“Working remotely has made team cohesion and esprit de corps harder. All the tools are there, but people are struggling to disconnect at the end of the day."
“At the beginning of 2020, I finally got up the courage to do something I had wanted to do for a long time - launch a podcast. My schtick, as it were, was to interview entrepreneurs live, in person, with the audio being recorded wherever we were, complete with background noise of a street, a coffee shop, whatever. Even if I had to get on a plane to do it, they all were going to be taped live, in-person.
I’d had such fun interviewing people for my book, The Entrepreneur Ethos, that I knew people would get a kick out of hearing their stories. The journey of starting and running a business is always full of stories, both good and bad. I know, I’ve done a few.
The project started off with interviews in San Francisco and Nashville. It was great! Background noise, not that dead silence of a recording studio, and a real, live feeling to it. I did three of them and then COVID hit. Yeah, all best laid plans Of Mice and Men. The first episode dropped on March 16, 2020, which happens to be my mom's birthday, and the first day of shelter in place in San Francisco.
It's like, ‘Ah, man. Great. The sound of my living room. Cricket, cricket. Oh no, that’s not a cricket, it’s the refrigerator.’
So I quickly had to pivot quote unquote, but it turned out to be easy. Everyone wanted to talk about how COVID was impacting their business as an entrepreneur and these were all sorts of entrepreneurs, from high tech to low tech all over the country, all over the world, with different varying degrees of businesses at different stages. Everyone was in a similar boat, with so much in common, and the interviews were almost cathartic, or feeling like therapy sessions. It was a great dynamic and listeners were getting advice from these entrepreneurs in real-time about how to stay afloat.
The podcasts also were helping me stay afloat, in a way. I have a hard time networking and talking to people, and I actually needed to keep practicing talking to people, especially when we were all shut down and I could just hang out in my apartment all day and not do anything. So then the podcast morphed from a let's talk with entrepreneurs about traits, values, and beliefs, which was the subject of the book, to how are you doing, how has COVID impacted your business, what are you seeing, and if you’ve pivoted, tell us about it. So far, I think I've recorded 75 episodes.
Several themes have risen to the top. There’s been a lot of discussion about how working remotely has made team cohesion and esprit de corps harder. All the tools are there, but people are struggling to disconnect at the end of the day. I’ve heard a lot of people say, “Yeah, my commute is shorter when I’m working at home, but I’m working more.” So that's been a pretty big theme. Everyone's working harder, especially in the technology space. Everyone's taking more meetings, everyone's trying to, like, you know, figure it all out and just working more.
The parents that I've talked to have really been struggling because a lot of kids are doing this distance learning, especially if they're young kids, and having the entire family in the room, in the house, all using the same internet, is insane. So there’s been a really big strain on families because kids can't go to school.
Another theme is that people are missing connection. There's a lot of Zoom fatigue, to where people are really sick of Zoom. It’s a real thing. I hear it constantly, people talking about too many work calls, calls after calls on Zoom, and you just don't feel connected to the world. There’s just this box that you interact with. People are lacking connection. Because, you know, when you did go to the office, the kind of water cooler talk was a nice break in the day as opposed to ‘my next Zoom call,’ you know, like, one right after the other, there's no break. There's no break.
I used to work at cafes a lot, or meet someone for coffee or we'd work together. Even though I am a highly functional introvert, I really miss that. I miss it because it’s the collaboration, the spark of genius, the creativity, and the ideas. I'm not saying that can't happen over electronic devices, Zoom or whatever, but getting on a whiteboard and going to town and really feeling the room, you can't replace that.”
-- Jarie Bolander, The Entrepreneur Ethos Podcast (October 2020).