Katerina Bohle Carbonell
Team Collaboration Consultant
March 18, 2019

Interview with Katerina, a team collaboration consultant who sees the value of discipline

Katerina fell into remote work by accident - she reveals how easy and straightforward it can be to make discipline a daily part of remote work.

How did you get started with remote work?

I started working remotely by accident. It just happened that my boss moved abroad. My role evolved into facilitating interaction between her and the rest of the team, which was distributed across the city.

By coincidence, my office was located in a side building. I shared it with two other junior members. Nobody paid attention if we came to work, as long as work got done.

That pattern, of working in remote teams, and from where ever I wanted, became more frequent over the years.

Remote working wasn't a conscious decision, but a progression.

Seven years later I still have an office I can go to - if I want to.

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What are you working on?

I work on several projects. Some are my own, and others are from clients. For my company, I work on leadership coaching and strategic advice for team collaboration.

I analyze collaboration patterns, match these patterns with the team culture and goals, and then suggest ways to change the pattern or create processes so that if someone leaves, the team's social capital is not destroyed.

I'm also active in the human resource field where I investigate talent management practices and teach organizational culture and employee engagement.

I also work on a couple of educational innovation projects, some with a strong research focus, others more practical. Finally, I'm leading the Galway Grow Remote chapter.

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What's your typical work routine?

My typical work routine depends. If I have to write, I normally block a couple of hours, the same goes for data analysis. All of my teachings are done in the evening.

Generally, I like to structure my day in 2 to 3 hours of work as I need time to focus on a task. At the same time I also need to switch tasks to stay sharp.

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Do you have a dedicated space to work?

I have a dedicated space to work in my office. I also often work from a co-working space or home.

My home office is in the kids' playroom. I often sit between lego pieces and arts and craft material. It's a small room, so sometimes I need to reiterate to the children that this little square meter of desk space is MINE. However, generally, they are good and leave my stuff alone.

My office space has been a great source of learning. It's something I really appreciate, having worked alone for several years. I also just moved to another country, and my colleagues teach me a lot about this location.

The co-working space is the place I can focus on my company. It's a good mix of young people.

But as with other co-working spaces, you need to make an effort to talk with others.

I also work from coffee shops. Workfrom.co is a great app to discover good coffee shops. They also have a great community on Slack.

My old home town had the best coffee shop ever (Livin' room). There is excellent music, great atmosphere, and exceptional staff. When I go back, I always pop in for a chat and a coffee.

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What tools do you use to stay productive?

I use Asana and pen and paper to stay productive. I use Asana to jot down tasks I need to do, or ideas I want to develop, and pen and paper are for my daily to-do list. However, I only use the latter when I have a lot on my plate.

I plan my work one week ahead, using Google Calendar. Github is great for sharing work. Especially with myself as I work on different computers.

I participate in different Slack communities. They might not be productive, but the feeling of belonging somewhere can help to stay motivated. It's a great source of inspiration.

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How do you stay on task?

First and foremost, for staying on task getting enough sleep is crucial.

Everyone has different sleep needs. For me, going to bed and getting up at the same time every day helps. I also stick to this pattern on the weekends.

I plan my work a week ahead while keeping deadlines and priorities in mind.

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What do you like about remote work?

I enjoy the freedom of remote working. It is wonderful to be able to take your work with you.

However, this also requires discipline. The discipline to work when work needs to get done, and the discipline to turn off the computer and stop working.

Being employed as a remote worker also means that your employer trusts that you can get the work done. Of course, the right infrastructure needs to be in place for this to work.

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What do you not like about remote work?

When working remotely, you need to be active in reducing the feeling of isolation. Also, professional development or informal learning requires more effort.

I'm not sure I would say that these elements make me not like remote work. It is just part of work that is not an issue if you work in an office. However, good remote work companies, those that are fully remote, will take care of this.

My biggest learning experience was to turn off the computer. I began using a tool that will shut off the computer at a set time. That helped to establish a pattern.

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Why does remote work require discipline?

When working remotely, no one sees you working. This fact means that as a remote worker you need to work, even though nobody can see you do the work.

At the same time, you need to stop being online and available constantly, because this is also not healthy.

Good managers realize this and do not judge the input of employees but their output.

Discipline is also required to stay healthy and make an effort to get out of the house. Planned activities (or kids) are great for that.

As a remote worker, I think it is important to get fully dressed when working from home. It helps to create a mindset.

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What are the challenges of working on a hybrid remote team?

When I worked for a hybrid team, the constant challenge was to stay integrated and updated. The team had no experience with remote workers. This problem combined with time zone differences made it an awful experience.

However, hybrid teams can also work. It is a matter of people realizing that the complete team counts.

Just because you can't see someone doesn't mean they are not part of the team.

Generally, hybrid teams should use an electronic communication medium that gives equal access to information and opportunities to all team members.

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What are the challenges with working at night?

I do my teaching at night. This scenario is challenging when we have virtual calls that go far beyond my bedtime. There is nothing I can do about this scheduling problem.

Due to personal circumstances I also need to get up early. My solution is to get some sleep directly after putting the kids to bed.

It is not ideal, but better than staying up until the wee hours. I also plan low-key tasks for the following day.

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Katerina Bohle Carbonell

Katerina founded NetNigma in 2017 with the ambition to give leaders at all levels the tools to grow and establish a team-based culture. A culture in which collaboration runs smoothly and innovations are built on each other’s insights and wisdom.

Katerina earned her Ph.D. in workplace learning, applying advanced organizational network analysis to understand why team members share information with each other, and why collaboration ceases.

Katerina approaches all clients with a curiosity for their situation. She desires to understand their work and applies her analytical skills to make sense of the situation at hand. Data, quantitative and qualitative, is a crucial part of this sense-making. Her practice is underpinned by experience in young start-ups and active participation in hackathons and informal communities of entrepreneurs.

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