Monthly Archives: May 2016

Summer Scramble

Do you have mixed feelings about summer, too? I look forward but also dread summer. I look forward to a looser schedule and my kids having fewer sports activities and less school work. This means extra time with the kids and vacations.

At the same time, I dread the fact that the kids could be screaming while I am presenting to my VP, or that as soon as I finish work, they will want to go out while I just want to go to bed or at least for 20 quiet minutes (my version of a commute).

Yes, the kids will go to summer camp, but there’s a break two weeks before summer camp begins in June and two weeks before school starts in August.

We need a game plan that will work for us. Here are some options:

Take a vacation: One option is to a take a vacation during these weeks, which leaves no vacation left for the rest of the year. Not the ideal solution.

Get a sitter: If kids are younger, this will help a lot. If they are older, this may not work as well—they already seem to have found their babysitter anyway: technology!

Library: Every summer, the first thing we do after school ends is to go to the library to stock up on books and sign up for their reading program. With online access to library books, we don’t even need to do that if our schedule is restrictive.

Restrict technology: This is the hardest one, but I am trying out imposing a rule of 1.5 hours of tech time daily, then finding other things to do.

Projects: Find projects for them to do. Clean out last school year’s papers and save the important awards and documents. Organizing may not be fun for them, but if you do it together and play some music, it may help.

Education: It is critical to keep the kids engaged with math and reading during the summer to avoid summer learning loss. Here are some tips from Edutopia.

Despite all the challenges, remember to spend at least nine minutes daily to connect with your children. If you have any other ideas, please share.

How to Fit in Exercise While You Work Remotely

Exercise is the first thing I give up when I get busy, even though I know that it should be the last thing I should give up when I am stressed.

Here are some tips I am trying to implement to ensure I get the exercise I need:

Put it on your calendar: I had heard this suggestion many times, so I put it on my calendar, but I just continued to pass on it. So, I started using Google Goals, which helps me take the first step and get up! Once I am up, I walk away to take a break or take a walk.

Brainstorm: See what works with your schedule and your family’s schedule. I like to exercise in the mornings, but that is also the busiest time at work, so I found another option: during the kids’ afterschool activities. This schedule has another benefit—the “mom guilt” is less, because I am not taking away my time with them. Instead, I’m doing my thing while they are doing their thing!

Fit it in: Whenever you can. Do a 7-minute workout during your break or walk while the kids are at practice. They practice, and I walk. I walk with other moms, which gives me a chance to have some human interactions. Connecting face-to-face is critical as a remoter.

Use the weekends: Weekends can be just as busy as the weekdays, but there are pockets of time when I know I can fit in some exercise or meditation. Try diligently to stick with that.

Go for a hike: Make this a family activity. It will teach the kids the value of both exercise and nature. HikeItBaby is a great resource for finding hikes in your area.

I hope these tips help you, too. If you have additional suggestions, please share.

How to Showcase Your Work When You Work Remotely

Perception: Since you are remote, you are sitting in your PJs watching daytime TV.

Reality: Since you are working remotely, you work harder and longer.

Here are a few tips that will help you make the case that you do work:

Have regular meetings with your manager: Set up a weekly one-on-one meeting on your manager’s calendar. I usually set these up for the whole year once at the beginning of our fiscal year.

Send a weekly status update: I also provide a detailed agenda before our meeting, listing everything I accomplished for the week and the status on all the projects I am currently managing. If there are additional documents that I need to review, I add those to the same e-mail. Weekly status emails have worked very well for my manager and me. It helps us stay focused weekly, and gives my manager a good idea of how I am spending my time.

Have weekly meetings with your team: If you are the lead of a project, set these meetings up six months at a time. If you are part of a team, ensure you provide status updates during these meetings. Updates provide your team members visibility into where you are spending your time and lead to more interactions, which you need as a virtual employee.

Create a timeline: If you like MS Project as much as I do, go ahead and put all your key tasks into MS Project and share them with your manager and team members. I also use MS Project as a tool to stay on track with my tasks and to see the information in a helpful format. The capability to make multiple changes also works well for me. If you are not a fan of MS Project, use other tools, such as MS Excel or Calendar, to keep track of your tasks.

Have face-to-face meetings: Meet with teammates and management face-to-face on a regular basis. Set up project review meetings with your management to share your work or ask for help if you do not see progress on your project. I have learned that when you present face-to-face, they not only hear your words, but also see your passion and that you are productive. Seeing your work ensures them that they made the right decision to let you work remotely.

Build relationships: I am an introvert, so this one is challenging for me, but I know that it is important. I have a few close friends who are also my colleagues. I stay in touch with them via chat, e-mail, and phone calls. I set up lunch, dinner, or movie dates with them when I am in the same city as them. We connect face-to-face and have the girl talk that all women need! Introvert, Dear is a great website to help you if you are an introvert.

Share information: Be the Subject Matter Expert (SME) on what you do and exchange information with your teammates. Sharing restates that you are good at what you do, and that you read and keep up with new trends within your job responsibilities.

A Proposal for Working Remotely

Asking to go remote is more intimidating than asking for a raise. I had to practice and lay out the details before making the case to go remote. Telecommuting is a way of life now, but is mostly restricted to newer organizations. If you work for a larger firm, they may see it as a privilege and may be selective about who gets to work remotely. Here are some pointers that may help you:

Have a valid reason: If your organization is conservative, you may not be able to move just because you don’t like the city or because you want to work in your PJs every day! Have a valid reason and supporting documentation. If it is a job-related move for your family members, then have additional information to share; if it is a move to be closer to family or kids in college, discuss your personal priorities.

Create a document: Document the details for your benefit. This may also be an HR requirement for your organization.

Here are a few items you can include in your proposal:

– Trial period: If your manager is apprehensive about you working remotely, then add a trial period to your contract. Ensure that they are comfortable with the duration of the trial and other details. Set a date to have an evaluation at the end of the trial period, and ask for feedback on a regular basis. Even after working remotely for six years, I still check in with my manager every six months on how I am doing, and if there are any issues with me being remote.

– Work Location: Decide if you will be working from home all week or if you will be going into an office location in a new city.

– Work hours: This is a hard one, but you need to set core work hours with your manager that align with the HQ core hours. Setting core hours is especially important if you are moving to a different time zone. Be diligent about maintaining those hours on your end for your sanity and work-life harmony. Yes, work-life harmony, because work-life balance is unachievable! Read more here.

– Office set-up: Make sure that you have a separate office space at your new residence. Check with your firm if they will provide you with the technology, office furniture, internet access, and supplies. Knowing what the organization is going to pay for will help you choose the right options, budget financially for your out-of-pocket expenses, and plan your shopping list for IKEA–they have great options, including a standing desk.

– Travel requirement: Check how much traveling you will need to do once you move. Does your management want you to go to the HQ every six months, once every year, or more often? Check on who will cover the travel expenses. If travel expense will be an out-of-pocket expense for you, account for this in your budget. Having an additional cost may be a contributing factor when you make the decision to work remotely.

– Job responsibility: List your job responsibilities in this document again, even if you know them and have an agreement with your manager. Check about promotional opportunities once you go remote. If you want to advance in your career and moving away distances you from that option, you may want to reconsider or have a plan to ensure you have other ways to grow professionally—this is critical, and I learned it the hard way.

Now, use this Proposal to work remotely template and ask for what you know will work best for you!

Let’s Start a Movement, Telecommuters!

We need a movement to end the isolation that comes with working from home. Let’s start a weekly walk with other telecommuters in your community. By doing so, you will be able to walk and talk about your challenges and solutions—what better way to connect?

Here is a great infographic about isolation and how to overcome it.

I’ve started a walk in Henderson, NV. If you would like to start a walk in your community, please send me an e-mail at info@telecommuterstalk.com.