On August 15th, I celebrated my first full year of working full time remotely for my company. I am not a freelancer, entrepreneur, solopreneur or gig worker… I work remotely full time for a Fortune 40 company supporting various business units in end to end strategic sourcing events. This is my first job out of college and I am still excited about my career 5.5 years in!
Why Do I Work Remote?
In July 2016, Mr. Adventure Rich received a job offer in northern Michigan. While this was our dream location and where we wanted to settle (near family, low cost of living area) and buy a house, it meant that I would have to approach my management and request the ability to work as an “Off Premise Worker”, a designation not commonly allowed for my job role. Thankfully, after some hesitation and negotiation, they agreed to allow me to work remotely and we made our big cross-country move.
In California, I was able to work remotely on occasion (3-4x per month) and worked from home for the 3 weeks prior to AR Jr. arriving (he came 10 days late and I worked right up until my contractions told me “Sh*t, this is real”). With this limited experience of working remotely in the past few years, I jumped into working remotely full time while also advancing my career and remaining a key part of our team.
Throughout this past year, I have found several key components that have helped me to work from a home office successfully.
1. Dedicated Office Space (ideally with a door)
This was my non-negotiable. After working remotely on occasion in CA from either our kitchen or our bedroom (1 bedroom place = not many options), I knew that in order to make a remote work situation sustainable, I would need a dedicated home office.
Each morning, I walk downstairs and into my office, close the door and log into my computer. The desk I use is my “work-only” desk (I don’t typically blog from there) and I have all of my work related materials/notes scattered across my space. It is my dedicated work space.
I do not work on the couch, in bed or anywhere else in the house. This separation helps me to keep work-life at work and my home- life at home. I am less tempted to jump up to do a load of laundry or slick up the blocks AR Jr. scattered around the living room.
2. “Equal Job Treatment”
I treat my job the same way now as I did the first 4.5 years (when I worked in a corporate office). I show up between 7:30-8:30 am and leave around 5 pm. When I am at work, I am at work (not half at work and half at home…)
This takes discipline. I do take “coffee breaks” during the day and throw a load of laundry in, pull out chicken from the freezer for dinner, or go for a quick walk, but I limit myself to a few 5-10 minute breaks in the day that would be equivalent to a “coffee break” or a quick chat with a coworker in the office.
Any deep cleaning, longer tasks or more focused work takes place either before or after hours, just like it did when I was working in an office.
3. Support from my Team and Management
In order for me to feel comfortable with the work arrangement, I needed to know that my company, my leadership and my team were all supportive of my remote work status. I also needed to know that they would be willing to work with me as they would anyone else. I am incredibly fortunate to have this support (and more!). I am given the same autonomy, responsibility, and opportunities for high-profile projects and meaningful work as anyone else on our team, which is very important to me as I work to grow my career in a remote environment.
4. Open and Clear Communication
Due to a change in teams earlier this year, I have worked under two different managers during my time working full time remotely. With each manager, I found it key that I communicate openly and clearly. In addition to setting up weekly one-on-one meetings where I discuss my projects and questions, I err on the side of keeping them “over-informed” on my work.
This communication pattern was a bit odd to me at first, but I realized that my managers could no longer see me in the office, overhear my conversations a few cubicles away, and have the general knowledge of my work. It was now my responsibility to bridge that gap and make sure they still saw me as a key part of the team.
Additionally, I am more conscious of my “presence” on team meetings and projects. I make sure that I am vocal on calls, volunteering for tasks and supporting teammates. Becoming the “forgotten team member” would be a sure way to scuttle my career, so I work to remain visible despite my remote location.
5. A consistent social outlet
Spending day after day in a big house all alone is lonely. No way around it. Even if I am on the phone throughout the day, there is a sense of isolation that comes from working remotely. I especially found this to be true in the depths of our northern Michigan winter when it was a struggle to get outside the door! I quickly realized that I needed to find a way to get out of the house consistently.
Whether it is a dinner on the beach with Mr. Adventure Rich and AR Jr., my weekly track club runs/social hours (we meet at local breweries, run, then have a social hour and hang out afterwards), or even just a trip to a coffee shop in the morning or afternoon to work on “non-phone meeting project work”, the outings to town and around other people have become key to my work life.
6. Meaningful Connections with my Team
One of the biggest downfalls of a home office is the loss of the “team” feel and the inclusion that comes from working side by side with coworkers. I’ll be honest, this past year has been isolating in some ways.
In order to help remedy the loss of our ongoing conversation and connection, I scheduled “virtual coffees” with several coworkers. These “virtual coffees” are 30 minute flexible meetings where we just call each other and chat about projects, weekend plans, life, etc. It is a way for our connections to remain strong despite our disparate locations.
Phone vs. IM/Email:
Now that I work remotely, I am much more likely to pick up the phone and talk to someone when I have a question, an answer or would like to discuss a project. This is much more personal than an instant message or email and gives me the chance to connect on a more human level with those I work with.
7. Child Care
My job is a 40+ hour professional career job. Quite frankly, there is no possible way I can take care of our son while working. Both my employer and my son deserve more attention that I could give if I was juggling the two. Except for the rare occasion when he is sick and stays home (in which case I try to actually take the day off, but sometimes that is not possible), I do not take care of AR Jr. while working.
There you have it, one year into my work remote adventure and a few lessons learned along the way! I look forward to sharing more career tips and lessons as I learn from my experiences in the future!
Does anyone else work remotely for a company? Any other components or tips you would add?
Always an Adventure,
Mrs. Adventure Rich