Enabling self determination through 100% remote training and work

Behaviours, assumptions and overcoming health and geographical barriers

First post here and I’ve included a lot of my personal info mainly because I think it informs both the topic and where I am coming from so please HWC.

I face significant health and geographical barriers to work and study that I’d like to help dismantle in the AI versions of the world. Although I have significant experience in admin including in a remote capacity I have been unable to find 100% remote employment opportunities. Remote work does exist but mostly it is tech and design roles; requires specific ‘experience with’ rather than innate teachability or related experience; it is often seen as a privilege to be earned and/or the role requires a significant amount of travel either as a function of the role itself or because of a requirement for full-time onsite training. Travel takes an enormous amount out of me mentally and physically which drastically impacts my overall ability and performance and I know I am not alone in this. There are loads of people who experience similar geographical location or physical and mental health barriers they would like to overcome.

I’m also interested in covering unintended discrimination in recruitment software as part of this discussion and I imagine many people on here are much more informed about the specifics and technicalities than I am.

From what I’ve seen so far current responses to social challenges are focussed on maintaining the status quo and therefore are likely to maintain that quite substantial barrier to inclusion. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem commonly recognised that a remote recruiting, training and hiring platform would be an enormous step toward inclusion. I’ve even offered my time as a volunteer disability advocate but was told I would need to travel because “people want to see someone face-to-face”. I don’t believe there is any compelling evidence to support that assumption but related qualitative research on anything relevant to this topic is greatly appreciated. Likewise, if anyone can point me to existing topics/infrastructure/apps/organisations/projects they think are relevant then that too is appreciated. I am hoping this might grow into organic brainstorming of the macro and the micro of remote learning and working. I am also hoping that folks who have worked on related projects and are generous enough to offer a little time might help me get up to speed with the technical specifics of what is likely to be involved and which tools they believe are best suited.

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Welcome to Humane Tech Community @Birdie, and thanks a lot for sharing this with us.

You bring up a very important point, and one which - as you say - is not getting the amount of attention it deserves. I invite you and any other members to collect resources on this forum that deal with solutions and best-practices. To provide those pointers on the web where improvements are being implemented.

I just wrote a toot to the developer of Flockingbird, which is intended (I think) to be a much improved, federated alternative to LinkedIn. The project is asking for feedback for its future development.

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Hello,

I just wrote a toot to the developer of Flockingbird, which is intended (I think) to be a much improved, federated alternative to LinkedIn. The project is asking for feedback for its future development.

Thanks for pointing me to this topic. I hope I can help.

First:

I don’t believe there is any compelling evidence to support that assumption but related qualitative research on anything relevant to this topic is greatly appreciated.

Remote by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried is a great resource here. If you enjoy this book, their other work “It doesn’t have to be crazy at work” and “Rework” are also great, though less on-topic. Gitlab has published a free book on working remote, which I can also recommend. Both are more about culture-change in an organisation to allow remote working.

Then: Flockingbird: We aim at, “a federated, distributed, linkedin”, but what “linkedin” is, differs for a lot of people. Our initial aim is at the “rolodex” part of Linkedin: where you manage your business-network. And much less about the social-network part of it. So, I’m not sure how we would then fit your requests.
Our initial focus-group is entrepeneurs and freelancers; and then, in long term expand to “all professionals”.

I am very curious if, and how, we could place ourselves to make the hiring process more inclusive. I don’t see this yet, but I do understand the problem; just not sure if flockingbird is the one to solve this problem.

Contrary to Linkedin etc, we explicitely encourage companies, organisations and other professional social groups, to run and host their own “instance”, their own “community”. This might be a useful tool in your quest to “remote learning and working”. But only a small tool.

In the initial version (the MVP) members of a community present themselves and their contact details. In addition, a list of your competences and aspirations are published. (for each piece of data, the member can define who can access it). One reason we do this, is to allow to form teams based on those competences and aspirations. E.g. a software engineer who aspires to learn “UI design” could team up with a designer who aspires to learn some programming.

I could imagine that this can also help a remote-team to get to know eachother. To find that colleague who can help with a translation or a with other knowledge or experience.
If, for example, you are in need of help with writing marketing copy, you can look around in your network to see if there’s someone with that competence. And if there is no-one, flockingbird will reach out to other connected instances(communities) to see if any of your contacts knows people who can help you.

I can imagine that, as a tool, it may not help you immediately, especially with our initial focus. So I am very curious what you would need from such a tool (or suite): both feature-wise and social(idealogical).

Anything we should keep in mind, put on our radar or should avoid?

@flockingbird-berkes apologies for the delay in getting back to you. You’ve taken the time to respond to my post so I wanted to put some thought and effort into my reply in the hope I can offer something of use.

Thanks very much for the links.
A silver lining of the pandemic has definitely been seeing remote work in general, and books like this come to the fore.

As I mentioned, I’ve had considerable experience working from home and so I am familiar with what can be a seamless integration of remote desktop; and VOIP.

At this point I’m wanting to brainstorm a platform aimed at promoting and facilitating online recruitment for 100% remote permanent work opportunities rather than freelance roles because some of us love to work from home but aren’t cut out for the sales and/or management aspects of freelance work and Ibelieve it will do a huge amount for workplace inclusion generally.

I’ve read a number of articles about the pitfalls of remote work and they all seem based on surveys with remote workers. They make the mistake of reading too much into comments about not getting enough direction or feedback. Although these things are definitely important from an inclusion perspective it doesn’t follow that they find remote work isolating per se. I’ve experienced that sense of not getting enough feedback in an office. It is very much related to assumptions and communication styles. Some people interpret no comment as approval; others interpret comments and direction as approval. There is no ‘right way’ for communication in teams to work but it is important that there is mutual respect and a shared understanding of how effort and input is recognised and equitably rewarded.

Plus it doesn’t provide much insight into the validity of what I’m suggesting. Rather these articles and studies often illustrate the problem by posing the question as “how do we make remote work okay for office workers?” rather than “are there people whose talents we are missing out on because we haven’t provided a well-considered avenue for them to learn and/or contribute?”

I very much respect the decision to diverge from the social media side things right now. I’m interested to learn more about this federated, distributed model and without that I can’t offer specific insight to how the following applies for your project but in my view every online platform is the one to solve the inclusion problem.
Much of it will be trial and error and the orientation part of the platform is a very important key to ensuring genuine inclusivity.

Have you come across UK based https://the-dots.com/ ?
My recollection of their initial offering is that it was clear from the orientation process there was an in built assumption that anyone joining would already have an existing business network. Their platform has evolved quite a lot since then and they’ve done quite a remarkable job of generating engagement. It looks to me like they learnt that the people most likely to use their platform in its early stages are those looking to promote their portfolio and establish a business network, not those with an existing business network. https://the-dots.com/about/faq#how-to-get-verified-badge

I think I understand the background theories here but still can’t quite see it as a business model and I am wondering whether or not your project is influenced by new/old ways of working eg sociocratic models; post-growth economic modelling; or purpose-driven business models?

I do like the idea of nuanced levels of profile access, I haven’t come across that in this context before except as a function of security settings in Sharepoint.

I’m trying to understand the vision and that is a big part of why it took me a while to respond. I’m reminded of things as diverse as MS Dynamics through to Discord and I’m still not grasping where this fits in the technology ecosystem. It does sound focussed on existing freelance professional networks and though it probably fills an important gap I don’t fully understand but it is clear that it isn’t closely aligned with the vision I have for opening up permanent employment opportunities for people who are excluded on the basis of an absence of appropriate infrastructure so that they can become a trusted vital employee while working from home.
Having said that I would definitely love to learn more about Flockingbird as it develops.

On that note I’d like to share a really useful tool to help explain a concept to people outside the shared cultural understanding of your project.
‘Public Narrative’ is a process taught at Harvard by Marshall Ganz. You can find videos of his lectures on youtube.
The process can help distill a complicated, passionate project into an elevator pitch and is a really worthwhile thing to do when working on a project that is hard to describe - amusingly it would have helped me a lot if I’d done that process myself before loading this post. :blush:

[quote=“flockingbird-berkes, post:3, topic:5035”]
I can imagine that, as a tool, it may not help you immediately, especially with our initial focus. So I am very curious what you would need from such a tool (or suite): both feature-wise and social(idealogical). [/quote]

Being neurodiverse I’m predisposed to providing feedback based on diagrams because in tech the context and nuance rests a lot in scale and order of process so I do end up coming back to early stakeholder engagement and deliberate efforts to build diversity into your team or at least when engaging consultants.

When it comes to collaboration tools my wishlist is:

  • a glossary widget
  • a dual time zone widget
  • a better way to communicate emotional shorthand
    eg an ‘I feel’ rather than a ‘react’ and A/B testing to ensure conclusions are evidence based.

I’m brainstorming a bit here based on personal experience combined with some out of date experience in CRM design and user testing.

The type of inclusion I’m talking about involves both general functionality as well as recruitment practices. Poorly considered selection criteria and the ill-considered use of those quirky little algorithm specificities used to cull applications can rule out exceptional candidates very early in the process.
Things like ‘no tertiary qualification=no’ and ‘no placement >4years=no’.

‘did not tick 4+ years experience with x’ can result in new hires which look great on paper but fail to live up to promise.
There is an amusing blog using screenshots of forum chats between coders saying things like “I can’t apply because I don’t have 4 years experience with x? But I only built x 2 years ago, how can I have 4 years experience with it?" - (that blog had a lot of engagement, wish I could find it again)

The functionality aspects, of course, include best practice accessibility standards ie eg image description tags and colour blind friendly visual balance etc but also a lot of little things which can have enormous impact on executive function and there is quite a collection of them. They include emotive imagery and language, autoplay features, large blocks of text.

To build in real inclusion from the ground up involves genuine and early stakeholder engagement so that the product design doesn’t just respond to a preconceived idea of ‘average user’ but instead considers most unlikely user with a view to making the product accessible for everyone who would like to use it.

In a broader sense we are talking ‘social model of disability’.
In the same way that people in wheelchairs fought to have councils recognise the need to retrofit kerbs with ramps at road crossings, so do neuronormative people design systems built on assumptions about behaviour and values.

Neurodiverse people think and respond differently in a range of ways which can mean that what is a logical and serviceable UX for the majority can actively cause harm to those trying to participate.
I believe it is lived experience of that harm which contributes to neurodiverse people being able to see unexpected outcomes more easily than others by becoming attuned to potential ‘collateral damage’ pain points.

As with visual, auditory and cognitive impairment, contrast is used to provide clear visual cues which assist the user to work comfortably through a decision tree or process flow. Additionally neurodiverse people can experience pain points as emotional triggers which affect executive function.

I am still looking for qualitative studies on this topic to either confirm or refute my suspicion that most often cost assessments fail to take into account downstream costs of dissatisfied customers and their impact on staffing retention. I would love to have more than personal observation to back up that claim.

I’d also like to know if the ratio of neurodiverse/neuronormative people affected by this type of pain point is proportionally representative.

These neurological differences are nuanced and contextual but have been deemed important enough that the cutting edge of fintech has been looking at neurodiverse people as having inherent skill sets for a while now.

“Everyone deserves the opportunity to develop skills and talents to reach their full potential in a safe, supportive and inclusive environment. And, be rewarded fairly, recognised and able to speak up on matters that impact them, as well as benefitting from a range of perspectives in the decision-making process is acknowledged.
It is also important to appreciate that a “one-size-fits-all” approach is not the reality. People have different needs, so a flexible approach designed to support individual and business needs is required. This is clearly the case with dyslexia, autism and ADHD. It’s estimated that at least 10% of the UK population is neurodivergent, with mental health impacting one in five people in the UK. However, most workplaces are not set up to support all these aspects, so employers are possibly missing out on people who bring a different perspective to an organisation.” https://www.fintechfutures.com/2018/10/why-diversity-and-inclusion-is-good-for-business/

“According to ImmuniWeb research, an impressive 98% of fintech start-ups are vulnerable to phishing, web, and mobile application security attacks. The research also revealed that for all Fintech startups, 100% of the mobile applications contained at least one security liability of a medium risk with 97% having at least two medium or high-risk vulnerabilities. With such a high-risk of malware attacks, FinTech startups must adopt a strategy to avoid such threats to their business.
Neurodivergent individuals have long been recognised for their above-average talents in IT, and particularly in cybersecurity. Neurodiversity variations can include dyspraxia, dyslexia, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyscalculia, autistic spectrum, Tourette syndrome and others.” https://business.express/why-diverse-teams-will-de-risk-your-fintech-startup/

I’ll leave you with my favourite quote on this topic:
“….when one deals with messy, complicated problems that you need to think about in some wildly interactive way we all have a strategy that we come up with which is a strategy to make things easier….
…we think in categories; we take things that are continua and we break them into categories and we label those categories and we do that in various settings because it could be extremely useful….
….when you pay too much attention to categories you can’t differentiate two facts which fall within the same category….
….when you put up boundaries you have trouble seeing how similar things are on either side of it…
….when you pay too much attention to boundaries you don’t see the big picture.”

Robert Sapolsky

TLDR; my main suggestions are:

  • only ask for the data you need to do the job (as a matter of both trust and of functionality)
  • carefully consider your assumptions about what makes a good candidate and what doesn’t
    and
  • consider how you can build more diversity into your team as early as possible.

Best wishes,
B

Hi @Birdie, you brought up a really interesting subject here. How does the idea of a job board for inclusion sounds like to you?

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Thanks for your response, it is an important topic that I’m quite passionate about and have a very good understanding of from the ‘user’ end.

I would have to better understand what you have in mind but I am wary of simplifying this too much as an ‘inclusion job board’ which could quickly digress into yet another third party service unless it was built on a ‘for purpose’ model designed to focus on 100% remote permanent opportunities.

The market is already flooded with job boards which frame remote work as part of the 'gig economy’. We know the social costs of this are huge. It might work well for those who want contract work but scratch the surface and you will find a lot of people who are only involved because they need an income and who would much prefer to be paid fairly for the work they do; to have job security; and to have basic workplace protections like sick pay and annual leave.

Additionally when you consider diversity consultants have existed for a while now and are still not making a lot of headway we have to be careful to protect the interests of the individuals and the communities they are a part of so that they aren’t just used as ‘people stories’ PR for the purposes of waving an inclusion banner.
Most businesses these days, operate on the 80/20 principle (focus on the 20% of work which gives you 80% of profits). This manifests in design with an 'acceptable error margin’ in relation to pain points so things like animation in tech (‘still loading’ dots/icons etc) are left in because they work for most people even though for people like me with hyperawareness they can lead to attention problems because too much is going on in my peripheral vision (animation that can’t be turned off is my least favourite aspect of programming for this reason).

A really fit for purpose response would need to be built with strong stakeholder consultation to identify what barriers people might face with this model and also with jurisdictional consideration which forces the recruiter or employer to list a specific jurisdiction rather than geographical location. At this point ensuring employee and employer are in the same jurisdiction streamlines the relationship in important ways. I have no doubt the same people that set up offshore call centres could exploit this in a similar way but at least then it is up to them to set up appropriate structures rather than the individual seeking to find work. There may be room for some kind of international payment tech which streamlines calculations but ultimately jurisdiction considerations from the outset are important. Lots of different aspects drawn out there. Thank you for helping me to identify these things.

Thank you for your answer, @Birdie. It was very clarifying. There’s clearly some important variables to consider. What occurred to me as a simple and pragmatic trial solution would be to reach some of the already stablished online job boards and make them aware of this issue. They could use their already stablished presence to leverage a solution. That would include making them aware of the importance of having a diversity and inclusion specialist guiding whatever the solution could be.

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