How My Life Was Virtually Transformed
[Editor's Note: In these unprecedented times there's a lot of uncertainty out there - not knowing when places will re-open, conferences will be held, and when teams will be able to meet in person is stressful. While we don't claim to have the answers, and aren't medical experts who can state with authority when things will return to "normal", we know that we are resilient and we will get through it. What we can offer is some advice and tips in working remotely and managing remote teams as it is the very thing HighRoad has done since its inception many years ago. This post starts a series of articles where we hope to share insights, advice, tips and quite frankly, just some empathy as everyone struggles to find their "new normal" over the next several weeks.]
One year ago, I committed to supporting my parents as we navigated both a tragic disease and our nation’s complex healthcare system, while my mother stared death in the face. I struggled while also trying to balance a busy family life (with three boys in three different schools, a husband who traveled often for his job, and a dog) with the responsibility of working full time.
I found that technology allowed me to momentarily leave my mother’s hospital bedside and find a semi-private spot to take a call, negotiate a contract or demonstrate the awesome solution my company had to offer. I was able to be a significant revenue generator, problem solver and contributor, serving our clients and company, even when I couldn’t physically show up to the office. I was so grateful for the flexibility to be able to continue to commit to my job, while being a consistent advocate and comfort for my mom, easing the burden and worry overwhelming my father, who ended up needing his own healthcare and advocacy during this ordeal.
That said, my company was looking to become less flexible with remote work, and instead of valuing what I was accomplishing despite being in the midst of the most challenging moments of my life, prioritized physical presence and team-building over productivity made possible by flexibility.
At my core, I knew I could not miss a moment where my mother needed me, but I also resolved not to have to sacrifice moments where I would be needed as a mother for many years to come. The family guilt triumphed over the office guilt. I knew I needed to allow my company to shift gears, but without me. I was told by a mentor that the trend was that businesses were moving away from remote work and that finding such an opportunity would prove challenging.
Well, actually, this was one instance when the universe had my back. In fact, the day I acknowledged to my employer that I was no longer the right fit for their company culture, that I understood and respected the direction they wanted to go, was okay with it, grateful for the experience I’d had, and would help them find what they were looking for; I met my current boss for the first time over coffee.
I cannot tell you the relief I felt when I was granted the tremendous opportunity to work for a company with a remote culture, where I wasn’t stressed about being the one person not in the office. There is no physical office. Our entire company is virtual. Coincidentally, my new company is called HighRoad Solutions. Go figure.
Unfortunately, I lost my mother, and I was organizing her funeral the day I was to start my new job. The first flowers I received were from my new team. I was told to take an extra week. Best. Move. Ever.
I now find myself more focused, connected, supported, motivated and productive than ever before. I’m a wannabe tech nerd and get butterflies every time I’m introduced to a new application to add to my work day. But I have picked up some handy tips that I’m happy to share as more people start to set up their own home offices and connect with their virtual teams. So, here’s how I roll:
Team communication: Slack.
I have it linked to my Outlook calendar and have the app on my phone. We have a “water cooler” channel to share with each other personal moments and anecdotes throughout the work day, a “general” channel for communication with our whole company and various team channels. It’s a quick, easy way to connect internally and spontaneously.
Team and client connection: Zoom
I’m a people person and love to be able to see my prospects and my colleagues when we are meeting to discuss business needs. I value being able to record calls I can refer to later, so that I can focus on the present moment, rather than furiously trying to take notes or stressing about committing to memory every important detail. A visual learner as well as a former teacher, I love being able to share my screen and offer prospects and teammates a chance to see what we’re talking about. Zoom is linked with Slack, as is my Outlook, so I get meeting reminders and keep on top of the day’s commitments. I also have Zoom connected to my iPhone so that I can receive calls and attend meetings even if I don’t have access to wifi or am away from my computer.
Electronic communication and time management: Outlook
Our Outlook is linked with Slack and Zoom, so calendar reminders and meeting invites are easy to manage, as is communication and organization. Additionally, Outlook is linked to our CRM so tracking and logging important communication and notes is easy-peasey.
To say I love this tool, this company mission to help and to educate, is an understatement. I have a healthy mix of right and left brain tendencies and this tool speaks my love language. It’s integrated with Slack and Outlook and keeps me on top of my prospects and pipeline. I’ve embraced their online and live virtual learning opportunities and devour the helpful content offered to partners. I get reminders in my Slack about tasks and I have no choice but to be organized!
File system and Co-working: Dropbox and Dropbox Paper
Again- integrated with Slack, so simple to share and communicate internally. Having a solid system of organization is important when there are many fingers in the pot, so think ahead about how you want this to look and start as you mean to go on. I used the Google suite at my last job and loved how we could all work on the same document without creating multiple versions, so Paper allows the HighRoad team to collaborate in this way as well.
The shift from the structure an office environment naturally provides, to the need to create my own rhythm to my days came more easily than I expected. I consistently “show up” on time and get into a zone, blocking out the distractions that could come from being at home. Even my dog has accepted that I am not here to be her playmate and that it’s still pretty boring around here during the work day. That said, I do try to make time for breaks and take her for a quick walk around the block, throw in a load of laundry, run a quick errand, and eat.
I am not sitting around in my pj’s eating bon bons and running to yoga classes. I’m working really hard to produce for my company, solve for my clients, and provide for my family. I do love that I am able to greet my son for a hug and quick check-in when he gets off the bus. I love that I can work from a hotel while I’m out of town for a kid’s sporting event or college visit. I appreciate that when the time comes and my dad and my in-laws need care that I may be able to be with them physically without having to sacrifice a job I enjoy.
HighRoad has been figuring out how to run a company with employees all over the country for years. If there is something I can share or do for you to be helpful during this indefinite “new normal,” I would be honored. “Normal” virtual life prior to COVID-19 allowed me to prepare for an unpredictable and unprecedented moment in time, such as now. While I do not love having to cancel in-person events and Starbucks runs with clients and prospects, the Starbucks runs still happen, they are just virtual. Keep your meetings if you can. Still buy that cup of coffee via an e-gift card. Set up your workspace, do your hair, turn your camera on and stay connected. Hang a birdfeeder outside your window and enjoy the company. Help your constituents continue to plan for their business needs, but get creative with timing and invoicing and communication.
My remote work culture laid the groundwork for me to be ready to “homeschool” when schools shut down, help my friend find creative ways to show her dance students that “the show must go on” when her studio closed temporarily, and keep my kids and their grandparents connected even as we must keep our distance, all while continuing to conduct “business as usual.”
We are literally ALL in this together. We’ve got you. You’ve got this. If you are in charge of generating revenue despite the current state of affairs and want to work with us to figure out strategies and solutions together in the era of social distancing, we are happy to connect, listen and share. Please grab your favorite cup and join us for a virtual happy hour. Cheers, My Friend!
About Larissa Bateman
Larissa Thurston Bateman has a passion for helping her clients understand the most effective ways to use new technologies to advance their business. Her varied professional background in digital marketing, education, technology, and the arts, combined with her genuine interest in people, uniquely equips her to work alongside clients as they strategize for the future. She brings curiosity, confidence, and an eye for problem solving to every business relationship.