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Going “Remote First” Part II—Focusing on Flexibility and Work/Life Harmony

August 26, 2022



Going “Remote First” Part II—Focusing on Flexibility and Work/Life Harmony

Going “Remote First” Part II—Focusing on Flexibility and Work/Life Harmony

Paul McKinlay, VP of Communications and Remote Working at Cimpress and Vista (prev. VistaPrint) had a series of transformative experiences working in management, L&D, and Communications, working for ASDA and Walmart in the UK and US which set him up to take the lead role in implementing the strategic “Remote First” initiative at Cimpress and Vista. Paul shares his insights about the importance of transparency and alignment with employees, as well as a mindset of ongoing feedback and co-creation.


[03;15] At the start of his career, Paul ran large supermarkets in the UK.

[03:34] Managing teams of up to 1000 people, Paul learned fast and transitioned to L&D.

[04:27] The experience of a major transformation at ASDA.

[06:19] Paul has to adapt to a very different culture when Walmart acquired ASDA.

[07:11] Paul’s unusual experience the first time he visited Walmart’s headquarters.

[08:50] Walmart takes a different approach to Learning and Development.

[10:10] Paul is persuaded—unwillingly—to change role and discipline.

[10:40] Paul’s epiphany about his new position in communications.

[13:42] There was very little remote working prior to 2020.

[15:36] When the pandemic hit, the business was hit hard, but they noticed employees were executing well.

[18:14] Many people wanted to work remotely long-term.

[19:05] Paul asks to lead the remote work strategic initiative.

[20:02] CEO Robert Cain gives Paul a new lens for understanding his role and goals.

[20:48] “Remote First” is not “Remote Only” and what that means.

[21:16] Operating principles and “Remote First” practices using new Collaboration Centers.

[23:06] Paul stresses the importance of having a team dedicated to optimizing remote working.

[23:39] How on-boarding happens at Cimpress and Vista now.

[24:52] Paul’s intention is for working at Vista be a master class in remote working.

[25:38] Great success attracting talent by focusing on employees’ workplace taxability and work/life harmony.

[27:32] Looking at ways to improve fixed-site workers’ experiences.

[30:19] The importance of involving everyone when developing new solutions.

[32:02] How to deconstruct resistance to remote working—trust is at the core.

[33:07] Paul’s expectations that shareholders will also push for remote working.

[33:31] “Shybrid” – the undermining subterfuge. “Mybrid” - I choose to come to work wherever I want to work from.

[34:36] Paul describes the major initiative building remote working expertise and extensive resources.

[36:13] IMMEDIATE action tip: To be an effective remote leader, collaborate with your team by getting extensive feedback and input on a regular basis—making the team experience about co-creation and trusting team members to get on with their jobs. Ask team members for suggestions about how to establish norms that will make working remotely much more effective—such as having fewer meetings!


“Comms [Communications] at a strategic level is about aligning people against the mission, helping them to execute against that, understanding the context of the decisions they make day today.”

“The role of Communications is to be the radar and compass of the organization and the drive.”

“The headwind that we were facing really energized the team and really brought the team together.”

“Giving people a real focus on flexibility and work/life how many is cited with our job applicants as a number one reason why they apply to us. It is because they are interested in the remote working, flexibility, work/life harmony. “

“We call what we do “mybrid” which is I choose when I come to work from wherever I want to.”

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