Nico Ghibaudy
July 27, 2020

Interview with Nico, marketer and advocate for remote worker mental health

"I've felt burnout HARD in the past. When it hits, it HITS, and it can be tough to recover." In this interview, Nico shares his strategies for balancing work and life and reveals the key to avoiding burnout.

How did you get started with remote work?

I started working remotely full-time about a year ago, although my remote work advocacy began before that.

I remember reading tons of content about the benefits of remote work back in 2015/2016 and thinking, "I want that freedom, I want that flexibility."

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What are you working on?

I almost always have four or five things going on at once (my wife can testify), but currently, I'm the marketing manager at Littledata, an analytics startup in the Shopify ecosystem. I co-lead most of our marketing activities, demand generation, top-of-funnel stuff, etc. I really love my job not only because of the role but because of the deep-rooted trust between me, my team leader and my coworkers. More on that later. :)

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What tools do you use to stay productive?

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How do you use these tools?

Slack is currently my most-used app (I am in 8 groups, including work, local marketing groups, Remote Wing, and even my church!), and it's the go-to for 90% of my daily communication. To keep me (and our team's projects) organized, I use Trello.

I like the visual "card" layout, which makes it easy for me to shift things down the pipeline and make changes to projects. And of course, Google Hangouts (or Skype, Zoom, etc.) is necessary for remote teams. In a remote environment, it's better to over-communicate than to under-communicate.

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Where do you conduct your work?

Typically, I do a 50/50 split between my home (or a local coffee shop) and my cowork space in Tampa, Brave Haus. It's a cowork space for designers, developers, marketers, entrepreneurs, and freelancers to strengthen the creative community here in Tampa.

It's an amazing space with amazing people—I love working in a place where we eat lunches together, go for walks, do wellness activities, yet we all do different work for different companies on different schedules.

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What about your space helps you to be productive?

My home workspace is usually my desk (which is in my bedroom), but I think it's the simple things that help me stay productive: having my water bottle at all times (hydration is super underappreciated), two coffees per day, a clear desk to work on, and a window above my laptop with natural light pouring into the room all day.

Looking up from my laptop to see grass and trees doesn't sound like much, but it's a mood-booster for me.

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What does your workday routine look like?

Social distancing routine: I typically wake up around 8 am, have breakfast and coffee, read for 15 minutes, then play some morning catch-up.

Since most of my team is based in England or Romania, they're wrapping up their workdays as mine is just beginning. That means my mornings are typically filled with two to three meetings or brief catch-up calls.

Around noon, I'll have lunch with my wife, watch a show (or do something besides work), and get back to work in the early afternoon. I'll sprinkle in breaks throughout the afternoon and typically finish my day around 6:30 or 7 pm.

Normal routine: Wake up around the same time, head to Brave Haus, work there until about 3 pm, head home, and work another hour or two until dinner.

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How do you decide priorities?

I typically like to tackle "smaller" projects first. If I look at Trello and see there are a few "low hanging fruit" tasks I can knock out within an hour or two, I'll do that first before jumping into a "larger" project that might consume the rest of the day.

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How do you avoid burnout?

Great question. Coming from an agency background, I've felt burnout HARD in the past. When it hits, it HITS, and it can be tough to recover. I truly believe mutual trust (between employee and employer) is the key to avoiding burnout, bitterness, motivation lack, or any other workplace poison.

When I know that I'm trusted and valued to do my job and do it well, that becomes a bigger motivator for me than even money, great benefits, or anything else.

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What is the best advice you have ever received?

Not technically a piece of personal advice, but...there's a great quote from NT Wright that goes:

Love is not just tolerance. It's not just distant appreciation. It's a warm sense of, 'I am enjoying the fact that you are you.

I really love this quote, and it sticks with me. And it applies to everything—my marriage, family, friends, coworkers, fellow Slack community members, etc.

More and more, I want to appreciate people for who they are and who they were created to be. Everyone has passions and aspirations, and I want to help people realize those and pursue them with gusto.

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What advice would you give to a new freelancer?

This might sound cliché, but here goes nothing: fail early. Fail a lot. Test a lot. I work for an analytics startup, and we test everything. It would be ironic if we didn't, right?

For freelancers, don't devalue yourself to cash out on a quick project, or because you're starting to get stressed about finances. Know that fit matters, especially when you're taking on clients by yourself, and you don't have a shoulder to lean on if things go sideways.

Make sure it's a good fit before taking on a new project and make sure you're charging what you're worth.

If you really believe in your pricing and it scares someone off, so be it. The good fits will come with time.

For entrepreneurs (not that I'm in any position to be giving this advice, ha!), don't be so hesitant to get your company out into the world. Once you settle the basics (value proposition, paperwork, website, team, etc.), get it out there! I've had a couple of founder friends who were so paralyzed by fear of judgment, imperfection, or their own sky-high expectations that they wouldn't just get it out there.

You can always make updates and changes along the way. But cross that bridge when you come to it.

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What are you looking to achieve in the next five years?

In the next five years, I'm hoping to still be fortunate enough to work remotely full-time (I plan on it!), still running Remote Wing (via Slack or another futuristic platform that doesn't exist yet), and probably co-leading a startup of my own. What will that be exactly? We shall see. :)

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What has been the most challenging part of freelancing?

I only freelance about five hours/week, but I used to freelance much more. Right now, the most challenging part is carving out time to do tasks that aren't necessarily stimulating (or things that I'm not passionate about).

Balancing those freelance hours with my full-time job can be a challenge. It's really just a matter of time management and asking myself, "which hours are my more productive hours?"

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What are the benefits of building a remote team?

Some of the more well-known benefits are great:

  • Sourcing candidates from a wider (global) talent pool
  • Lower costs
  • The environmental benefits of waving goodbye to a daily commute
  • Building a true sense of trust among your team, etc.

But I think the best benefit of remote work isn't the most obvious: worker retention. The numbers don't lie on remote work employee retention; people tend to stay longer because they're offered a real sense of freedom and trust.

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What are the challenges of building a remote team?

I think the main challenge—and most concerning—is the toll that remote work is taking on our health, particularly our mental health. These are the results of a survey we conducted in our Slack group last month:

• 61% of our members said they feel lonely at least once per week (M-F) • 38% said they feel lonely at least 2-3 times per week (M-F)

This is a huge reason I started Remote Wing—to be a safe space for remote workers and a place for advocacy and mutual support when it comes to our mental health.

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What do you look for when you hire a remote worker or freelancer for your team?

Remote Wing is a team of one right now, but at Littledata, we look for someone we can trust. Can we confidently say, "we have total faith that this person can deliver excellent work from anywhere, at any time, in any circumstance?" We also look for people that aren't workaholics (i.e. they enjoy life outside of work and have other hobbies and passions). Well-rounded people make a well-rounded culture.

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How do you know when to push yourself vs rest?

I tend to push myself in moments of inspiration (sometimes right after a shower or randomly late at night) and in spurts of hyper-productivity (where I can shut out outside noise and crank out work for an hour or two). However, a good work-to-rest pattern I've heard is 52 minutes on (working), 17 minutes off (resting). It doesn't need to be an exact 52:17, but it's a nice benchmark!

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What did we forget to ask Nico Ghibaudy?

At RemoteHabits we're always trying to improve our interviews, what question should we have asked Nico Ghibaudy?


Nico Ghibaudy

Nico Ghibaudy is a marketer from Tampa, Fla, USA. Nico co-leads marketing activities at Littledata, an analytics startup in the Shopify world. He also runs Remote Wing, a free Slack community for remote workers advocating for better mental health. Nico loves his wife, basketball, dried mangoes and coffee.

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