At FMP, flexibility is one of our core values, and flexible work arrangements are one of the ways we put it into practice. With flexibility being our theme this February, we thought it was only fitting for FMP’s remote employees to talk about how their remote work arrangements fit their lives and what they’ve learned along the way. We interviewed our remote FMPers on both coasts and asked about their experiences, advice, and of course, what makes for suitable ‘work-from-home’ attire!
Representing FMP from across the country, we have:
- Ashley (A): San Diego, CA
- Jenna (J): Northern New Jersey
- Ben (B): Long Island, NY
- Mike (M): Philadelphia, PA
What is the biggest misconception about working remotely full-time?
(A) A common misconception (and fear that I initially had prior to transitioning to remote status) is that I’d feel lonely and isolated. While I absolutely miss seeing my clients and fellow FMPers on a day-to-day basis, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how connected I still feel. Things like volunteering to serve on internal committees, scheduling phone calls or video chats when an email would probably suffice, and making the most out of my trips back by scheduling them over key company events like all-hands meetings and the holiday party have helped tremendously.
(J) A common misconception – especially, I think, by organizations fearful of telework policies – is that employees won’t be productive if they aren’t under the watchful eye of their supervisors or colleagues. While I’m sure this fear isn’t entirely unfounded due to the occasional “bad apple,” if an employee is going to spend their day being generally unproductive, they’ll find a way to do it no matter where they are. For me, the added pressure to stay accessible and responsive to my supervisors, colleagues, and clients has probably made me more productive than I ever was in my in-person days.
(B) Jenna’s is the number 1, but another one is that communication suffers. Just because you’re in the office doesn’t mean you’re communicating more with others. Yes, “water cooler” talk is easier, but it also means there’s more off-topic chit-chat and not necessarily more work-related communication. As a remote employee, we have to use multiple forms of medium (email, phone, videoconference, instant messaging, etc.) more frequently to stay in touch, but communication doesn’t have to suffer. We also schedule more meetings since “popping in” isn’t something we can do.
(M) People who work remotely are less accessible. In fact, most people working remotely want you to reach out. Personally, I prefer talking rather than e-mail if you have a quick question. Without water cooler conversations and drop-ins, I appreciate opportunities for human interaction.
What is the most useful piece of advice for employees who work remotely or want to transition to working remotely?
(A) Put in extra effort on the “little things” to build and maintain relationships. Working in the office every day, you probably don’t notice how much you unknowingly benefit from bumping into a colleague in the kitchen to catch up about your favorite sports team or their recent trip abroad. It’s hard to replicate these interactions in a remote setting, since they often happen spontaneously. But, these things are really important for building relationships and maintaining a connection with the home office. Therefore, setting aside a little time to start off a phone meeting by catching up on non-work things or emailing your colleague to ask about that amazing vacation is totally worth the extra effort!
(J) Read my blog article – How Do You Make Remote Work Arrangements Work? – for all of my tips and tricks on being a remote employee!
(B) Accept that working remotely is a privilege and treat it as such. I make myself more available and am more flexible with my schedule because of the time I save from having to commute.
(M) Working at home = Living at work. Try to set up boundaries so that you can mentally separate work time from personal/family time. You should have a devoted space that is only used for work, preferably with a door. Don’t bring anything into your workspace that you wouldn’t bring into the office (e.g., tv, kids). To the extent possible, try to leave your work in your workspace.
What is your daily work uniform? (Pictures featured below)
(A) When I’m not on a webcam for a client meeting, the grey blazer magically transforms into my favorite grey hoodie that I’ve had since high school.
(J) My work wardrobe generally consists of black yoga pants and a plain cotton shirt or tank top, and I keep a sweater in my office for warmth as well as to quickly get “dressed up” for video chats. In the winter, I basically live in my FMP 20th Anniversary half-zip fleece and my fuzzy moccasins.
(B) Typically, sweatpants and a t-shirt or a hoodie now that it’s cold. I keep a button down in my office closet for the times I’m on camera, but still rock the sweatpants!
(M) I tend to fall on the casual side of business casual, but I keep a nice shirt in my office for video conferences.
There we have it! A behind-the-scenes look into the work lives of our remote employees. Just as there are benefits and drawbacks to everything, our employees give us a realistic view of how flexibility operates best as a two-way street: FMP enables our remote employees to work from where they need to and across time zones, and in turn, they go the extra mile to keep us all feeling connected!
Is your organization thinking about implementing a telework policy, or struggling to make one you already have work? We have lots more advice to share. To learn more about FMP’s telework and flexible work arrangement program capabilities, visit our website or email BD@fmpconsulting.com. To reach out to the author directly, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.