Book Summary for Virtual Culture


We recently read Virtual Culture; The Way We Work Doesn’t Work Anymore (published 2017) by Bryan Miles. Miles brings attention to the fact that employees don’t want to spend all their time at work, especially in a physical space touting beer taps and ping pong tables. This is not what people need. This will not keep people working around the clock. Ignoring this reality is often driven by the false idea that as an employer you will simply get more out of employees if they are restricted to a desk all day, all within the same space. This line of thinking is dated, condescending, and exhibits an inability to trust the people you hire which is felt by all, inevitably leading to low morale.

The cover for Virtual Culture; The Way We Work Doesn’t Work Anymore

The technology for entire companies to operate remotely exists and is affordable, yet so many tech-based companies still fail to embrace it, sticking with the “old industrial-age paradigm”. Working remotely looks different, which is scary to many, and there is general suspicion among employees in corporate America by default. The benefits of a distributed company are plentiful, including both tangible and intangible things. First, there are the immediate financial savings that go with not having to rent an office space. There is also increased employee productivity and genuine commitment, no soul-sucking commute, flexible schedules affording reduced stress around personal obligations, and virtual workspaces are better for the environment.

Around the halfway mark the author begins mapping out some practical, tested tips on how to hire, who to hire, and how to engage and satisfy these employees in this new work climate, even touching on thoughtful points like how to “measure the temperature” without being physically near someone.

It takes a new type of leader to drive virtual culture. You have to over communicate, have trust, empathize that employees’ personal lives are a priority, be gracious, define and embody a set of values, and have the right training program in place to set new employees up for success.

Who This Book Is For

This book serves as a great resource to reaffirm any existing inclinations one may have that working from home (or anywhere but an office) can be healthier and more productive. Even if you work remotely already this book can help guide you through practical tips on how to positively contribute to a healthy work culture in this new landscape we are all still getting our bearings.

For the most part though this book is for employers that push back on the idea of having a distributed workforce. Breaking out of our comfort zones is no easy task and the author’s goal seems to primary be reaching these individuals that have the power to make so many people’s lives better and more lucrative but fall for the few nay-saying talking points that are out there still.

Greatest Takeaway

My favorite part of this book was when the author directly responses to a line of thinking I have heard countless times from startups, being that they need their teams to be together in-person in order to collaborate and solve complex problems. Or, even worse, employers that brag about embracing a remote work life when the fine print reads that they allow 1-2 work from home days a month due to the importance of meetings, etc.

Last year I withdrew from the hiring process for a remote part-time role (10 hours a week) because they insisted the final interview be in-person as it was the only way to make a solid decision. I work remote and part-time for many reasons, with the inability to travel being one of them. To me this all says: “We see that companies operating remotely are getting positive attention and we want in on that, but also don’t trust the employees we hire and don’t actually subscribe to the philosophy—it’s for show!”

Ultimately, it has become nearly impossible to not do a little eye roll in these situations. Miles’ response: “You can do all those things virtually. But people use them as excuses because they don’t want to admit why they really don’t want to go virtual: their fear is losing control. Fear is connected to control, but it goes deeper than that. The fear primarily stems from trust…If you can trust them, that need for control goes away. That fear evaporates.”

Favorite Quotes

“Shared vision, not shared spaces, creates a culture. It is about instilling a sense of belonging for your employees and ensuring they identify with the greater mission and values of the company.”

“Visibility (I can’t see you, I can’t control you) is a depreciating currency. Now, instead of seeing results from face-to-face interactions, we will see results connected to treating people like adults. Coworkers will move to a more trusting relationship.”

Where To Buy:

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