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A Journey In Remote Work Research

We spoke with over 100 knowledge workers about remote work. Here's what we learned.

Last month, we shared that we’re starting a new venture focused on helping people live their most fulfilled remote working lives.

**Update** The Hoop alpha waitlist is now open. Sign up here!

We introduced the idea that adopting asynchronous collaboration practices can help move people away from always-on, Zoom fatigue, notification overload stress frenzy into a more thoughtful, productive and personalized work cadence.

Our message clearly had resonance. It reached more than 50,000 people organically.

With problem in hand and resonance achieved, what do founders do next?

Talking To Humans

We talked to as many knowledge workers as we could about their current remote working realities. Was burnout really a thing? Did people feel imprisoned by a barrage of notifications and constant interruptions due to persistent synchronous work? Were back-to-back Zoom meetings more myth than reality?

We did in depth user interviews with over 100 English-speaking knowledge workers. These are people whose primary jobs involve working on a computer, so almost all of the humans worked in some flavor of tech.

Our interviews ranged from questions like:

  • What is your remote communication and collaboration tool stack?


  • What are the most painful parts of remote collaboration?

Below are some charts showing results from different sets of interviews. Note that we tried not to talk to people at very large companies who were less likely to have a say in which products they could use (and were more likely to be using the MSFT suite).

What’s your communication and collaboration tool stack?

Note that there is a long tail of products here where n=1, those are not included.

📧 Most remote teams are using some combination of Slack, Google Docs, meetings and emails.

All of these tools produce an exhaust of collaborative demands on humans. If you’re in Slack, you’re talking to (and distracting!) other people. If you’re in Google Docs, you likely need approval or content to be added by coworkers. All of these things need to be tracked so people aren’t blocking each other and projects can move forward. That brings us to our next line of questioning: pain points.

What are the really painful parts of collaborating remotely?

This is a bar chart of pain. Some of the tags are cut off, sorry about that.

☎️ Most people are struggling to keep up with all the collaborative demands on their time.

It’s a symphony of mental exhaustion. Keeping track of feedback across multiple tools, nagging coworkers for responses, and staying on top of notifications were top of mind for almost everyone. People generally are experiencing the same pain, but they don’t feel that they have the tools to make meaningful change in their lives.

Reading About Humans

In the book, Beyond Collaboration Overload, we’re introduced to a busy executive named Scott who tries to be a servant leader in his organization. Scott is so “helpful” that he interacts with over 118 individuals in his company every single day. He’s stressed, his marriage is failing, and he’s about to get fired.

Why? He’s suffering from “collaboration overload,” which as the name suggests, is that he’s collaborating too much because it’s too easy and it feels like he’s doing stuff. When he answers emails or Slack messages it feels like “work,” but it keeps him away from doing the deep, meaningful strategic work that matters.

In fact, researchers have found that over 80% of collaboration is superfluous. By being so “helpful”, Scott established himself as a bottleneck to work and stifled his team’s creativity because their reflexive action was to always go ask Scott.

With that context in mind, what kind of changes can be made to lessen this burden on knowledge workers? Spoiler alert! For Scott, this meant going on a silent retreat to reset his balance, then coming back and empowering the orgs he managed to operate without his direct input unless it really mattered. He employed lots of other strategies to use his time more thoughtfully and more importantly, inform others how to use him as a resource. Here’s a link to the book, it’s a worthwhile read.

Helping Humans

Hey, I thought technology was supposed to fix everything! What’s going on? Humans, that’s what. Our current system of translating what worked in a physical office to the digital office is not working.

Chat has been an amazing unlock for remote work, but it has its limitations. The challenge with making meaningful change is that it’s really easy to ping someone in chat with a question. It’s harder to look up the answer yourself.

This is where the adoption of asynchronous work really shines. Tools and process can do a lot to front load context which can make work a lot more efficient and prevent costly back and forth. Additionally this can result in more innovative solutions because people are forced to get creative and figure things out.

Our product, and the future of work, is all about how to make this process easy to adopt, spread in an org, and make it fun to use.

More info coming soon!

Interesting Reads

Let's fix the way we work.

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