Remote Work Life vs. In-Office
Lauren is the founder and “Chief Marketing Nerd” at Coastal Consulting, a marketing automation agency that focuses on HubSpot and Salesforce integration solutions. Being in the consulting space, Lauren was an early advocate (pre-COVID) of the remote, work-from-home culture. At the start of this chat, she shared how remote work life significantly changed her quality of life.
“I’ve been working remotely for three to four years now, and it was a big game-changer for me. I’m a dog mom of two dogs. I also have a cat. It’s been life-changing for them to have me at home all the time. My fiancé also works from home. That’s what comes to mind first when I think about quality of life.
“I think work should be something that fits into your life, not vice versa. Remote work life makes that more possible.
“Companies that choose to allow a work-from-home environment and a remote work-life environment show they’re prioritizing their employees’ well being. Not many jobs in B2B technology need to have somebody sitting at a desk where you can see them all day. The cost savings of eating lunch out or driving to work, the mental tax from sitting in traffic, and the environmental impact of everyone driving their cars every day add up. All of these things can create a negative employee experience before they step foot in the office.”
Not everyone embraces the remote employment that was necessary at the height(s) of the pandemic. I can think of a few people who made it very clear throughout my career that office interactions were essential to upward mobility. Unfortunately, some bosses don’t trust people to work efficiently unless they’re sitting within eyeshot. The old mentality that people have to be in an office to be productive is dwindling with all of the research coming out, but some are tenaciously clinging to the old mindset.
“Unless you’re directly interfacing with people–for example, a teller at a bank, a fast-food employee, or a server at a restaurant–a lot of professions are embracing the flexibility that comes with remote work.
“There are so many professions that only require a computer and an internet connection. The mental benefits far outweigh any concerns I have about not being in an office. Being in your home environment is the most comfortable place for most people. Obviously, some people aren’t comfortable in their own homes, but that’s a separate issue. We’re able to create a company culture that encourages the team to be in their houses, wake up, and come to work when they’re feeling their best.
“Some people need a couple of extra hours of sleep or the flexibility to work earlier or later than others. Having the ability to take a 5-minute break on your couch changes your day and creates a better workspace.
“We’ve all gotten to the office and had a poor experience on the way in. If someone’s rude to you on the elevator, it throws your whole day off. The things that drove me up the wall were when someone chewed gum in the cube next to me, ate their lunch loudly, or brought something to eat that smelled terrible. Some people can’t focus when someone in their cube makes and receives phone calls all day.
“If you’re working in marketing automation or tech building structures and systems, these jobs demand a lot of concentration. I can’t do my job well when I’m distracted by conversations. It greatly impedes productivity.
“When I worked in an office, I struggled to get things done every day. Now that I work from home, even though I sometimes struggle with the remote work life balance because I’m a workaholic, I get so much done in a day.
“I also feel the ability to connect, be myself, and be engaged on video. Being introverted, I used to worry about how I was sitting. If somebody’s walking by, I would worry about whether I looked my best today. Was I behaving correctly from a presence perspective? That’s something many female co-workers and I routinely struggle with in an office. Now, you can just see this little box of me on the screen, and I can choose how I look and be prepared for a time slot and not be worried about other perception factors that come with working in an office.”
Avoiding Burnout Without Sacrificing Productivity
Many studies on the topic have shown that remote work life boosts productivity. However, it’s also forcing people to manage employees with time management issues (whether it’s working too much or getting distracted too easily) a bit differently. Lauren has experienced a wide range of challenges and offered her perspective.
“My team is by design a very diverse group. I look at different people on my team as a sort of different manifestation of qualities I have as I manage them. I like to look at it through that lens and ask, ‘How would I help myself when I’m in that mindset?’
“One of my team members is a mother of four children. She’s an amazing mom. It’s awesome watching her being a mom who works from home and juggles four kids that are under three and still handle all that. Her time management is a totally different game than mine. I have so much respect for her. She has to manage priorities today and know what must be done.
“My expectations of her aren’t that she sits down at 8 am, then gets up for a 30-minute lunch, and then works some more until 5 pm. That’s completely unrealistic for anyone, much less someone who has small children at home.
“Helping her with time management has been a huge growth challenge for me because I schedule blocks on my calendar to get things done. I have the freedom and flexibility in my life to do that. But for her, it’s different. She has environmental factors, and she’s creative. She’s in our marketing department. So her productivity and sequence of delivery aren’t necessarily as linear as someone who is building systems.
“We talked about productivity as a team this week. Toxic productivity is a thing, and we’d like to redefine productivity. She shared that she’d had a day where she didn’t get anything checked off on her to-do list. Instead, she came up with ideas about campaigns, which were still productive.
“It’s important to me to adapt to each person on my team. I need to look at how their job is structured–how success is measured–then adjust my time management expectations accordingly.
“Conversely, I have an employee who is very similar to me in how he operates. He struggles with picking the best solution. He has many ideas, and he struggles with time management.
“I challenged him to say, ‘Okay, here are three tasks, and I’ve got 30 minutes to get them done.’ Whenever you set a timer, it makes you decide faster. We can do many things to solve a problem, but if we have 30 minutes to get everything done, we need to select the best solution to implement quickly. I don’t want him to do all his work in a 30-minute timeframe because there’s a time and place for considering options.
“As you can see, the way I coach time management is very different from one person to the next.”
A team must manage distractions. But what about the high performers who don’t know when to shut off? Coaching high performers to avoid burnout is essential. Lauren shared her insights on preventing her team from falling into that trap.
“It’s the hardest thing I do because I feel like the biggest hypocrite on the subject. I’ve challenged myself this year to stop using the excuse that it’s my company, so it’s okay to work 80 hours a week. I’ve realized that it’s a cop-out. It’s indeed my company, and I have to work harder than others. However, I can’t sacrifice everything else in my life for work.
“I’m getting better at setting that boundary.
“As for enforcing that for the team, I hire top performers. I hire people who are passionate about what we do. I think that passion breeds people who want to work more. So I thought to myself if I’m going to hire more people who love what they do and want to keep doing it, how do I put in place a safeguard to prevent them from becoming workaholics?
“I put a few things in place. One, all of my team members are eligible for overtime. They’re all salaried, but they’re eligible for overtime. So that’s a financial safeguard to force me to ask for boundaries. If people work 60 hours a week, it’s expensive! After 40 hours, I tell them they’re done for the week and to enjoy their lives. I think there have been two or three weeks throughout the company’s lifespan we’ve paid overtime.
“Two, I’m online before and after my team logs on and off. I ping them and say it’s time to go live their life. If they have something urgent, we’ll talk about it, and then I’ll help them finish it. If it isn’t urgent, it can wait until tomorrow. Make dinner for your spouse, spend time with your kids, or watch Netflix.
“I usually get the response, ‘Okay, well you do that too.’ That’s been so helpful for me to have my team help hold me more accountable. We’re all getting better at finding balance together.”
Reversing Corporate Conditioning In the Remote Work-Life Culture
Lauren spoke about a need for “reverse conditioning” teams who come from the typical corporate culture.
“This is one of my favorite topics. Part of my founder’s journey was reading the book Untamed by Glennon Doyle early in 2021. The book starts with an analogy of a cheetah in a cage at a zoo. When we’re young, we have no limitations. We view the world as an endless adventure and don’t feel afraid of anything. We don’t have any preconceived notions. As we get older, we learn to get used to the box that we’re put in.
“As an adult, that cheetah at the zoo doesn’t remember they should be running in the desert. We get so comfortable in the box that we forget our potential.
“I think men at work have a bad rap. The saying is that men assume that women are there to take notes in meetings. Men have the reputation of becoming controlling and aggressive. I think it’s a conditioned behavior. Whenever someone graduates from college, they go into the workplace and lack any notion of what work will look like. From day one, people are being trained on being an employee at the company. From the time we’re children to the time we die, we mirror or imitate what we see receive a positive response.
“If you look up and see the aggressive one is the one who got promoted, you start building an internal narrative that you need to be aggressive to get ahead. If we’re pushy, we’ll make more money. We’re a product of our environment and conditioned to behave a certain way.
“New employees also hear they’re being too strategic. ‘You need to be more tactical.’ Which I believe is code for ‘Your ideas are threatening to me. I want you to be smaller. You should talk less in meetings, You’re not communicating well, or I really am not interested in hearing your ideas today.’
“We internalize the soundbites from managers or other authority figures. It speaks to our self-worth. Whether it’s right or wrong to internalize, it makes all of us wonder if we’re not intrinsically worthy.
“Once you have those soundbites playing in your mind, it makes it really hard to be in a work environment and feel worthy.
“When people start working for Coastal Consulting, I start to figure out what they’ve been told and what they’ve internalized about themselves. Then it’s my job to figure out how to reverse condition them into believing in themselves.”
For more on developing a positive work environment, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.