Coast-to-Coast: 3 Lessons Learned After 1 Year as Remote Employee
By Erica Dube
About 1 year, 3 months, 8 days and 13 hours ago I moved from a small Connecticut town to infamous Los Angeles, California. Moving from Wallingford, CT to LA was not an easy task. The journey cross-country took a ton of preparation, planning, and of course - packing.
You truly realize your hoarding capabilities when you have to downsize and fit your entire life into a Honda Accord Coupe.
A huge part of the this planning process was getting ready to be the second (soon to be only) remote IMPACT employee ever.
When I decided to move, the first thing I absolutely knew was that I didn’t want to leave my company. At the time, I had worked at IMPACT for three years. I’ve watched us grow into something so amazing I couldn’t imagine a life without my work family.
Thankfully, IMPACT CEO, Bob Ruffolo, felt the same about me and agreed to work out a plan where I could stay on the team and work from California (or as I like to call it, IMPACT West.)
After an extremely fun-filled eight-day road trip with friends, I arrived in LA and reality truly set in.
A small glimpse at my roadtrip.
Here I was, starting a life 3,000 miles away from my family and friends in this crazy populated, yet very relaxed town of surfers and sunshine. I had to quickly get accustomed to not only working from home but also the time difference and separation from my team. It was much harder than I anticipated - shout out to Natalie Davis and Vin Gaeta for dealing with my venting sessions.
Being a small company, IMPACT is very flexible and my teammates were willing to do whatever it took to make this new lifestyle work out.
Throughout this process we spoke with other companies who have remote employees and sought advice on how to make this situation the best for everyone involved.
After over a year as a work-from-home, remote employee, here are the lessons I’ve really learned from 3,000 miles away.
1. Control when you work and when you don’t work
The first biggest obstacle I found when I began working from California were the amount of hours I was working per week. Because of the 3 hour time difference between here and the office, I accomodate by working “east coast hours:” 10 am EST - 6 pm EST.
This means very early morning meetings for me but it is well worth it as it allows me to interact with my team while they are in office. When I first started with this schedule, however, I quickly realized that because of the shortened amount of time I was available during their work day, my calendar would fill up with meeting after meeting. This left me working 10-12 hour days with barely even time to eat lunch in order to get any real work done.
The first important lesson I learned was regarding scheduling and building a routine.
You should schedule your day in a way that is similar to what you would experience in an office environment.
In the office, you’re taking small coffee breaks for chats with coworkers, lunch away from your desk, and sometimes “walking meetings.” At home, there are no coworkers to indulge in these activities that clear your head and help balance out the day.
It’s easy to eat lunch next to your computer or while multi-tasking during an internal meeting. However, it’s really important to remember that those little breaks are necessary and will increase productivity overall.
Some tips on how I manage to build a routine that works for me are:
- Block off time on your work calendar as “busy.” Don’t allow anyone to book meetings during this time and use it wisely.
- No email before breakfast. Overcome the temptation to grab your laptop while still in bed. Wake up, have your Wheaties, and then get your day started.
- Disconnect during breaks. Eat lunch away from your computer and phone in order to separate yourself from work during that time.
- Remember your 8 hours. When the scheduled work day ends, take a walk or sit down with a good book for a while. (You can always get back to work later if needed)
2. Take advantage of video chat
This is a tip that pretty much every article or remote worker will give you when you first start out.
If you’re like me, you probably don’t mind going a full day (or even two) without seeing anyone other than your dog, but this will drive you crazy, especially if you are used to being in an office.
My dog and favorite coworker, Shabazz.
The face-to-face interaction with coworkers video chat provides will help you continue to build relationships, make meeting goals easier to accomplish, and also give you some much-needed social time during your work day.
I made it my objective after I moved to video chat for most, if not all, meetings with the team.
Google Hangouts is the perfect tool for this, but other companies may use Join.me, Skype, or Sqwiggle. Whatever works for you and your team, make sure to implement it right away and stick to it.
Side Note: This will also force you to get dressed every day (at least from the waist up).
3. Don’t be shy, get involved!
A true fear when I moved was being forgotten. I’m serious - I really thought some people at IMPACT would forget I even worked there.
My long-time friends and teammates assured me this would never be the case but with new hires and the growth of our company it was a realistic fear. I knew it would be important to stay involved, motivated, and encouraged to do everything I would as if I was in the office and not across the country.
Working with our Director of Talent, Natalie, we were able to put in place some key processes that helped me stay involved with the team.
To help with this, we even added a role for me within our new hire onboarding program.
When anyone new came into the company, one of their first tasks is to video conference with me and talk about the company’s core values. I took on the role of introducing them to the Core Values and their history which is a huge opportunity for me to get to know them and also keep lines of communication open for down the road.
The one big thing I learned from the new processes and overcoming my phobia of the forgotten IMPACT-er is that you have to speak up. If you are ever feeling like you aren’t in the “loop” as a remote employee - say something.
With today’s technology and great company cultures, there is no reason to to be an outsider no matter how far away you are. Your voice can be heard even if it’s through a conference line!
Honestly, it’s taken me about this long to truly understand the “lessons” I’ve learned about working remote, and I’m still learning.
Although it’s been challenging at times, I’m grateful for this experience and I know that overcoming the obstacles I’ve already faced to start out this new lifestyle have made me a stronger and better person overall.
My advice to you if you find yourself in the same situation - give it a shot!
I hope this article helps ease any qualms you have about working remotely and if you need some more guidance, there are many resources available to help you through the adjustment period.
Here are just a few other resources you can check out:
- Get More Done: 18 Tips for Telecommuters
- 9 Tips For Staying Motivated When You Work From Home
- 20 Working From Home Tips to Boost Your Productivity
- Get Organized: 20 Tips for Working from Home
That's all from IMPACT West, for now. Erica and Shabazz, OUT!
Wondering where to begin?