Episode 28: Erica Pandey of Axios on Returning to Work

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We admire journalists today more than ever. Whether getting their start as a solo blogger on their own beat, or growing up in a thriving newsroom, journalists must forge their own unique work life as they write the first draft of history.

So it’s no surprise that this episode of the Distributed podcast with Matt Mullenweg and special guest Erica Pandey, business journalist and writer of the What’s Next newsletter at Axios, moves fast and covers a lot of ground, from Erica’s career, to how she works with her Axios colleagues in different cities and bureaus, to what she is seeing as she covers the intersection of technology, business and people.

Erica has recently written about how workers are discovering their own ‘Third Workplace,” and shared insight on how HR departments can improve childcare benefits for working parents. “Childcare has always been a problem. The pandemic just spotlighted it, and hopefully now something will be done about it,” says Pandey.

She balances Axios’ Smart Brevity style with authoritative reporting on complex topics, seeking multiples perspectives, from data to experts to people on the ground.  Says Erica, “One of my greatest joys is being able to talk to people.”

The lively conversation centers on how we’re all returning to work after so much change and adaptation, including the rise of hybrid workplaces.

“The best possible form of hybrid – and this is not just me, this is what HR experts are trying to game out here –  is everybody meeting, and (then) everybody at home, at the same time,” says Pandey. “The benefits of being in person, which are social interaction, which may be rubbing shoulders with leadership, which may be the innovation that happens on the spot when you are talking with someone at the coffee maker, happen when everyone is there. And then when everyone’s home, they can work on solo projects or get longer term projects done.”

“When you make it so that there is no penalty for not being in the office,” Matt later agrees,  “you’re not missing opportunities, you’re not missing socialization, you’re not missing anything. That is to me the superpower (of distributed work).” 

The duo see that this moment may represent – as Erica names it – a ‘code switch’ from prioritizing a job near your family and social life, to adjusting your work to where you live. But it’s an adjustment for everyone, she adds, including journalists:

“Journalism is also so much about the energy of the newsroom. There’s the camaraderie of it too.  When you’re always distributed…and you don’t get to come back to your desk with all of your colleagues typing away furiously, you do lose a sense of the team sport of it.”

And that may be what we can all learn from journalists: at home, out for an interview, writing from a Third Workplace or with the team in the newsroom, figuring out how and where we work our best, deadlines and all.

“We’re not work from home evangelists. We’re kind of like ‘Work from wherever you’re going to be most effective’ evangelists,” says Matt. “I can’t wait for people to experience a good version of work from anywhere – not where you’re isolated, and fearing for your life or your family, but where you can actually really get out and enjoy your community.”

Thanks to Erica for joining and sharing her insight. And thanks for listening.

The full episode transcript is coming soon.

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