Month: February 2016

What I’ve learned working remotely for 1 full week

TelecommutingWork From HomeWorking Remotely

Tomorrow will mark the end of my first *full* week working remotely. I’ve been in my new role for over a month now but I’ve been working on-site at the HQ for at least a portion of each week, until this one. And while working from home is nothing new for me, doing so for a whole week + knowing this is what my new normal is, is a marked change.

So what’s it been like and why is this full week down such a big occasion?

  1. I don’t walk anywhere near as much. Duh right? But fitness trackers make it clear just how big of a drop it’s been. Consider: in my last role I would walk 3 miles each day just getting to/from the office on the train. Sure it took some time but it was an easy walk and added in a good number of steps. Now if I don’t go to the gym or do anything my steps add up to less than 1/2 mile daily. This is easily changeable but it requires actively thinking, about, well, being active. Luckily I work out a lot and am able to walk to grocery stores and the like, but this would definitely add up to packing on the pounds if I wasn’t mindful of it.
  2. I eat the same things day in day out. I’ve always been a bit of a creature of habit. Even at an office I’ve been known to eat basically the same thing for weeks on end (and by weeks I actually mean months). Working remotely I do this too but I’m noticing that I’ve been eating the foods I often have for dinner on repeat now too since I have access to the stove and oven. I don’t mind it… yet, but will surely have to add to my rotation of healthy, at home meals. If I find particular ones I like or think fit best into a busy remote day I’ll be sure to share them here.
  3. I have to be aware of actively involving myself in meetings. If you read my post earlier this week about my first 3 hour working session you know that I’ve been spending a good chunk of time on the telephone and which has inherent challenges. That was a big accomplishment for me and something that if I am being completely honest I wasn’t quite sure how I would fair in. But like many other things in life it’s largely about your attitude. Sometimes while working from home I need to consciously tell myself to “pay attention,” a simple trick that really works for me. Interestingly enough sometimes I can truly focus more on these calls because I can get up and walk around, something that I’m sure I could do while in person (how many times do you see meeting participants simply strolling around a conference room to keep their blood moving?) though maybe I am learning ways to maintain my active engagement in, in person meetings too!
  4. I’m realizing my current desk space is inadequate. I’ve been planning on getting a new desk but finally pulled the trigger because it was becoming a problem. I need space to sprawl out and my Ikea mini desk which has served me very well for 2.5+ years was no longer doing the job.
  5. I don’t know how I survived college with just a laptop. I desperately need a monitor. Luckily I have one on its way from my company but it can’t get here soon enough. I also have no idea how I survived just working off a laptop screen in college. Probably because I was 10+ years junior and because I wasn’t in excel so much.
  6. The importance of a good chair. My back is starting to hurt and I think it’s a combination of a few of the above things, namely not walking as much (even just to the bathroom, to my car or to transit, etc.), sitting at a small desk, not having a monitor, probably getting older as well, and also not having the best chair. I am now on the hunt for a new chair but in the meantime will use pillows and continue to move myself around a bit each hour.

While this may seem simply like a list of gripes (oops) but really I am enjoying this work arrangement so much and am so grateful I am getting this opportunity. It’s not without its challenges but what is? And not having to wash my hair daily (who I am kidding, I didn’t do that when I did go into an office daily) or deal with a commute or relocate for a company is such a huge upside that I welcome these various side effects of this telecommute job with open arms!

Do you work remotely? What have you learned about your work-style while doing so? Share your thoughts below.

Acing the LONG conference call from home

TelecommutingWork From HomeWorking Remotely

I’ve done it! Last Thursday to be specific I faced, tackled, and rocked my first working session while being a remote employee.

Now before you start raising your eyebrows and think, “Congratulations, you took a phone call.” Yes, I took a phone call. And right, we all do this. But more specifically I’m not talking about a 30, 60, or even 90 minute one. I am talking about a nearly 3 hour working session during which I had to remain engaged, proactively share my thoughts and opinions, oh and did I say remain engaged for nearly 3 hours?

Now I’m lucky in that not *everyone* on the call was in the same location. There were attendees from different offices and others working remotely. This is important since those who were in the office were attune to the needs and hurdles remote employees, like me, were facing. But still it was close to 180 minutes on the phone, talking about the same thing, thirty feet from my television and a room away from my bed.

I won’t lie, it was difficult; I had to actively work to keep myself engaged. But it was something I knew would happen sooner or later and something that I knew would greatly predict my ability to do well in this new role. I’ve been sort of waiting for this to happen to use it as a gauge of how easy or difficult this whole, working remotely full-time would be.

So the verdict was that it went well, but what does that really mean and how did I do this? Glad you asked…

  1. I walked around. Here’s where one big advantage of WFH comes in– I can move around often without anyone knowing. I’m not saying I went on a full-blown stroll around the neighborhood, though that does sound nice and I know people who swear by that for status calls. But I moved around. Blood flow helps brain flow, or something like that, but really it is science.
  2. When I zoned out I caught myself. Let’s be honest, this happens in person too. But when you’re at home you have to be accountable to yourself since there’s no one who will give you a hairy eyeball for having a glazed over look on your face or scrolling through Facebook.
  3. To that end, I stayed off social media. It always shocks me how many people can be found scrolling through Facebook or Instagram or worse (read: dating apps) quietly under a table on a meeting or presentation. DO NOT DO THIS. Just don’t. Even if your manager or the presenter doesn’t see you someone else (like me during that team meeting in the office two weeks ago…) may and it doesn’t make you show up well. Anyway, while working from home this is an easy trap to fall into since no one can you see right? Maybe. But maybe you’re friends with them on Facebook and they see that you’re online (okay, I get that this would mean that they too were online, still, just don’t do it).
  4. I was aware. I firmly believe that being self-aware or simply aware contributes to 90% of showing up well to everything; okay, I actually have no idea how to quantify that in terms of a percentage, but for me I think the state of simply being aware is huge. And it applies here. I was aware of the fact that this was an important meeting and that this was a situation that might be challenging. Because of those things I was able to keep myself in check by the other above tactics.

What about you? Have you taken a long conference call from home or had to participate in a “working session” from afar? How did it go? What did you do to remain engaged and focused? Share in the comments below.

How to survive a new job while traveling

New Job

So I mentioned in my first post that I have been spending the first few weeks traveling to my new company’s headquarters before I settle into the full-time remote life. Friday marked the end of three weeks of straight travel. While I feel so fortunate that I get to do this before jumping into a full-time remote role, traveling over 90% of my time while also starting a new gig has been a shock to the system to say the least.

Starting a new job is always mentally exhausting but the physical travel has been HARD. On the plus side I’ve been able to shut everything else out and not worry about missing dinner plans with friends or my favorite workout class. But on the flip-side, not being able to retreat to my own space after a long day has been a challenge.

I’ve been trying to focus on keeping as much routine during my travel as possible and to take advantage of the face time. Below are some of the ways I’ve been keeping myself sane during this transition. Many of these are good tips for anyone traveling regardless of if your job is new or not or anyone starting a new job, regardless of if you’re traveling or not.

Physical health: I try to keep to a regular gym and sleeping schedule. I do my best to hit the hotel gym a few times a week but keeping in mind that I don’t want to exhaust myself so much that it impacts me during the day at work, which is my top priority right now.

You are what you eat: I’ve always been a relatively healthy eater and have employed what I consider to be an 80/20 approach to life: live as healthy as possible 80% of the time and the other 20% do what you like! This is especially important to keep in mind while traveling for work since grabbing a latte versus a coffee and making it a vente then deciding to have a cookie (or 2…) after dinner since I’m not covering the tab is tempting. Sticking to the types of foods and meals that I eat “normally” is a helpful guide for me. This means fresh foods and limited, if any, booze during the week. Portion control is also really important so I buy things in smaller, prepackaged sizes.

Ditch the booze: while I greatly enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail (or 2+ !) I have steered clear completely this whole month. Largely for the same reasons as anyone who decides to go without alcohol for the first month of the year. And while there have been moments when I’ve wanted a glass of wine the truth is they have been very few and far between. This in itself has made me realize that many of the times I am craving wine I really am not (mind blown?!). And while sometimes grabbing cocktails with co-workers or clients is an important bonding time limiting this while traveling will really help maintain mental clarity and focus.

Time management: I have been quite aware of using this time wisely, “this time” being my face-time in the office. All working professionals know that time management gets even more important when time or face time is scarce and in this new job face-time will be scarce. So while I’m in the office I’ve been trying to meet as many people on my team and partner groups as possible. Even if I don’t anticipate directly working with someone immediately it’s important to me to make genuine connections.

Mental health: trying to make the most of my time in the office often turns into over-extending or over booking myself. In past roles I would simply power through and while that’s been a bit of my reality right now I have tried to remain aware of what I personally need to operate at my best. Sometimes that means something as simple as taking the long route to grab a coffee or a refill on water so I have a longer moment to myself. Sometimes it means blocking off 15 or 30 minutes after a marathon of meetings just to be able to collect myself. I’ve realized over the years of my professional career that these small moments in which I re-center myself are critical to my sanity and performance and therefore worth taking the time to do. I know this is especially helpful when starting a new job.

Fight mental exhaustion: but when the exhaustion hits (because it will!) I embrace it and allow myself time to get past it. How have I been doing this? The popular concept of mindfulness.  I’ve dabbled with meditation since grade school but never committed to a practice. A good friend of mine introduced to a great meditation app (called Calm, which I highly recommend) over the holidays and shared that she had been using it for weeks consistently; she even would find time to practice daily at the start of every day on vacation. I decided that this new job and routine during the new year was a perfect time to start a regular practice. I believe it’s been an important component to staying centered and focused, and operating at my best.

Maintain your routines: striving to maintain your own life in the midst of continued traveling is important. I’m a firm believer in your job being a part of your life, not the other way around. One big example of this for me is working out. I’ve always used workouts as a way to de-stress and while a chaotic schedule can sometimes make you stop hitting the gym I strive to do the opposite. I find when I succumb to the excuses of “I’m so busy” or “I’m so tired” it ends up hurting me more than anything else because I lose the energy and mental clarity that regular workouts give me. Another example that’s not exercise related is that I have gotten into the habit of having peppermint or chamomile tea at night at home. It’s been a calming and relaxing way to end my day which has become a bit of a ritual. To maintain some consistency in my life I have been bringing my favorite caffeine-free tea with me so I can have it at the hotel as I’m winding down. It may seem small but this act has been hugely helpful in maintaining a sense of normalcy in my life right now.

Making hotels home-y: this is another thing that may seem small but something that has really helped me maintain myself and calm throughout this week has been making my hotels home-y and my own. Biggies here have been to actually unpack and have certain things with me that create a sense of home. I’m not saying to bring pictures necessarily (but if that’s what you want!) but for me it’s the simple things like having my night-time tea that I like to drink as I unwind at night. This applies to any sort of long travel, whether you’re starting a new role or not, but considering the added stress of being in a new position I have found it to be especially important for me.

Whether you’re starting a new gig and commuting in full-time, working from home full-time, or doing a mix of both the first few weeks of a new job are mentally taxing to say the least. These have been some of the ways I’ve managed to keep my cool. How have you handled starting a new job? How do you handle traveling?