8 Things I Learned from Working Remotely

Kristen

Working remotely can be life-giving and productive — if it suits your personality and temperament.   

Every job I’ve had until now has been in an office building. I’ve worked in open floor plan offices, co-working office spaces, offices with cubicles, and in an office with a door and my own wall decor.

Which do I prefer? All of them, and none of them.

I can work in each environment and be productive. It wasn’t until working with TANK did I experience working from home every day. That’s right; I’m talking about telecommuting, aka working remotely.

With some time under my belt now, I can say confidently . . . I love it! I had no idea that it would suit me and my season of life so well.

Working remotely is life-giving for some, but draining for others. For me right now — a mother to a daughter in elementary school — working remotely is a perfect fit.

I know there are general concerns that are often associated with remote employees or working remotely, and they almost always include social interaction and work production.

  • Social interaction: Isn’t it lonely not being in an office with other team members? Don’t you feel left out — or like an outsider?

  • Work production: It must be challenging staying focused when you can be easily distracted by household chores, the temptation to run errands, and no accountability to limit Facebook time. Do you ever say you’re working or that you’re clocked in, but really you’re watching TV with your laptop on your coffee table to ensure you don’t miss a time-sensitive email or instant chat message?

I completely understand these concerns, and working remotely certainly isn't for everyone.

While I like being around people, I don’t need in-person interaction to feel fulfilled or content. And while I like checking Facebook at the beginning of the day (I have to know who to wish a happy birthday), reading through This Day in History mid-afternoon (hey, knowledge is power, right?), and having a flexible schedule (taking 15 minutes to put away laundry never hurt anyone), I tend to get more work done from home than I ever did in an office.

I work optimally and feel the most accomplished when I have a list of things to do, a predictable schedule, and go-to routine. It’s in my nature to create a daily schedule and methodically work through a list of things to do.

I’ve read several books about working remotely, and they do a great job highlighting the things that should be considered when having one or more remote team members. I think these books are great resources and give helpful advice — but they are not the Bible of remote working. Those who thrive as remote workers may love it for different reasons and benefit from it in a variety of ways. Also, each person likely handles it just a little differently than the next. (Not every remote worker is as systematic as I am.)

I pulled together a few thoughts regarding my experience as a remote worker and a few recommendations. Will I always want to work remotely? Could I ever go back to a brick and mortar office with a kitchenette, an impressive industrial copier machine, and teammates to chat with on the fly? Sure. Maybe. But for now, this is the best scenario for me, and I’m so thankful for it!

My Thoughts Regarding Working Remotely

My Thoughts Regarding Working Remotely

I’m attempting to keep these short and to the point. I trust a few of these thoughts will be worth mentally highlighting or even implementing immediately.

  1. Separate work and living spaces

    I live in an apartment, and I don’t have an extra room that I can convert into an office. However, I transformed a corner or my living room into office space. I did that in an attempt to keep work and home separate. I’ve read a million times over that it’s a healthy thing to do. Creating a separate physical space allows me to truly “clock out” at the end of the day. I turn off my computer, and I leave my desk.

    This works particularly well for me because my daughter is at school during the day and the apartment is quiet (except for the periodic shuffles of the family Chinchilla). 

    I have a large monitor in addition to my laptop on my small vintage wooden desk. I’m beside a window for natural light and fresh air, and I have a simple backdrop so that when I’m on video calls, it doesn’t look like I’m sitting in my living room.

    Here’s something worth noting. While I love not having a commute to or from work, I have noticed that my electric bill has gone up since working from home. I never thought to factor that into my budget. Being at home sometimes means keeping a space heater, fan, or air conditioner on all day, heating up lunch daily in the microwave or oven — and lights, you need those all day! So yeah, keep an eye on your utility usage and its cost.

  2. Google Chat and a Hello & Goodbye chat room 

    I need to communicate with my team regularly throughout the day. How do I do that with the TANK team? We use Google Chat. We can write back and forth or jump on video meetings. It’s easy peasy lemon squeezy.

    I started a Hello & Goodbye room within our Google Chat. The purpose was simple: to say hello in the morning and goodbye at the end of the day. It a great place to share a “May the Fourth Be With You” meme or say Hi to @all.

  3. Zoom 

    While I can quickly and spontaneously jump into a chat or video meeting through Google Chat with my coworkers, for client meetings, I rely on Zoom, a cloud-based platform.

    Scheduling meetings, sharing my screen during said meetings, and even recording those meetings is effortless — as long as your internet connection is dependable (another item worth noting!).

  4. Daily Stand-up meetings

    Since “Agile” has become a business buzz term so has “stand-up" meeting. While many may not hold to the tenants of a true Agile stand-up meeting, everyone who works for a modern business, startups up included, has come to expect a brief, all-hands-on-deck morning meeting.

    Whether it’s a 15-minute overview or a dedicated time when employees share wins, what they’re working on that day, or challenges their facing, these meetings provide a time to connect face to face.

    And yes, I do it with my team. It’s the time of day that I know I’ll see my team together, collectively for a few brief minutes. For us, we share good news, our workload for the day, and any news or information that would impact the team as a whole.

    This part of the day is essential for me. It helps me to feel like I'm part of a team — the TANK New Media team. It’s not the Kristen team. Not by a long shot. I love that I’m part of something bigger than myself.

  5. Weekly Check-in meetings

    One of my job roles is Client Success Manager — a brilliant mashup of project manager and account manager. In this role, I handle some marketing strategy but lean hard into TANK’s co-owners and lead strategists, Thad & Krista, for high-level strategy, ideas, and guidance. And because I can’t just snag them the moment I have a question (a minor challenge that comes with not being in the same office building), I meet with each of them weekly via Google Chat. Just like I would with any other meeting, I create an agenda that often grows as the week progresses.

    Connecting with Thad and Krista for thirty minutes on a weekly basis and knowing that I have their undivided attention, gives me the confidence I need to help our clients in the best way possible and to do my job to the best of my ability. It’s also an ideal time to share personal updates and ask non-job related questions.

  6. Teamwork

    Every modern business uses a project management tool these days. It’s a way for the whole team to stay on top of tasks and projects, work scope, time accrued, and more. While our team meets on a weekly basis to discuss our individual Teamwork task lists (Teamwork is our tool of choice), we also use it to collaborate, share updates, and ask questions in between meetings. It’s a great platform for teamwork (pun intended), and it’s another way that I feel connected to my team in Kansas.

  7. Google Calendar

    Our whole team uses Google’s calendar. Because of my personality and my work style, I tend to utilize it more than others. I use it to map out my week. The things I put on my work Google Calendar include the hours I plan to work each day, work blocks, meetings, PTO days, task reminders, and more. Trello is a great compliment to my Google Calendar. While my calendar shows the high-level pieces of my day, I use Trello to organize my daily tasks which I pull from Teamwork.

    Doing all of this keeps me organized and on top of my work. You may have already put this together, but I have a Type A personality. That means I thrive within schedules, work best within routines, and I love predictability. I also love checklists, to-do lists, and calendars. :)

  8. Time tracking

    My position is salaried, so recording hours isn’t a necessity — but keeping track of hours prevents me from overworking which prevents burnout and unhealthy boundaries. Creating a schedule and putting in my Google Calendar helps me to maintain a work-home balance — which we know is crucial especially when working from home every day.

Tips to Consider if You’re Contemplating Working Remotely 

To land this plane, I wanted to mention just a few final thoughts.

  • Working remotely is not for everyone. If you’re considering it, I suggest giving it a trial run before committing to it. Also, taking the time to create a list of pros and cons is beneficial.
  • If the company doesn’t have good leadership and the team generally seems unhappy or disjointed, steer clear! Office issues greatly impact and can negatively influence those who work remotely. In my opinion, if the team is healthy, you have a much better chance of enjoying your remote job.

Want to learn more about my team and the marketing services that we offer? We can help you with your branding, website redesign, digital marketing, and so much more!

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Originally published March 14, 2019 at 8:15 AM

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