Remote Work Profiles: Marie Johnson
About the Author: Marie Johnson is a contributor to Enlightened Digital, a UX Designer and technology writer from NYC. If she’s not writing her latest blog post in her kitchen, you’ll likely find her strolling through Central Park, cappuccino in hand.
Growing up in New York City, I always pictured myself in a career that involved a highrise office and a multi-stop commute. When I found myself in a position that had no office space and didn’t require commuting beyond the short walk from my bed to the kitchen table, I had no idea what an incredible opportunity I had fallen into.
My name is Marie and I work as a UX designer for a small tech company in the great city of New York. For the past four years, I’ve worked remote from my Brooklyn apartment with my trusty partner, Ozzy the French Bulldog. In my free time I also work as a contributor to a digital magazine with a team of four other people scattered around the north east. So how do I manage two jobs without the comforts of traditional corporate life? I’m sharing it all here; The perks, the challenges, and my tips for succeeding in remote life.
My typical day
I’m a morning person so a typical day for me starts around 6:45 AM. I like to have some time to brew my first (of many) cups of coffee and catch up on the news. Though my job certainly doesn’t require it, I like to get myself ready for the day. I feel changing out of my PJs and making myself presentable helps me switch out of morning mode and into work mode. My workday starts at around 7:15, when I open up my laptop in my combined kitchen-home office space. Because my jobs require a great deal of focus, I’ve found that I work better from the kitchen table. There are too many distractions available in bed or on my couch in front of the TV. I tend to work a solid 5 hours before taking a lunch break. I’ll explain why later on, but my lunch break is something I take full advantage of every single day. After lunch I log back in, and finish up the day around 3:30. This early to start, early to end schedule helps to break up my day and allows plenty of time to hit up a workout class or run any errands I have before switching into writing mode.
I like organize my day in a way that allows me to work at my peak hours of productivity
Depending on the week, my workload as a contributor for Enlightened Digital can vary. Typically I’m writing two or three articles per week either for Enlightened Digital or guest posts on other publications. Fortunately, writing lends itself naturally to remote work as it allows me to totally focus and work off the creativity I feel at any moment. While a couple of the other ED contributors also live in NYC, for the most part we all do our writing on our own time and sync up for content swaps and general check-ins. I’ve found it’s all about structuring my day to lend a realistic amount of time to work on my daily tasks, while also allowing myself to separate work from the rest of my life.
As many would imagine, remote work comes with a unique collection of perks. My personal favorite? The flexibility! I like organize my day in a way that allows me to work at my peak hours of productivity, which happen to be early in the morning and later in the evening. Additionally, this flexibility allows me to easily work around other life affairs, such as a midday doctors appointment or making it to the bank before closing. Rather than taking PTO for being out of the office, I simply just start work an hour or so earlier.
Not having a designated office really means my office can be anywhere. While I do spend a large portion of my week working from home, when the weather’s nice or I need some inspiration, I love changing up the scenery. Brooklyn’s filled with funky, Wi-fi enabled cafes and coffee shops perfect for getting some writing done and socializing with other remote workers I usually end up meeting! This sort of freedom really improves my work on days I’m feeling restless or out of focus. Enjoying a location of your choosing whether that be a coffee shop, a park bench, or co-working space, in my opinion, can help make work still feel like an enjoyable portion of your day.
My first year working remote was certainly a learning curve. Finding your groove and determining what setting best works for you to complete a day’s work without getting distracted takes time. Even four years in, there are days I get distracted by something I could get done around my house. But a little self discipline is all you need to reel it back in.
As popular as remote working is becoming, there are still a lot of people not quite in tune with what a remote work day looks like. I often used to get friends and family members calling for favors or asking to hangout in the middle of the day, because in their mind I’m just home. Of course they all mean well, but I’ve found the best way to resolve this challenge is to set strict working hours, as you would in an office. Share those hours with friends and relatives. Make sure they understand between X:00 and X:00 you’re unavailable and request that they respect your work day responsibilities regardless of where you may be working from.
Tips for success
My experience working remote has taught me a thing or two about succeeding in this lifestyle. Like anything, there are ups and downs, but with the proper resources available I think you’ll find the perks outweigh the challenges.
Communication is key for successful remote work. Both my full time job and the Enlightened Digital team and I are in dialogue throughout the day. Because you can’t just pop over to someone’s desk or have a spontaneous brainstorm in the hallway like you might in an office, staying in communication with your coworkers helps keep everyone on the same page and working better as a team. This also helps build relationships with your coworkers. It’s no secret remote work can feel lonely at times, so you want to have someone you can bounce ideas off of or just check in with how their day’s going!
Separating yourself from work when you’ve spent the whole day at home can be difficult at times. Especially if there’s a deadline or colleagues in different time zones are contacting you after hours. To maintain a healthy work-life balance, I’ve found it’s important to structure your day in a way that allows you to disconnect. Taking a full hour lunch break everyday, laptop closed, phone notifications off, is so important to this structure. It’s easy to work straight through lunch and eventually find yourself burned out at the end of the day. Taking that hour to move around, enjoy a meal and reset your brain makes all the difference in a remote worker’s day. Creating a dedicated work space in your home can also help avoid feeling like you can’t turn off your brain. As I mentioned, I work strictly at my kitchen table. This way I can enjoy time spent on my couch or in bed rather than feeling guilty for not having my laptop open.
Remote work has allowed me to maintain the lifestyle I’ve always wanted. I hope my experience gives you a better idea of what a remote job looks like and all that comes with it!