How to Make the Most of Remote Work

June 16, 2020

There are many upsides to working remotely: an easy commute, pets as co-workers and the ability to work anywhere with a Wi-Fi signal. Essentially, the world is your office.

The downside? The world is your office.

We spoke with Colorado tech professionals that are either working from home due to COVID-19 or are already seasoned remote pros, and many said that an office of one requires constant effort in order to maintain work-life balance. When employees don’t actually leave the office, they are more susceptible to burnout, they said.

For many, staying productive and present requires creating — and sticking to — a routine. Using what used to be commute time for healthy rituals such as a daily walk, meditation or drinking coffee with a loved one can help set the right tone for the workday. In the evening, distancing from screens creates an “out of sight, out of mind” approach that helps create healthy work-life boundaries. 

 

Austin Castle
Social Media Manager

Austin Castle, a social media manager at cybersecurity company Webroot, said he recommends limiting distractions to increase productivity while working remotely. A clean office space, privacy and communication with roommates or family members help keep the home office an area of work.

 

How long have you worked remotely, and what drew you to this type of role?

I’ve worked remotely through a couple of separate periods during my career, for about three years combined. I was first drawn to working remotely because of the “always on” nature of managing corporate social accounts, plus having a heavy travel schedule. The flexibility of going remote full time made for better work-life balance and gave me opportunities to create content that I wouldn’t have had at the office. I did the digital nomad lifestyle for a while, too, which afforded me fresh experiences and perspectives that I think have made me a more well-rounded professional.

Limiting distractions is key to staying productive while working remotely.

 

What’s the one thing you do everyday that has the biggest positive impact on your work as a remote employee? 

Limiting distractions is key to staying productive while working remotely. For me, this means starting each day with a clean and tidy workspace, including closing out virtual clutter like browser tab overload. I encourage having an office space with a door and to communicate working hours to family or roommates. 

Also, be sure to take breaks and set aside personal time to handle distractions, like checking the news and social media or doing household chores that can interrupt your work time if you allow them to.

 

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about remote work? 

Some healthy boundaries that are present through the commute and office environment totally dissolve in the home office. And with the current health crisis and stay-at-home orders disrupting so many other areas of everyday life, many remote workers are seeing a further blurring between personal and professional life.

It’s important to consciously practice a routine to give yourself space, stay productive and keep your sanity. Just as it’s smart to stretch before a workout, it’s good for remote workers to be mindful as we transition back and forth from personal life to work life. I like to have warmups and cool downs in my daily routine, whether that’s going for a walk, making a snack, exercising or calling a friend like I used to do on my former commutes. Having buffer activities helps me clear my head to be more present and focused in each area of my life.

 

Amy Tierney
Product Marketing Manager

Amy Tierney, a product marketing manager at security information and event management company LogRhythm, said she begins each day by writing out a daily to-do list. Checking off each task gives her a sense of accomplishment. When the workday is over, she makes sure to “switch off” from work to avoid burnout.

 

How long have you worked remotely, and what drew you to this type of role?

I’ve worked remotely at LogRhythm for two years, but I’ve held positions where I worked both remotely and commuted to an office a few times a week since 2010. Most of my remote-related jobs involved lengthy commutes or were located out of state, which made daily traveling to the office difficult. Working from home gives me the flexibility to achieve a better work-life balance and avoid the stress of a long commute. It also helps me stay focused without the typical office distractions.

It’s OK to switch off and disconnect from work at the end of the day.

 

What’s the one thing you do everyday that has the biggest positive impact on your work as a remote employee? 

I make a daily to-do list to prioritize tasks and jot down notes to ensure I’m not missing any deliverables. Project management software, such as Wrike, helps me stay on track. Also, making a clear plan of what I’m working on each day keeps me focused. I also feel a sense of accomplishment when I physically check off a completed task throughout the day.

 

What’s the most important lesson you've learned about remote work?

It’s OK to switch off and disconnect from work at the end of the day. While it’s easy to work longer hours that exceed a typical workday, that habit can lead to burnout. Respect your work hours and commit to achieving set goals for the day, but remember to respect your non-work time. It’s important to achieve a good work-life balance.  

 

Jim Halligan
Director of Marketing Technology

Jim Halligan, director of marketing technology at digital adtech company Location3, said he begins and ends each day with a meditation. It helps set boundaries around working hours and allows him to switch more seamlessly into non-work activities, whether that be exercising or drinking a beer. 

 

How long have you worked remotely, and what drew you to this type of role?

I’ve been working remotely for five years. It was a consequence of my significant other receiving an amazing job offer in another city. Location3 has been very generous in creating the role for me. They valued me enough as an asset to keep on, which at the time required a lot of trust since I was the first remote employee. It’s great to see a company allow you to thrive personally as well as professionally.

 

What’s the one thing you do everyday that has the biggest positive impact on your work as a remote employee? 

Meditation. This can mean different things to a lot of people, but the gist is to do nothing and try not to think about too much, before and after your workday. It’s very easy to allow work to dominate your life at home, so you have to set some boundaries. I like to mix it up; some days it’s exercise and some days it’s just a beer by the pool. Setting aside the time allows me to disconnect from the laptop that is always 3 feet away.

It’s very easy to allow work to dominate your life at home, so you have to set some boundaries.

 

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about remote work?

Put the effort in to be an excellent communicator. Get comfortable with your webcam, stay on top of your Slack channels, be poignant with your emails and try to avoid clutter. Speak up on video conferences and calls; be assertive. Successful remote work requires you to master all these mediums. This is something that I learned early on, and I’m always re-evaluating my effectiveness as new ways of communicating evolve.

 

Rachel Quick
Senior Director of Customer Operations

Rachel Quick, senior director of customer operations at subscription payment company Recurly, said working remotely was a choice she made in order to give her family the benefits of living near relatives and nature while still getting to work with exciting tech. She tends to hire remote employees as well; people in different locations bring a wider range of career experience than a team that all lives in the same city, she said.

 

How long have you worked remotely, and what drew you to this type of role?

I have been remote for almost seven years now after initially joining Recurly as an employee in our San Francisco office. When I had my son Jack, I knew I wanted to raise him in Minnesota near our extended family. I also wanted him to have a more balanced upbringing in nature-based education. Instead of living in a small apartment, we have a large backyard and raise chickens.

Even when I was local to our San Francisco offices, I tended to hire remote employees. I loved the opportunity to hire people in offbeat locations, people who may not have the same career experiences as in big cities. Some of my employees have followed me from company to company, and a few have worked for me for over 10 years. We all understand and respect the challenges of working remotely, and that has forced us to be more communicative and flexible than in traditional roles. 

Having a dedicated workspace makes it easier to put a start and stop to your workday.

 

What’s the one thing you do everyday that has the biggest positive impact on your work as a remote employee?

There are two things I recommend to every remote employee. The first is to have a dedicated workspace. For years, I would work at a bar stool on my kitchen island with only my laptop monitor and my trackpad. I didn’t realize how damaging that was to my body until I got a large desk setup with an external monitor, full keyboard and external mouse. I also invested in a great desk chair. Having a dedicated workspace also makes it easier to put a start and stop to your workday. 

My second recommendation is to drink a full cup of coffee before you start your day. Sit down, read the news, check your personal email and social feeds; Have a few minutes of quiet to start your day. Otherwise, it is too easy to roll out of bed, jump into work and not step away until it is dark.

 

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about remote work?

How important it is to engage in activities outside of work and spend time around other people pursuing other interests. I serve on several art and library boards, volunteer in a number of environmental programs and foster kittens. This spring, I hosted an internship for a local high school student as well. I really need to balance my technical, sedentary role with creative, active, off-hours activities by investing in my local community and in causes that matter to me. Having outside interests ensures I have a life outside of the job and makes me a more well-rounded and energized employee. 

 

Garrett Borunda
Vice President of Partnerships and Platforms

Vice President of Partnerships and Platforms Garrett Borunda said maintaining a schedule helps him stay focused and productive. When the workday at integrated digital fitness product company EGYM is over, he physically distances himself from a screen by taking a walk, sitting down for a meal or enjoying the scenery of San Diego. For him, the pros of remote work are being able to work for a purpose-driven company while living in his favorite city.

 

How long have you worked remotely, and what drew you to this type of role?

I have worked remotely for one year for EGYM.  I previously worked remotely as a product manager for Yahoo in Sunnyvale, California while living in Los Angeles.

I was drawn to the role first and foremost by the opportunity to work for a great company. EGYM is a purpose-driven company with great leadership and a mission to make the world a more fit and healthy place. In addition, the role allowed me to continue working from my hometown in San Diego. After 22 years of being split between the Bay Area and Los Angeles, it was great to be reunited with my family, friends and the city I love. 

 

What’s the one thing you do everyday that has the biggest positive impact on your work as a remote employee? 

Organizing and maintaining a schedule while working from home helps me stay focused and productive. Issues and emergencies still come up, just like in an office, but defining a schedule helps me work through interruptions effectively. Moreover, staying organized allows me to take inventory of each day and helps me appreciate what I have accomplished. Finally, maintaining a schedule helps me to set time aside specifically to connect with my colleagues across the globe. This is critical because even though I work remotely, I rely on my relationships with co-workers to constantly improve the way we do business and deliver meaningful value to our customers.

Organizing and maintaining a schedule while working from home helps me stay focused.

 

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about remote work?

The importance of taking time away from the screen. This takes on added significance in light of the digital connectivity present in almost every aspect of my daily routine. I find that when I take a short walk a couple of times a day, put my phone down for awhile, or set time aside for lunch, I am actually more focused, productive and happy. 

 

Stefani Barone
Account Executive, Strategic Partnership

For Stefani Barone, an account executive at cloud-based communications company RingCentral, showering and getting dressed for the home office helps put her into a professional mindset for the day. When she’s on camera with customers, relating to background items like kids’ toys and pets helps strengthen relationships.  

 

How long have you worked remotely, and what drew you to this type of role?

As a team, we have been working remotely full time since March 10. I was initially drawn to this role for the flexibility of the position, the culture of the business and the fact that our product is a leader in the unified communications space. However, it has provided so much more for me and my family through this current wave of uncertainty in the world. On a personal level, I feel confident that leadership empathizes with the struggles of a family dealing with school and childcare closures while enabling us to have access to resources within the company that help manage the current influx of business. 

On a professional level, I feel grateful to be part of RingCentral, as our offering has become uniquely critical and philanthropic for organizations that were slow to move their communications to the cloud environment and now are seeing worst-case scenarios unfold. I love being able to help these businesses remain functional and productive, regardless of where their employees are working, and we can showcase value with empathy and personal experience. 

The most significant lesson I have learned is the importance of setting boundaries.

 

What’s the one thing you do everyday that has the biggest positive impact on your work as a remote employee? 

The most critical thing that I do daily to manage the remote employee lifestyle is maintain a morning routine where I shower, get dressed for work in an outfit that I would feel comfortable wearing to the office and put on my makeup. While I don’t feel the need to get overly fancy, committing the time to maintain the routines that I would have upheld while at the office has made me feel ready to sit at my home desk, flipping my identity from “mom” to “working mother.” 

It has also manifested something unexpected; If I am doing business these days, I am actually more inclined to be on camera, sharing my facial expressions and really connecting with my partners and customers. They can see that I have my desk in a room where I share my space with my kids’ books and some art supplies and projects. I think it showcases that we are all in this together and really humanizes the connection that we sometimes gloss over through our daily customer interactions. That personal connection has only enhanced my ability to deliver a business solution that revolves around keeping businesses connected. 

 

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about remote work?

The importance of setting boundaries to maintain a healthy and appropriate balance while working from home. It has been far too easy to let the work-life balance that drew me to this position fall by the wayside as I strive to meet customer and partner demands. When things get busy, others might assume you are “on call,” as your home is now your office and it is no secret to anyone that you never truly leave. Understanding that need for balance does not mean that I have adhered to it perfectly, but I have learned that I function better in both home and professional life when those lines are more clearly defined.  

 

Meghan Radelet
Director, Premier Accounts

The team at bandwidth company Zayo all agree it is important to maintain work-life balance as many work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. They optimize productivity by planning tasks, lessening distractions and scheduling one-on-one meetings to discuss projects instead of writing back-and-forth over email. Turning off the screen on a day off or in the evenings helps them come back to work recharged.

 

How does remote work compare and contrast to working in the office?

“I think the major thing that has changed is the in-person collaboration that exists within my team,” Meghan Radelet, director of premier accounts, said.  “Their day-to-day activities and outreach to their customers remain relatively unchanged, but we have had to work to continue pushing our internal collaboration. Because of this, I now have two weekly team meetings (instead of one) and two weekly syncs with each account manager. This ensures that the team gets to see each other and I am still very involved with each account manager.”

 

Greg Butler
Sales Director

What’s the one thing you do everyday that has the biggest positive impact on your work as a remote employee? 

“The evening before a workday, I make sure to review my next day’s agenda in depth,” Greg Butler, sales director, said. “In the office, when conversations and interactions pop up, your strategic plans can become victims of scope creep. Someone can come up to you, discuss an issue, idea or something that takes away from the bigger, long-term strategies. When you work remotely this is less likely to happen, which is a good thing. In order to fully maximize this benefit of fewer distractions, I make sure my day is purposeful in its planning before it starts. I know I will receive fewer distractions than I did when in the office, so I can more easily direct my team to the long-term vision of success. This is one of the few advantages of remote work. With so many disadvantages, this is one benefit I really want to maximize while I have it.”

I make sure my day is purposeful in its planning before it starts.”

 

Tyler Coates
Senior Vice President of Enterprise

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about remote work?

“Set boundaries,” Tyler Coates, senior vice president of enterprise, said. “It’s too easy to find yourself in front of your screen from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed. This is magnified by COVID-19, but I’ve found myself not finding breaks either during the day or after hours. Set boundaries stating that breaks are critical to mental health and the ability to maintain focus and energy. This could manifest as a day off to focus on other hobbies or do nothing, or mean pushing yourself to go for a walk or cook dinners to ensure you do something other than work. I’m more productive with balance, and finding that is key to working remotely.”

 

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