Best Strategies to Create a Sustainable and Fulfilling Remote Work Environment, with Darcy Marie Mayfield | DistantJob - Remote Recruitment Agency

Best Strategies to Create a Sustainable and Fulfilling Remote Work Environment, with Darcy Marie Mayfield

Gabriela Molina

Darcy Marie Mayfield is a pioneering Future of Work Thought Leader, Culture Architect, and Remote-First Work Experience Designer, embodying a profound devotion to enhancing people’s lives. With over 8 years of remote engagement, Darcy is committed to the well-being and the cultivation of robust company cultures anchored in shared values. She has mentored renowned companies like Airbnb, Stripe, TaxJar, and Hipcamp, as well as academic institutions like MIT, Stanford, University of Pairs, and The Economist.

Remote work leader

Read the transcript

Sharon [00:00:00]:

While international hiring gives you access to so much more great candidates where they’re often working at lower salaries, It also comes with this massive pool of not so great candidates which you must filter through. That’s why a distant job, we get to know you on a personal level and then go find similar companies internationally. where we solicit their career driven focused senior workers. Quality candidates, lower prices, and longer retention, sounds way too good to be true. But as the first remote recruitment agency being around for about 2 decades, not only we have the experience to do it, we guaranteed to deliver this people within 3 weeks. So reach out to us at to learn about our guarantee but our HR love experience that can increase your retention and how we can build you an amazing culturally fit digital team. See you on the other side.

Luis [00:01:15]:

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to another episode of the distant job podcast. I am your host, Louise, in this podcast, that’s all about building and leading awesome remote teams. today, I have a very special guest with me. It’s, the or second time in the show. So allow me to, introduce you to Darcy Mary Mayfield. Darcy, welcome to the shop. Hi.

Darcy [00:01:42]:

Thank you so much for having me.

Luis [00:01:44]:

Yeah. For the second time, it was amazing. Last time you were, it was 2021. And, you know, stuff has happened since then, right, but you’re still, you know, even more so, I would say, right, embedded in the remote work movement and the future of work thing. So, I’m you know, super excited. You know what? You’ve been up to in in the interim. And why won’t we start? Why don’t you start there? You’re now, at the head of your own consulting business. Right? It’s called Shift, and, and, it’s about, obviously, you know, shifting the mindset, right, in a more remote centric way. you’re helping people do remote, do it at scale, and do it better. So tell me a bit how how that shift came to be.

Darcy [00:02:27]:

Yeah. Well, I mean, obviously, everything’s very much aligned with that word shift, and I think we’ve heard it a lot. so I, left kind of my full time role after tax year was acquired by Stripe. I was at Stripe for about 7 months. and as things sort of started to settle a little bit for lack of a better word after the pandemic. a lot of companies and people, heads of people, founders were reaching out and saying, Okay. We’re gonna embrace remote, but what does that mean for us? How are we actually going to function in this way without real estate? What do we figure out what to do with our offices? What does purpose mean? All of these things. Right? And so I’ve been really navigating and helping folks navigate that environment since February 2022. so now, you know, I call myself a remote employee experience designer because I think what a lot of people have really realized is that work is not a place. It’s an experience. And how do we create that experience, regardless of real estate, regardless of being in person, to help help employers sort of shepherd employees through their culture. How do they feel their culture when the real estate is gone. What are the rituals? What are the legends? What are the stories? What’s the shared language when you can’t see feel touch sort of people in a physical environment. So I detangle all of that and help help companies can move forward into the future of work.

Luis [00:04:01]:

Alright. So, tell me how did that that light bulb go out, you know, go up in your Right? where did you when did you got get to this shift where you realized that people were actually seeking an experience?

Darcy [00:04:18]:

I think really from my own experience, you know, I I’m my own case study. And I actually have a background in hospitality and high end hospitality. And, you know, I watch when people go into a really nice restaurant. and they sit down. They have an experience. There’s these points of contact. They keep coming back to the specific restaurant. or hotel. Right? And you go to a restaurant or a hotel in another country and you sort of feel the culture you experience. You taste it. You go through this sort of emotional time from the time you get there to the time you leave. And in a lot of ways, work is the same way. You’re you have your life. You’re doing whatever you want, but then you log in to this virtual environment and how things how people welcome you, how you talk to to people, how you get work done, that’s all an experience. And so I watched, you know, at my time at taxjar and my time at Stripe, but taxjar, I watched 300 people go through this sort of personal and work transformation over the course course of 4 years. They started to react to what was happening in their lives and what was happening in the work experience. And the idea of a physical place just sort of floated away.

Luis [00:05:41]:


Darcy [00:05:42]:

And people just started to adopt that remote first mindset. And so that’s really when I saw these transformations, not only in people’s lives, but our profits jumped from 3,000,000 a year to 50,000,000 a year. You know, our product jumps jumped from a small to medium sized business the enterprise market. I watched the transformation of lives and the company happened at the same time, and that’s when I was, like, there is something here, and we do not need to be dependent on a physical space to to basically create this amazing experience. It’s a win win for everybody.

Luis [00:06:18]:

Yeah. No. I I hear you. The the experience angle, like, is very interesting to me because, you know, my my background was in video games. Right? That’s that’s how I started write my professional, writing and marketing career. and why I noticed, like, years ago, covering, you know, doing first MMOs and being part of a very active MMO community and then later esports was that these people are essentially work Right? They’re playing games, but they’re actually working. They have deadlines. They have KPI. They have schedules to keep, etcetera. Right? but they enjoy it so much. Right? It doesn’t feel like work for them, but it’s exactly like work. Right? You know? Yeah. I remember word of world of Warcraft, is doing repetitive tasks at your computer over and over filling imaginary spreadsheets. Right? And people love it enough that they pay for it. Right? They pay for doing it. Right? So it’s always been interesting to me. Right? How do you build that that that experience, right, that that makes the work that you’re doing, right, really, you know, an enjoyable us. There’s 2 components, of course. You know, it helps if you enjoy, you know, the work itself. Right? For example, I’m a writer and a marketer. I I enjoy writing sales copy and I enjoy, you know, looking at, you know, looking at ad date and stuff like that. That stuff that I find fun Right? But even when doing stuff that you find fun, there’s highs and lows. Right? Sometimes work is just work. So it’s important to have a framework right, as you say, the experience that makes it, you know, pleasant and and enjoyable, right, and and and maybe and and challenging and challenging, of course. So How have you approached this experience design in in the past couple of of years?

Darcy [00:08:10]:

Really good question. So the framework that I’ve really been using is based on something called self determination theory. And it’s a theory in psychology that 2 psychologists, you know, it’s over 40 years of research, Ryan and Becky, came up with the theory of intrinsic motivation. If human beings, regardless of where they’re from, what language they speak, what culture they’re from, if three human needs are met, people will be motivated to do almost anything. And those three things are autonomy, belonging and competency.

Luis [00:08:47]:


Darcy [00:08:47]:

in a lot of ways, I call it the ABCs of remote design. autonomy, belonging, and competency. So when I’m designing any type of program for a client, I’m really thinking about does this meet the autonomy of a human being? Do they have choice within this program? So anything from a benefits program, we’re not just telling people what to do. We’re giving them a choice Do they feel like they belong? Is it inclusive? Is it inclusive for different backgrounds, different cultures? all of these different experiences, and is it challenging people? Is it giving people sort of that sense of meaning building their skill set? Are they having competency within it. And so really honing in on that learning and growth, that growth mindset piece. So, again, AB see is the framework that I really think of the pillars of any incredible experience design process should meet those 3 pillars.

Luis [00:09:42]:

interesting. So, can we get a bit more, a bit deeper into the challenging and competency part of things because the those two words don’t mean the same thing to me. Right? So I I I’m wondering how they entangle.

Darcy [00:10:00]:

Can you clarify your question?

Luis [00:10:02]:

Yeah. So, you know, when you say competency, I I feel that you’re talking about, you know, people being doing something that they feel they can manage, And and that’s, you know, not necessarily the same though it links with being challenged. Right? ideally, I feel that people need to be right, at at the border of their comfort zone. Right? Yes.

Darcy [00:10:24]:

Yeah. So I would liken that to something called flow state or zone of genius. So really thinking about competency in the same vein as mastery, right, are are you competent within something, but do you is there still enough challenge where you’re learning and growing? Is there still enough challenge where you’re moving towards sort of that moving target continuing to grow in your career. And that doesn’t always have to mean up. That can mean out. And so, again, when I think about that design process, we traditionally have hierarchical environments. The only way to be promoted is to move up or to manage people, but thinking about people’s competencies in different ways, do they not wanna manage people, but they wanna grow outward within their specific competency. So I think competency obviously is very all encompassing, and it can go a lot of different ways, but it’s an a pillar anchor, I would say, in thinking about design process.

Luis [00:11:20]:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So so so that that clarifies it more. Thank you. Yeah. so How is this more applicable, right, to to to a business? Right? Let let’s say that you go in a business, they ask you, you know, to to improve their remote work experience, what are your diagnostic tools? How do you get up to speed to what’s happening What would the health of the culture and the health of the experience?

Darcy [00:11:46]:

Yeah. So when I work with a company, I do an audit That’s the first thing I do is understand 3 categories of sort of what I call the 3 legged chair remote work. Right? It’s culture. So I audit their culture. What are the collective consciousness of what of what people say, feel, think, and do? I look for rituals. I look for artifacts. I look for slang, shared language. Do people understand how things are done around this place or this experience. Right? And then I look at communication. Are there streamline communication channels? How do people communicate? How is information being distilled from leadership to the rest of the team? What are the threads? What’s the consistency? Is there consistency? And then I look at technology, which I really think of as the container of culture and communication Yeah. Where where is this culture and communication happening? Is it all on Zoom? Is it all on Slack? Is it a amalgamation of tools so people know how to use the tools? And so I do a really deep dive audit in understanding sort of the health of what each of those categories looks like. And then I’m able to say, Okay. Great. Here’s where you’re doing great in culture communication and technology, and here’s where we really can approve what improve what do you think your priorities are in alignment with your business goals right now? And then we get to the meat of things and start solving the problems.

Luis [00:13:13]:

Got it. Got it. Yeah. So and what what’s the what’s the next step? Right? Once you diagnose these problems, right, what kind of process do you do to go through them?

Darcy [00:13:26]:

Yeah. Again, it depends on the problem that we’re trying to solve. So for example, a recent client I work with, one of their goals was really to move from Zoom meetings all the time to asynchronous communication.

Luis [00:13:43]:

Yeah. That’s a great goal, by the way. I support that.

Darcy [00:13:46]:

Great goal. Right? So something I did with them is we looked at all of their Zoom data. We broke down their salaries. We broke down exactly how much it was costing them to be into meetings. And then we started to build in asynchronous mechanisms. They didn’t have a project management software. Everything was happening in Slack. So what we did is we built a project management system. We started having triggers. Basically, you couldn’t schedule a meeting unless you went through checklist, and then that shot you into the project management system. So slowly, it started to shift and change behaviors. And so, again, that’s one very tangible example of a huge problem they were trying to solve. We also worked with our leadership team to reduce time in meetings by 15% as a company OKR. So not only was this just something that we’re trying to do, we tied it back to a business goal. and a biz and a business OKR. And so that was something that was, you know, really helpful is working with all stakeholders to make sure this isn’t just something we’re saying we’re gonna do. This is something that we’re saying as a company on a top level we’re going to achieve this year, and here is how.

Luis [00:14:55]:

Yeah. why do you think that this is still something? I I I mean, going a bit into that specific, issue, why do you think that it’s still so hard to convince people to to let go of meetings. I mean, I I’m like, again, as a notes as an old school internet user, right, I I default naturally text because back in back in the day, video wasn’t really feasible, right? But even once once there was proper treaming, right, you know, in my collaborative project with everyone, if we went on on audio, not video, but if we went on audio, it it was usually, you know, to hang out. Right? It was usually to have, you know, some social time, right, or to do something that’s really needed sync, right, like, like, say, you know, playing a video game, you know, obviously, it was more immediate while you’re playing a video game while you’re in the action. You know, you have your fingers busy, so you need to be able to communicate by voice. Right? But but overall, it was it it always made more sense to me that if you were if you were doing important communication, text was the way to go because, hey. Then you can, you know, go back and review. And and, actually, while you’re typing, you’re thinking things true. Right? a lot of people, myself included, sometimes don’t think as well. Don’t think things as true when they speak. Right? speak first, they think later. Right? So definitely, you know, it it all it was always a no brainer for me that that typing should be the primary method of communication, but somewhere along the way, people got really, committed to to calls, right, why do you think that there’s that resistance still?

Darcy [00:16:35]:

I think in a lot of ways, it’s a subconscious resistance. It’s so much of this Let’s just hop on a call and and the folks that I see who struggle the most with kind of the highly synchronous remote work are the

Luis [00:16:52]:

ones who really went

Darcy [00:16:52]:

remote out of desperation and out of reactionary to the pandemic. They’re sort of the ones who have said, ah, we’re just gonna deal with this. We’re gonna deal with this. We’re gonna gonna do exactly what we did the office because we’re surviving. Right? And there hasn’t really been a need. And now there is is they’re starting to see burnout happen quicker. They’re starting to see, you know, exhaustion happen. They’re starting to see sort of the product activity decline because there isn’t time for deep work. They’ve never put mechanisms in place to support that deep work. in an office, they could just maybe close a door, go away, whatever it might be. But here, there’s just this in a remote environment that remote experience if the mechanisms and the culture wasn’t built to support asynchronous communication. As I just mentioned with this one client, they were getting projects done in Slack. There was no project management software. It didn’t exist. Right? And so

Sharon [00:17:58]:

Luis [00:17:58]:

Well, now now I think that slack is be be detesting their own project management and software. Well, Black. So there will be. So there will

Darcy [00:18:07]:

be — Think about think about when you design an office building, right, if a door is shut, you’re not gonna go into it.

Luis [00:18:15]:


Darcy [00:18:16]:

Right? It’s the same in a virtual environment. You can create spaces and signals and emojis to signal sort of when work and how work gets done. If that was never created, you’re gonna default to exactly what you used to do in person, which is just grab somebody on the shoulder and talk to them.

Luis [00:18:36]:

Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. Yeah. Which is really not that that optimal. Right? Yeah. Alright. So, going back. So so go leaning a bit in leaning a bit into that that that situation. Okay. So you have your your project management software. Right? You try to get people to cut, you know, cut off the calls. And I I don’t want to make people feel that there aren’t proper, you know, reasons to have a call, but I really don’t think that that they’re the you the the things that people usually use calls for. Right? I I think that there is very little actual work that doesn’t benefit from being done asynchronously just because, again, you have a record, and you each person gets to think, right, at their own at their own pace, which is definitely a plus, where I actually see calls, making a lot of sense in remote work comes down to the cultural aspect, right, because you can’t when you’re in the call with someone, and this is why I like having, let’s say, weekly team calls or something like that, sometimes things come up that that you wouldn’t or or people share their experience that they were wouldn’t normally think to to chair during, a text chat where it tends to be a little bit more transactional, a bit more like work related, right? So how does that fit fit when you’re talking about the culture component of what you you try to help people deal with.

Darcy [00:20:17]:

Well, I really think about one thing I audit and I ask people is, well, 1, what do you wanna get out of your meetings? Right? Like, what’s the purpose of the meeting? And,

Sharon [00:20:28]:


Darcy [00:20:29]:

What if we designed these meetings a little differently? And I’ll I’ll take it all hands, for example. So, you know, in a company all hands, you may have a

Sharon [00:20:37]:

100, 200, 300, 5

Darcy [00:20:39]:

hundred people in this Zoom call.

Luis [00:20:42]:


Darcy [00:20:42]:

Number 1, that’s expensive.

Luis [00:20:44]:


Darcy [00:20:44]:


Luis [00:20:45]:


Darcy [00:20:46]:

Very expensive. You’ve effectively, if it’s an hour long call, it’s probably really costing you 3 hours of their time based on the prep, getting out of flow, getting back in. Right? You’ve sort of gotten people out of what they’re doing and into this synchronous call.

Luis [00:21:02]:

Yeah. Exactly. I I usually tell people that that, a 45 minute call isn’t really a 45 minute call. I mean, it’s a 2 hour event. Right?

Darcy [00:21:12]:

Exactly. And so But, again, I wanna say, I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but use your time wisely.

Luis [00:21:19]:


Darcy [00:21:20]:

Is there an intro. Is there an outro? Are you helping people bond? Are you just showing weekly updates that could be done asynchronously? I really try to help people understand the mindset. what is it that you can you can’t or sorry, that you can’t do asynchronously that we should be doing in this call. And so whether that’s icebreakers, bonding, creating sort of looking at your people analytics data and saying these two teams aren’t talking. We’re gonna do some of activity when we put these two teams in a room or I know Zoom room and we create an experience for them. I really think it comes down to just how you use that time and is it worth your company’s money? And I think that’s a really big label if I’ve seen go off for people is, like, okay. Great. If we’re gonna have this time, if we’re going to understand how much it’s costing us, well, let’s design it so we get a higher ROI out of it.

Luis [00:22:18]:

Yeah. Or or, you know, our, I mean, I’m all for our wise, but sometimes there’s there there are things that aren’t necessarily so easy to to put a number on, but are no no lessons. For example, currently in our marketing stand up. We used to do a marketing stand up, right, every week, right, 1 hour after with, 1 hour with the whole team. Now two people in the team f k. which makes that, you know, a little bit more challenging. Sometimes, you know, they have that night of sleep where the kids are acting up or they part their partners in the village, etcetera. And in those instances, we tend to do it and synchronously, right, by text just because it doesn’t feel right to do the team stand up without two people. Right? So every so either everyone comes or no one comes. Right? So when we do it, when we do them by text, it’s, it feels very productive. Right? We we end up doing the stand up by text a lot. When it when it happens that we do it by video, we tend to fool around a lot, right? Because we’re used to doing by text now. Right? We we talk about, you know, we talk about movies. We talk about how the things are going. The people with the babies scare, the people that don’t have the babies, about having Right? That’s the, you know, that’s what happens. And, you know, it it’s not it doesn’t feel like it’s advancing as to ours our KPIs, but I actually feel that it’s quite important for for the team. Those actually feel like some of the best meetings, but the reason that they are the best meeting is that we kind of figured out that, oh, you know, the work stuff isn’t really important to have in the meeting. You can actually just do that on slack. Right? And when we’re in video, we actually just hanging out.

Darcy [00:24:04]:

Yeah. I mean, I I would argue that that does advance your KPIs, and I would argue that you do get even a higher ROI from those meetings. You know, I I think something we miss. And and you just kinda said it as well as, like, we don’t talk about work stuff, and I would challenge the people out there to say building relationships that matter and building trust in a remote team is work. Like, I don’t care if you’re talking about movies, your dog, or the fact that your baby did whatever this morning. Right?

Luis [00:24:35]:

Like, Exactly.

Darcy [00:24:36]:

It’s running around naked around the house and you’re on Zoom. Like, you know, all the things that happen in remote teams, like, that is that is part of the work experience. Like, that’s part of how we were human beings. Like, building those relationships creates trust and trust is the only glue that binds remote teams and moves products forward. And so when I hear we don’t talk about work, well, you’re you’re kinda you’re talking about your lives, which, you know, work setting. So it is work.

Sharon [00:25:10]:

It’s tough. finding a great developer that is not only a magician with code, but also integrates into your company culture. And while international hiring gives you access to so much more talent often at a lower salary. It also comes with a massive pool of not so great candidates, which you must filter through. That’s why at distant job, we get to know you on a personal level and then go find similar companies internationally. where we solicit their career driven, focused senior workers. And with our exceptional HR love experience, we also make sure this candidate’s last video for the long run. quality candidates, lower prices, and longer retention sounds way too good to be true. I know, but as the 1st remote recruitment agency, being around for more than 2 decades. Not only we have the experience to do it, we guarantee to deliver these people within 3 weeks. So reach out to us at to learn about our guarantee, about our HR love experience, and how we can build you an amazing culturally fit digital team. See you on the other side.

Luis [00:26:15]:

So so let’s talk about some some worse stories. Right? You started this. It’s the you started your a year ago. Right? You know, obviously, you know, naming no names are using maybe fake names, right, to protect the innocent. what were some situations that you fell into that you didn’t expect to?

Darcy [00:26:38]:

Yeah. I think that the the consistent situation that I have fallen into and and continuously follow fall into is many leaders who come to me say We’re flexible. We’re remote first. And I’m like, awesome. Great. What does that mean to you? like, help me understand how you as a culture and you as a person, like, define those words.

Luis [00:27:09]:


Darcy [00:27:11]:

I will tell you, Lisa. I get 15 different answers from 15 different people. No one knows what it means, and that’s okay.

Luis [00:27:21]:


Darcy [00:27:21]:

That said, the sort of barrier to entry for people really wanting to build true autonomous companies that have a lot of belonging and that competency in it, they don’t quite understand it. They now have to find the behaviors within those words. You know, that people say to me, I had a founder once who was like, well, we wanna be fully async, and I was like, Cool. That’s great. so let’s put some mechanisms in place. Help me understand, like, how your behaviors are gonna change in your commitment to creating the safe environment. Oh, well, I don’t have to do anything different. It’s it’s like saying you want abs but then, like, you don’t go to the gym or eat well, then, like, you’re not gonna get them. And so that’s been a consistent sort of part in this consultancy is, like, being very real with people and is like, you’re coming to me with these problems. I can help guide you to solve them, but ultimately, you have a choice on whether you really wanna do this or not.

Luis [00:28:26]:

Got it. Yeah. Yeah. I I totally understand that. And, you know, it it I had something in my mind, but it kinda slipped me. That’s so annoying when it happens. But, but, yeah, why was it? it it it had to do what you were just talking. Oh, yeah. Alright. So so doing what they’ve always done. Right? I actually think that there’s something to be sad for when you’re forced into remote, right, happen to a lot of people, right, you know, in COVID. But, no, it still happens, you know, on occasion, for for some for sometimes when you’re soft when you’re forced into remote, I actually think that it’s fine to start by trying to replicate your office experience in remote because that’s what, you know, Right? And there’s a lot of tools that help you with that. Right? But eventually, I feel that you need to move on from that. Right? You need to evolve. If you try to run remote, just exactly as you did things in the office. It’s going to work for a while. And, again, I I would say it’s even healthy to start like that, you know, to take baby steps, But you can’t expect that it will take you that it will last you a long time, right, because eventually you’ll start feeling the the tension, right, between something that was created for when people were when when you basically, you know, put a bunch of monkeys in a in a cubicle. Right? And then, you know, when people are are prad apart and and messing messing around digitally. Right? That that’s a totally different different ballgame. So how do you feel is a good way to make that that transition, right, when you are just you hit the ground running, right, trying to replicate the office, and then you need you need to move from there into something that will actually be sustainable long term and remote.

Darcy [00:30:22]:

Yeah. I mean, I think there’s there’s 2 answers to this. And and the the first one is is me being very, very, very real. if if you the leadership team and the founders don’t have the willingness growth mindset and vision to do things differently, you should probably go back to the office.

Luis [00:30:47]:


Darcy [00:30:48]:

Like —

Luis [00:30:49]:

I I’d argue with that. Right.

Darcy [00:30:50]:

Right? Like, I just I think that’s a huge reality, and I think that a lot of people come to me and they say they wanna do these things because other companies are doing them. And before we even get to work together, I say, well, who are you? And, like, what’s your a, and do you really wanna put in the work to change? And you have to answer that question for yourself before we even start this work. And so Number

Sharon [00:31:13]:


Darcy [00:31:14]:

I think that’s, like, really important for companies founding teams and leadership teams to understand. and 2, thinking about, you know, you put all, as you mentioned, like, put all the monkeys in a room and they’ve sort of figured out how to do things and

Sharon [00:31:30]:

Luis [00:31:30]:


Darcy [00:31:32]:

Yes. We’re getting test on our own notepads and, like, whatever it may be. I I really look at it is is how do we codify the culture in a remote environment?

Luis [00:31:44]:


Darcy [00:31:45]:

How do we take what was familiar in the off this and bring it to a remote environment, and I’ll give one very tangible example. You know, I had I was working with a team once, and they were adopting a single source of truth documentation, project management software. that was fairly well known, and people had used it before in very different ways in different companies. I proposed, what if we name this something cultural? So their team was really into cowboys. Their founders were way hats all the time. And so we called it

Sharon [00:32:23]:

Luis [00:32:23]:


Sharon [00:32:23]:

Darcy [00:32:24]:

the ranch. Right? People immediately were like, oh, let’s go meet in the ranch. Let’s go work in the ranch. Let’s go do these things in the ranch. And so I really suggest these simple, simple changes of what was something that was familiar to you culturally in the office? Maybe it was the name of the street your office was on. Maybe it was, I don’t know, a local restaurant that you all went to for lunch and take those naming conventions and start to create containers in a virtual environment for people to best understand what the swim lanes are and what behaviors are supposed to happen in these spaces.

Luis [00:33:01]:

Yeah. That that’s actually neat. trick it. It’s very psychological, but I it works. I can see it working. That’s a great idea.

Darcy [00:33:09]:

Yeah. So that’s that’s one sort of, again, this step by step process in this long change. And, also, I’d say, knowing that it’s gonna take time.

Luis [00:33:22]:

Yeah. Yeah. That’s another thing. People usual people usually think that this is something that you get that you get in a week. Right? You know, we get the we get the guy. We follow the remote work guide, and that’s it. You know, in a week, we’ll be good to go. Right? That that’s definitely a a common you know, misconception. Right? Just just because you have the user manual, that doesn’t doesn’t mean that you can fly a jet. Right?

Darcy [00:33:45]:

Yeah. Like, I’m not gonna get a 6 pack tomorrow if I started to sell today. Like, sorry. It’s not gonna happen.

Luis [00:33:52]:

Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. That that that makes a lot of sense. So why do you say we move to a couple of rapids fire questions? I’m going to change my rapids fire questions because you’ve answered a lot of them already, right, the previous time you were on, but again, you know, because we all we already had a previous encounter. I I was able to to think about, you know, some some new some new stuff, and and, you know, some some oldies, but goodies. But first of all, while surfing taught you about remote work?

Darcy [00:34:23]:

Oh my gosh. I just posted about this yesterday. Oh, cool. Yeah. Oh, so much. So I’ll tell a story that I I told on LinkedIn yesterday.

Luis [00:34:35]:


Darcy [00:34:37]:

I was saying for a lot.

Sharon [00:34:37]:

Luis [00:34:38]:

for, sir, for are you, by the way? I know you’re into surf, but I don’t know your your proficiency proficiency level. I I’m just I’m just a dabbler. Right?

Darcy [00:34:45]:

No. That’s okay. I say it probably meant intermediate. I’ve been serving for about 8 years.

Luis [00:34:49]:

— Oh, that’s yeah. That that’s

Sharon [00:34:51]:

Darcy [00:34:51]:

And I I surf almost every morning and in the summer. I don’t like cold water, and the water’s warm here in the summer. but I said yesterday on LinkedIn, I was like, you know, I’ve been in a board meeting for the last 3 weeks. a board meeting.

Luis [00:35:03]:

Board meeting. Yeah.

Darcy [00:35:04]:

Right. In the C suite, s e a. but I was thinking so much about serve culture and how in surf culture, at least in Southern California, and and a lot of other places in the world, you know, the culture’s very unspoken. There are signals that you just know if somebody is a good surfer or you wanna And if they’re new, if they’ve dropped in on you on a wave, you sort of see people’s board sizes and styles and what waves are catching and how to read the waves and what the artifacts and the language are. And I think a lot about that observation and how that translates to remote culture. There’s all these sort of unspoken rules. This sort of this assimilation into this environment that’s fairly ethereal unless you’ve be you’ve it’s constructed for you to sort of be shepherd in shepherded into it. Yeah.

Luis [00:35:59]:

So I

Darcy [00:35:59]:

just think that analogy is just culture can exist in any sort of container. What is the and what are those consistencies within that container. So that’s 1. And I think 2, the learning to surf is just this really hard nuance thing. You’ve got a board and the second that you’re toe is positioned differently on the board, and the wave is breaking in a different way. You may fall or there might be a doll friend in your way, or there might be you know, going down the line in a different way. And I just think there’s all of these different factors that play into having the ride of your life And I’d like in that to creating the best company of your life working in the best experience that you can, but it’s going to take falling. It’s going to take dealing with the different weather patterns that come your way and just perfecting sort of the art of how you move through it and control your board and your movements on that ever changing wave. Yeah. No. That that that only makes sense.

Luis [00:37:08]:

Right? By the way, I’m not big into surfing culture myself. That that that’s what I asked. I’m one of those guys that that owns a surfboard and brings it out. Right? twice every summer, and it’s a victory if I can stand on top of it. Right? If I can stand on top of it, it’s like, wow. This this has made my summer. Right. So I’m definitely not not that much into it, but it it is a a lovely thing. And anything related to the sea really gets me going So I’m I’m that’s that’s why I choose to live where I live. Right? So so

Sharon [00:37:36]:

Luis [00:37:36]:

James. There you go. But, what you just talked about makes me think of of a term that I that I’ve coined in term of in terms of remote work, which is the the NPC problem. Right? I don’t know if you’re familiar with video games, but NPC is a video game term for non playable character. Right? That’s the characters that that interact, you know, with the player. giving you quests or rewards or missions, you know, or whatever. They look like people, but they’re really, you know, just a character and a mannequin, you know, controlled by the computer where you with with which you have a a transaction, a transactional — Okay. Right? And why see a lot becomes very common in remote work is that your colleagues start you start feeling relationships with it. Right? This this, lady is is the character that gives me, you know, the PDF that I need to do X. Right? when I need my my password system reset, right, I go to the video game like character, you know, that that that has the the the the the administration tag on slack. Yeah. Right? Etcetera. And I feel that a lot of what brings us, you know, from an unhealthy remote work experience to a healthy, you know, in fulfilling remote work experience is finding a way to constantly remind people that these are not NPCs. These are other players in a big multiplayer game. Right? So, does does this make sense and how do you feel that that that that are some good ways to keeping this. I I I Lincoln this to taking it back. Right? This is not something that you solve once. You need to do it regularly for it to work. Right? Yeah. So how do you make the people, the digital? You know, Slack profiles with little slack, you know, green, green dot, etcetera, feel like like people and and not little internet robots.

Darcy [00:39:41]:

Oh, I totally feel this, and I love the analogy. I’d never heard of a NPC, but I I totally know what you mean by describing that term. You know, I’ll I’ll use myself as an example. You know, I’m I’ve been in a people ops role, which traditionally was HR. And I’ve had many people just sort of look at me when I’m in a full timbrell like that as an order taker as just, right, like, just sort of throw it to HR, right, So one thing is really important. I would say, and, again, I’m gonna use the example of the the language conventions as we move from HR to people operations. It is people as a product. So we’re starting to weave in how these teams and these individuals are really sort of helping with the business results and are there. These NPCs are there for this integrated support. And so you know, not to get too deep here, but, you know, creating that lively Slack profile is one simple thing you can do is a read me So when you look at the Slack profile, maybe you see a photo of me and my dog. Maybe you see I write what my values are. what really pisses me off when you talk to me, what I really enjoy, how I enjoy getting feedback, And maybe there’s even a loom video that, asynchronously, I’ve given you a tour of my house or my garden or where I work remotely, right, you’re almost humanizing individuals asynchronously and giving people the time to get to know one another a little bit better regardless of that synchronous connection. So I think that building of a profile, that building of a personal I don’t wanna say necessarily personal brand internally, but

Luis [00:41:28]:


Darcy [00:41:28]:

Helping people see who they are and helping guide people through really understanding how they want to present themselves as their authentic selves in a virtual work environment is a really easy thing to implement that gets a ton of again, ROI to help make people feel more human than just a body or voice behind a slack name.

Luis [00:41:56]:

Good. Yeah. That that makes a lot of sense. I like it. So let’s shift gears. Since you since we last talked, you started your own business, a consulting business. Right? I I don’t know if it’s a one person business, or if you have a a small, you know, team you know, maybe of part timers or freelancers around you. But regardless, you know, you moved from a remote job to managing your remote business. what what how did that feel? What were the things that you weren’t expecting, right, to to be different that that were actually, you know, quite different? Yeah.

Darcy [00:42:33]:

I mean, solo per per newership is a journey, and it’s really difficult. And I wanna be clear, you know, I started this consultancy because there was such a need in the market for this type of work. I’m also not opposed to going back in house. I just wanna do great work and help people work better remotely. Like, that’s what’s important. I don’t care if it’s in house contract or whatever it means. And so The biggest challenges have really been learning how to sell, learning how to be a marketer. You know, you spend 70% of your time in a consultancy business doing a lot of the things that aren’t in your zone of genius to be be able to be in your zone of genius. And so that was definitely a shift for me was just learning and continuously learning. You know, I don’t know what I don’t know. how to position myself, understanding what clients are the best fit, you know, where I don’t work well or can’t really make a huge And so I think that experimentation process has been longer and harder than I expected That said, I recently bought myself a lab coat and some science novels. And so whenever I feel sort of maybe down on client load or what I how I’m marketing myself, I just sort of put that on, and I’m like, well, guess I’m experimenting. We’re gonna figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Luis [00:44:05]:

Yeah. So, well, I I guess we can segue into now that you’re you’re building your own remote business, which by the way looks quite nice, quite interesting. Right? I was going over the materials and your website and etcetera, right, in preparation for the interview a couple of days ago. And it it it looks like it looks like you have a a quality offerings. So and obviously, you know, we’ll give the links to all of that, you know, in the in the show notes that people can get in touch, and I’ll invite you at the end the of the podcast, you know, to share a bit about it. But I was wondering when you made this shift, right, when you decided to start your own remote business. what were the tools, the books, the resources that you found more, you know, more, more useful that that were that gave you the biggest help, you know, help, you know, meaning just not necessarily just in learning, but also learning, but just in logistics and managing and getting it all up and running.

Darcy [00:45:04]:

Yeah. you know, I talk to a lot of friends who had started their own businesses. I started following solopreneurs. I read a really great book called The E Myth.

Luis [00:45:17]:

Oh, yeah. Love that book.

Darcy [00:45:19]:

Yeah. It’s a great book, and it’s really all about how how would you set your business up for 6, like, set it up so that somebody could just come in and understand how to do everything.

Luis [00:45:29]:


Darcy [00:45:30]:

so I really and I was also really lucky that the CEO I had worked for before in a remote environment was, like, super, super, super digitally organized. and so I’d sort of taken a lot of those practices and put them in my own business. I’m I’m definitely still learning my digital hygiene for sure. But, you know, I I just thought about what are the essentials that I need to run this business? How am I going to let people know that I exist. What is my offering going to be? Again, that that changes with time and changes with need. how am I gonna get paid? How am I going to make sure that, you know, people I can interact with people. I’m getting feedback. What are my feedback loops? So just thinking about these, just very sort of core principles and making sure that those pillars were in place, and then I build around them as I grow.

Luis [00:46:28]:

Yeah. Yeah. I find it. It’s it’s really easy. You know, going back to the, you know, to the it because it’s so funny that you mentioned it because I’m actually rereading it. I I always try to reread that book whenever I’m starting a new business. So now I’m helping my wife start her business, and so I’m reading it again. Right? And and, you know, right at the beginning of the book, the the other outlines. It’s a great book. It’s been around for us. I want to say 30 years or something like that. You know, I find that the real good books survive the test of time. And, so one of the things that the books talks about early on is that in order to run us business. You really need to be three people. Right? You need to be the technical person who produces the manager that keeps everything organized and the entrepreneur that has all the ideas and I suppose that marketing falls into that umbrella as well. Right? And I find that it’s really easy to get stuck in an in one role right, and and and not doing enough of of the others. So the balances that the balance is is definitely hard. and especially, you know, when you’re doing it remotely and you’re doing it from your own laptop and room and etcetera. And you don’t have, like, a lot of external stimuli. It’s really easy. For example, you know, I fall into the marketing category. Right? It’s really easy for me to spend, 2 days, right, obsessing over ads and ad net and stuff like that. Right? And then, you know, I could, oh, I should probably do some work, right, and not just advertisement. Right? So so that’s definitely a thing. How do you keep How are you keeping your discipline, right, in terms of being a remote solopreneur?

Darcy [00:48:14]:

Yeah. So a couple things there. 1, I have frameworks for my days. So for example, I do something called me Mondays where it’s not necessarily just focus on me, but I make sure I’ve gotten my inbox down to 0. I set myself up for the week. I make sure sort of all my errands are taken care of. What are the things I can just sort

Luis [00:48:38]:

of get out

Darcy [00:48:38]:

of my head space to be super grounded through the week? Tuesdays, I do focus days. So I don’t schedule any meetings on Tuesdays unless I’m working with a client who I need to kind of be synchronously with them. Wednesdays are outreach days. Those are my connect days and Thursdays are execution days. So the the days I really sort of work on tangible marketing materials, you know, a lot of content creation, a lot of things like that. So I think really bucketing my days, I’m a very kind of black or white person. There aren’t a lot of gray areas for me, and so it’s really important for me to sort of create a container of the day and be like, okay. these are the things, and this is the type of work I’m going to be committed to working to for these days. I also lock myself in my husband’s office, on 2 th Tuesdays Thursdays. It’s a dark editing cave, and I’m just like, alright. I am not gonna surf for too long in the morning. I’m just gonna go, and these are the days that I am, like, focused in. I think as well, I have mentors. I have mentors who have done this before. I’ve reached out to people to be like, help help me stay on track, help me stay accountable. Those are things I’ve done as well. And then I also have a running list of things I hate doing that are soul sucks and time sucks. And so when I see maybe an ad on Upwork or there’s enough things that have become so laborious for me where I’m just not getting I’m not doing great work at these departments. I should probably hire some of this stuff out. Like, you do not want me doing graphic design. I will spend 10 hours trying to format a slide. I’m terrible at it. But if I pay somebody, you know, a hundred bucks to do my presentation for me

Sharon [00:50:28]:

Luis [00:50:29]:


Sharon [00:50:29]:

Darcy [00:50:29]:

we’re all gonna be a lot happier So I think coming to terms with that as well is something that’s been really supportive for me.

Luis [00:50:35]:

Yeah. I I I I find obviously, you know, when you’re starting your business, you tend to be I mean, not always. Right? Sometimes you have savings, but you usually tend to be time rich and tech. Right? Yeah. Yeah. So so you you tend to fall into that thing of, okay, I own I I have I’m on a limited budget. Let me do as many things myself. as I can. And and that’s usually a a decent strategy when you’re beginning. Sometimes you’re not even sure if you’re going to be able to find clients, whatever. But as soon as you start finding clients as soon as soon as there’s some income coming in, it it people tend to forget that that they should outsource the things that — Right. take a lot of their time. So that’s definitely a a a a pitfall. And again, you know, when your business is fully remote, This is simultaneously the easiest and the hardest thing to do. It’s the hardest thing to do because, you know, you’re like, I spend all the day in front of my laptop. I might as well do it myself. but it’s also the easiest thing because, hey, you know, you don’t need anyone to come in for to the office. You can just, you know, again, you you can just outsource it to recite like cup work or something like that. So so it’s kind of a double edged blade I find.

Darcy [00:51:47]:

A 100%. Let’s say I’m helping a client with the perfect job description to describe their culture and exactly what they need. Yeah. Now I’m gonna go do that for myself. Now I’m doing it twice. Exactly. Yeah. I totally get it. But, I mean, look, you put in great work and you get great results and and nothing good comes easy. It’s it’s hard. It is running your business is incredibly difficult. and just continuously learning about how you work yourself, your zone of genius, and and where you can find the right partners to sort of supplement for the places that, you know, you can’t do great work.

Luis [00:52:27]:

Yeah. Exactly. You know, it’s like, strategies strategies, statics, they don’t work. People do. Right? So that that’s it. You at the end of the day, you have to do did the work. Okay. So, thank you so much for your time. It was lovely having you on, again. Right? And, you know, I I know you were heading, you know, closer to to Portugal soon. So I hope that maybe we’ll be able to meet, you know, at at some at some point and have a nice a nice glass of wine, but in the meantime, I’d like you to tell people the listeners where can they continue the conversation with you and where can they learn more about your business and about your your your offerings?

Darcy [00:53:09]:

Yeah. Absolutely. So the best place to connect with me is on LinkedIn. it’s still my name just changed, but it’s still backslash darcey bowls. so I the link will be in the show notes. also, my website shift with

Luis [00:53:25]:


Darcy [00:53:25]:

And then it also re recently launched a newsletter called remote by design. So really thinking about how we design conscious and intentional remote first environments that comes out every Monday, we’ll include the link in the show notes, but deaf only subscribe to that for some really tangible nuggets every Monday of how to design and sort of create these frameworks within the freedom of your remote experience.

Luis [00:53:53]:

Alright. That that sounds amazing. We’ll have all those links in the show notes. and, yeah, thank you so much for being a a 2 time guest. let let’s hope that the the 3rd time is as is as awesome.

Darcy [00:54:05]:

Awesome. And if anybody out there is struggling with how to sort of hone a remote first culture, figure out who you are and how you wanna move forward, I would love to chat. feel free to reach out.

Luis [00:54:16]:

That that sounds awesome. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. For listening, this was the distant job podcast. your podcast about building and leaving awesome remote teams. See you next week.

As a remote employee experience designer, Darcy firmly believes that work is not just a place but an experience that needs to be curated regardless of physical location.  

During this podcast episode, she shares her insights on transitioning from replicating the office experience to establishing a sustainable remote work setup. She also delves into the concept of the NPC problem, finding ways to humanize digital profiles and maintaining discipline as a remote solopreneur. 

Key Insights:

  • How to create an engaging remote work experience
  • Balancing technical, managerial, and entrepreneurial roles in remote work
  • The concept of NPCs in people operations roles
  • Building a lively Slack profile to humanize individuals and encourage connection
  • Creating a personal brand internally within the organization
  • How to create an enjoyable and challenging work experience

Book Recommendation:

Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE so you won’t miss all of the other interesting episodes that we have coming up every week!


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