This week, Ryan and Heather discuss building out a feature request process in Notion plus why some remote workers have chosen to move to different cities and how companies are responding.
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Ryan Purvis 0:00
Hello, and welcome to the digital workspace works Podcast. I'm Ryan Purvis, your host supported by producer Heather Bicknell. In the series, you'll hear stories and opinions from experts in the field story from the frontlines. The problems they're facing, how they solve them. The areas they're focused on from technology, people and processes to the approaches they took. That'll help you to get to grips with the digital workspace inner workings.
Heather Bicknell 0:29
Have a good weekend? Yeah, pretty
good. It's awesome family for a walk. Nothing too crazy. How about you?
Ryan Purvis 0:37
Yeah, good to be with you on Saturday. Can't remember which one Saturday. I had to buy generator on Friday. So that took up my whole afternoon. Saturday, I tested it out. That's what I did in the morning. And then my son had something and then we took him out. We take them somewhere. We ran around the whole day. What do you do? Hmm. Can't remember at all. And then yesterday, we we took him to, there's an airport near us called round airport. So we took him to watch the airplanes. And 10. We had lunch there. And then he basically ran around, you know, for that for the whole day. And then we brought him home anyway, you know, normal to try and tire him out as much as possible. And then Sunday, we went to a friend of ours, I got a small holding, which was like a small farm, a very small farm out the other side of Joburg. So we're there yesterday. So yeah, busy weekend, as always with kids is always busy to keep them busy book tire them out. So so yeah. Other than that, it's been a manic Monday, just meetings after meetings after meetings.
Heather Bicknell 1:47
That's one way to start the week, I guess. Good meetings.
Ryan Purvis 1:54
Well, you know, the the problem with working, distributed Lee is that you, you need to you need time to collaborate about stuff. So the best way to do is to book a meeting to have them to discuss this stuff, I find at least, because if you just have ad hoc calls the whole time, you don't have time to think. And I've actually just got a message now from someone saying it's impossible to book your diary, you've got all these meetings. And I'm like, Yeah, because some of that stuff is blocked bookings, so that I can actually do work, otherwise, I spend my whole day on the phone. But you got to be careful who you say that to, because if it's your boss, then you got to be a little more, more respectful. So put your I mean, we're currently going through so we just finished revamping the UI. And now we're prioritizing all the components that we we thought we would finish that we didn't finish against new stuff that's come up. And what I've also been doing is we haven't for a long time had a wave to capture ideas from people working. So I've now set up a thing in notion that they can all use to capture things, which has been great because it gives us it gives us a structure, I did look at other tools, but everything so complicated, where you feel like you need to train everyone to use it. Whereas the notion is pretty simple. You know, here's the link, go there, click New type something, it's got a couple columns or properties to categorize it. And, you know, we can use that straightaway into a, into a different status sort of board. And that, that keeps everything. But it's given us a bit more control who kind of spinning our wheels for a bit. But while we were doing the UX revamp, we didn't need it. So we just kind of went with a team's channel, and people were just typing things in there. But the problem with the team's channel after a while is you start losing track. So you really need that to be a capture mechanism to go into some other system, which is what notion is filling the gap for and then from, from notion we take it into to DevOps. Once we've once we've done this sort of Discovery sessions to to understand what this one liner, you know, because sometimes we get like a sentence, you know, I want I want to be able to upload Excel spreadsheets. Okay, well, what does that actually you know, what does that actually mean? And then it turns out that actually, they want to upload different formatted Excel spreadsheets, and have it intelligently figure out what the data is and insert to the database, which is a little more complicated, clearly. So. So yeah, it's been interesting switchover.
Heather Bicknell 4:34
And notion, can you, is there any things you can add into a vote, you know, allow people to vote on different feature requests, or is that sort of a
Ryan Purvis 4:44
no, that's the I mean, what what notion is really good at is you've got freeform content that you want to bring structure to so you could put column headers and that sort of thing. And then you can create templates that say that if you like to say let's Go through the it request system that we're using it for. When you click New, you get choices, you can create a new bug report and you it request a new feature template. And then in that all of them have the same sort of columns or same properties. But in the section, there's a section below, which is freeform text. And you can actually put all the headings you want there. So in the case of a bug, you know, steps to reproduce screenshots, that sort of thing. For a new feature request, it'll be some of the things like, why is this important? Any systems that do this already, we can copy, or at least see how they do it. When it's it request, you probably have an effect, there's nothing for that one, it's just a straight columns. And then we use that as a work, it's a nice place to sort of have a free form where you could put in, like, someone asked me to create a whole bunch email addresses. So I put a table in, here's the email address, who's here's who the recipients are, does this allow internal, external email? All those sorts of things? Yeah, so going back to the templates, so that gives us you know, quite a nice way to get get the, the end users to provide the information. And then what we do is when we put it into the DevOps system, we take the URL that we get for the actual story. And that goes back into notion. And that gives them a number to say that, okay, here's, here's your story number, that doesn't necessarily mean that we're working on it straightaway, it just means that we've put it in the backlog. And then as we go through the process of taking the story into, into into a sprint and being worked on, we update notion with that information. So that's that's kind of the manual step to it. But at least gives our, our business visibility to what we're working on without them having to go into DevOps, which is a very complicated, I mean, I don't understand half the stuff and there's no way they can understand half the stuff. So notion gives us a nice simple view, it gives us a nice timeline. So we get you know, something, yeah, very, very big on visibility of things. So they can see a timeline, all the epics where they are in the sense of delivery. And then they can work on that when it comes to like our marketing to customers when it comes to planning internal things. And then we have a prioritization meeting, where we talk about what's going to be moved up and backwards, and we literally are dragging things backwards and forwards to schedule them. And they could see the whole timeline, in order of precedence. And then that helps us to plan. And then I had a meeting this morning, where there was a couple things that have come up out of meetings with key customers that have not had to be pushed forward, as they did. But it's such a, it's such a powerful conversation, because you can actually say it well, if you want these two things, which we don't even know how big they are. If I put them here, all these things get pushed out. So what do you want us to do? And then it's actually those other things are important too. But now they can see the impact of of renessa. They I mean, the business can see the impact of making those changes. And from our point of view is from a tech point of view, we were almost not fussed by the value per se, we obviously it's more the we need to be aware of it. But we actually need to understand more about if there's interdependencies to building something. So, for example, one of the things that I'm hot on Agasa at the moment is API's. Some of the functionality we need to deliver for these key important things relies on the API has been built. So that's almost the thankless job piece that no one cares about. It's not sexy. But in order to deliver the sexy feature, we need the we need the API. So the notion is helping us and it's rudimentary. I mean, it's not, it's not perfect in the sense that if I put something ahead of something else that automatically we planned the whole thing. That'd be ideal. It just moves anything down one line, you got to sort of manually shift everything out. But at least gives us that, that view, which which we didn't have for a while, it was really frustrating. Because you just get a whole lot of requirements. And you know this from being in the software game. And bear in mind, I was one of those people pushing my agenda on, on things to be delivered. But you people will say yes, in isolation, but they're not realized that by doing that thing, they affect a whole bunch of other things or get a product managers have things they have to deliver. And that's important, too. So
Heather Bicknell 9:34
do you want to chat about any of the links today?
Ryan Purvis 9:37
Yeah, let's do that. Let me get them up quickly. You want to start with a podcast first? Sure. So the podcast, there are a couple things that you know. So there's a couple things. So one was it's it's it's sort of regurgitated to a large extent what we've been saying for a while about because If this was this was the interview, it was a Microsoft podcast with an interview of Microsoft and there was a researcher per se. So the guy that they spoke to Steve Miranda, Steve alloga? Yes. We want to read listening to was it the
Heather Bicknell 10:22
46? The geographic impact of remote work?
Ryan Purvis 10:28
Oh, yes. So Steve Malanga, he was the the city editor. And what I was saying is that the he regarded to me, there was a lot of stuff, we were saying, in that the real estate market would change, where the companies would have, which I agree with companies will will have an HQ, but then they will have potentially more distributed offices or satellite offices, and they'll allow their employees to decide where they work. And this would drive the change in the cities where, you know, your local communities would benefit from people being, you know, spending their time and money in those spaces, as opposed to commuting centrally, but I was looking, essentially, I think, for the for the HQ or the satellite office, a couple days a week, which, which I definitely agree with. And then the other part of which, which I agreed with was that the companies that have HQ, those HQ will become more collaborative, not necessarily, I mean, you'll have you'll have people that want to have an office because of what their home situation could be, you know. And it'd be generational, you know, people up and having jobs that want to be in offices, because they live in probably in a small place. And then the older you get, you'd have probably more space, you'd have studies and that and you want to balance between the two. So yeah, I thought it was quite a good talk in that sense. And then I think the other piece that that they mentioned, was how the companies needed to adjust for this, which I think that's largely unknown. I mean, we all have ideas, but how it's going to actually play out in the future. Who knows?
Heather Bicknell 12:08
Yeah, yeah, we've talked about some of this sort of the RE distribution of where people live in work. Because, and this, this podcast was a very US centric take on things. Because he's the city. He was a journalist, for City Journal, and he's, yeah, written for like, New York Business, and LA Times and a bunch of us publications, but mostly talking about major cities like LA and New York, and places that have, you know, become hubs for a lot of different industries, and just sort of looking at how it's interesting, the what, what could happen, as with the redistribution of people moving out of those hubs, because they don't need to be there for their nine to five, maybe they commute in a day or two week, they can move somewhere with a lower cost of living where they can have a bigger place. I mean, you look at, I don't know, if you've ever sort of looked at what I don't know, it'd be maybe like 1000 pound place in New York would get you for like an apartment. And, you know, there's apartments that are essentially like closets that don't even have a bathroom. Like, if you are a young person starting off in a city like that, your living situations probably going to be not ideal, which only makes it harder for the remote work, you know, thinking about who who's really benefited from remote work versus who's not. I imagine those fleets of young folks living in sort of non ideal conditions in those major cities, because that's what they can afford on their, you know, entry level salaries, that working from home has not really been the experience they envisioned versus if you're in a sort of more less urban city, like I am or like Austin, Texas, you know, there's a lot of cities that have are also hubs, but not as kind of like flashy city centers. So these subsidies are starting to provide more incentive for people to move there, whether it's just pure, you know, come work here as a remote worker will hand you $10,000 And you know, what the assumption that you will be investing in our local economy say I think it's just an interesting like, it gets especially the more entry level workforce, the more options for what to do in their, you know, in their early years versus only having to, you know, move into the city center. And I think people still wanted to do that. And they sort of touched on this as well, that there's still sort of cultural elements and like the zeitgeist of being in the city, and the excitement of that isn't going to go away. But maybe cities will be, maybe it will be a little bit less crowded, and real estate will be different. But yeah, it was interesting. But yeah, stuff we've kind of been talking about the whole digital nomad. redistributing where you live kind of idea.
Ryan Purvis 15:47
Yeah, and I forgot about the incentives actually. And that's also a an interesting aspect, because the I've seen here, and I haven't seen in the UK yet, but I've definitely seen it here where we have a problem with power, as I mentioned at the kabocha on Friday, and there's an incentive there for people to come into the offices because and this is an underlying incentives not really advertised, because most offices will have a generator. And as long as you've got power, you can you can operate and things like me, even in my house, you know, the fibers, the works, even though the power is off. But I'm going to, I'm going to power the Wi Fi router, and I'm going to power the the routers themselves. So there's underlying incentive there to say, if you want to work, you go sit in an office, it's got a generator, but obviously those generators, those rooms, those offices are not ventilated. So so that's one aspect to it, you've got to obviously now with COVID, be aware of the of ventilation and not be ventilated, which is fine in winter, because of the house of the things, I have windows open, it won't be to call them in today's 2023 degrees, and it's you know, so whatever that's close to 290 something degrees Fahrenheit. But I am seeing companies, you know, a few conversations where they're saying to their staff, if you want to go work down at the coast, Durban Cape Town, etc, you know, you're welcome to it, and we'll give you an allowance to supervisor to to set yourselves up, provided it meets a certain criteria, you know, buying a desk should be X amount, buying, you know, pretty Wi Fi and all that kind of stuff, getting fiber, that's all part of your allowance. And then I'm seeing conversely, that certain municipalities also offering that that incentive to say, you know, come set up your, your come working out of here, like Pietermaritzburg, as an area that's very industrial, they're offering people to come work there as well, instead of going all they have to do but for example, so that they can increase the foot traffic. Now the difference in distance between, you know, Pietermaritzburg, and Durban is about half an hour's drive. So it's not a massive commute, save, but for some people, to save that half an hour, it's a really, it's a, it's another half an hour extra per day, or extra hour per day, that they can do other stuff in which maybe work maybe personal stuff. And I'm seeing that as probably the valley thing is getting time back. Whereas you know, you're losing time with your commute. And that's not part of your workday. It's considered part of your personal time, in a lot of legal, my knowledge, a lot of legal things. So. So those things are interesting. It's, it's, it's true to to nomadic, behavioral changes,
Heather Bicknell 18:33
it'll be interesting to see, I feel that there's kind of two possibilities for what folks will do, depending on how the flex work remote work situation shakes out. I mean, if you still have to be in the office a couple days a week, you can only move out so far, even if you're willing to take a few hour train ride in or whatnot. But if it is fully remote, that's when you move to a city like I think it was Tulsa, that was doing the $10,000 incentives for remote workers to come live there. But you're doing that with the flexibility knowing that you're not going to be commuting to an office any day of the week. Maybe you, you know, show up once a quarter, you know, for once a year for kickoff, you know, event or something like that, but you're not, you know, you're separated from that. Any corporate office space?
Ryan Purvis 19:25
No, that's it. That's That's exactly it is trying to keep the end. That's something I think I was either in that podcast or was an article at the paper, the pay to the employee was the same regardless of where they were based. And they weren't penalized for going to a cheap area. So I still got the income, which kept them loyal and motivated. But then they also benefited from having the lifestyle they wanted. Like I mean, where that came from, but I would see that because that was one of the things that I remember seeing the very early days of the lockdown. So early, early days of coming on lockdown and be wanting to stay at home and thing as you know, if you work in London, there's a so called 20% loading, that you're 20% More money if you work in London. And they're going to take that away. But the reality is those people, like anyone, you know, they've signed up for a job because it pays X and deliver, they can do X, Y, and Zed the, you know, at the company. So, you know, key part of this is motivation of employees, which you want to keep your good ones and you want to keep them loyal, so that they don't leave. Which is something that I'm seeing now I'm seeing, you know, in conversations with with other sort of senior people, that since the lockdowns are starting to open up, people are leaving, because they were hanging on to their jobs, because they were worried about losing their jobs. But now that there's an opening, the markets starting to get, get going. And people are getting, you know, off, you know, they're getting good opportunities, more money, etc. But they're also getting their flexibility as part of the deal. That's the benefit, you know, you could still be remote, or hybrid. And some companies, you know, the guys are saying that we're the companies are saying yeah, to back in office, the people are leaving, because they say, Well, if I go work somewhere else, and have the flexibility, why would I want to stay here where I'm going to be rammed back into an office? Back to the old slug, when we've seen that we don't need the old slug?
Heather Bicknell 21:15
Yeah, I think leaders are sort of faced with that choice. You know, if you want to return to the traditional office, attrition is a greater risk, I think, you know, public opinion on all those polls, really shows that. And just the hotness of the job market, you know, people are able to find the opportunities. I think the pay change, I think that might have come up on the economist podcast, we chatted on the other week. That's maybe where that came from. Because, yeah, companies are considering Well, you know, people are, you know, do we pay people a salary that is based around where they are not what we pay them, you know, out of our, if they were in the expensive city where our headquarters is, and I think on that they were saying on the economist podcast, they were saying, you know, that's maybe not such a great idea. Because, I mean, if people are still if a different company will pay them a better rate and not digging them for living in a lower cost area, then you're not really creating a lot of loyalty there. So you know, you're setting yourself up potentially for attrition. And yeah, I think there were maybe some other points they touched on there as to why you might want to not jump so quickly to what we can just kind of like adjust pay levels to be where people live.
Ryan Purvis 22:43
And I think that's one of the challenges is that the sort of mentality challenges if you are cutting back on your your office rental, okay, obviously got leases to do with why you got those leases, you want to make use of them, I was the bad investment. But Nestle putting people in, there's not desperate to get the best invest. Because if it's just a building, but if the people that are doing the work, leave that that are your core, then you've just left with the building. But at the same token, if you can cut the lease, and you can generate the revenue, because you're not spending that money on an unnecessary lease, then you got the money to pay the people the salaries that that they that they should have.
Heather Bicknell 23:21
All right. Well, I will chat with you. Go
Ryan Purvis 23:27
Wednesday. Thank you, super. Thanks. Bye, guys. Bye.
Thank you for listening today's episode. Hey, the big news app producer, editor. Thank you, Heather. For your hard work on this episode. Please subscribe to the series and rate us on iTunes or the Google Play Store. Follow us on Twitter at the DW W podcast. The show notes and transcripts will be available on the website www dot digital workspace that works. Please also visit our website www dot digital workspace that works and subscribe to our newsletter. And lastly, if you found this episode useful, please share with your friends or colleagues.
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