Remote-first or remote-optimized? Why the difference matters.

July 20, 2022

“If you raise (the price of the) effing hot dog, I will kill you. Figure it out.” – Costco CEO Jim Sinegal on hiking the cost of their popular food court item.

In this week’s edition:

  • Is there a case for “thoughts and prayers” at work? 
  • Remote-first versus remote-optimized: choose your own adventure. 
  • The Stanford marshmallow experiment — but make it entrepreneurial.
  • Why knowledge sharing should be on your SMB’s radar.


Are ‘thoughts and prayers’ appropriate at work? 

Graphic of raised hands with the words "Thoughts & Prayers."

Raise your hand if you’ve ever offered someone your “thoughts and prayers.”
Everybody’s hand up? Thought so. (Your Facebook post from five years ago totally ratted you out.) The ubiquitous phrase — used to provide condolences for everything from The Great British Bake-Off to the passing of your BFF’s Tamagotchi — has almost become, well, a parody of itself.

But for people who are truly suffering, “thoughts and prayers” solves nothing. Yet, tragedy after tragedy, we see it circulating throughout our feeds and lives — even at work. Which raises the question: Are “thoughts and prayers” appropriate in a work setting? We polled our team here at Trainual and found that of those surveyed, 40% have used the phrase at work and 60% have used it outside of work.

And when asked, “what’s your gut reaction to the phrase,” the general consensus was pretty… meh.

  • “Kinda feels like something people would say when they don't care.”
  • “The person saying this phrase isn't interested in helping beyond expressing their sympathy on the matter.”

So, what can we (business owners, colleagues, and friends) do instead of offering “thoughts and prayers”?
Thought you’d never ask. But first thing’s first — when it comes to workplace religious accommodations, employers are required to allow “an employee's sincerely held religious beliefs or practices” (such as prayer). So, banning the phrase (or banning the offering of prayer) is a big nope.

But there are four things you can do to offer support and uplift your people when it matters most — without using “thoughts and prayers.”

  1. Talk about it with your team. When tragic things occur outside of work, it still impacts people on the job. So, instead of pretending that nothing is happening (or regurgitating the same ol’ T&P) — face it! Acknowledge the pain and take a stance. Your acknowledgement of the situation lets your team know that they are not alone.

👉 Check out the other three alternatives.


WFH-friendly SMBs: Are you remote-first or remote-optimized?

A man sitting at a laptop with a Zoom call.

To-may-toe, to-mah-toe. Sounds like the same thing.
While the concepts sound similar and have sometimes been used interchangeably (albeit incorrectly), there are subtle differences between “remote-first” and “remote-optimized” workplaces.

Let’s talk remote-first… first.
Just like it sounds — remote is the default work mode for all employees. That could look like a business that has a company hub but sources all their workers from different time zones. Or, one that’s fully remote — no centralized office, no in-person collaboration.

Basically, remote work is part of the foundation of the business, and as a result, determines how the company hires and trains their employees.

And remote-optimized?
These businesses are designed so that all employees can contribute, whether they work remotely or in-office. Also referred to as “remote-friendly” or “hybrid,” this option usually involves time split between working from home and in the office.

Why’s the difference important?
It comes down to your employees. And perhaps, more specifically, your prospective employees. Remote flexibility is popular — while some people want to work remotely full-time, others don’t.

Because there’s something to be said about working with others face-to-face. In a survey from Buffer, 52% of employees who work remotely reported feeling less connected — it takes more effort to build relationships remotely versus in-person interactions.

So while remote-first workplaces do offer a lot of convenience, remote-optimized work environments provide your employees with more choice. People who prefer to work remotely full-time get the opportunity to do so, while people who want a more hybrid balance of home and office get to have their cake and eat it, too (it was Alex from accounting’s birthday 🤷).

You’ll find that one title will fit your remote business model better than the other. And your choice will help your employees (current and prospective) determine how they best fit into your company.


The Marshmallow Test: entrepreneur edition

What’s the Marshmallow Test?
It’s as delicious as it sounds. Back in 1970, a couple of Stanford professors conducted a social experiment to study the concept of delayed gratification in young children (typically ages three to five). Here’s how it played out:

  • The child would sit at a table with no distractions. The researcher would come in and place a single marshmallow in front of them.
  • The researcher told the child that they were allowed to eat the marshmallow. However, if they could wait 15 minutes before eating it, they would receive two marshmallows.
A man eating a cooked marshmallow off a stick.

Surprise, surprise — a lot of the children couldn’t wait. No second marshmallow for them.

But wait, there’s more.
Researchers followed up with the children who participated in the experiment over the next few decades, and the results showed a unique pattern. The children who were able to wait for their second marshmallow typically grew up to be more successful than their less-patient peers, scoring higher in life measures like SAT scores, social skills, and stress responses.

Okay, but I can’t go back in time and do my own Marshmallow Test.
Not until someone starts doing some serious work in the time travel department (anyone got a spare DeLorean?). But if you think about it, the entrepreneurial lifestyle is one big Marshmallow Test.

When you start a business, you’re sitting at a table with your time, energy, and money in front of you. You could grab hold of them now and no one would blame you. But, if you can wait, you could reap rewards that are double (or triple… even quadruple!) the worth of that initial sacrifice. Just goes to show that delayed gratification is a hallmark of a successful entrepreneur — so don’t always grab that first marshmallow.

Conferences. Remember those? Yeah, us too.

And let’s be honest — most of them sucked. And no, we don’t need another free jump drive, [insert random big name sponsor].

Good thing we don’t play by the typical conference rules.

Cue… Playbook 2022!

Trainual’s bringing the SMB event of the year right to your laptop. Two days of epic speakers and jam-packed sessions on leading, systemizing, and scaling. Whether you need strategies for growth, marketing ideas that resonate with the right audiences, or hot tips on small business trends, Playbook 2022 has you covered.

September 21-22 | 9:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. PDT
Cost: FREE (go ahead, read that again — yep, still free.)

Save yourself a seat today.


How to make knowledge sharing second nature

A group of people sitting around a fire pit.

What’s knowledge sharing?
In business, it’s sharing info between individuals, teams, departments, and other company leaders. Often, it revolves around how-tos, best practices, and other knowledge learned through experience.

Is knowledge sharing a need or a nice-to-have?
A LinkedIn survey revealed 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if they were given the opportunity to learn and grow. Remember that replacing someone can cost up to two times their annual salary. So in the long run, investing in team growth prevents drops in both your business’ culture and finances.

Speaking of hiring, you want to dazzle the right candidates before they even start, right? Especially those hungry for knowledge and experience. When you can show candidates how you’ll invest in their professional growth, they’ll be much more inclined to choose you over a company that doesn’t.

To be competitive in today’s market, you need to share knowledge with people outside your org too. You might not be Gary Vee, but you have some major industry expertise (and so do your team members!). When you share that knowledge with other entrepreneurs and professionals, they’ll start to turn to you and your team as the go-to industry experts.

Okay, I’m sold. Where do I start?
Here are some tips for implementing knowledge sharing in your business:

  • Build the right culture. Focus on creating a company-wide culture where knowledge sharing is valued and celebrated. This allows space for employees to candidly share experiences and unique insight that helps their peers grow both personally and professionally.  
  • Find the right tools. No cap — Trainual is perfect for knowledge sharing. (Are we cool yet, Gen Z?) With the new public share feature, you can share content with employees and people outside of your org (think: candidates, freelancers, industry collegues — anyone). Say hello to the new way of keeping everyone in the know.

👉 Check out more ways.


This week’s highlight reel

  • “Where’s the beef?” Yep, inflation hit a 40-year high of 9.1% in June. Join us in remembering more budget-friendly times with an inflation-proof $1.50 beef hot dog-and-soda combo at Costco. 
  • It’s (not) all about the Benjamins, baby. With inflation rearing its really big, balloon-y head, employers are raising their team’s salary by about 4.1% — the biggest hike in 15 years. But that may not be enough to ease their team’s financial burdens. Oh look, someone (ahem) pulled together a list of alternative ways you can help your team get through this financially rocky time. So clutch.
  • FYP for SMBs. TikTok’s been a boon for SMBs. So much so, the social app recently launched Follow Me, a multi-medium platform aimed at teaching small business owners how to use TikTok to share their stories, build their community, and achieve their business goals. Best of all? It’s absolutely free.
  • We’re going back to Scranton, to Scranton, to Scranton. Dunder-Mifflin’s getting the LEGO treatment. The childhood all-ages building blocks just put out a crossover set based on “The Office.” So now, you too can share the satisfaction of watching Dwight’s stapler float in a blob of jello while yucking it up with Jim.


Here’s what else is on The Manual’s mind

You’re probably craving some gooey marshmallows right about now (whoops). Before you cave in for a snack break, catch up on the hottest small business news from last week:

  • “It’s the same picture.” You hired someone new and they’re ready for onboarding. Or wait — for orientation? Here’s the difference.
  • Howdy, partner. Matt Wool, CEO of Acceleration Partners, jumped on the Organize Chaos podcast to share why SMBs should add partnerships to their marketing mix. See all three reasons.
  • Role with it. Documenting your roles and responsibilities is now 40% faster with Trainual’s new AI engine. You can finally outline who does what, and hold your team accountable as you evolve in just a few clicks. Try it out.

Organize the chaos
of your small business