Startup founders have infamously unpredictable daily schedules as they work to establish and grow their businesses. What does such an entrepreneur’s weekly, daily, or even hourly routine look like when sometimes there aren’t enough hours in a day? In The Startup Diaries, founders walk us through a week in their lives and show what it really takes to get a fledgling business off the ground.

Is bitcoin dead? Headlines have been saying as much for the past year, but if you ask Nick Tucker, the 22-year-old co-founder of the Atlanta Bitcoin Embassy—a financial-services community center that offers crypto consultations, meetups, and other educational tools—digital currency is still very much the future of money.

“We had a really cool field trip with the Dekalb Tech high school,” he says. “We got 25 kids in the embassy, and none of them ever owned bitcoin before—it was really their first introduction besides hearing about it in pop culture. So I gave them a little talk, the intro to crypto.” Then he instructed them to download a digital wallet and started sending each of them coins. “I want them to feel the bitcoin experience,” he says. “It took them 30 seconds. This next generation, bitcoin is going to be built into their lives. It’ll be second nature.”

Tucker co-founded the embassy with his father, economics writer Jeffrey Tucker, and Michael Tidwell, an infrastructure engineer at a blockchain company, in December 2017, when the price of one bitcoin was at an all-time high (more than $19,000). His dad had recently returned from a trip to Tel Aviv, a city with its own bitcoin embassy, and mentioned the idea over drinks. “Atlanta’s an entrepreneurial, tech-startup kind of city,” says Tucker, who was interested immediately. “It’s got this raw hustle vibe. People would rather work three entrepreneurial jobs than have one corporate job. Also, it’s a ridiculously unbanked city, and people without bank accounts are the people who need bitcoin.” According to Nerdwallet, 9.1 percent of Atlanta households were unbanked in 2016. “So we felt like this would be perfect.”

“This next generation, bitcoin is going to be built into their lives. It’ll be second nature,” says Nick Tucker, the 22-year-old co-founder of the Atlanta Bitcoin Embassy.

Tucker was raised in Auburn, Alabama, but arrived in Atlanta by way of Pittsburgh two years ago, after completing an apprenticeship program called Praxis and landing a job in software sales. “I’ve always hated school,” he says of forgoing college. “That’s not to say I’m anti-learning—I love learning. I read constantly. If I’m not getting new ideas, I get stagnant and I start to feel crabby. School, though … I never felt the slightest bit of fire there.”  

He left his software-sales position after a year and a half to look for sales work in the crypto space, when his father proposed the embassy: Tucker would run day-to-day operations as COO and his father would act as CEO. “He had to learn to pull back and kind of let me do my thing, and I had to learn to suck up my pride and go to him for advice on certain stuff,” Tucker says. “I could not have launched this thing without him.” Within 10 months, he says, the company was profitable, making most of its revenue through sponsorship deals with companies like Bitcoin.com, Edge, and Horizen.

This year, Tucker plans to put his personal story at the forefront of his community outreach initiatives as a way to “make cryptocurrency a little more human,” he says. “I’m gonna tell people about going through high school being told I needed to get my act together, being told I needed a degree to be successful,” he says. “I can’t imagine my business happening, obviously, without bitcoin—but also without that general attitude of resistance, going against the grain.”

Below, Tucker, who works out of Atlanta’s 1372 Peachtree Street location, breaks down the goings-on of a recent workweek.

Monday

6:45 a.m. Wake up and drink two glasses of water. I’ve been a coffee addict since I was 14. But now I’m working out and trying to get my weight up. (This time last year I was 160 pounds; now I’m 195.) The way to do that is by eating an absurd amount of food, and it turns out caffeine is an appetite suppressant. So I had to find other ways to feel alert in the morning without sacrificing the ability to eat every three hours.

7:00 a.m. Check email and eat yogurt and granola.

7:15 a.m. Run with my dog, Roxy, then shower and get dressed for the day.

8:15 a.m. Bacon, eggs, and toast with strawberry jelly.

9:00 a.m. Drive to WeWork office.

9:30 a.m. Attempt to achieve inbox zero. This rarely happens.

10 a.m. Work on new sponsorship pitch for SmartCash, a cryptocurrency. I pursue products I believe in, products I use personally. I was really worried about [making money from sponsors] in the early days of the embassy: Am I going to sacrifice the integrity by bringing on crappy products? But I decide the companies to go after. All year I hunted down these guys from Edge [a digital wallet], and we finally got them on board in December. And Bitcoin.com [another digital wallet] is our platinum sponsor. They gave us a little startup money. Not a crazy amount, but they helped us get through the first few months.

11:30 a.m. Incoming consulting call: Local crypto user has been scammed by a fake online cloud-mining company. I hear sad stories every single day. [Scamming] happens with every new industry, though, right? Remember fool’s gold? People think it’s unique to crypto. No. But it’s why people are willing to pay $50 or $100 an hour for a consultation, instead of potentially losing their bitcoin.

12:30 p.m. Lunch: chicken Caesar salad, which I prepared Sunday night. If you do 10-, 12-hour days, you can’t live the American lifestyle—three giant meals a day, pumping coffee into yourself, only sleeping 6.5 hours a night. You’re going to feel like shit, really. It’s a disaster.

1 p.m. Back to work on my sponsorship pitch.

2 p.m. Consulting appointment: A new bitcoin user needs help setting up her first wallet and buying her first bitcoin from our VaultLogic Bitcoin ATM. She’s very excited! The crypto community has gotten flack in the past for being “the blockchain bros.” It’s disheartening. I’ve seen meetups around the world, and, sure, they are generally male-dominated. But here in Atlanta that’s not what we see. Every single meetup, we have an incredible range of diversity.

4:30 p.m. Consulting job. On a day-to-day basis, I can service a stripper coming to our ATM with a sack of 300 $1 bills from last night and an undergrad who wants to use bitcoin for some cool online marketplace. And a lot of our clientele is older people getting their hardware wallet set up.  

5 p.m. Afternoon snack: Jimmy John’s Italian sandwich.

5:30 p.m. Open office hours for any community crypto questions. There are no dumb questions. It’s virtually impossible to know all this stuff. I don’t know anyone who does.

8:00 p.m. Dinner at home: chicken, onion, and bell-pepper kabobs with sweet potato on the side.

8:30 p.m. Watch CFN National Championship game and finish emails for the day.

11:45 p.m. Bedtime.

Tuesday

7 a.m. Wake up and drink two glasses of water.

7:15 a.m. Take the dog out, drink a protein shake, then head to the gym.

8:30 a.m. Shower followed by eggs and toast.

10:30 a.m. Meeting with a potential sponsor in Buckhead [a district in Atlanta].

12 p.m. Meet a friend for lunch at Chipotle.

1 p.m. Meeting at Lenox Mall regarding bitcoin ATM distribution in Atlanta. We get a cut of how many VaultLogic machines we get out into Atlanta. I’m their sales team in Atlanta, basically, [and] they’re a sponsor of the embassy.

2:30 p.m. Drive to WeWork and catch up on email.

4 p.m. Strategy meeting for the North American Bitcoin Conference in Miami next week. Last year, every other pitch was like, “We’re gonna put sports cars on the blockchain, and they’re called SportsCoin”—or something stupid—and it’s like, “Are you kidding me?” People were just throwing money at these projects. It was getting ridiculous. Obviously 2018 was devastating for crypto. There was 85, 90 percent loss. The companies that are still in this space, it’s like, “All right, you’re real.”

5 p.m. Meeting with Flatiron School about a sponsorship.

8:30 p.m. Leave office and stop at Chick-fil-A for dinner.

9:30 p.m. Read at home. I’m currently reading The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. I do maybe 30-minute sessions [of the latter] and then try to get a lesson I can apply to real life. My favorite book—I’ve probably read it like 10 times at this point—is How to Win Friends and Influence People. Read any chapter and you’ll be thinking about that all week.

11 p.m. Bedtime.

“I’ve always hated school,” says Tucker of forgoing college. “That’s not to say I’m anti-learning—I love learning.”

Wednesday

7 a.m. Wake up and drink two glasses of water, then a protein shake. Work out at the gym and shower.

9 a.m. Eggs and sausage for breakfast.

10 a.m. Arrive at WeWork and answer morning emails.

12 p.m. Have leftover Chick-fil-A chicken strips for lunch.

12:30 p.m. Edit video from one of our recent events. I like to think I’m technically savvy, and one of my better skills is that I can learn anything—I’m very coachable and teachable. My God, though, with running the website and video editing, I’m the worst. I should leave that to better minds.

1 p.m. Assist embassy visitor with his first wallet setup. He also buys bitcoin from our ATM.

1:30 p.m. Back to video editing.

3:30 p.m. Go for a run in midtown.

4 p.m. Back to work on sponsorship pitch.

4:30 p.m. Snack: chicken and white rice.

5 p.m. Weekly cocktail hour. We don’t want to beat people over the head with nonstop classes. People want to get to know who’s in the space, hang out.

6:30 p.m. Blockchain Book Club. This is our most challenging meetup. We’re currently reading Mastering Bitcoin: Programming the Open Blockchain. It’s getting pretty high-level. I explicitly tell people, “Look, if you’re new, you’re welcome to come, but I would suggest coming to our cocktail hours, come to this workshop, come in and do some one-on-one consulting.”  

8:30 p.m. Drive home.

10:00 p.m. Watch NBA.

11 p.m. Read. It helps calm my body down, especially after these nighttime meetups. I get all fired up.

11:45 p.m. Bedtime.

Thursday

7:30 a.m. Wake up and drink two glasses of water, then eat breakfast tacos (bacon, eggs, potatoes, and cheese).

8:30 a.m. Check email, shower, and head to WeWork.

11 a.m. Work on ATM distribution partnership.

12:30 p.m. Eat a turkey club for lunch, then go back to work on the ATM partnership.

3 p.m. Start planning a crypto tour of Atlanta with TJ Brown, our director of content experiences. Midtown meetups are what made us awesome in the first place, but I’m realizing: People who need bitcoin aren’t the people who have a couple credit cards in their pocket, living in a high-rise in midtown. The people who need bitcoin, the people whose lives it can change today, are the unbanked. So for 2019 we’re gonna be setting up little kickbacks on the east side—this is all done through TJ, a guy from the east side himself. We’re going to do our first video next week in a local barbershop. We’re going to pay for a couple cases of beer, tell people to pull up, maybe bring your own bottle. Pay for 200 wings for everyone. And just let people have a good time, get to know me in a casual setting.

5 p.m. Chicken burrito for dinner.

7:30 p.m. Go for a run in midtown.

8 p.m. Beer, wings, and chess with friends.

9:30 p.m. Drive home, have a protein shake, and read before bed.

Friday

8 a.m. Wake up and drink two glasses of water. Then eat breakfast (bacon, eggs, and toast), check email, and shower.

10:30 a.m. Arrive at WeWork.

11 a.m. Meet with a local police detective who wants to learn more about crypto. So cool. He’s a real detective going after serious stuff. He sees bitcoin being used in human-trafficking cases here in Atlanta. This guy is legit.

12:30 p.m. Eat a Jimmy John’s sandwich for lunch.

1:30 p.m. Consulting job. Helping another client with a crypto scam.

3 p.m. Gym.

4 p.m. Invoicing for the week.

6 p.m. Drive home, make dinner, and take Roxy for a walk.

8 p.m. Go to a friend’s house, then go out in Buckhead for the night. I’m still a kid, I still love doing the bar-hopping thing. I’m from a small town, too, so every day I’m still blown away by Atlanta.

Photos by Justin Chan

Shortly after she turned 25, Julie Zhuo became a manager for the first time. This was at Facebook, where she started as the social-network’s very first intern 13 years ago, and where she still works, as vice president of design.

Zhuo admits that in her earliest days of leadership, she had no idea what she was doing. “When teams grow rapidly, there’s a lot of opportunities for leadership,” she says. “But it’s not usually the thing that [startups] are focused on because we’re figuring out what we can do to keep things running.”

As Zhuo grew as a manager, uncertainty followed. So she took matters into her own hands, recording her musings on her blog, The Year of the Looking Glass, which she began as an act of self-reflection. It struck a chord—week after week, her most popular articles were on the topic of being a first-time leader.

In her new book, The Making of a Manager, Zhuo crafted the field guide she wished she had had after that first promotion nearly a decade ago.

Initially, one of the managerial responsibilities Zhuo most struggled with was giving feedback—especially critical feedback, given that many of her new reports were once her direct peers. But constructive criticism, while challenging to give and receive, is a gift. Zhuo is so devoted to feedback, in fact, that a whole chapter of her book (Chapter 5: “The Art of Feedback”) is based on it.

At a recent event at WeWork 315 W 36th St in New York, Zhuo spoke about how employers can give more caring and productive feedback that leads to positive action. Below, Zhuo discusses four steps managers can take to maximize their critical feedback—even if it is really, really critical.

Julie Zhuo was prompted to write “The Making of a Manager” after becoming a first-time manager at 25 and feeling unconfident in her leadership skills.

Step 1: Establish a baseline of trust with your reports. Well before a situation arises, make it clear to your team that you’re their coach and their ally. In the first three months of your tenure, carve out standing one-on-one meeting time to get to probing questions like, What do you really care about? In three years, assume you had your dream job—what does it look like? What are the things you’re scared of or nervous about? By establishing an honest relationship right off the bat, you can set the tone for potentially more difficult conversations in the future.

“Sometimes it takes a little time to develop the trust,” Zhuo says. “But it starts by asking those questions to truly try to understand someone and have them understand you, too, because you’re not going to get that much honesty and vulnerability if they’re not getting any of that in return. It is a two-way street, and I think the first three months is really about building that relationship.”

In her current role (she leads the team responsible for the design of the Facebook app), Zhuo blocks out one day a week for one-on-one sit-downs. These discussions shouldn’t be viewed as meetings for managers to get status updates, she says, but rather focused on the report (who, by the way, should walk away from the conversation thinking it was a great use of their time).

Step 2: Remind yourself why this matters. “I’ve read thousands of reviews people have written about their managers over the years, and I can assure you that, by far, the No. 1 ask is, ‘I wish my manager would give me more feedback,’” says Zhuo. However, feedback only counts if it makes things better, so the onus is on you as a manager to develop a practice that’s going to benefit both of you.

“People don’t like to be surprised,” she says. “A lot of our doubt might come from that lack of alignment between how other people see us and how we want to be seen. Just knowing the truth is a lot more grounding than having someone wonder all the time.”

Outside of one-on-ones, commit to what Zhuo calls “task-specific feedback,” or objective comments meant to help people do specific activities better. Our behavior changes when someone acknowledges that we’re doing something well; psychologically, encouragement prompts us to stretch ourselves even more. Give task-specific feedback to all your reports, and give it often.

“I’ve read thousands of reviews people have written about their managers over the years, and I can assure you that, by far, the No. 1 ask is, ‘I wish my manager would give me more feedback,'” says Zhuo.

Step 3: Tell it straight. So the moment has come—it’s time for you to confront an issue with one of your reports. No matter the circumstance, avoid “compliment sandwiches,” or starting and ending your feedback with praise with the criticism wedged somewhere in the middle.

“Say the news as plainly as possible so there are no misinterpretations,” says Zhuo. “It’s just harder for someone to understand what the actual message is. If you want to tell someone something you know is going to be disappointing to them, just tell it directly to them. It is a sign of respect.”

Zhuo offers the following template: “When you <XYZ>, I felt <concerned/disappointed/upset> because <ABC>. I wanted to bring this up with you to understand your perspective and see what we can do work through it.” If you’ve done the first two steps, your reports will see you as their partner, not a bully. “It’s important for us to recognize why, sometimes, we should put ourselves in that uncomfortable position: It’s meant to help somebody else,” she says.

Step 4: Remain curious about the other perspective. To prevent your feedback from coming across as an accusation, engage in your report’s response and encourage a discussion. Zhuo says it’s always helpful to end your criticism with a check-in, like, “Does that resonate with you?” If your report says yes, that’s great—they’re acknowledging it, and you’re already on the same page. But if they say no, that’s OK, too, because you’re not delivering a verdict, rendering their points moot.

“Now they have a chance to tell you how they feel—why they have a different perspective or why you might be the one who’s misinterpreting right and wrong,” she says. Start with the phrase, “I want to understand your perspective and I want to see what we can do to work together,” and go from there. “You want them to know you’re doing this because you care about them.”

Illustration by Vladimir Obradovic/iStock; event photos by Lori Gutman

After completing his last treatment for stage-four throat cancer in 2009, Michael Hayes, a serial entrepreneur with a software-engineering background, spent years thinking, How can I use software to solve problems in the real world?

The problems he was most interested in solving were the big ones—cancer prevention, detection, and cure. But it wasn’t until around 2012, when breakthroughs in machine-learning made it possible for computers to read massive amounts of medical-records data, that Hayes began to see the role software could play in cancer care. In 2018, Hayes founded the nonprofit research organization CancerAI, a member at WeWork 625 Massachusetts Ave in Boston that aims to break down the walls between organizations and across sectors to bring the results seen in experimental research to the real world.

Removing the barriers in communication, says Hayes, is key to developing the artificial intelligence needed to improve cancer prevention, detection, and treatment. “In some ways, everyone who develops cancer has a unique case,” he says. “That makes fighting cancer extremely daunting, which is why collaboration amongst different cancer-fighting groups is so important.”

Hayes and CancerAI had a seat at the table this past fall, when WeWork and the Biden Cancer Initiative (BCI), a nonprofit founded by former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, launched their “collaboration hubs” in cities across the country. The aim: to make sure that every person, no matter where they are in their cancer journey, has a voice in the fight against the disease.

CancerAI is a founding member of the collaboration hub in Boston, and in the organization’s first session, members of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and the Broad Institute were present.

“It was small, it was the first step, but there was a lot of interest in the collaboration in the Boston area,” says Hayes.

These hubs—which have expanded to New York City and San Francisco—broaden what is normally a one-sided conversation to include stakeholders or members of the community who would not normally be involved in decision-making.

“It’s incredibly important to get perspectives beyond CEOs of top pharmaceutical companies,” says Catharine Young, BCI senior director of science policy. “Whether it’s a nurse or a caretaker, they all bring with them a wealth of knowledge.”

Earlier this year, Dr. Rahul Remanan, who has hosted sessions associated with BCI for years, led a collaboration hub at WeWork 750 Lexington Ave on New York’s Upper East Side. At the gathering of about 70 professionalsmostly technologists and health-care practitioners—Remanan, who is trained as a doctor and founder of the full-stack AI firm Moad Computer, focused on the idea of open data systems used in early cancer detection.

“I want to reach out to as many people as possible around [the technology] because I know I can’t do it on my own,” says Remanan, who shared his collected data before discussing the lessons and range of challenges of using artificial intelligence in cancer detection.

The push for shared data in medical research is a departure from tradition with a huge potential payoff: The hope is that if these technologies become successful on a wide scale, the highest-quality cancer care can become available to everyone. The software systems Remanan and Hayes hope to build can help doctors by flagging high- and low-priority images, greatly increasing the likelihood of getting a diagnosis for the people who need it most, no matter where they live or their socioeconomic levels.

“[We would] have an efficiency that’s accessible to anyone from across the world,” he explained. “You don’t have to pay more and more money to get quality care.”

“The future is here—it’s just unevenly distributed,” says Koios Medical CEO Chad McClennan, an AI medical-image-analysis platform approved by the FDA that analyzes the data in images and notifies physicians when something in an image, often naked to the human eye, looks suspicious.

This virtual second opinion can level the playing field for patients everywhere. Accuracy goes up, fewer people are sent home mistakenly, and fewer people are subject to treatment that turns out to be unnecessary. Koios, a member at New York’s WeWork 500 7th Ave, has half a million images linked to pathology results and is currently deployed with about 50 physicians in the New York area. “You have an expert’s second opinion at your disposal instantly and ubiquitously,” says McClennan, who is currently planning a hackathon at a collaboration hub.  

The future that McClennan speaks of can be available to everyone—regardless of geographic location or income—only if the fight against cancer extends across silos and disciplines.

“It’s hard and it takes time, but I’m optimistic that it will happen,” Hayes says. “Within a couple of years, some of these [software] tools will be quite prevalent in making a big difference in the fight against cancer.”

Photo courtesy of iStock

I’ve always had this theory that money can “feel” different, depending on where it comes from. That the money you get for grinding out paid work for a company has a different energy than the money you get for your true-blue creative-soul work (if you’re able to get paid for that work at all).

But there are many artists and creatives who make a strong case to the contrary. A group of them came together recently to discuss the intersection between art and commerce at a panel co-hosted by WeWork x BRIC at WeWork 81 Prospect St in Brooklyn, New York. They shared what it means to be a working artist in today’s world, how corporate work can inspire a richer artistic practice, and the trick to maintaining your ethical center when a company is footing the bill.

Every bit of making feeds the beast.

“I’m lucky I get to make art every day,” says Mike Perry, a multidisciplinary artist and illustrator. To Perry, there is no line between “art for them” and “art for me”—rather, all the work he does feeds his daily practice. “I love an assignment because I’m free to explore, learn something, experiment with new materials and ideas,” he says. “I can be influenced by something I’m paid for.” Perry says he can sit down at 7 a.m. and work on a project for T-Mobile for five hours, then turn to his tackle box of oil paints in the afternoon to create something entirely for himself.

This conversation goes way back.

The Baltimore-based street artist-cum-muralist Gaia is quick to point out that art has been dependent on commerce for centuries. Drawing a strict boundary between what is “real” art and what is paid for by someone else doesn’t add much to the conversation, he says—and if taking commissions allows the artist to focus on their work and put food on the table while remaining in touch with the real world and engaging with audiences, why shouldn’t they?

Panelists (from left) Mike Perry, Devin Vermeulen, Gaia, and Chelsea Campbell with moderator and WeWork’s vice president of content and campaigns Laura Brounstein (center).

Boundaries spark creativity.

As a creative director at Pandora, Chelsea Campbell works within some of the strictest borders of all: 30-second audio ads. “Constraints make for better creation and better creativity,” she says, noting that the ad can play to the listener’s “theater of the mind”.

Money affords bigger, better projects.

If someone will pay you to go bigger—and let you learn how to do it in the process—could you turn it down? “Scale is hard, and money makes scale happen,” says Perry. Money also allows projects to expand and grow. At Pandora, the algorithm is so good at predicting what music listeners will enjoy because musicologists work behind the scenes categorizing each song by up to 400 traits. This form of creativity is born from technology funded by a corporation … but it trickles down to a pleasurable user experience. When Pandora uncovers your new favorite song, you’re not thinking “What a smart technology company,” but instead, “Wow, they know me so well.”

Ethics drive compatibility.

Finding a brand or company whose mission aligns with yours as an artist is critical to a successful collaboration. When Devin Vermeulen, a senior creative director at WeWork, asks an artist to create a mural for a WeWork location, the project isn’t just in service of the brand. He’s going to them “because we like what they do and want the project to align with their mission,” he says. “We want to see success as a byproduct of having an impact on the world.”

Every project needs to please stakeholders.

Any creative project comes with different voices telling the artist what to do—and that doesn’t change whether it’s a corporate gig or a mural on a street corner. Gaia says it’s important to build consensus among competing agendas and what each person expects to see. “My job is to synthesize and find a balance” between everyone, he says, whether that’s a hotel manager with specific needs for an installation, or a grandmother living on the corner in Baltimore who has expectations for the art that should be on her street.

“Selling out” is different for everyone.

Perry noted a recent uptick in the use of the phrase “selling out,” which he says peaked in the early 2000s and now seems to be coming back around. Perhaps that’s a function of a robust economy—more companies have the ability to commission artistsas more people are ditching the 9-to-5 and identifying as artists and creatives.

But when a brand and an artist want to work together and their missions align, there’s no harm done, says Vermeulen. Campbell put a fine point on it: “Sellout has turned into collaboration.” It’s the artist’s prerogative to decide what “selling out” means for them—if it means anything at all. Getting paid by a corporation may allow them to live their dream in another capacity.

The blur can be good.

Perry recounted creating a giant 80-by-30-foot mural for Jameson whiskey. People on Instagram loved it, and he was confused—It’s an ad, he thought, They all love an ad?! Finally, someone told him, “Mike, we’re just really happy you got a job!”

The public is often less concerned with the distinction between art and commerce than one would think, especially if the merger gives rise to something better. As Vermeulen said: “If I’m going to be bombarded by an ad, I’m glad it’s done by an artist.”

For all the blurring of art and commerce, Perry said something that rang in my ears after the night was over. “Maybe,” he says, “we should think about ourselves as humans and people and not brands at all.”

Photos by Lori Gutman

As the space between work and not-work becomes ever more blurred, questions about how to do this thing we plug away at for 30 or 40 or 70 hours a week become all the more expansive. In this column, Work Flow, we’ll delve into the novel dilemmas created by the new ways we work, as well as timeless questions about ethics, gender assumptions, and toxic work situations (and how to escape them). How we work is an important component of how we live—and we’re here to help you do better at both.

Something messing with your flow? Unload your work problems here, and you’ll not only feel heard, but you’ll also get unbiased, real-world advice. (That’s something your work sibling/spouse just can’t offer.) Tell us everything: creator@wework.com

Our office has recently moved into a new building with an open-office format, and while I love the collaborative vibe, I’m having trouble with the fact that people assume I’m always available. I’ve tried using headphones, but this does not deter folks from interrupting me—even when I am clearly busy. Any suggestions on how I can better manage this transition?

Headphones are a start. (Are yours noise-canceling? Here are a few options for you, if not.) The trick is, you must sometimes remove your headphones completely—when you’re not in “uninterruptible” time—otherwise they become just another part of the scenery and something people will ignore. Set the expectation that when they are on, you’re working on something urgent and should not be bothered. If someone comes up to ask you a question during that time, tell them politely, “I’m so sorry, I’m on an immediate deadline. Come back at X time and we can talk?” Then get back to work. People should begin to get the point.

You could also ask your boss to send a reminder that headphone-wearing folks should not be interrupted unless the matter is truly urgent, like the copier is on fire. Alternatively, is there a conference room or empty office where people needing extra quiet might work on occasion? Some of the frustration may be from feeling helpless in this situation, and acting in a forward-thinking way can combat that.  

How can I exit a job gracefully? People become close (professionally) with their bosses, now more than ever. You follow each other on social media; maybe you even hang out casually outside the office. Can I tell my boss—whom I trust—that I’m looking? Are there new rules?

Every so often, the old rules are the best rules. The long-held standard of two weeks’ notice is there to help you out, as are the general best practices for resigning: Tell your boss in person if possible, write a nice resignation note (even an informal email thanking them for the opportunity and what you learned), don’t steal a bunch of staplers when you leave.

I would not tell even a boss you’re close with that you’re looking for another job before you actually have another job and are officially ready to give notice. When we’re very close with the people we work with, there may be an urge to say, Oh, I’ll stay longer, I’ll help find my replacement, I’ll do whatever it takes to make this transition easier for you, my friend—but don’t do that, either. Quitting a job is like a breakup; setting boundaries, and adhering to them, is important.

And here’s the thing: Your boss is not your friend, really and truly, even if before they were your boss they were your friend and after they are your boss they can again be your friend. Your boss is your boss, just like your company is not just some lovely spot with good coffee where you happen to sit and do work on your laptop now and again. The boss and the company should be treated with respect during your relationship and also as you’re ending it. Think about what you would prefer if you were in their shoes—but don’t undermine your own interests and well-being to achieve that.

Treat the severing knowing that you might want a recommendation from this person down the road. (You don’t have to keep following each other on social media. Kondo that stuff if it doesn’t bring you joy!) The important thing to remember is that this person might be your boss again at some point, but even if they’re not, they can help you figure out other opportunities, connect you to new professional acquaintances or gigs, and even be mentors. Or even better, good friends.

How can you tell someone you love that having their email signature in Comic Sans looks really bad?

Be brave enough to send them this link. In the case that the Comic Sans user is someone you don’t love, let them dig their own grave.

Illustration by Jiaqi Wang