Chris Dyer is the founder & CEO of background check firm PeopleG2, a remote work expert and co-author of new book Remote Work.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I am a serial entrepreneur and founder and CEO of PeopleG2, a US-based leader in the background check industry since 2001.
I’ve authored two books, The Power of Company Culture: How any business can build a culture that improves productivity, performance and profits (2018) and Remote Work: Redesign processes, practices and strategies to engage a remote workforce (2021), the latter with co-author Kim Shepherd.
In addition, I produce and host the podcast Talent Talk.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I start most days by working through my time-boxing journal. The “box” refers to the box-shaped event on a typical calendar, but it’s the process that works well for me.
For each day I identify the three most important goals, the three most important tasks or actions, and three other tasks that I might get done. On my calendar I first book the time-boxes for the three big ones, and then fit in the important tasks and other actions as I can.
This helps me prioritize what is most important and also declutter my to-do list. In the course of a day, the priorities may shift, of course, but time-boxing makes it easy to adjust and stay on track. At the end of the day, I take some notes on what needs to carry over to tomorrow, along with what went well and what didn’t.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
PeopleG2 went 100% remote in 2011 and we haven’t looked back. Most employees work from home, but my sales team and I both spend a fair amount of time on the road, working from a variety of locations.
The schedule flexibility offered by the remote model works very well for me. Not only can I “close” the virtual office door to really focus on issues, but I also can work hours that are most convenient for me — while also being available as necessary, of course.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
It’s important to me to be able to work when I want and not work when I don’t want to. I may overwork for three days and underwork for three days, but I focus on results over work habits.
On the other hand, by Thursday afternoon I may feel drained and take a nap, but at 9 that evening, I might get a second wind and do several hours of work.
Most of what I do allows for that flexibility. Learning how to “ride” this ebb and flow of energy took a long time, and I still sometimes feel guilty while underworking.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
When the COVID pandemic hit, my wife and I staved off the boredom by having Zoom-based dinners with friends, including some great food and wine. However, I paid the price for that rich living and experienced a small but impactful health scare.
So, over the past year or so I went vegan and got onto a Peloton regimen. It has had a huge impact on my energy and output. I see it as a silver lining to the pandemic, the kick I needed.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
A very impactful book for me is The Art of Gathering: How we meet and why it matters, by Priya Parker (2018). I believe meetings are an essential part of company culture and social culture.
When I plan a meeting at work, I am very strict about planning it well, running it efficiently and respecting people’s time. In addition, every meeting is an opportunity to reinforce the company’s mission and values.
I recently attended a birthday party that was clearly very well curated. Everything was set up in a way that was both comfortable and elegant, there was no ambiguity about where guests should go or want, they should do, there was a clever option to contribute to an online video tribute to the birthday person and more. A little thought and planning makes any gathering more special and impactful.
My favorite podcast, I have to admit, is my own, because I love producing it and I get to meet a lot of smart, successful people. It keeps me learning and growing.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
I love Australian Mountain Bread — a healthy alternative to mainstream bread that came to Australia with the Lebanese community. It works very well in my new lifestyle.
I’m also very fond of my Ember coffee mug, which keeps the coffee at a precise temperature from first to last sip. In addition, I’m enjoying using the Forks Over Knives app, which offers a wide variety of great plant-based recipes.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
I would love to read about how the Dalai Lama manages his role. I’m not Buddhist and it’s not really about his beliefs, although I respect them. Instead, I wonder how he — or any high-level leader — handles a “job” that puts them always in the spotlight.
I don’t think the term “work-life balance” captures it, because for the Dalai Lama, work and life are completely fused. He is, I understand, very disciplined about his life and goals, which I admire. But even when I take into account that he is a master of Zen meditation, I still marvel that he can keep his focus and sanity in an all-consuming role like that.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
If you are passionate about a goal, from starting a new business to hitting a sales target, you will need both clear direction and a strong work ethic.
Work-life balance will shift strongly to the work side for a time. However, when you do stop working to be with family or friends, it’s important to put work out of your mind, be as present and engaged as you can, and be a good parent, partner and friend.
As an entrepreneur, I’ve worried that my children will resent all the time I’ve spent on work. However, a colleague shared with me that his children, now adults, don’t remember all the times he wasn’t at the dinner table.
Instead, they remember the times he coached their soccer team, helped them with homework or held their hand through disappointment. Be successful at work but carve out time to be truly present and engaged with the ones you love.
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