Adaptability doesn’t exist in remote work without kindness

Welcome to Teaming Up, a series by Wethos exploring the ten traits that make up a great teammate. 

Each week, we talk to Specialists within our network and bring in professionals from other industries to share their insights on one of the ten key traits surfaced in our 2019 Year in Review. This latest installation of Teaming Up spotlights editor and strategist Margarita Noriega and her approach to employing adaptability in teamwork.

Margarita Noriega, currently Lead Editor at Glitch and Founding Editor of Glimmer, the company’s new tech-culture publication, sat down with us to talk about how adaptability comes into play when she’s working on editorial projects across time zones and life schedules. Having been a consultant for brands and publications before joining Glitch, she has brought adaptability to both sides of the client-freelancer relationship.

What does adaptability in teamwork mean to you? Especially as an editor working with distributed freelancers.
People who are surprised by my adaptability tend to lack empathy. Knowing or being perceptive of your teammates’ lives will help you maneuver when change enters the process. Teammates who don’t help each other in moments of change aren’t considering each other’s needs. When the world forces you to be adaptable, are you facing it with kindness?

Expectations and needs fluctuate throughout a project and one way to think about it is to deconstruct it into inputs and outputs. You always want the output to meet the same standards even if the inputs change. If a writer says to me, “I have to run to the hospital to see a family member and I can’t file this story for you,”—and let’s say there were a lot of expectations around that story being ready—I don’t want to pretend that there aren’t negative consequences, but this is where kindness comes into play alongside adaptability. I’d ask myself: “What can I do to make sure the output is the same considering the input has changed?” Not a lot of editors have this kind of leeway but I do, thankfully.

So, when something comes up, can I reach the same output with different inputs? The answer is almost always yes. As an editor, obviously disappointments and expectations are real, but you can still have that conversation with your audience, even after the expected launch of a piece. As long as you’re still meeting your overarching goal, doesn’t that just make you a better editor if you can make something just as successful with different ingredients? That’s pretty cool. To me, that’s the definition of being a professional.

How does adaptability come into play in remote work environments?
Satisfaction in a distributed work environment requires adaptability. You can’t be satisfied with a remote job if you’re not adaptable. There are so many great people who need physical or face-to-face interaction with their job, and if that’s how they prefer to communicate, that’s okay. Some people need an office, some people could never see an office again.

Within the context of editing, it’s not about getting people to say what you believe. Being adaptable as an editor is about highlighting and featuring the most important, interesting aspects of what someone else wants to say. I can’t do that if I’m putting my own biases in front of the person’s work. What parts of this machine do you want to control: How somebody tells it or that it gets out there?

In the past you’ve worked as a consultant, too. How do you approach adaptability when you’re on the other side?
Often, I would work with two or three people on a team but the rest of the company had expectations too. I would be hired by a big company to work on content strategy for a specific project with three people and suddenly a VP would come to me directly and say, “Why aren’t you doing all these opposite things you’ve never heard of before?” It happened almost every time because goals are often not communicated internally beforehand.

Being adaptable in an environment where people have lots of expectations is really challenging. But you can express adaptability without compromising your work outcomes. I learned early on to keep a positive outlook and assume positive intent with digital communications. And at the end of the day, flexibility ends where the statement of work begins. Knowing and defining what falls in or outside of a scope will help you with adaptability in the long run.


Margarita Noriega is an industry leader in understanding how online platforms shape public access to journalism. She has led audience growth and breaking news coverage as an editor and social media expert at Newsweek, Reuters, Vox.com, and Fusion (a Univision-ABC News venture). Margarita is currently Editor of Glitch.com, a community-driven platform with more than four million web apps. Her focus at Glitch is building a journalistic standard for Glimmer, an online magazine covering technology, web culture, and the future of work.