How I fit into office culture as a remote worker
I was coming up on a year with Metis when I asked to work from home full-time. My Boston lease was up. I wanted to move to a new city, but I was taking on more responsibilities at the company and growing my client service skills, and I felt proud of my momentum. I liked my co-workers and didn’t want to lose touch. I also liked being part of Metis’ small, connected team, and I knew that it offered a clear path for career growth.
So, the day I moved to Nashville, my kitchen table became a makeshift office. Eventually, I migrated upstairs to my new guest bedroom and bought a desk. A few months later, my office had plants, a couch, a bookshelf — it was a dedicated space for my work.
Reactions run the gamut when people learn I work from home. Some people tell me that it’s the future of work (and with 37 percent of U.S. workers occasionally telecommuting, they may not be far off); others say they would hate not physically interacting with coworkers. My grandma doesn’t understand how I can sit at a computer and call it a job. Personally, I’ve learned a lot of positive things about my working style, my career and myself since becoming a worker without borders (what we call a “WWB” at Metis). Some of those things, I didn’t expect:
I never feel disconnected from my team.
One of my best friends grew up in Nashville, and she helped me feel welcome and at home in a new city. However, even with her presence, part of me felt apprehensive about not seeing co-workers daily and having my office create a connection to the local community.
I’ve found that the opposite is true. The option to network in my industry is always available, and working from home actually motivates me to get involved more than ever. And as part of a collaborative team, I always feel connected to my co-workers, regardless of our physical locations – especially because I see my colleagues, our Boston office and some of our clients regularly via video chat.
Here I am at happy hour.
I am healthier and happier without a daily commute.
My East Coast roots come out in traffic. Nashville is a fast-growing city, meaning its local roads are filled with a high volume of cars and a fair share of pickup trucks. (I hear my dad’s heckling in my own voice when I try to drive during rush hour.) However, it’s not like Boston was any better — before I moved, it took up to an hour to commute from my apartment to our office six miles away. Even though that amount of time is relatively average, sitting in traffic or on a crowded, delayed train for two hours each day made me feel constantly stressed.
Working from home allows me to spend that time doing things I enjoy — running, reading, taking classes, doing yoga, cooking. I’ve also realized that although I love working in an extroverted industry, I’m more of an introvert than I knew, and I’m better at focusing without the distractions of an office.
Of course, old habits die hard — good and bad ones alike. In Boston, if I stayed too late in the office and skipped my run, I convinced myself it was beyond my control. When I get lazy in Nashville, I’m the only person around to blame. Although I’ve become better at time management since moving (and throughout my tenure at Metis), I am careful about blurring the lines between my time at work and my personal time.
Lately, I make weekly to-do lists for things I want to accomplish outside of work hours. It helps me pursue hobbies and feel productive. And if working from home ever makes me stir-crazy, I remind myself that I’m still getting to know my new city, and there’s always a new restaurant, concert, art exhibit or favorite bar to go visit.
I had to learn how to meet new co-workers from afar.
Metis’ remote employees return to the Boston headquarters a few times each year. The second time I returned after moving away, a number of new faces had recently joined the company. Standing in our familiar elevator, I was extremely nervous. Although I’d interacted with my new colleagues virtually, it felt like my first day of school.
Now, I look forward to Boston trips — I try to finish any major projects before traveling, because being in the office is a great chance to catch up with teammates and brainstorm about new projects. The rest of the time, I’ve learned to take initiative as a remote worker. I get to know my co-workers outside of business emails, through video chat and instant messaging. Whether I’m in the same room or multiple states away from a colleague, it doesn’t change my interest in her life outside of work, and I’ve had some of my most valuable conversations with co-workers who turned into friends in the time since I’ve moved.
Making myself available also makes my job easier — it’s important to me that all of my teammates feel comfortable asking questions or seeking my help, no matter the time or issue at hand.
Successful remote workers are the product of a flexible team.
My personality, work style and role on Metis’ content team translate easily to a home office, but I’m part of an extensive, connected company culture. Since my colleagues are comfortable with flexible schedules and keeping one another informed, they help empower me to create content and make up-to-date recommendations that move the needle for our clients. As a result, the reason being a WWB works for me is that it isn’t much different from being in the office — no matter where I am, I’m learning more about my industry, progressing in my career and doing my best work every day.
This post originally appeared on the Metis Communications blog.