Forbes' VP of SEO & best-selling author on how he stumbled upon remote working and started loving it
Jonathan Jones is the VP of SEO at Forbes, and co-author of the book - Mastering In-house SEO
1. Hey, can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Jonathan Jones and I work for Forbes as VP of SEO, where I work as part of a remote team for what we call internally as ‘Marketplace’. The core teams for Marketplace are spread out globally in over 5 different countries around the world -- with everyone working remotely.
As of this year, I’m officially the co-author of the #1 best selling book, ‘Mastering In-house SEO’, a collection of perspectives from 26 in-house SEO specialists. I previously worked at FTSE 250 price comparison site, MoneySuperMarket. I’ve always been entrepreneurial, hence Forbes was a perfect fit, and I run Energy Switching (among other businesses), an energy price comparison site.
2. What motivated you to choose remote working?
It’s not that I was motivated or had any real say in working remotely. For the last 5 years, I’d worked at my former company from an office, and I'd been commuting into Central London to an office for that long too. Then, late last year, an opportunity came up at Forbes and it was really one of those opportunities I couldn’t turn down. It came on the condition that I’d be working remotely.
And you know what, initially I was a little put off on the thought as I genuinely thought things do work a lot better when you can work with people in an office where you can have face-to-face conversations. In a way, office situations were the situations that played a role helping me push my career to progress up the ladder at my previous job, so going fully remote was really alien to me. However, you don’t progress enough or in the right way, if you are doing the same thing all the time.
We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney
Thinking about it, curiosity is what keeps us growing, trying & doing new things, helps us move forward. So why would I give up an opportunity like going fully remote and working for a global company like Forbes? It wouldn’t make any sense and the opportunity was too great not to essentially leave a fairly comfortable job.
3. What were your initial months like? Did it live up to your expectations?
I didn’t really know what to expect, so I have been taking things as they come. The initial months that have gone by are literally off the back of the outbreak of COVID-19 in the UK and around the world. This has caused disruption to everyone, but actually - it’s made the transition more normal for me when compared to those who have now been forced to work from home. So I can’t really complain or have anything bad to say about working remotely.
It’s an interesting time, as it puts the remote way of working to the test with companies having to ditch their office and ask their workforce to work from home - if they are able to. Having gone from many in-person meetings in the week to 0 and now all meetings being via Google Hangouts or Zoom, I’ve found that my productivity levels are a lot higher, and that I am able to get more done.
Managing a team is the most challenging aspect I’d say, and this was the case at my old job in all fairness. The task of doing this remotely in the job I have now at Forbes with various team members scattered all around the world in their various time zones makes things more difficult. It’s definitely something I’ve adapted to and have had to be flexible with, but it’s something that I am genuinely enjoying at this point.
4. How did you find remote working roles?
It was more or less my LinkedIn profile which did the job to get me in the role I am in now, as I wasn’t exactly seeking moving jobs at that point. I was sort of contemplating going remote, but I’d also question how much of an impact you can have, especially if you’re the only person or one of the few that are working remotely. If everyone is working remotely, then I think that makes a massive difference as everyone then is on a level playing field.
5. What have been the best, good and worst aspects of remote working for you?
Flexibility. You can be completely flexible working remotely. It doesn’t feel like a 9-5 job (even though I technically work 9-6), but you have more head space to think too. It doesn’t feel like you are constantly being monitored in a weird way.
It’s true what they say. A thing I still struggle with is actually switching off from work. I’ve always struggled with that, so it’s not as if going remote has caused anything there, but it’s definitely made it harder to switch off. The biggest difference is that with working from an office, you almost immediately switch off when you walk out of the building, walk to the tube station, and then make your way home. With working remotely, although I now live in a house with an office in the back garden, I take my laptop with me and I continue to work. It’s a challenge for me and I know I am not the only one that faces this challenge.
6. What tools do you swear by while working remotely?
I am, and have always been a big fan of Trello and swear by it. It’s great for project management, logging “tasks for the week”, and keeping the team connected with the big projects that are being worked on. I’d also say that if the business you work for is remote, then it is absolutely essential to have instant forms of communication, whether that’s via Slack or Microsoft Teams.
7. Your most exciting/ hilarious experience since you started working remotely.
Since the Covid-19 lock down, and moving to a remote job, speaking to people over the phone via Zoom has been pretty fun - especially with the ability to change backgrounds to whatever you want. I work with a fun bunch of people, and the conversations we have are always great.
We had someone who was travelling in the UAE and when the coronavirus caused a lockdown over there, he was stuck. So he joined these weekly Zoom calls from the swimming pool, with a cocktail in hand; it was pretty funny seeing that, and I doubt you’d ever see that in an office setup where everyone’s all dressed up on these types of calls.
8. What is your golden advice to a new remote worker?
Setup a comfortable home office:
My advice is to stick with it. It'll be lonely at first - especially if you were like me, and you’ve come from working in an office for over 8 years to working remotely. It’s a lifestyle change for sure, so you’ll want to make sure your home setup is up to scratch. A great home setup environment is a MUST (and some wine).
I’d also say that getting out of the house so that you do not go insane is a must too. I’ve been regularly doing 5Ks, and have aimed for a 5K a day target, but even if it is walking outside for half an hour, it can really clear your head and get you back in action when you need to get back into work mode:
I feel like exercise is really underrated by many who could really benefit from the fact that it’ll make you a healthier and fitter person, but also helps me quite a bit with my mental health and well-being.
9. How do you see your career shaping up and your goals?
I feel I have nothing to worry about my career at this point and it’s directly in the path of where I want to be right now. Of course, coronavirus has changed things and that could potentially be a risk factor as businesses wind down due to lack of consumer demand. Other than that, I’ve got high hopes, ambitions and plans for what we’re trying to achieve at Forbes, and that’s stacking up quite nicely with where I want it to be personally.
We’ve launched Forbes Wheels and Forbes Advisor in the US market and also Forbes Advisor UK (more recently), have hired experts on the respective topics in our Editorial team and are truly trying to do something amazing in these spaces. I’m proud to help lead the direction of the business in these areas. Setting these brands up, and running them has been a great opportunity all the way from the design element to the execution stage, and will live with me (and perhaps haunt me) for my future career aspirations.
We still have quite a long way to go from the MVP launch to the more advanced launch in a few areas, but we’ll be making waves hopefully very soon. I am truly proud to be working on these projects with an incredibly smart team composed of a field of experts in SEM, Editorial, Design, Brand and Product.
10. How do you expect remote working to evolve in the future?
It would sort of feel weird if I had to go back to working in an office on a daily basis. I think the coronavirus has accelerated an eventuality of the office environment becoming effectively redundant. The prior business I worked for probably spends millions of pounds on a large office space in Soho, London. If they were to downsize the office, pay for smaller office space for those that need and want it, and then spend the money on staff to buy home equipment instead and have some cost saving as a result, it would be win-win for everyone. I do understand though that many would prefer to have a really nice office space over working from home so that option or voice should definitely be heard and accommodated too.
11. Where can we follow you on?