CBaS Make Remote Work relationships fun cover art

Tune in to this episode with Raúl Anton Cuadrado to learn how to make remote work relationships more fun and exciting, with Raúl Antón Cuadrado.

We recorded this episode on Jan 25, 2022.

If you accept that you are part of a diverse environment, and this is key, you don’t tolerate or respect differences, but relish them.

Raúl Antón Cuadrado

Your Challenge Invitation

Work on one connection at work. Think about one relationship at work that you would like to be intentional about, where you would like to reach out on a regular basis to that person to establish a connection.

If you’re already working on relationships at work and need some help with managing them, you could maintain a chart of relationships that you want to keep alive at work. Keep track of when you last got in touch with each person on the chat and when you would like to reach out to them again. Reach out to each person in the chart according to the schedule that you’ve set. Or if you want to be less structured, check the chart each week or so to see who’s the next person you want to reach out to.

Contact and follow Raul at or on Linkedin.

You can connect with Damianne on the Changes BIG and small website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube. You’re also invited to join the Changes BIG and small Facebook community.

Productivity is with you eight hours a day and happiness, twenty-four.

Similar Episodes

Timeline of the Chat

01:07 – What makes a successful relationship?
02:44 – The Value of Relationships at Work
06:44 – Communication and Relations in Different Work Structures
10:16 – Spontaneity and Proximity for Relationships at Work
12:05 – The Six Axes Where You Need to Be Intentional To Create Relationships at Work
13:33 – The Best Tool for Getting to Know Members of Your Team
17:30 – How to add Community and Social Opportunities in Remote Work
22:26 – Communicating in multilingual, multicultural environments
24:56 – Setting Boundaries between Work Life and Family Life
27:52 – Invitation/Challenge

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I think that the healthy way to keep conversations or relationships alive is with balance between synchronous, asynchronous,and

You could be working with sometimes more with willingness resources then with time or money resources, and the only way to mobilize these willingness resources is by communication.

Transcript of the Episode

[01:07] What makes a successful relationship?

[01:07] Damianne President: What makes a successful relationship?

[01:10]  Raúl Anton Cuadrado: I think that relationships are based upon communication and upon the willingness of the two parts. Both parts want to make a successful relationship and both parts needs to communicate. Communication is a two-way activity. There is a common mistake from my perspective.

When we use the word communication, sometimes we say I communicate something to someone. This is not real communication. Communication is an exchange where the two parts are taking part at the same level. So the answer would be willingness and communication to be equally this willingness

 What do you think?

[02:07] Damianne President: As you were speaking, the word that was coming up for me was intention, some sort of level of commitment or intention to have a relationship that works for the different parties in the relationship. And then an important element of relationships is also communication.

I’ve been chatting with many people the season about relationships and the importance of communication, listening being a big part of that is kind of what you’re saying here. We’re not communicating to, but rather we’re communicating with each other, with other people.

[02:38]  Raúl Anton Cuadrado: This is important. Yeah, intention. I said willingness.

[02:44] The Value of Relationships at Work

[02:44] Damianne President: If we focus on relationships at work, what are the important relationships at work? I think this is a good question for you because you used to be my team lead, for people who don’t know, for listeners of this podcast. And one of the things that I remember you used to often say to me was Damianne, you need to create relationships. Relationships are very important at work. And so, this is a good chance for you to elaborate on the types of relationships that are important at work and why they’re so important.

[03:17]  Raúl Anton Cuadrado: Wow. I don’t remember you being so happy when I said this. So I feel this is a trap question. Well, the kind of relationships that you can make it work depends on the kind of structure you have. But I would say that the relationships I’m more interested in are horizontal relationships, relationships where the two parts have a opportunity to add to the relationship, to the workflows. If we compare a hierarchical structure and a horizontal one, the kind structure that we have in our company, in a vertical or hierarchical structure, there are very clear positions when any communicative act happens.

So, when your boss is communicating, these fake communication, with you, they don’t really expect you to give feedback, to state your opinion, other than acknowledging that you are understanding what they are asking you to do. And when you are the boss, you could think that this is great because no one is going to say something opposed to your ideas. But I felt in the past very uncomfortable with people not able or not feeling comfortable to tell me what they thought. I even had some scenarios where I only asked for an opinion and people were not confident to give their opinion before knowing mine.

 They were not taught to share what they thought. And this is clearly against happiness at work and also against, because this is very linked, productivity, against lots of things that are around happiness and productivity, but these would be the two most important words. In a horizontal schema, you are expected to say what you think, even if it is opposed to what the team lead thinks. Of course, there is always someone who needs to take the decision, but not before knowing what the other people in the team thinks. This a key point. This is marvelous when you are a team member, but even better when you are the team leader.

Being a team leader and not accepting that anyone else could share their ideas with you is boring. It’s not useful and I don’t find any advantage in being a team lead if you can not Integrate these opinions with yours and make wider your horizons by adding new perspectives.

[06:22] Damianne President: Yeah. And what I’m really hearing is the whole idea of in relationships you’re adding value to each other. And so there is that multidirectional communication and flow of information that happens.

[06:33]  Raúl Anton Cuadrado: Yeah. I mean, this is the key point of useful communication from my perspective, being horizontal and being open or transparent.

[06:44] Communication and Relations in Different Work Structures

[06:44] Damianne President: You say that I wasn’t so happy when you used to talk about relationships and that is true. I didn’t understand what you were talking about.

So for example, at the time I was fairly new to remote work. I’m kind of doing some mind travel. I’m not a hundred percent sure if I remember this correctly, but I thought, okay, he’s talking about relationships. Is he talking about friendships? What does he mean in this context of work? What is he expected me to do? How does this look when we’re all working remotely. And I think this question comes up for many other people, because I’ve had this conversation with many others where it’s one thing to hear, okay, relationships are important and it’s important to put time and energy into creating relationships, but then there’s the whole element of what relationships? How does this look in a remote work environment?

[07:39]  Raúl Anton Cuadrado: I think that the key point is there are two main values in relationships. In hierarchical structures, things are made because there is someone who decides and because there is someone who is the owner of a process and they have the resources, clearly defined, et cetera, et cetera. So they don’t even need to have relationships other than communication with their boss or the stakeholder, the one who releases the resources to get things done.

But in flat structures, relationships, like clear working flows of communication, are very important because you could be working with sometimes more with willingness resources then with time or money resources, and the only way to mobilize these willingness resources is by communication. So this is one of the two things. The other one, and this is golden for me, and it took time to understand this, is because relationships are fun, not necessarily friendship, but relationships.

You have the opportunity in these new working environments that we are defining, remote environment, distributed environments, to exchange points of view, perspective, with diverse people, even divergent people that you are meeting at work in these new environments. And this is interesting. This is fun.

Someone in a book, you remembered this books by the former Netflix head of HR? There is a point where she said that she was trying to find the best perks to force the retention of people, et cetera, et cetera. And at that point, she found that it’s not throwing parties, that the best perk that you can offer to someone is being surrounded by brilliant people. You can only tap on having these brilliant people around you by communicating with them.

[09:56] Damianne President: Is this Patty McCord? Is this the person you’re trying ….

[09:59]  Raúl Anton Cuadrado: Yes. Yes. That’s it? Yeah. So, on one hand, in flat structures, you need communication to mobilize resources. On the other hand, it’s fun. It’s interesting.

[10:16] Spontaneity and Proximity for Relationships at Work

[10:16] Damianne President: Okay. Let’s say that we accept that it’s fun and it’s interesting. That still doesn’t get to the how do we do this? If you’re used to working in an office, then you run into people. There’s a lot of spontaneity that helps you establish some of these relationships. You’re in the cafeteria… so there are two elements that come up when you’re working in an office, which is proximity and spontaneity that are big factors in creating relationships, friendships, connections with people. How do we translate that into a remote or distributed work environment?

[10:53]  Raúl Anton Cuadrado: We tend to take it for granted when we’re working in an office that we create relationships, but this is not a hundred percent true because being in front of someone for eight hours a day does not the equate to create a relationship with this person.

[11:09] Damianne President: That’s true. I agree. So let’s say, how do you create the opportunity then?

[11:14]  Raúl Anton Cuadrado: So I don’t think that the office has magical powers. We tend to think this, right? I like saying that the office is a fetish because in some way we think that there is a list of things that can just happen in an office. And it’s true that when you give a talk about remote work, there is a list of questions that you always get, like how can you possibly make relationships in remote environment? This is one of them.

Well, in remote environment, you need to be intentional with creating these relationships and with enabling the communication that underlies these relationship creations. And there are several axes where you need to be intentional. 

[12:05] The Six Axes Where You Need to Be Intentional To Create Relationships at Work

[12:05]  Raúl Anton Cuadrado: I would say that there are six intersections from work related communication and personal communication and then the intersections with one-to-one team communication and organizational level, like six clear spheres of where this communication can happen. And for each one of these six spheres or spaces, you need to be intentional and you need to have a clear strategy to enable and encourage this communication to happen.

[12:44] Damianne President: So tell me again, those six. So the dimensions you were looking at were one-to-one, team communication, organizational level…

[12:51]  Raúl Anton Cuadrado: and then the intersection of these three with work related communication, this is important, and also personal related communication, this is important too. And this is what we tend to think that happens in conventional offices. It sometimes happen, sometimes not.

 When you’re working in a conventional office, it happens that the people that you create a bigger rapport with are not in your same office, but in another office, maybe in a different even city. And there is not such a big difference between working remotely with them and, and working in two different offices. 

[13:33] The Best Tool for Getting to Know Members of Your Team

[13:33] Damianne President: Okay so this is very high level. Let’s bring it down to the day-to-day application level for people. What are some concrete actions or considerations that people need to think of for any of those dimensions or spheres that you were talking about?

[13:49]  Raúl Anton Cuadrado: With some examples, we’re not going to cover all these dimensions because we have no time.

[13:54] Damianne President: That would be a whole podcast.

[13:56]  Raúl Anton Cuadrado: But for instance, something that is quite controversial, so one-on-ones. When you’re a team leader, you try to put time aside to make one on one with each one of your team members once a week, sometimes once every two weeks. Depends, right? This is something that also works in conventional offices, right? You should have one to ones with people. When you are starting in a lead position, you tend to have weekly usually, or more often, one to ones.

 When you get things working, when you have, let’s say a better knowledge of what is happening with the team, et cetera, you skip one-on-ones or one to ones, and even could decide to have a biweekly one-on-one or a monthly one-on-one or whatever, because you think that this is not so important. Well, my take on this is that you, as a team lead, should always have weekly one-on-ones, even if you don’t have any agenda, because the relationship that you create with people by communicating sometimes about not work related things, and this doesn’t mean that you are friends with the people you are talking with; sometimes this is not needed. But the relationship that you create by communicating weekly is golden. And it’s something that you as a team leader, but also the other person in the team, could tap into when the time comes. And this is something that you cannot maintain by having monthly one-on-one, by putting aside time, just every month to look at the other eyes, and try to understand what they think. This is a good example?

[15:52] Damianne President: I don’t know that I agree, but I am open to reflecting on it and having reflect on this also.

[15:59]  Raúl Anton Cuadrado: I I choose these because it’s controversial.

[16:03] Damianne President: Yeah, I think there is an implicit assumption there that connection only happens when you are in a video call with somebody else.

[16:12]  Raúl Anton Cuadrado: Yeah, it’s true. I said look into the other eyes. Okay let’s put it in other words. You said intentional. By intentionally putting time aside to be just with this person, not doing other things while we are. So video calls are not the only way to do this, but it’s a mean that allows you to focus on what you are doing and what you are doing is to communicate, to put all your senses in communicating with this person. If you are using Slack, it could be tempting to overlap these conversation with other things.

Slack is a wonderful communication mean, but by having a… Well, of course, you can be in a video call and still doing other things, but it’s more difficult. What I mean is that when you are communicating with someone, you s hould be communicating.

[17:10] Damianne President: Fully present.

[17:12]  Raúl Anton Cuadrado: I mean, because you have been intentionally setting this time aside, if you are doing other things, because you are not enjoying, you are not understanding what you’re getting from this conversation, maybe it would be a better use of both side’s time to do other things. 

[17:30] How to add Community and Social Opportunities in Remote Work

[17:30] Damianne President: Let’s go even broader and more concrete so that anybody who is listening, regardless of their circumstance, could be able to relate. Sometimes when people move to working remotely or working distributed, then they might say things like, I typically have somebody to have lunch with at work. I might catch up with a colleague during lunch and how do I make that happen in a remote work environment?

[17:59]  Raúl Anton Cuadrado: If I understand you, you are asking me how we translate these lunch meetings into a remote environment, right?

[18:07] Damianne President: Fun lunch gatherings. Let’s call them gatherings as opposed to meetings so it’s more along the personal communication dimension than the work communication.

[18:17]  Raúl Anton Cuadrado: Perfect. Because let’s say that there are two kinds of lunches, right? On one side work lunches and on the other side, not work-related lunches.

[18:29] Damianne President: I think work lunches tend to happen a lot more easily in remote. It transfers very, very well to remote because you get on somebody’s calendar, which you would do whether you’re in the office or, working from home.

[18:42]  Raúl Anton Cuadrado: This is another story, but I think that we should try to keep work related activities to follow transparent and open environments where everyone can participate. Something that I can very well see in conventional office environments is that some of the decisions and some of the work processes could happen in one of these gaps that are not transparent. And I don’t like this, and I think it is in the longterm not very useful. It creates differences between team members.

Okay, so for the friendly lunches, that is something that you, again, need to be intentional to implement these in a remote environment. You need to create coffee machine or lunch opportunities in these remote environments. And you need to be clear to create them.

As you know, in Automattic, we have water coolers; that is the coffee machine, a keyboard equivalent when you went to be inclusive. Not everyone likes coffee, could be tea, but everyone drinks water, I guess. So you can create spaces where we’re to meet around hobbies, you can create the spaces to meet around regions, where you are living or interests, et cetera. But the key point is that, let me give you some examples. So we have a P2 to where people suggests….

[20:25] Damianne President: For people who are not familiar with the lingo, a P2 is a communal blog.

[20:29]  Raúl Anton Cuadrado: I would say that these kinds of blog, is very similar to a forum, where people suggest activities that could be from a group meditation to a remote but all together race for people that like running.

A couple of months ago, something that was very cool was a 24 hours race, where people were passing the baton to the next one. And it was really nice because you’re part of the race. You send a baton and you send a message to the next one. It created a very nice connection. You can also play video games together.

There are some spaces where you play table games. There are some in-person gatherings; this is of course easier when you share the same geographical context. You need to understand that communication need some spaces to happen and you need to create them. You need to be intentional again. We usually think that this happens per se the office environment. This is not true.

The sad part is that even if we think that the communication is always happening in offices, there are a lot of isolated people in offices, even being surrounded by teammates also, because they don’t really communicate. In remote environments, it’s so clear that you need to be intentional that communication flows more naturally, I would say.

[22:14] Damianne President: Some of the examples that  Raúl is sharing are from Automattic. We both work at Automattic, which is a distributed remote work environment, Auttomatic with two T’s.

[22:26] Communicating in multilingual, multicultural environments

[22:26] Damianne President:  Raúl as a, what is it called, poly lingual, poly Linquist. Is that the correct term? As somebody who speaks many languages, you have been involved in relationships in many languages. We’re speaking in English. And I know you speak with some other people in Spanish or in French. Are there any challenges that come up specific to that, with having multiple languages?

[22:49]  Raúl Anton Cuadrado: Hmm, Hmm. Yeah, absolutely. Language is the tool for communication. It’s true that if you are not a very good speaker, you could find some problems to really create these meaningful relationships through communication. I’ve suffered this. I say suffer because it’s a lot of effort to master a new language, but it pays off. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes willingness, intention, and et cetera, et cetera. But it pays off because you discover yourself creating new relationships and getting to know new people around you. This is important.

 I dream of the day where something translates you directly, when you are talking in a Zoom call, to another language; that would be great. And I think, to be honest, that we are close.

[23:46] Damianne President: What do you want people to know or consider? I think sometimes I see misunderstandings happen because of translation or because of even cultural differences that are sometimes connected to language. We as people, how do you hope we show up when we’re dealing with people from so many different cultures and who speaks different languages?

[24:06]  Raúl Anton Cuadrado: Well, these different cultures and different languages are a source of issues, but also a source of diversity. And this is cool too, right? If you accept that you are part of a diverse environment, and this is key, you don’t tolerate or respect differences, but relish them. You could accept some misunderstandings, some communication problems, and you need to be able to, you know, repeat things in another way. You need to accept that you didn’t understand something and you ask the other to repeat, but this is cool because in exchange you gain a lot of, again, sorry about this but a lot of fun, a lot of food, for your brain. 

[24:56] Setting Boundaries between Work Life and Family Life

[24:56] Damianne President: Let’s touch on relationships a bit more broadly than just work relationships. I think when you’re working remotely, it can be a bit hard to set up boundaries. I recently had a group of people who were new to the company and I was talking to them about how do you delineate between the time you’re working and the time you’re spending with your family. Those kinds of boundaries are really important to consider when you’re working remotely, when you’re working from home. How does it work for you? What do you find useful?

[25:24]  Raúl Anton Cuadrado: This is one of the most important things when you are working remotely or specifically from home where you have your office close to your dining room. This is important. You need to be very clear. Intentional when defining when you start to work and when you finish your work.

One of the core parts of working in an office is that you spend time going to the office, so you make a clear distinction between being outside and inside your working hours. And more importantly, when you go back home, this half an hour, if you are lucky, that you spend in your car, in the tube, or in the underground, allow you to reflect that you are going home, that your working hours stop.

So you need to find a way to highlight these boundaries. What do I do? I use meditation as a way to do this. And I define the very beginning of my day, the working hours that I’m going to work for that day, because it could change, from one day to another. At the end of my day, I meditate for five to 10 minutes, just to be very clear that I stopped working and I’m not going to switch on the computer again.

I wrote a very nice post, it’s not because I wrote it, but I would totally recommend it, where I share my strategies to be sure that I’m using my spare time not for work, because this could be a temptation when you are working from home.

[27:14] Damianne President: And that’s very important, right? Because we need to be careful and intentional about the other relationships in our lives that are not just work relationships. Letting work bleed into non-work time can be very detrimental to families and other types of relationships.

I know some of the listeners are teachers, and I’m very curious about your perspectives as teachers too, in terms of how do you, uh, create boundaries around home work, which is grading or whatever else you may need to bring home and then having your time for families and that kind of thing. So if you want to comment, or if you want to come chat about that, then please contact me.

Relationships are fun.


The best perk that you can offer to someone is being surrounded by brilliant people.

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I'm a curious problem solver.

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