What is your hobby?

The power of hobbies, connecting with coworkers, and the mitchondria in startups

Victor Saad


Welcome to issue No. 20 of Work Different — a weekly summary of the top articles focused on workplace culture and career development.

On the Secret Benefit of Hobbies

Are you finding the work-life balance elusive? Don’t fret. Hobbies to the rescue. Side projects help you keep stress at bay and restructure your days to revolve around more than just your computer screen. Here are a few ways to incorporate a hobby into your routine: 1. Choose your hobby. What did you enjoy in the past that you’re no longer doing now? Maybe it’s time to pick it back up. Alternatively, what have you always wanted to pursue but have always put off? For me, I recently picked up learning the piano, something that I’ve wanted to do for years but never got around to. 2. Establish a regular time. Put time on your calendar for your hobby. I now set aside 45 minutes each evening to practice the piano. It’s challenging at first, but after a while it will become a natural part of your daily routine. 3. Set a specific goal. Just like with work projects, it can be helpful to set a goal for your hobby —it’ll motivate you to get your daily practice in. Fast Company.


On Connecting with Coworkers 

Now that we are seven months into remote work, we have all limited our social interactions to the few people in our quarantine bubble. Most of us do not see our coworkers anymore, except for work calls over Zoom. Many of us are missing our work friends. Here are a few tips to help you keep your valuable work friendships afloat despite the distance. 1. Be specific. Rather than assuming that your teammates know that you’d like to chat with them more frequently, communicate that to them directly so you share the same expectations. 2. Reach out. Don’t be shy about creating a new pattern for your work friendships, as connecting remotely takes creativity. Message a coworker to let them know that you’re thinking about them and that you’re available for a chat. 3. Make your conversations meaningful. Keep your check-ins within the allocated time and think of a few questions or topics of discussion beforehand. Also be open to sharing what’s really going on in your life in order to create a mutually safe space for both yourself and your work friend. New York Times.

Illustration credit above: Aysha Tengiz

On the Mitochondria in Startups

Most workers treat their jobs as what they are — a job. They want to be fairly compensated and have interesting projects to work on with collaborative teammates. Then there are the rare few who act more like founders than employees. “They add value to the company beyond their job description and responsibilities. They ask and do what is best for the company.” Sarah Tavel calls these people the “mitochondria” of the company who power the team through the good and the bad. As a team leader, here is what you should know: 1. Stay aware. Who are the mitochondria in your company? Make that list, invest in your relationships with these people and in the people themselves. 2. Conduct value interviews. When holding interviews, seek out value rather than competence. Also be sure to clearly communicate your company’s values to your candidates. 3. Be ready to break “bands”/ “structure.” Most mature companies have a compensation structure. Be willing to break them. “Companies that don’t break bands will undervalue the energy-giving impact the mitochondrial employees have. Which will ultimately challenge their ability to motivate and retain them.” Medium.

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Victor Saad


I’m an author, educator, and community builder living in Chicago. I started Experience Institute, an organization helping college students and career professionals learn and grow through short-term, real-world experiences.

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