For those of you who don't already know, for about a year and a half I have been working remotely in Cleveland, while my job is still in NYC. My fiance was matched into the Cleveland Clinic for his Vascular Surgery Residency. Ultimately for the residency match, you don't know where you're going to end up until about 2 and a half months before your residency starts. It's called match day after you complete interviews where you open up a letter in a room with the rest of the medical school graduating class with everyone's families.... Needless to say when my fiance opened up his letter and it said Cleveland Clinic, I think I went into shock. Partly because I was beyond proud of him, but also because we then had 2 months to move...
If you are going through a situation where you need to now work remotely or you would like to work remotely but don't know how to go about doing it successfully, the below are things that I do on the regular. This will all and can be refined as you go through your own personal experience, but definitely some steps to follow if you don't know where to begin! I not only have been able to successfully keep my job, but I have also been promoted, and have moved up in my company as well.
The first thing I did when I got back into the office after match day, was I scheduled time with my boss. Luckily my boss was and still is an amazing human, and was extremely understanding of the situation. I already had great standing in my role, and was well trusted and respected which made this conversation easier. **That part is key. If I didn't have good standing already, my company never would have been open to this.
I went into the meeting setting expectations with my boss beforehand, to show I had thought this out, and came up with a solution to how this could all work out.
In the meeting, we discussed the below topics inclusive of information and examples I came prepared with to prove why it could work:
Travel Schedule - I had a breakdown of the amount of times I would realistically be able to come into the office. I had looked up flight fares and how far in advance I would need to book my flights for the cost to be reasonable enough for the company to pay - For me personally, I go into the office once and sometimes twice a month depending on what is going on at that time. I will stay for about 3 - 4 days each visit.
Goal Setting - I discussed with my boss my goals of what I would like to accomplish while working remotely as it pertained to my career growth. I voiced all of my concerns as to where I felt I would be limited in support, and what I may need in order to be successful with this process. I then opened up the discussion for my boss to provide feedback as far as what he would expect from me with a remote schedule. I wanted to ensure I was mindful of all pain points and what I needed to do to continue progressing in my career.
Communication - This is something I constantly push my team with, and am actively talking to them. I regularly do the below:
FaceTime into my meetings - this allows you to be able to read people when you're talking to them, as well as ensure everyone is engaged and not on their laptop/phones etc
Company chat technology - am available on this when I am working. I also have group chats setup for each different team I oversee. It allows me to stay up to date on what is going on even when I am not there physically
Documentation of meetings or next steps - I always have documentation after meetings to list out any next steps for myself, or for what people owe me.
Project Management System - it is always good to have a project management system that works for you. I personally use Trello for all of the different projects I am working on, as well as my to do lists. Some people like Asana, or Evernote, etc. Whichever works for you, do it because I think this is important regardless of if you are or are not working remotely - I also have a ridiculous amount of sticky notes. If something comes up, or I remember I need to notify someone of something, I just write it down so I don't forget.
Calendar Updates - Even though I am remote, I still put a notice on my boss and team's calendar if I have to leave early or start late due to a doctors apt, or take Bailey to the vet etc just like I would if I was in the office. You are still on regular work hours, so it's better to cover yourself, than be MIA and have it be seen as if you are taking advantage. This also helps build trust.
Being Present - that means more than just responding to emails, but being a hand raiser, speaking during meetings even though you may just be on the phone, working with teams when necessary etc. You can easily hide behind what is happening, but constantly being present makes people feel like you're not even absent.
Once I ran through the above with my boss and he approved, I then had a meeting with my teams explaining to them the situation and allowing for open discussion of questions, concerns etc. I also noted to my teams that I wanted regular feedback if they felt that I was not available enough or they felt my absence in a negative way. I luckily have yet to receive that feedback.
This next part is how to work remotely successfully being mindful of your home life. It can be extremely easy to blur work and life together when you work from home, so the below steps were very important for me to make sure I kept things separate.
Having your own space - we personally have a home office, because it is very important to be able to leave work when you are done and be present at home. For those of you who cannot have an office, you should still have a separate area where you keep all of your work things, and only be in that area while working. Once you close your laptop or shut your computer off, it means work is done, and you will not look at emails until the next day.
Setting Boundaries - This ties into the above. You need to make sure you set your boundaries. Not only for yourself, but also communicate your boundaries to your boss and team. I personally have a cut off time where I shut my laptop, and I turn off my work cell phone. Only a select few people from work have my personal cell phone number, and they only use it as an escalation point for emergency situations. My boss and team are aware of this, as otherwise I would literally just work all night and I would never be able to just be home and enjoying it. At first there were days where I would check my emails right when I woke up, I would rush to start working due to something coming up, and then all of a sudden it was 1pm, I hadn't eaten yet, and was still in pajamas....you must make sure to set boundaries with yourself, communicate them, and stick to them.
This also goes for your significant other. It's very easy for them to think you can just do whatever, or run errands etc because you're home. Have a very clear and direct conversation setting those boundaries and expectations initially to avoid pointless arguments. They need to understand that when you are working, it is actual work time and not home time. Just like you would when you shut your laptop to then switch into life mode.
Having a Routine - When I wake up in the morning I take Bailey for a walk (my dog!), I make sure I eat breakfast, then I will either journal, meditate, read, or do a morning yoga session. Afterwards I get ready and start my work day. As soon as I start work, I will
Review my to do list on Trello, and pick my top things I know I NEED to get done that day
Review my calendar to make sure I know all of the meetings I need to attend that day, am prepared for them, and then plan out my day
Your mindset is extremely important throughout this process. It is very easy to take advantage of this, and slack off/not do anything and see how long it takes for someone to notice. Believe it or not, someone will notice and you are not only hurting yourself, but you're hurting your team as well. I told myself that this would not impact my career, and that I would make the best out of this situation, and that is exactly what I have done. I have actually proved to be more productive when working from home, than when I was in the office every day. You just have to have discipline, self control, and determination to really make it work.
Yes working remotely could have potentially impacted my career at my company, but I was the one who would decide if it would impact it or not. I could have very easily made this process a miserable one and bitched about why this situation wasn't ideal, and made excuses to not be diligent about staying on top of things. But at the end of the day, I wanted to make it work, so I did.
Hope this was helpful for anyone going through this! It gets easier over time, I promise! Feel free to comment below on things that have or have not worked for you, or if anyone has questions!