Interview with Tammy Bjelland, founder of Workplaceless, a professional development company on a mission to help remote workers, managers and companies thrive in location-free environments.
Can you please describe what Workplaceless is all about? / How did Workplaceless come to be?
I’d been working in remote or flexible teams for most of my career. That career and professional passion were really centered in learning and development. So while I was working remotely, I realized there were limited, if any, resources to directly support the professional growth of my remote career. There was no structure to career pathing, no recommendations on how to best communicate with my teams, and definitely no framework for accountability regarding all of the different factors that affected my remote work. At the same time, my peers were interested in more flexible career opportunities, which were growing, but not having ever worked remotely before, they were challenged to prove that they could be successful in a remote role. Hence, the birth of Workplaceless, which originally started as the only Remote Work Certification program. We’re now working towards the broader mission of not only empowering remote workers, but also giving companies the tools to benefit from distributed teams. Ultimately, closing the gap between the high demand and low supply of remote opportunities — which truly benefits a wide range of job-seeking communities.
Why is it there a need to educate teams on how to work remotely?
We frequently talk about the “elephants in the room” when it comes to remote success and failure stories. While so many of us ingrained in remote work and teams recognize the benefits, we also know you can’t just take a high-functioning in-office team and ask everyone to work from home without changing some of your processes. Some of the same rules of in-office engagement just don’t apply in the same way for remote teams. Two of the biggest: are team communication, and output accountability. There are nuances to these skills in a distributed team environment that need a dedicated focus, alignment across the whole team, and examples of real-world application in order to be successful.
What will you learn in the courses?
With Workplaceless, it’s really not just “one course”. The key to successful remote work, remote teams, and remote organizations is that everyone is on the same page and operating from the same “remote guidebook” if you will. Each course within our portfolio is designed to address the needs of that member of the team — to give them the language, the tools, the frameworks, and the applications to succeed in their own jobs and but also all courses work together to elevate the performance of the entire remote team. For example, the Workplaceless certification includes modules on Productivity and Autonomy, the Leadplaceless program for leaders includes modules on Performance Management and Conflict Management, while they both include modules on Communication.
What is the biggest challenges you see with remote work today?
Thinking there’s a “one-size-fits-all” solution. The objective of every organization and every team is different, so to expect the same structure to work for every team is unrealistic. Additionally, you need to start from a foundation of trust. Every single team member is going to make a mistake at some point, but as leaders and colleagues, you have to assume those mistakes are made with good intent. And you have to uncover ways to foster open forms of communication to try to avoid mistakes just because people couldn’t connect, or to resolve issues when mistakes inevitably do happen.
How can you overcome the remote work challenges?
Get on the same page. Our programs really guide and reinforce ways to effectively do this, including crafting Communication Charters, Remote Work Policies, Culture Canvas, etc. And then adapt. Teams need to live in to the definition of “flexible “ — able to be easily modified to respond to altered circumstances or conditions — in order to be effective in flexible working environments.
What is the biggest reason why remote companies fail?
They don’t adapt and they don’t get on the same page for communication, productivity, career development, etc. Many remote organizations don’t think about growth and development strategically, which leads to employee dissatisfaction, disengagement, and eventually, attrition.
How do you get started as a remote team?
We think it’s really important for you to understand where you are now, and what you’re ready for, in terms of “going remote.” We’ve developed a free Remote Readiness Assessment that helps you analyze your current baseline as well as gives you actionable next steps tailored to your organization.
Which companies are your experts in the curriculum?
We’re lucky and proud to build upon the expertise of a wide-range of Subject Matter Experts from all kinds of industries. Our case studies include real-life interviews and business examples from leaders in organizations such as Evernote, Hotjar, Microsoft, Zapier, BELAY, Buffer, Remote Year, and TaxJar.
We always love chatting about remote work and experiences alongside learning and development. If you’re interested in diving into any of the Workplaceless programs, visit their learning system here.