Remote working

(Sarah Hawk) #1

I’m interested in hearing from community professionals that are working remotely.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?
What tips would you offer to someone that was thinking about moving into a remote position?

Ping @jessicamalnik and @musingvirtual

(Bo McGuffee) #2

Great question, @HAWK. I have the option to work from home under certain conditions. I admit that I dream of a remote situation. Then there are times I wonder if it is as great as I imagine. I look forward to the replies.

(Mark Baldwin) #3

I did some remote work for a couple of years and for the most part it was fantastic. However you need to be incredibly disciplined in order to work from home as it is too easy to procrastinate and get sidetracked. You need to be really focused and have an excellent routine and a place where you can cut yourself off from the rest of your family.

I also found that I would find it hard to switch off from work and I had to set myself a definite time for powering down the laptop and switching off notifications. There is also a lot to be said for getting immediate answers to any questions you may have, from the rest of the team you are working with, in an office based situation. Sometimes a delay in getting the information you need can be very frustrating at best and very costly at worst.

Happy to answer any specific questions on working remotely.

(Kristen Gastaldo) #4

I moved from an all in office job with my team to an all remote job, that’s 5 hours ahead of my team. It’s been good and bad. It’s great having a few hours to work before anyone comes in to the office. Catch up on emails from the night before and then have time to do things without being distracted by incoming emails, pings, meetings, etc.

But there are issues with visability. I have to make sure I’m 100% available during the hours my team is in the office (and also the primary hours of community usage). I feel like sometimes there was always a little “what does they do all day” with community management - so I have to make sure my efforts are seen. I have weekly meeting with the community stakeholders on the team, as well as bi weekly or so all team updates.

Personally, it’s the best situation. I’ve been back at work since my son was 7 months (11 now), so I’ve been able to just step in the other room and see him periodically throughout the day (we have a nanny). Professionally, we’ll have to see. It feels pretty difficult to move up the ladder, working remote.

(Mark Baldwin) #5

Good point about the visibility issue @Kristen_Gastaldo I found myself sometimes sending multiple emails, when 1 would have sufficed or going out of my way to reply to a customer later at night, just to prove that I was reacting to the needs of the community and reinforcing that community management is not always a 9-5 job.

Sounds like you are in a good place right now and I wouldn’t worry about progressing professionally as a lot of people in this field have made great progress working remotely. Good luck. :slight_smile:

(Sarah Hawk) #6

I hear you on this one. I also work remotely and I’m 13 hours ahead of my team! I start work at 5am so we get some crossover and it means we can have team meetings. The rest of the time we chat via Slack, which works really well. The thing that I appreciate the most about my timezone is that my Monday is a quiet day that I can use for planning/writing/catching up because it is everyone else in the world’s Sunday.

I hear you on this one too. I also started working remotely when my twins were 7 months. They are now 7 years! This is the bit that I find the trickiest. We have never had a nanny – hence my strange work hours. I start work at 5am so that I can finish at 3pm (the end of the school day).

Your point about trust is an interesting one. Does anyone else come up against that? This tool might help. It’s a time tracker which also takes periodic screen shots. Feels a little big-brother to me, but it’s an interesting concept.

(Kristen Gastaldo) #7

God bless the UK for my 7 months of maternity leave! I can’t imagine going back after 3. I would have taken the year except I had to move my community! I’m lucky to have a nanny share where my son is home except Mon and Tues.

And 13 hours ahead is tough. But at least this community seems to have people from everywhere, whereas I have a customer base solely in the US. We all get timezones on here!

(Olivier Le Pord) #8

I have been working remotely for about 8 years now. Most of it for a company that has ~9,000 employees worldwide, with a big chunk in the US. My company is pretty friendly to working from home remotely to the point where a few VPs (and below) do just that. I started working remotely as a community manager. I did not leave an office to go remote in the job.

A few levels to consider:

  • My immediate surroundings
    o I have a separate space from the rest of the house, with a door. I can have conference calls at odd hours without disrupting my family. I am lucky to have a spacious room for this where I can pace around with a wireless headset. This may sound trivial, but I can think of many details I arranged in this home office for maximum comfort and ergonomics.
    o Still, the challenge is that I get a bit restless from being in the same spot. So I move the couch from time to time or another part of the house, or go to the porch in the summer. I also go to coffee shops or public libraries just to see bodies around me. Not that I want to engage anyone, but the change of scenery works for me. I guess I am lacking the kind of social interaction that an office provides and found ways to cope.
    o I can be easily distracted some days, even alone at home. I don’t feel that the quality of my concentration at home is better or worse than what it would be in an office.

  • The community management job.
    o I oversee several non-English sections of my company branded community. I work with a number of contractors around the world and emails tend to flow all the time from one part of the world or another. I was tempted at first to reply even late. But over time, the group developed an understanding that it is OK to receive an email from India at 23:00 my time and answer it the next day at 8:00 (for ex).
    o I enjoy some flexibility in my schedule that allows me to take an hour to work out in the middle of the day but I may work for a couple hours after my kid goes to bed. The separation work / life is a bit blurred as a result, but it never seems to me that it is a huge problem. Flexibility goes both ways and I don’t short change my job.
    o I prefer video calls with my team members because the reading of facial expressions helps to detect any misunderstanding and get us closer to a real face to face communication. This is important since I work with many non-English native speakers (I am a French native myself). On the other hand, it is challenging for me is to connect to a conference call being the only remote participant and have to interact with a roomful of colleagues. It is difficult to have an “equal standing” in this situation.
    o Besides this, the online part of the job, the action of writing a post is not much different home vs. office, I find.

  • The career
    o Whether being remote impacts (negatively) a career is debatable. Part of it depends on the company dynamic. If strategic decisions are typically made by executives all working in the same office location and you are not there, then it could be a problem. But if the power structure is very decentralized then it is not so bad.
    o No matter what, I find that it is critical to have face time with colleagues internally. It could be corporate events or occasional “tour” to the headquarters, these are always opportunities to catch up, network and learn. People need to know you and you need to know people to matter and be thought about, be aware of opportunities, etc. I have never worked in a cubicle environment and always find it exciting for a few days (weird, I know!). Online presence on internal network is a minimum but I find very rewarding the face time I have up and down the corporate ladder. The communication is just much richer and I get to form a better picture of the folks I work with / for.
    o Of course, having face time with customers / members of the community remains an ideal complement to the online interaction. Specifically, it is essential for me to personally know the super users from Russia or Brazil, for ex. If they are important to the overall community, I feel I need to know them, have dinner together on occasion, etc. This points to the necessity to travel. I would even argue that working remotely make traveling even more necessary.

A few years back, shortly after Marissa Mayer started at Yahoo, much was made of her new policy to apparently end working from home. Regardless of the wisdom of this for Yahoo, I think it triggered a healthy debate (at least in the US), about the merits of home office and working remotely. My own take is that it is just not for everyone but always worth trying…

(Steve Bridger) #9

I’ve worked ‘remotely’ for 12 years. The advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

It works a treat for the moderation element to the role. You can ‘do other stuff’, or pop out on an errand when you know the community is quiet(er)… and be online at 10pm when any ‘troll’ thinks you may not be ‘looking’ (I jest… a little).

There is definitely an element of that - especially as part of the role is having “an invisible presence”.

The major downside is the strategic bit. I’m sure it takes longer to get Exec Team buy-in to invest in the community if you’re not there day-to-day. In fact, sometimes I have to reply on a director making the case on my behalf, when I think I could do a better job. There can be a lack of continuity, too. While I’m on site twice a month, there is a bewildering amount of structural change and staff mobility that is impossible to keep up with. Of course, it’s good not to have to ‘live’ all that fluff every day… but even with online collaborative tools, it is always good to be able to get up and wander across the office and talk to someone f2f.

At the end of the day, it’s the value you bring to the role - not where you are are physically located. But you need to work hard to demonstrate that through showing the value of the community itself.

What a good question @HAWK :smile:

(Sarah Hawk) #10

[quote=“maounde, post:8, topic:1951”]
I was tempted at first to reply even late. But over time, the group developed an understanding that it is OK to receive an email from India at 23:00 my time and answer it the next day at 8:00 (for ex).
[/quote] Yes! I totally agree. It took me a very long time to feel comfortable with that. I’d check my phone in bed in case there were emails that had come in. It became incredibly unhealthy. Having hard boundaries and sticking to them is important. I make sure that I turn DND on for Slack etc as soon as I shut my Mac at the end of my workday.

[quote=“maounde, post:8, topic:1951”]
Flexibility goes both ways and I don’t short change my job.
[/quote] This is a big one for me also. There are days when I’m distracted or have something on my mind, and the quality of my work isn’t as high as I’d like. I used to battle through and feel guilty at the end of the day. Now, I just stop working and take a few hours off, and then come back to it later on, or make up time later in the week. I’m lucky in that I have the flexibility to do that, but it means that I’m a lot more productive.

(Steve Bridger) #11

Totally with you @HAWK.

(Kathleen Ulrich) #12

My son was in an accident nearly 4 years ago – 4 surgeries since. It was life-changing though I am happy to report I am beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel. The first few months I had no choice but to work from home and I have continued to do so.

My solutions/tips
I have 2 computers and a monitor – I use different browsers for different chores. I also have different emails with separate inboxes - Chrome, Firefox and IE. I worked with a professional organizer to create a file system unique to my needs. Even though most of my work is virtual, paperwork can pile up and take up valuable real estate in a home office. In theory, I could easily timebox my different roles. In reality - easier said than done. I can, however, find anything at a moment’s notice. I force myself to go out at least once a day and talk to someone in person. Even if I am communicating online or on the phone all day long, I need to find human interaction - other than kids and partner - at least once a day or it is too lonely. I have no work access on my Ipad, so if I need to look up recipes or homework help after hours, I can use the Ipad.

Perks and challenges
I have a treadmill, yoga mat, and weights right in my “office.” And I have recently installed a very annoying and loud app reminding me to stand up on a regular basis. Biggest challenge is shutting it all off and closing the door. I have let the water boil over far too many times while just checking one more post or email. And I tend to work too many weekends - I don’t think these problems are unique to people working at home - but there is no unpacking of the computer, etc. It’s on and open to the pages I need, so shutting it down is key.

(Sarah Hawk) #13

I love this idea.

(And I’m glad that you’re seeing some light. That sounds like a hard journey to have taken.)

(Darren Gough) #14

Fab question @HAWK

My work journey has been office based > remote > office based > remote so I have a decent take on it.

To echo @stevebridger the pros far outweigh the cons. Running an errand mid morning is like being in the film 28 days later > it’s almost eerie how quiet / easy things are when the world is at work.

The biggest plusses for me are lack of horrific commute, ability to adapt to family time and support and just losing all those ridiculous office politics. I’ve worked for companies where coming in 5 mins past 9 or something equals a problem. What sort of way is that to live?

The flip side is that for all the years I’ve collected working from home I still struggle to lose the “9 to 5” mentality that’s drilled into people from a young age and it often then goes hand in hand with the way technology and colleagues in different time zones make it hard to switch off sometimes.

I’m not convinced Slack is always a force for good - despite the DND setting which i have on, sometimes I find myself checking it almost by automation late at night. In an SME also, you always want to add value and support colleagues so the natural urge is to want to jump in and help.

I think as a company though we (FeverBee) get better at home working as we grow and ultimately it comes down to a mutual trust for all team members and doing the right things at the right time to maximise value.

(Andy McIlwain) #15

I work remotely from Toronto. Most of my team is on the west coast (California). The rest are in Arizona. The scattered timezones can be a hurdle, especially with meetings going into the evening, but I do appreciate the few hours of quiet in the morning.

The biggest challenge I’ve faced so far has been cabin fever. I live downtown, so being in the condo all day can get a bit… claustrophobic. My workaround is finding nearby locations to work out of, whether it’s a cafe (great for ambiance) or a coworking space (great for socializing with other people during the day).

(Sarah Hawk) #16

I’m part of a #CMAD panel discussing the skills needed to be an effective remote worker (with @jessicamalnik and @Bas_van_Leeuwen) later today. More details here.

(Jessica Malnik) #17

Great points all around.

Look forward to seeing @HAWK, @Bas_van_Leeuwen and @musingvirtual in the panel about an hour. #CMAD.

(Jeanne Carboni) #18

Hi Sarah,

I am the lead for SAP’s online community, SAP Community Network, which enjoys visits from 25.4 million unique pairs of eyeballs per year. I have team members in Israel, Germany, Philadelphia, Vancouver, and San Francisco. Meaning that I can be working across 9 different time zones during any given day. I’ve been working almost 100% remotely for the past 5 years, and I view it as a huge benefit that makes my job much more possible than it would be otherwise.

By working from home, I save 1.5 hours in commute time that it takes me for round trip to the office. I also save prep time (which for a 53 year old diva takes some time). I also save time looking for private space in a high tech open environment looking for conference rooms. I use this extra time to interact with my team, accomodating the different work schedules related to the time zones.

As far as challenges go, I actually find there are more opportunities than challenges. My team and I have put in place a number of practices that make us successful in this environment. We are always on IM (Skype for Business or LinkedIn), so that if someone needs to share something, they can have a conversation the same way that they would if they were sitting across the hall. We use SAP Jam to share content that we collaborate on, as well as questions and discussions.

We are also flexible with time and location so that team members can be online when they need to be. This can be a plus or a minus. For example, the team members in California end up starting around 6 am most days, which they aren’t crazy about, but it enables them to avoid a 2 hour commute, and they can shut down earlier if it works out that way.

I may be in a unique situation compared to the rest who have weighed in on this topic. I have worked professionally for the past 30 years and only had the option to work from home for the past 5 years. Although I wish I had this option when my children were younger (now 23, 18 and 17), I’m not sure I would have taken it at the time. During their younger years, it was not commonplace to work from home, nor would I have been able to progress to my current level in the face-to-face environment of the '80s, '90s and early 2000s.

It was a really hard balancing act, but it got me to where I am today. And talking to the 3 young women in my life (my daughters), they don’t really remember my challenges. They are all happy, healthy and on their way to successful lives of their own.

For now, working from home is perfect for me. I’m at a good stage of my career. I work with people from all over the planet who are not in my office. I’m reducing stress of prep and driving that are not necessary for me now.

I support the young mothers on my team to have the same options, and so far all has worked out well.

I’m very fortunate to be in this spot and would be willing to help others with a business case for working remotely if need be.

(Sarah Hawk) #19

Thanks for sharing your experiences @jtcarboni – your response is a really valuable one in that it touches on a few things that I personally struggle with (or have in the past).

I love this quote.

Along those lines, I actually floored the entire panel in our #CMAD hangout (about remote working) last night by asking @Bas_van_Leeuwen if he had pants on! [quote=“jtcarboni, post:18, topic:1951”]

And talking to the 3 young women in my life (my daughters), they don’t really remember my challenges. They are all happy, healthy and on their way to successful lives of their own.
[/quote] That is incredibly reassuring to hear. One of the things that I struggle with (and I’m sure it’s commonplace among work-at-home mothers) is ensuring that my kids never suffer by hearing “hang on a sec, I just have to answer an email”. (And on the flip side, that my colleagues never suffer because I’m not fully engaged at work.)

Member Spotlight: Bas van Leeuwen talks analytics
(Jeanne Carboni) #20

Lol! I’ve had some similar experiences.

I really would like to have a real time conversation with you sometime soon. Let me know if/when you are available.

As to my daughters, watching me juggle has been educational for them. They are strong women – all three different, but strong. I’d like to think I had something to do with that. And they still like to hang out with me (especially when I pick up the tab), which is somewhat reassuring.