Your guide to working out loud: Part 1

What is it and why it’s the key to successful remote working 

As most of us are working from home, many companies are introducing new tools and technology to encourage digital collaboration and communication. I believe this is a great development that will inspire change and impact the way that we work for many years to come. 

However, this change requires our employees to adapt which leads to my question; Is introducing new tools enough for all employees to start working more collaboratively online? Or, are many of us still stuck in a pre-Internet landscape of siloed divisions, corporate hierarchy, and checklist-efficiency prioritized over personal experience and growth? Are we ready to use the digital tools to their full potential and start collaborating in a much open and transparent way?

I think we are, but we need to introduce ‘Working out Loud’ across all layers of the organisation. Only by doing so, will we be able to build a strong collaborative culture and maintain a healthy work/life balance whilst working remotely. 

Why Working out loud is crucial when working remote

As the name suggests, it initially involves working out loud. However, it doesn’t mean everyone should be sitting behind their desk shouting at each other (difficult given the remote working anyway!). The point is to openly share what you are working on to make your work visible. 

It also requires a new way of networking. Instead of sharing knowledge or information and expecting something back, the approach of working out loud is sharing without needing anything in return. Just the act of sharing what you are working on will make your work visible and therefore frame it as a contribution. 

Nobody has done more to formalize working out loud than John Stepper, who introduced the concept at Deutsche Bank and has since written the definitive book. Stepper talks about five pillars of working out loud:

  • Make your work visible
  • Lead with generosity
  • Build a social network
  • Make it purposeful
  • Have a growth mindset

Maybe your organisation is already doing some of this, but you might just be scratching the surface.  Understanding how your organisation can get the best out of working out loud is critical, especially when employees are working remotely.   Remote working has not only meant adapting to new tools, there are also more meetings, more notifications, more emails and more of a struggle to maintain a healthy work-life balance. 

Working out loud can provide relief through:
  1. Increasing the digital literacy of employees

Many organizations are realizing that the digital literacy of employees is critical to helping unlock the investment made in digital tools and drive the full benefits that can be reaped from digital. By encouraging your team to work out loud, you will also encourage the use of digital collaboration tools. In return, this will breed knowledge sharing and confidence. Working out loud can complement platform adoption and could even be a part of a digital literacy campaign. 

  1. Helping you drive a more positive organisational culture

Working out loud can help you celebrate the values of your organisation. For example, by driving transparency and encouraging a more dialogue-based culture where listening is valued. Or an environment where experimentation and innovation are encouraged and problems are being solved through digital collaboration. Connectivity, breaking down silos, networking – all are key values of Working out loud that often line up with key company values and initiatives. 

  1. Building collaboration from the bottom up

In Stepper’s methodology, he talks about “Circles”. These are small confidential groups where people can share their work in a safe space. The idea of Circles is less to create mini-communities but more to help individuals develop Working out loud-related habits and experience some kind of personal growth. Creating these safe spaces through enterprise social networks like Workplace can help employees adapt and slowly feel safer to share in cross-functional and all company communities.  By starting in small safe groups and then encouraging wider sharing and collaboration across teams and departments, Working out loud can change your company’s collaboration culture from the bottom up.

  1. Delivering benefits for senior management

Working out loud can be particularly effective for senior leaders because it will drive trust, engagement and create opportunities for 2-way conversations. Employee feedback is highly valuable and it allows leaders to get an effective pulse check on employee sentiment. Leaders can show that they are listening and interact with employees through conversation. 

  1. Reducing meetings

Working out loud is about sharing information as you go, instead of having status meetings or unnecessary catch-ups. Which is important, because every minute you avoid spending in a meeting is a minute you can get real work done instead. Most information we share is not time-critical. Instead of scheduling meetings, we should ask: “does everyone really need to hear this information at the exact same time”? If the answer is no – you don’t need a meeting. Making use of both synchronous and asynchronous communication (i.e. people communicating with each other at different times) to get more productive. Use chat or 1;1 calls for anything time-critical and work out loud in groups for anything that doesn’t warrant an immediate response.

  1. Supporting health and well-being

 An employee working out loud asks for help, rather than working in isolation. When employees get comfortable with working out loud, they will also get more and more confident to ask for help. By doing so, they can get the support when they need it and will create a strong relationship with their colleagues

Working out loud can be a step outside the comfort zone for many and might be met with some resistance. Check out part two of this series for my advice on ways to help your teams get on board with working out loud and how Workplace from Facebook can help you to create a culture where working out loud is the norm.



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