thoughtful about how do we have this meeting with this workshop and make sure everyone feels included. But when you’re like the team, for example, but the rest of your company is in an office, I think it’s harder.

04:53 MH: Yes.

04:54 TW: Which actually was, when I moved to Ohio from Austin, there was only two other remote workers and the rest… Everyone else was in the… It was a small company, everyone else was in the office and that was kind of the… You have to coach in those situations, you actually do need to make sure the non-remote workers are following the etiquette of, “Make sure you’re checking with the people on the call. Make sure you share.”

05:18 MH: Yeah, if there’s a mixed environment where some people are remote and some are in an office, it’s so crucial. I remember some of my experiences, it really formed how we did most of that at Search Discovery was remembering how, in those first nine months, not ’cause anybody was bad, but I’m the new guy on the team and I’ve got a meeting with a couple of people and I’m the only one that’s showing up and I’m like, “What’s going on? Is anybody still there?” And nobody is telling me that they just decided to move the meeting to a different time or cancel it altogether. And I’m like, “Yeah, you’re really leaving me hanging here folks.” This was so long ago. We didn’t even have Slack back then. Imagine that.

06:00 TW: That, whether it’s Slack, whether it’s Microsoft teams, whatever it is when I first working remote 12 years ago, I was still engaged. We had chat, where there would be chats and we would still hop on video calls. We didn’t have nearly the ability to have multi-threaded kind of collaborative instructions but I think that’s… Or tools or mechanisms. I think that’s a big thing with working remote. I’ve never really felt disconnected when working remotely because there’s a second monitor with whatever the collaboration tool is. There are generally enough meetings. I’m just like everybody else, I worship a day that has only a small number of meetings, and I actually can get some time to hunker down and focus, so, yeah.

06:50 MK: But say, one of my teammates, that I was catching up with yesterday, he’s actually been struggling working from home, because when he’s in the office and he needs to do like deep technical work, he kinda just mutes everything, like email, Slack. He’ll close them for a few hours, and he’s like, “I can’t do that right now, because if someone can’t just walk over to me if something’s urgent, and be like, ‘Hey, I actually really need to interrupt you because this is blowing up.’ Because if you shut all those things down and there is something urgent, then how will they contact you?” So, he’s like, “I just find I’m getting like checking Slack way more, and that interruption is really stopping me from getting in the zone,” which I really didn’t think about.

07:26 MH: Yeah.

07:31 MK: He looks confused…

07:31 MH: As an analyst, granted, depending on the role and kind of what the criticality is, generally, sure. If people were really desperate, they can call your cellphone or something. There are lots of things that get treated as the asker will walk over, because they really would like to find this out now. If you have the discipline to say, which I’d, by the way, be clear, I do not, if you have the time management discipline to say, “I’m gonna only check my email three times a day. I’m gonna close Slack down,” it’s not like people can’t… And you know the people who aren’t there all the time. So, I don’t know how much, and I, obviously, I’m not judging your co-worker in any way, shape or form. I don’t manage to shut it down, ’cause I probably still subscribe to that myth, like, “Oh, what if somebody has a urgent data question?” Well, guess what? They could probably wait for two hours.

08:26 MK: Yeah, but I also think it’s this thing… So, we have a guy who was working overseas for our company for last year, and he just came back, and he was kinda sharing his tips with us. And he was like, “You have to be really careful, because when you’re working from home, sometimes you actually… ” And I fall into this trap, I end up working more because you almost want to prove that you’re working. And so, the perception of turning off Slack, so you can get technical time, is something that’s scary to people, ’cause they’ll be like, “Oh, maybe people think I’m slacking off.” Slacking off… Well, you know.

08:58 TW: Yeah. Yeah, one thing I’ve observed over the years is that there are definitely two distinct kinds of people when it comes to working remotely. There are the folks who will tend to overwork, and you gotta pull ’em back, and there are the people who will tend to not do as much because there’s no one asking them for things. And so, you have to kinda know your group. And now that all of us have been forced into this role, we have to do our work to figure out which type we are. I was in the process of hiring someone, and they actually eventually turned the offer down. Not that they ’cause they didn’t wanna come and work with us, but that they knew themselves well enough to know that working fully remote, they would tend to overcommit so much, they didn’t wanna take that on for themselves. And I was like, “I respect that decision,” because it’s very difficult, and I’m not great at it. I tend to look at being remote as a bigger test of your self-regulatory skillset, is really what it comes down to, ’cause those of us who tend to sort of, like you expressed, Moe like, “Well, I want people to know I’m working, and I wanna be available to people, will just kinda keep going and going and going.”

10:13 MK: Well, I don’t think for me it’s like knowing that I’m available to people, or proving that I’m working. For me, it’s more like, “My desk is right there, so I’ll go just do this other thing… “

10:24 TW: Yeah, exactly.

10:25 MK: Or like, “Oh, I have 10 minutes while this is cooking, so I’ll go do this other thing.” And then, the other night, someone messaged me at 10:30 PM, being like, “Hey, did you know that your pool request has been approved?” And so, I ran downstairs to merge my code, because I was so pumped, and I wanted to push it before someone changed something, which is not normal. And I was like, “Dude, you should not be getting out of bed at 10:30 at night to go push your code, that’s messed up.”

10:46 MH: But even in the office, wouldn’t you say that probably that means you’re probably eating your lunch at your desk, you’re not getting up and away from your desk to walk the aisles and socialize with people and do a little bit of interoffice networking? So, those practices actually show up at both places, and I think that you need to look at them really critically in both places, but there’s also the flip side of that, which is some people will tend to not be as productive, ’cause they’re easily distracted. And so, that can also happen.

11:15 MK: Yeah. We have a few people in our team like that, who’ve basically said like, “I find working from home really hard, I do get distracted. I’m working in my room, my bed is sitting right over there… “

11:29 MH: That is kind of the common advice is, “Make sure you define your workspace.” And maybe it doesn’t mean you have to be there all the time. I think, Jason Egan, one of the tweets @jasonegan… Like we don’t know him, we’ve worked with him. But one of his tweets was, “Make your home office an area that is exclusively for that purpose, that helps in separating home and work.” I go back 20 years. I had early, early days, my best friend, growing up, and he and his wife lived two blocks from us in Austin. And they had moved, she wound up working remotely, because they were moving for his work, and her company said, “Sure, we can try this out.” So, she was definitely in the lone wolf, only by herself, in a very high-stress job, without nearly the technology we have now. And she said she really struggled. She had an office, and she said, “I just have to get to where I shut the door at the end of the day, and I don’t go back in there until the morning.” I’m like the, “I think you do, but at the same time… ” And maybe this is me just not wanting to admit.

12:42 MH: I just have the hybrid space. I’ve made my office a very comfortable space. I have my guitar in here, there’s a comfortable chair so somebody can come and hang out and so I definitely wind up in the fluid. I’m in here every weekend, it’s also where my home computer is that I’m gonna sit and do other stuff. So I think it’s probably good advice but I’ve never remotely followed it personally, and it seems to have… I’m fine with it.

13:12 MK: It’s funny. So I think there are two types of people, those that are good at working from home and find it easy and they’re more productive and those that really struggle to focus. And then likewise, I think that there are another two type of people who work from home, and those are the ones that need a really strict work from home routine, need to create that space and separate it. And then the other one actually who I spoke to in prepping for this episode is my sister who has worked from home for years and she’s like, “I don’t… ” She does have a separate space but she also was like one of the things that I really struggle with is, everyone’s always like, “It’s all about routine. Make sure you get up in the morning, you have a shower, you have coffee and breakfast and start your day the same you would as the office.” And she’s like, “I like working from home because of the flexibility.” I like going and checking some emails and then like at 11 o’clock I’ll go have a shower or I do the same thing, like, I like to walk my dog at lunchtime because then I get fresh air or run some errands at lunchtime. Like, there is a group of people who like working from home because it means that they can mix up their day. Some days start at 7:00 AM some days start at 9:00 AM depending on whether you’re doing a drop off at daycare or like it’s the flexibility that you get from it. And yeah, I don’t know, I kind of think that also makes sense, right?

14:27 MH: So it’s basically just do your fucking job and do it however you want, figure it out.

14:31 TW: But I think some of that comes with experience. Being… Like, Michelle’s a really experienced working from home person. She’s done it for a really long time very successfully. And I think you build the capability to build that flexibility in and I think maybe when you’re starting out psychologically, the structure helps you do that process of building that, but then yeah, then you start to freestyle, once you’re comfortable and we’ve been going at it now for about a month, well, a little less than a month now when this podcast comes out and some of us will be starting to get the swing of it and some of us will be hating every minute of it, and some of us will need to push ourselves to… ‘Cause I roll out of bed 15 minutes before my first meeting of the day sometimes it’s not ideal but it does happen. And then other times I’m up like really early, I’m making my breakfast and my coffee and doing my whole routine. And then it’s like give yourself some freedom to kind of explore it both ways, but also like Michelle said, use the space, like, “Hey, I don’t have any meetings between 11:00 and 1:00. Great, I’m gonna run some errands, take a shower, and walk the dog.” And that’s great, and then I’ll work around that. That’s the beauty of working remotely is we get flexibility in our workday.

15:45 TW: Without consciously doing it at all. But I would even say, I do it on the weekends like my… So I, yeah, I guess, I fall in the category of… Not that it wouldn’t even occur to me. I know that once I start working, I’m probably not gonna be in the “Now is the time to stop and go take a shower.” Like, I get up, I take a shower, I’ve got my morning news routine, I’ve got my breakfast routine, I am in the office between 7:00 and 7:30. I don’t obsess whether it’s 7:00 or 7:30. I’ve got a little bit of flexibility there.

16:18 MH: Right.

16:19 TW: And then over the last probably five years, I’ve gotten to where just from a personal health and I enjoy it, that if I have a break somewhere in the vicinity of a lunchtime, that will be grab food, and walk a dog for a bit, and that just… And I’m like, “Oh yes, I enjoy that.” But it is now definitely a structured… Of course, dogs are really good about… I’ve got one dog because it’s been raining today and I was jam-packed in meetings, who has basically been looking at me like, “Dude, like you… We never did that thing?” So we’ll finish recording and he’s probably gonna get a bit of a walk in the rain at dusk. Yeah.

16:57 MK: Dude, you also just like insinuated which I also know to be true that you work a lot on the weekend. So how are those boundaries working out for you mate?

17:07 TW: Well, that’s the thing, it’s not… I don’t do the boundary thing, I do do the routine I do the initiating the day routine, but… Which gets back to just do whatever fucking works for you. Like, I guess there’s a part of me that feels like even this whole topic I’m like if you’re a… But this writ larger. There are lots of things where we tend to have the very prescriptive. “Here’s how you… Here’s how to manage your time.” Like, fuck you. I manage my time. “You should used to-do lists, you should not used to-do lists. You should color-code your to-do list, you should… ” And it’s like, “You know, how about you know yourself, and if you’re motivated and you like your job, you’ll get shit done and you’ll figure out what works.”

17:46 MK: But not everyone falls into that bucket. Lots of people are motivated and they get shit done, but then when they work from home, that kind of falls apart because they don’t have that external support.

17:57 MH: Yes. Tim, I don’t expect you to understand these people. It’s okay. I don’t. I don’t understand the people who really want to help them figure it out. I’m like, “I don’t know, why don’t you tell them to figure it out.”

18:08 TW: At some point, you do kinda have to sit down and get some work done, and there’s no getting around that.

18:14 MH: You can have a standing desk, you don’t have to sit down. I don’t know why you’re being so fucking prescriptive. You know what.

18:19 TW: Oh no, okay. Oh, my gosh, Tim, you’re so right. You are 100% right, Tim. Also, if you want to work from home with Tim Wilson, go to… Go ahead and doc skew right on the podcast.

18:35 MK: He has a spare desk. He has a spare desk. Like, right in his office. He loves people to hot test there.

18:41 TW: I’ve worked from Tim’s office before many years ago. I have to say it was a very productive couple of hours, I gotta say. So I think one tip that we got from folks on Twitter, a guy by the name of Chris Danks wrote us and is sort of giving everybody the idea that when you get dressed, go ahead and get dressed all the way.


18:41 TW: Don’t think that you’re gonna be on just half a video and only wear half an outfit. So that’s one of those ones that’s tricky, right? I personally like to get up, get dressed and I’ll wear more comfortable clothes, but I will dress for the day. And then sometimes I’ll even change at the end of the workday ’cause that for me has always signified a shift of leaving work. So, when I’m at the office, I come home and I shift into… I take off my shoes.

19:30 MK: Relaxed pants.

19:30 TW: Yeah, more relaxed pair of pants or shorts.

19:33 MH: Put on your little Mr. Roger’s cardigan?

19:35 TW: Exactly, you’ve got it, that’s my routine. I’m still practicing the throwing the shoe from one hand to the next, but we’ll get there.

19:43 MH: I put pants on at the end of the day. That’s my routine.

19:47 TW: That’s right. Yeah, that’s how you signal like, “If I put pants on, that means I’m not working anymore.”

19:52 MH: Exactly.

19:54 MK: Yeah, I get dressed the same. I dress the same as I would if I was going to work. But it’s funny because Jamie obviously is working from home as well. And the other day, I was like, “So you gonna take a shower today? You’re still in your gym clothes from walking the dog.” And he’s like, “Yeah, but now I’m ready to go and ready for anything. I can go do another workout.” I’m like, “Cool. You’re still in your gym shorts, though, so… “


20:19 TW: We’re not newlyweds anymore, are we? ‘Cause I don’t wanna look at that. I don’t wanna smell you all day, dear.

20:26 MH: I mean it does get you ready for two-a-days. I have noticed that I will shave a lot less when I’m working from home. It’s usually yeah, about once a week. And then you’re like, “Where’s my next client meeting, or prospective client meeting? Okay, I’d better shave that morning.” So you’re ready for that. But yeah, wear clothes.

20:46 TW: It seems like on the routine front, so we’re covering that there’re a bunch of different options. I liked your, actually really did… I’ll grant you the… I like the idea of, now’s an opportunity, well one, we haven’t said it. Now’s an opportunity for people to figure out if they like working from home. So take advantage, try some of these different structures. Try not showering when you get up. Try the looser, try the more structured. I think there are some kind of what should be non-negotiables, and now as I’ve got clients who are working from home for the first time, although I’ve also had colleagues who’ve been working remotely for years who don’t know this. Some of the non-negotiables, like you, need to have a good audio setup, you need to have a good internet connection. Good internet connection might be harder to switch on a dime.

21:32 MK: Well, some people don’t have control of that. Like in Australia, when my internet sucked, there was absolutely… I was on the best possible plan that I could. There was nothing I could do about it. Tim looks speechless.

21:43 TW: No, no, you should strive for… Well, I went through periods, and though, even in the US though, but like this was fine for three years and then it went to shit. But I think the good… Like the being cognizant that it’s actually a challenging thing is that one thing you do not get good automated feedback on, is how you sound when you’re on a call or on a video conference. And so, it’s this weird where you have to tell, and then like, “Oh, you’re… They’re blipping out, but I can understand them. How bad does it have to get to say something?” And then people aren’t even sure, is it everybody, right? That whole awkward, everybody’s been through that. But I think the people who are like, “Sure, I call my mom on my way to work with my little earbuds. I’m just gonna use those.” It’s like, “Well, make sure that that actually is a good… ” You probably do already have fine equipment for it, but if you’re using your laptop mic and you’re sitting there typing away.

22:43 TW: I’ve got a client, she’s the one who’s paying, got the budget, and man, she hops on every time she’s not at home. And there’s ka-thunk, ka-thunk, ka-thunk, ka-thunk, ka-thunk, and it’s like, “You’re the client.” I don’t really wanna say, “Could you either mute or stop. You’re the most senior person in the room.” So that, I think, does take being very conscious. And that also goes if you’re on a video, watch where your head is. It is distracting to you if somebody else, all you can see is from their nose above.


23:14 TW: Pay attention to your own. Try to sit roughly in the center.

23:19 MK: Can we talk about that? Video on-off. So this is a new thing where I’m now jumping on calls and you sometimes have, yeah, 10, 20, 30 people on a call. And there’ll always be like, I don’t know, 10 to 20% that don’t have their video on. And I wanna be kind, but my assumption straight away is like, “You’re turning your video off because you’re not paying attention.” Like that’s the message. I know there was a whole chat in the old Women in the Analytics Now Diversity and Analytics chat channel in Slack previously about women who have this whole thing about like, should you have to do your make-up and your hair and all this sort of stuff? And I totally sympathize with that. But to me, not having your video on, I’m not gonna lie. I didn’t have my video on the other day. It’s because I was emptying the dishwasher while I listened to a conference call.

24:13 TW: Yeah, so I’m of two opinions. I think if it’s a small meeting where you’re gonna be participating regularly, then if possible, video on is best. If it’s a 20-person meeting where you’re just listening in and you’re probably not even gonna talk, or if you’re gonna talk, it’s for three seconds at one time, then I’m pretty okay with video off. But any time you’re meeting with someone one-on-one, or in a smaller group setting where there’s gonna be a lot of interaction, the video provides so much more context to your voice. That’s the whole purpose, and it’s a huge benefit. So if possible, and I know at Search Discovery, we kind of were… We had a lot of remote people there, so we… They, I don’t work there anymore, so…


25:02 TW: They probably don’t even have this policy anymore. It’s probably totally different and vastly improved, but we tried to embrace sort of a commitment to each other. But if possible for internal meetings, we would try to have our video on, and that goes for people in the office, and it goes for people remote. We’re all gonna try to do that together. And it’s not easy for everyone, and not everybody liked it, but everybody chipped in and we… We got through it. And I think it actually helped communication overall.

25:26 S1: There’s a big caveat, which I think especially as people are working from home and it ties to something we said earlier, and that is understand the difference between upload bandwidth and download bandwidth. And if people are saying, “We’re having a hard time. You’re breaking up.” That is your upload bandwidth, which is gonna be the smaller number and pushing the video up. It’s been funny, so that’s actually been comical. It’s possible that there is a company that potentially Michael used to work for, I don’t wanna name them and shame them, but they opened up an office in Cleveland that has notoriously not great wi-fi. And so there had been times where that company, where they have a policy very similar to what Michael described, but it’s actually really the office has worse. I think it’s preferred to be on there, with the exceptions of I’d… This meeting is called over lunch and somebody’s gonna be eating. You’re balancing, yeah, I’m on my call, but I’m shovelling food in my face, which is rarely me. That’s another weird part of my routine. I never… I eat at my desk all the time when I was in an office. I never eat at my desk when I work remotely, which is I don’t know how that worked up.

26:40 MK: Interesting.

26:41 MH: I still do.

26:44 MK: I do and I need to stop doing it.

26:44 MH: I need to move away from it. Yeah, I feel guilty about it.

26:48 MK: But, see, I do it because then I’m like, “I’m gonna go walk my dog for 30 minutes. I’ll check my emails while I eat and then I’ll go take a break from my desk.”

26:57 TW: But I think that’s the thing with video, it’s preferred, but it’s… There are exceptions and then also, especially now, if there are kids running around. And right now, their desks feel like there’s the dog barking, the… There, everybody’s kind of understanding of that but recognizing and saying, “This is gonna be distracting. I’m gonna keep my video off.”

27:15 MH: This is what I’m hoping for. This experience, hopefully, will end forever the stigma of owning a dog or having a child in your home. If you’re gonna be working remote, those are things that are just things. And yes, sometimes they’ll happen and we just have to be okay with each other. Obviously, you don’t want it to be distracting, so mute your mic and those kinds of things when your dog starts barking or if your kids burst into the room. But the rest of us now, we’re all living with it, and now we’re all gonna have a lot more empathy for each other, I hope. And so maybe that’s one teeny-tiny silver lining out of all this.

27:51 MK: We had a new staff member who was introducing himself to the team and I really sympathized for the poor new people who have gone straight to working from home at a new company, but he was introducing himself and he stood up and he had his baby daughter strapped to his chest who was asleep. He was like, “Hi, this is my name, I’m working in this team.” And was trying to keep her asleep as he introduced himself and we had another one with a baby who had gotten up from the nap and seeing her dad coming downstairs wanted to say hi. And the thing that I really love is like you see people’s humanity. You see their families. You see parents in the background. You see their lives. And it’s one thing that I’ve actually really loved about everyone jumping on calls and working from home.

28:34 TW: Well, my concern is that because of the way that this has been kind of forced and this is coming from kind of a consultancy or agency side where I work from home, family has… I understand the guidelines aside from the one fucking nightmare dog that we’re watching for a few months that we would’ve found a solution if she was permanently here. Our other dogs have been fine, occasional bark fine. But it’s that there are people who are now needing to work from home who are my clients and they’re getting their experience of working remotely under super trying circumstances and they may have kids. They may not have a space and their spouse may also be working from home and they’re probably struggling to get the focused productive time. I worry that that whole group, that whole class of employees are gonna go back to their massive enterprises where they rarely work from home are gonna have the perception of that’s how the professional remote worker lives are and thinking, “Well, yeah, they’re kind of scattered and doing this.”

29:32 MH: Where it’s like, no, the ones who’ve been doing it for a while, I’m gonna say, we’re probably more productive because we have it figured out, even if there’s a kid. It’s been great when my kids were here and in school, to be able to say hi to them if they came in. If I wasn’t in the middle of a meeting or if, even now I get up and walk in and say hi to them, but it’s not nearly as fractured and challenging, I think when you are in that as a somewhat permanent routine. And so I’m a little nervous that they’re gonna be making a bunch of assumptions.

30:07 MH: That’s a good point. That’s a good point.

30:10 MK: That’s a really good point.

30:11 TW: I feel like this is maybe a good time to share Sara Hoffman, @salsus tweet, where she had her… Funny one where she was or she said… I shared this on Measure Slack so everybody should sign up for Measure Slack if you’re not there. It’s great for remote workers, but I’ll share it again. “I once did an internal lunch and learn presentation with my then preschool-aged daughter sleeping on my lap. As we were in the Q&A part at the end, she had woken up and kept asking me who on the call was asking the questions. One of the people asking questions was the CEO to which the kiddo responded with, ‘Wow. She owns the whole company?’ Yep, kid, yep.” I think even in the not in for it… There is no way anyone who was seeing or hearing that wasn’t completely delighted by the experience. That’s back to your point, Moe, that yeah, people are human beings with families and pets and other things.

31:06 MK: One of the things that I’ve done when the whole we’re all gonna work from home thing, we do have a big dining room table, which I do often previously have worked from home from when I’ve needed to. Jamie has this old antique desk that belonged to my nana, which is an old writing desk, which is not actually good for setting up your laptop and screens on. I still don’t know why he’s there or the fact that he has a broken screen that’s currently blue but I think he’s color blind so he doesn’t know that it’s blue, but the thing that I did was I set up a new desk. I rearranged my whole lounge area and took what is our bar desk, which has normally all of our spirits on it. And I sat it in a bit of the house that makes me really happy and I’ve got really amazing plants that I love and I get fresh air. For me, I know sunlight and plants and a comfy chair are the things that I need to make me excited about going to sit at my desk. My sister thinks I’m mad because there’s too much sunlight. And she’s like, “I don’t know how you work with all of that natural light.” But I love it and so I think it is about…

31:42 MH: Oh, the melatonin.

32:20 MK: I think it’s about figuring out what are the things that will make your office space nice for you and having those things in place.

32:30 TW: Well, and even going back to that kind of concept of demarcation, not everybody’s gonna have the space to build their own specific space or even have that. So it’s… Do very simple things. You literally take a box, a big piece of cardboard and just stick it next to… Til it creates sort of like a little barrier and even that can help just a little bit. Or if you have to work in your own room, cover over at the end of the day. Cover your laptop or your monitor so that you’re not staring at it from your own bedroom. All those little things just help just a little bit. And I think Moe, your idea… Yeah, getting outside just a little bit every day, is kinda crucial. And maybe I’m feeling that more now because of all the social distancing and the fact that I haven’t looked at a human person besides my own immediate family for a long time now.

33:23 MH: You’re totally allowed to go outside.

33:25 TW: Yeah, yeah. I do go outside Tim and walk the dog. I just don’t… We do it at hours where we’re not likely to run into neighbors. No, I’m just kidding. We actually run into our neighbors all the time ’cause everyone’s out walking now because there’s nothing else to do. We’re all walking everybody and we’re like, “Hey, how’s it going?” Somebody just told me a story about how they were out and their neighbor’s daughter crashed her bike, and they wanted to run over and help her, and they were like, “Wait, are we allowed to do that?” It’s like social distancing is killing us.

33:56 TW: Anyways. Maybe a good tip, this actually goes back to something we were talking about as it pertains to internet. John McGowan put in a tip about always trying to have two sources of Internet, WiFi, and mobile. And I thought that was really good. Especially if you’re a consultant. Being able to just go… Like, sometimes your WiFi goes out. I think it’ll happen more now because more people are using their home WiFi during the day and those kinds of things. Being able to tether over to your mobile quickly and practice making that transition so you could do it relatively quickly, is certainly that’s one of those sort of, I would say, in a consulting model or agency model, it’s one of those 101 skills that I just expect people to build. But if you’re new to the whole working from home thing, that’s one of those things. Now, you could have costs associated with leveraging more data over your phone, so talk to your employer about that.

34:54 TW: Yeah, I mean it is typically… That it’s your fail-over, right? And that’s…

34:57 MH: Yes.

34:57 TW: But you’re… It is… That is a great tip that it’s… And that’s when you say, “Hey my internet just went down. I’m on my hot spot so I’m gonna stay off video because it will work better for everyone.”

35:09 MH: Yeah. Exactly. Way to bring that point full circle.

35:14 MK: So Tim.

35:14 TW: Yeah?

35:16 MK: Question, one of the things that I’ve been doing at the moment is a quick morning stand- up. Especially with the newbies who joined because I think if you’re brand new at a company and you don’t have that ability to easily turn to someone next to and ask a simple question, I think it gets tough. But have you ever been in the practice of doing a morning stand-up with anyone or like a whip or…

35:40 TW: It’s funny, we’ve got a client right now where somebody who I work with, she is now in the habit of a morning stand-up with the client, 30 minutes every morning. And I’m like, “Oh my God, that is… That is brutal.” I just can’t… I can’t not do the math of, even if it’s kept to 30 minutes. Even if it’s kept to 15 minutes. ‘Cause that also will absolutely throw you out of Michelle’s world. Like, well, so your days to have flexibility on when you roll in are the days that that stand-up gets canceled. So… I mean, I guess that’s the other thing, I think we’re gonna discover this whole remote working. We’re gonna find lots of… There was a New Yorker cartoon, that was… I think that I saw, that was something that was doing the like, “Oh wow. So there’s a bunch of stuff we could have just handled by email.”


36:37 TW: Yeah. It didn’t have to be meetings after all. Yeah, I read that.

36:42 MK: Which I agree with. But I also think that one of the things that I’m noticing is people are over-using Slack. And my favorite, favorite tip if you’re a Slack user, is slash Zoom, which you can integrate zoom into Slack. And you just do Slack Zoom and just be like, “Hey, instead of us spending 30 minutes sending hundreds of messages back and forth and it’s not clear what the hell we’re talking about on either side, slash Zoom. Let’s just get in a Zoom call for 10 minutes and knock this out.”

37:15 MH: I feel like that’s part of emotional intelligence, is learning how to see those moments Moe, where the conversation is like, “Nope this will be more productive if we just jump into a Zoom for five minutes versus try to continue to bash it out in this medium.” Same thing with Slack versus email, versus Jira or whatever you use for tracking things, versus Zoom, is sort of picking your right location. I know Tim, you might even have been a part of this. There was a movement at Search Discovery back in the day to kind of leverage Slack statuses more effectively, so that people could tell at a glance whether you’re away from your desk or there at your desk or in a meeting so we don’t… And Tim is like, “Yes,” nodding his head, like “Of course, I was behind all of that.”


38:01 TW: My integration got turned off somewhere till… I was fine with it when it… And I don’t know how it got… And I just turned it on this week to be like, “Yeah, show the icon when I’m in a meeting, so at least people are aware.”

38:11 MH: Yeah, yeah. And I think that’s good. I’m really bad at following those rules and remembering to update it, so I’m really not a good… I like the idea. But I do wanna talk about this idea of social connection when you’re working remote. Because one of the things you don’t have, and this is especially true for those that are more extroverted, is those social cues of when it’s okay to stop by and chat with someone. Like you know when you’re in an office and somebody’s got their headphones on, and they’re really like down in their laptop and they’re chugging away. You’re like, “Alright, I’m not gonna go just interrupt their flow just so I can tell a dumb joke. I’ll wait maybe for different time.”

38:19 TW: But there’s always the people in the office who even when I adopt that posture, they still come and interrupt me. So you gotta read the social cues.

38:19 MH: Well Tim, you’re kind of like an international superstar Tim, it’s a little different.

38:19 MK: It’s hard to get some Tim time.

38:19 MH: Yeah, exactly. It’s… And your bodyguard should be the one kind of handling that. So I don’t understand. Yes, Tim has a bodyguard.

39:16 TW: Okay carry on with your point sir.

39:16 MH: But, if you’re on Slack, you don’t see any of that. Unless people are doing a good job updating their status. I’m in a meeting right now. So what I’ve always encouraged people to do is just say, “Hey, throw it out there. I’m not gonna hold myself responsible to respond immediately, because I’m doing what I’m doing, but I’ll know that… And I’ll come pick it up at the right time and just expect that.” And then the other thing is, is find ways to just randomly intersect à la just stopping by somebody’s desk to say, “Hey that’s important to keep doing.” And so that’s hard to do, and I always, always encourage all of my remote people to kind of push themselves a little bit to just throw a, “Hey, how are you doing out there? I’m just checking in to say Hey for no other reason than I’m your friend and where I wanted to chat with somebody for a few minutes and I had a couple of free minutes.” Because those connections are super important.

40:14 MH: And then the other thing is, as a leader, I think it’s super important to do that as well ’cause it’s sort of like the same way you’d get up and just try to stop by and wave at people and make sure that, “Hey, I see you. I notice you. I’m here for you, whatever you need.” You gotta still find ways to make that happen. And I know, actually, it was a little controversial, but I’m still actually a huge fan of it. We used to have a Friday afternoon meeting that literally had no agenda. There was nothing to do, slowly, fewer and fewer attendees.

40:46 MK: But Helbs, we’ve been doing that for lunches, like an open zoom and then it’s… Like an open zoom, people bring your lunch and if you just wanna talk shit… Tim is shaking his head. He’s like, “This is the worst idea.” But for some people, they need that.

41:00 MH: No. They need it. And that’s just it. It was an optional meeting. You didn’t have to come to it if you didn’t want to, but there was always a group of people who did come, Tim, and it wasn’t because I wanted to have another meeting, it was because I wanted people to be sure there was a social outlet of some kind, that didn’t have any other business agenda tied to it.

41:20 TW: We have very different perceptions of how that meeting evolved, but…

41:23 TW: I had a blast at that meeting. It was a terrible meeting. It was a huge waste of time. But I loved that… And I actually do this, and I know others who do it more, both with colleagues or with others. Actually, Helbs you and I used to do it. The actually setting up remote, we did it with a glass of scotch periodically in the afternoon. We did it two or three times, like, “Hey, we should catch up, today, tomorrow, whatever.” We’d find a time, and then we’d talk. And I’ve got some other cases where I do have a bi-monthly virtual coffee and there are others who have… Maybe it’s bi-weekly, depending on the relationship. If it’s like, hey this is actually I enjoy this person, and we’re not running into each other often enough, and we get stuff out of it. Yeah, throw it on the calendar and then also know that if you can have the discussion and say, “You know what? We’re gonna schedule this to be weekly, and it’s gonna get cancelled two times out of three, because one of us is gonna have a conflict, and that’s okay.” So there are different ways to work that. I think it’s… So, I have done that occasionally.

42:31 MK: Can I clarify? Bi-weekly, is that twice a week or once every two weeks? I feel like the term fortnightly might be more helpful in that situation.

42:39 TW: Could be either one.

42:41 MH: It can literally be either one Moe. This is how broken the English language is.

42:45 MK: Well. You could just use fortnightly and then that would solve your problem ’cause it happens every 14 nights.

42:50 TW: And we could use fortnightly but we don’t live in Australia, unfortunately. So it’s not a word here.

42:56 MH: We aggressively use the letters thee as well, so…

43:00 MK: One of my favorite sessions since I started working from home, I mentioned to one of the guys, I was like, “Hey I’m seeing these weird numbers. Can I just jump on a Zoom and talk you through it before I start going down a rabbit hole?” And then one of the girls in the team who is like… I don’t know, she’s just a very inquisitive person, and so she loves listening to other people’s meetings and calls and trying to figure stuff out from it. So I was like, “Hey do you wanna listen in?” And she’s like, “Yes.” And so the three of us jumped on a call. One of the guys had a beer. I had a wine. It was like the end of the day, 6 o’clock the other night, and I basically just screen-shared as I worked through my data problem. And then the other girl on the call was like, “Hey I also have a data problem. Can I share my screen now and work through it?” I remember like, “Oh, have you looked at these? Have you looked at… ” And it was just this little working pow-wow and it was the best bit of all three of our days. It was hands down the best bit because we couldn’t just lean over to someone and be like, “Hey, this thing’s weird. Can I bounce ideas off you?” And so, for those people who are not used to working from home, I really encourage you to give that a crack.

44:07 TW: Definitely day drinking is a huge thing for working. That’s what I took away. No, I’m just kidding.

44:13 MH: Okay.

44:15 TW: Okay, so hopefully you’re hearing some tips that are gonna help or have helped or you may be hearing some that you wanna share with us too, but we do have to start to wrap up.

44:25 MK: What?

44:25 TW: We are doing… Yeah.

44:27 MK: How?

44:27 MH: We have to start wrapping up.

44:29 TW: Well, actually, I do feel like sometimes the challenge of a catch-up is that it’s harder… Sometimes it’s harder to end it if you’ve got three or four people unless you have another meeting ’cause I would remember that too. Helbs and I would jump on a call to chat and it would be like an hour and a half. Same thing’s happened to me with Gershoff when we’ve been Slacking. And then I’m like, “It’s an hour. We’re… Oh, we probably should move on with our lives.”

44:51 MH: Yeah, we’re blazing through. I will admit to creating a next meeting just so that I can say, “Okay, I’ve gotta jump to my next meeting sometimes,” but another time…

45:00 TW: I know it starts at a quarter till, but, yeah, it’s weird.

45:03 MH: It’s gonna be weird. I just showed up, or the old like, “Oh the CEO just walked into my office so gotta go.” I use that one all the time these days.


45:17 MH: CEO is my dog Bella.


45:20 MH: Okay, we do wanna do last calls, because while this is sort of a different and unique show given our different and unique times, figure we can do some last calls too. Tim, you wanna kick us off for the last call?

45:32 TW: Sure, I feel like I just wanna mention it because in case I just want a link to it and it was one of the tweets that we didn’t get to which was, @happyskykai, Tiankai Feng?

45:44 MH: Oh yes, yes, yes.

45:46 TW: And he actually wrote and recorded the self-quarantine song, so…

[background conversation]

45:52 TW: With a black [45:52] __, actually get permission to maybe include it in the out, but if not, we will link to it. So my actual last call, some people I am finding many of my, all of my evening events and commitments are canceled, there is a little bit more free time, so it can be an opportunity to dive into something. So something that I’ve actually been diving into, because I feel like as an analyst we always get told like well, just find a data set and play with it, without… If you have the skills, why don’t you get out of the marketing or the digital data and a while back DuckDuckGo published on GitHub their tracker radar, which basically it’s, I think they went to 44,000 different sites that they crawl and then they’ve, it’s looked at all of the third-party domains that are setting cookies or doing fingerprinting or executing JavaScript on all of those sites and then basically in a JSON structure, a separate file for every one of those third party domains, there are like 3000 or 4000 of them, it’s a data set on GitHub. And I was like, “Ah, that will be fun data to play with.” And I’ve managed to kind of start fiddling around with it and see just the breadth and scope of Google and Facebook, so it’s accidentally actually work-related, but the tracker radar from DuckDuckGo.

47:17 MH: Very nice, what about you, Moe, what’s your last call?

47:21 MK: Well, COVID-19’s all around us and one of my favorite things has actually been some of the articles. I love how many people are trying to explain what an exponential curve is, and people who don’t work in data are like scratching their head being like, “But we only have 500 cases.” And you’re like, “Yeah, cool, do you get what that means?” So the two resources that I really enjoyed personally, The Washington Post had a Corona stimulator about what happens if you practice social distancing versus if you don’t? The other one that I also really loved, it was an incredibly long read, I think it was like a 22-minute article, was a post on Medium by Thomas Pueyo, Tomas? Coronavirus: Act Today or People Will Die. And that’s a very blunt title, but I thought both of those were really good ways of explaining what’s going on to people who maybe aren’t as familiar with data. And yeah, I just, I kind of love how much thinking about data helps you understand this problem right now.

48:32 MH: Yeah.

48:33 TW: I will claim counterfactuals are gonna become something we’ll be trying to explain a year from now in causal inference ’cause we can only follow, the world will follow one path, and the different countries’ responses are kind of what is gonna be an opportunity for data scientists who try to explain causal inference in causality that it’s gonna have to be, I think, people are making claims about it now. I think it’s gonna have to be a little more in the rear mirror down the road.

49:01 MH: Yeah, I’ve been definitely, my Twitter feed is now, has quite a few more epidemiologists and virologists that I follow than I did a month ago. Still, it’s been very interesting.

49:14 TW: And actually we’re gonna say there are a lot of people who’ve turned into apparently they’re epidemiologists.

49:17 MH: Well, there’s definitely some armchair epidemiologists out there.

49:21 TW: Let me explain flattening the curve, I’ve said this for years. I mean, I saw a chart yesterday…

49:26 MH: I like to call myself a citizen epidemiologist.

49:31 TW: Epidemiologist.


49:33 MH: Advanced epidemiology, is that a thing, like advanced analytics?

49:37 TW: No, there you go.

49:38 MH: Alright, enough of my bugaboos. Okay, so my last call, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking there’s a lot of, we’re all under a lot of stress and I think there’s a lot of us that are spending our time trying to figure out what we can do to help in some way, and it’s really hard to know sometimes what actions to take and there’s so many things going on. And so, I’ve been racking my brain of like, “Well, Michael, what can you do?” And I was like, “Well, I do have some time on my hands that I could contribute and what am I good at?” And so as I was thinking about it, I realized that right now in our industry and every industry, but I know the digital analytics industry, so that’s my industry, there’s a lot of companies who are gonna immediately do hiring freezes or already have done hiring freezes and there’s a lot of contractors and freelancers and people maybe who’ve even lost jobs, who need to find work and there may be work that could be done maybe on a more ad-hoc basis or a contract basis that people could partner up and do.

50:38 MH: And typically in our industry, that’s done through recruiters, and things like that and certainly, let’s… We keep all that flowing, but in the meantime, one thing I’m good at is hearing what people need done, and I’m good at understanding what skill sets need to be applied to that. So what I’ve done is I’ve created a little clearinghouse of sorts, where anybody who needs contract work, we can get you through a little screening process and fill out a form and we’ll meet with you and then any company who needs some help, maybe it’s just a Tableau dashboard or some tagging in GTM or whatever that is, we can connect you with those people and we’re offering that for free for both sides. So, no one pays anything. It’s just us trying to help the community and mostly by us, I mean, me, just personally and then there may be some other folks that are chipping in to help and we’ll do it confidentially and all those things, but it’s just a way for us to try to make it a little bit of a dent in our piece of the world, right? So…

51:14 TW: So is this, is there a page on your site or somewhere that’s…

51:39 MH: We have a Google form that people can fill out, so we’ll be publicizing that through our show notes and also the Measure Slack and probably my Twitter. And we’ll just try to get that out to as many people as possible, and so also just help spread the word. I also love highlighting the people who’ve been doing some really awesome things, and I think in the intervening time before we wanna record and when we go live, there’s gonna be a lot more of that. But I’ve really appreciated people like Yo-Yo Ma, who’s been putting out music on his Twitter account just for people to listen to, and Josh Gad who just randomly is reading children’s stories at night. Those are really great expressions and I think all of us could take a look and find little ways that we can kind of put a little light out there. So, you’ve probably been listening and thinking these guys have it all wrong on working remotely and that’s why we’ll refer you to the 33 Tangents podcast, who definitely has this as a core competency.

52:36 TW: All right. But we’d also love to hear from you on the Measure Slack or Twitter or our LinkedIn page, and so please do reach out to us. This is a pretty awesome community, and I think the Coronavirus or COVID-19 as we’re calling it won’t end that. It will simply reveal some of its truest nature and beauty. Also, obviously, no show would be complete without a quick mention of our producer Josh Crowhurst who does such a great job and has led the charge on social distancing from Hong Kong. Way to go, Josh. Way to keep it…

53:11 MH: Rolled straight from the protests into the fire site.

53:15 TW: Yeah, it’s… Stay safe out there, Josh. We’re rooting for you. Anyway.

53:21 MH: Whatever you do, whether you’re working from home and you’re socially distant, just remember, keep analysing.

53:32 Announcer: Thanks for listening and don’t forget to join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter or Measure Slack Group. We welcome your comments and questions. Visit us on the web at analyticshour.io, Facebook.com/analyticshour or @analyticshour on Twitter.

53:52 Charles Barkley: So, smart guys want to fit in. So they’ve made up a term called analytics. Analytics don’t work.

53:58 Thom Hammerschmidt: Analytics. Oh, my God. What the fuck does that even mean?

54:06 MH: Stay safe out there Josh. We’re rooting for you anyway.

54:12 MK: That has a different meaning in Australia by the way.

54:15 MH: Oh, what is it? We’re… Oh, we’re not doing that.


54:24 MH: Oh, my God. Oh, I could die.

54:33 MK: My mom is a school teacher. When she came to Australia, I kept saying she was rooting for the football team and the students found that highly entertaining.

54:43 TW: We are advocates of your general success, sir.


54:52 MH: I’m a slurper. I don’t know how to down liquids. Does that come through?

54:57 TW: Yeah, that came through really nice. Test it again. And again.

55:03 MH: Ooh.

55:04 TW: All right. I’m just reading tweets like, “I will remember COVID-19 as a time when quote-unquote, data scientists pretended they were epidemiologists and proved to the world that they were neither.”


55:20 MH: In addition to social distancing, I’ve also started doing emotional distancing. Just out of an abundance of caution.

55:36 TW: I think Michael you need to probably unmute when you’re gonna talk. That’s just your opinion, Tim. I was talking. I was just talking on mute. I was just demonstrating for people listening to the podcast that that’s one of those things you have to learn how to do when you’re working remote.

55:51 MH: Oh, that’s good.


55:52 TW: How you can do a…

55:55 MH: Now we could tip it in.


57:10 MH: Rock flag and put your pants on.

57:13 MK: I knew it was gonna be a pant thing.

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