Learn From Nature How To Work Better

Raul Popadineți
6 Sep, 2020 • 7 min read
Photo by Raul Popadineți on Unsplash

The place where we usually go to for inspiration is Nature. We go on a hike every now and then and observe the surroundings. Its beauty and uniqueness make us contemplate it. It’s like going to a class where the teacher is Nature, and what we want to improve is ourselves.

We listen to a stream of water and think about what we can learn from it. Its flow teaches us about consistency and perseverance. But then, all of a sudden, the phone rings, and the contemplation session is over. Disruptions are everywhere, and we need to understand when we have to disconnect from everything else to enjoy the moment. We know it’s hard as the FOMO syndrome is starting to grow roots inside us.

The key is to understand what brings us value and joy in our lives. Is it some random email we got that shouldn’t even reach us in the first place? Or can wandering through Nature heal us, and help us evolve into a better self.

Through hiking, we understood that both Nature and the human body are universes at different levels. Laws govern them, forming order and harmony.

In Nature, each animal plays a specific role in its ecosystem. Some animals hibernate as a preservation mechanism, while others increase their activity. Some are active at night, while others by day.

The human body is an ecosystem of its own but on a smaller scale. Our activity levels differ from person to person. Some are early birds, while others are night owls. Regardless of when we’re the most productive, we need sleep, so organs like our brain can recharge for the next day. Resting is essential.

Just think of our liver. Suppose you continuously give it greasy food and lots of alcohol daily. We’re talking here months and months of bad habits. Eventually, it will degrade and need a break from all this to recover. Or, even worse, if it gets seriously damaged, you have to replace it. On the other hand, if you establish a healthy diet and are consistent with it, you’ll keep it in good shape, and it will function at high capacity for as long as you live.

The same pattern applies on the macro level. When Nature unleashes itself, hurricanes, floods, and fire burns down large areas of land, it takes years to recover to the initial state. Sometimes the damage can’t be recovered.

The design of Nature and how various organisms and cells work within the human body is vital in understanding how their behavior can map onto our lives and everyday jobs.

We’re all wired differently. We come from different backgrounds, cultures, and countries. Due to this, the contribution we add to a company is also unique. We shouldn’t look for diversity out of obligation, but out of the will to reach different perspectives and creativity levels. Skin color, sex, location shouldn’t matter when hiring. We must evaluate based on what value the person adds to the company.

How do you determine the value someone adds? It’s up to the candidates to prove themselves during the interview and the first couple of months, but there’s never a right or wrong answer here. Since value is subjective, the process to identify it may vary from one place to another.

As the interviewee, you might find a great fit at first, or you might fail miserably, and that’s fine too. You question where you could’ve identified the culprit early in the interview process, and adapt it, so the problem doesn’t repeat with future hires. It’s a learning curve for finding that sweet spot.

Everybody wants to hire the best person for the job, but don’t try to build a relationship of trust upfront. Rockstars, ninja programmers, and state-of-the-art designers are all over the place in job descriptions. That’s just something that sounds cool and useless at the same time. Having a rockstar attitude is too vague and put up for debate. It leaves an even deeper scar when you go through an entire interview process to find out that what you get is not what you expected.

Starting a full-time job at a new company can quickly end up in a burnout if the employer is throwing too much work for repeated periods of time. As a new hire, you might not sense all this due to the initial excitement of joining the company and wanting to prove yourself. Still, as time goes by, performance will degrade due to the lack of sleep and wanting to receive the badge of honor for always going the extra mile to prove you’re worthy of being part of the team.

With more companies embracing work from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more remote opportunities will arise, but most of them lack transparency. This frustration made us launch a new job board back in June that attempts to address the “pseudo-remote-first” attitude by:

  • Not restricting opportunities to a single country.
  • Mention the salary upfront.
  • Describe the interview process.
  • Describe the company work culture.
For us, a company that hires solely within its country and claims to work remotely is just a virtual office company. It’s like shooting yourself in one foot and trying to run a marathon with the other.

Remote is a different way of working, and definitely not constrained to a single location. You should be able to work remotely from anywhere. Having access to talented people from around the world is like running the marathon with both legs and a chance to reach the podium.

We’ve seen managers try so badly to mimic the office environment while shifting towards working from home. The number of meetings stays the same. Planning is done as before. More tools need to be introduced, making things harder to follow. Conversations are all over the place, and it’s hard to know where decisions are being made, what needs your attention, and what doesn’t. Focusing on your work for an entire day, distraction-free, is considered a fairy tale.

The lockdown brought us new opportunities and gave us room for creativity. On the other hand, we now have fewer stopping cues, so it’s easier to fall into the trap of working longer hours. This TED Talk from 2017 mentions the stopping cues usefulness and how some companies have established these. Some company leaders might argue that it’s up to the employee to develop their own stopping cues and decide what the limit is, but this seems like a toxic work culture. It’s the leader’s responsibility to establish a healthy work environment and not the employee.

The pandemic made us realize that we need to hit the brake pedal when it comes to work because, in the end, it brings us the resource to sustain our family, our hobbies, and our free time, but it will never recover our health and mental sanity. Once that is damaged, it’s hard to recover from it. And now more than ever, as we live in a tech era where things move with tremendous speed, we need to understand our priorities and where we have to reinvent and relearn what society pushed us to as we grew older: more profit at all costs. The pressure is constant among employees, and leaders seem to forget that the money made within a company is thanks to each person, not the leader solely. Taking a break every now and then is good for us, and we need to emphasize it within each company.

Europeans seem to have understood the need for vacation and family time, while Americans still have a hard time offering a decent amount of days off. Most CEOs, if you ask them, say they encourage their employees to take time off, but deep down, you can sense they don’t want that because they’re afraid their company productivity will drop by an inch if everybody does that. The mental sanity is never taken into account here, and eventually, people who consider themselves mistreated or burnt-out decide to leave. Most of them are used as a resource. They are being hired as a contractor when they are expected to work as a full-time employee. Some companies might want to hire people as employees and offer them the full benefits package, but it’s hard when you don’t have regulations in place for countries from all over the world. Other companies prefer full-time contractors over employees because they can avoid extra taxes and increase their profit this way. As time goes by, we seem to make work less enjoyable through the rigidity we create around companies.

Looking back at Nature and the human body and how each piece fits perfectly in this puzzle, we know that struggling to find ways to apply the same harmony within a company can lead to a long-lasting relationship and better products. Understand the need for people to take vacations and don’t transform work into a lifestyle.

Think about the Airplane mode button on our phones. Wouldn’t it be funny to have a Vacation mode button for our lives that we can set ON or OFF?

We live times where we need to justly counterbalance work with family, hobbies, and personal life. We either improve ourselves or plateau out and enter a vicious cycle that’s hard to get out of.

It’s time we take a step back and help shape a better future for remote working. Stop living the moment like we’re the last people on Earth.

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