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Rhys Black, Head of Remote at Oyster HR

The role of a Head of Remote is a relatively new one, at least in terms of its familiarity, acceptance, and importance. In this Accomplished Peeps interview, Rhys Black, Head of Remote at Oyster HR shares some insight into his role, what his day-to-day looks like, and the tools and practices he uses to successfully lead remotely.

Rhys' team is one of roughly 10 teams in the world who are currently writing the rule book on what a Head of Remote’s team does. He commented that what they're experiencing putting this together is somewhat similar to the genesis of the Product Management function approximately 15 years ago. Defining which areas of responsibility a head of remote's team covers and where they can add the most value is an ever-evolving thing.

Explain your role as Head of Remote at Oyster and what a typical workday looks like for you.

My role as Head of Remote at Oyster is essentially to fulfill our commitment of one day becoming the best distributed company in the world. My role is very cross-functional tying Operations, People, and Marketing together to deal with the many effects remote work has on the Operations and People of our company. There is no such thing as a typical day in my role. However, my role is becoming increasingly external as I build my team to execute internally, allowing me to work with our Marketing team to relay our work to our customers and to serve as a source of inspiration and knowledge for them.

Describe the layout and feel of your personal workspace.

Fully standing desk, Herman Millar Embody chair, 27in monitor with an MBP dock, Rode Videomic NTG on an arm, Logitech Brio, Lume Cube light, iPad Pro used as a 2nd screen for my calendar and to-do list in Things 3

Generally minimalist with white and black items

What's one habit or ritual you need to start and finish your day & why is it non-negotiable for you?

I have a pretty ingrained morning routine that I check off in Things every day

  1. Morning habit: Walk, stretch and meditate in the park
  2. Evening habit: With the weather getting better, I’ve been going out for an off-road cycle of about 50km once or twice a week after work lately

The morning route is non-negotiable as if I don’t take some time for myself in the morning, it really affects my mental clarity and ability to focus late.

Going for an evening cycle lets me blast out a lot of energy that has pent up from the day and also forces me into the present, or else I’ll hit a tree :)

How does your team use asynchronous communication to stay in the loop while working remotely?

  1. Robust project management to increase visibility on work asynchronously
  2. A culture of documentation to collaborate within the team

Which tools, habits, beliefs do you live and work with that allow you to overcome the struggles of working remotely?

  1. Tools are the easy part - Slack, Notion, Loom, Miro, Asana, Zoom...the usual. Nothing special.
  2. Operating principles for the team:
  3. Default to asynchronous communication. More inclusive, fewer disturbances, more thoughtfulness
  4. Radical transparency. Get issues on the table as fast as possible
  5. Document your conclusions. Write down answers to questions others will likely ask to allow autonomous working
  6. Over-communicate. Be clear and open about your level of intent, your requests, and your deadlines
  7. Track all work. So others know who is working on what and when
  8. Prepare. 50%+ of a meeting takes place before the actual meeting
  9. Use Zoom strategically. Brief video calls save lots of back-and-forths
  10. Everyone is a moderator. Everyone should make sure the team is adhering to the agreed-upon ways of working
  11. Assume good intent. Follow Hanlon's razor

How do you limit distractions while working from home? And, which personal productivity hacks do you follow religiously?

  • Only open Slack or Email a few times a day
  • Noise-cancelling headphones
  • Having a 2nd screen purely for my to-do list and calendar is a big help
  • Only use social media to publish content, not consume it.
  • I use Feedly for all my content consumption
  • I then save Feedly content into a read-later app called Instapaper. This massively reduces distractions. I only read articles that I save and come back to later.

Is there one particular podcast or youtube channel that you can't stop listening to or watching?

Youtube is my university. I’ve gotten quite into geopolitics lately. Some good channels include Masaman, Caspian Report, Johnny Harris, and Cold Fusion. The Secular Buddhism podcast by Noah Rasheta is good too.

If you could be doing anything else than what you're doing, what would it be?

Probably working on increasing financial literacy amongst under-served people groups. It changed my life and I’d like to pass on what I’ve learned to others.

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If you're interested in learning more about Oyster HR, check them out - https://www.oysterhr.com/, or connect with them on LinkedIn.