As more companies are offering the option of working remotely, more employees are leaving the office behind. Senior Product Marketer Emma Wilhelm has worked remotely for six years, and she shared with us why she likes remote working and her advice for making it work.
What do you do and how long have you worked remotely?
I’m a growth marketer at GoDaddy, I work on our DIY website product. I have been working remotely full time for 6 years. I live in Minnesota, and my team is based in San Francisco.
Prior to GoDaddy, I worked for a startup that was 100 percent remote, and it was acquired by GoDaddy in 2014.
How remote is GoDaddy?
GoDaddy has several large offices. It’s remote friendly. They still encourage office culture, but when they find the right person for the role, they will hire remote. And as they have acquired companies, they have allowed those employees to stay on remote.
Because there are so many different offices working together, GoDaddy already has remote friendly practices like regular video conference calls. I work with people who are working out of the offices in Arizona, California, Washington, and Iowa, and many GoDaddy teams exist across these offices.
What drew you to your first remote position?
I was interested in working for a startup. I was in Minnesota where there aren’t as many opportunities for startups so remote expanded my options. The fact that the company I started working for was 100 percent remote did appeal to me.
In terms of introversion and extroversion, I’m in the middle so I was not totally sure I would like working from home. But it has proven to be a good thing for me.
So your main concern with starting to work remotely was you would be lonely?
Yes. In other jobs, I had work buddies who I would go for a run with at lunch, and that was a great way to bond with coworkers. So I was concerned I wouldn’t have that bonding while working out of the office.
What have you liked about being remote?
I like the flexibility. I keep normal office hours, but if something comes up that I need to handle, it is so much easier. For example, if you haven’t commuted to an office, it is easier to run to a doctor’s appointment. I also like the opportunity to get outside. I have dogs and I can take them for a walk, which is a nice way to break up the day.
Some offices that I have worked for in the past, there is a culture of needing to be in your seat at this time, and you can leave at this time. That’s often not how professionals work anymore.
I will often work on emails early in the morning before the day starts. I don’t think of work and home as separate as I did when I was based in an office. I sometimes work nights and weekends.
This doesn’t feel oppressive to me, as I can also handle appointments when I need. I value the fluidity.
What are the cons of remote work for you?
I think feeling like you are part of a cohesive team is more of a challenge. That might be easier when every person in the company is remote.
Can you tell me about the group you run for remote workers?
About 4 years ago, my friend Nikos, who had moved here from NYC, decided to put together a networking group for people who work from home. We live in a small town and he had kept his NYC-based job. He’s pretty social, and he wanted to have a group of people who work from home to socialize and strategize. He ended up getting a job that is only semi-remote, and he turned running the group over to me.
We meet at a local brewery every second Thursday. It’s not a huge group; our email list is maybe 30 people. But it’s nice because it’s familiar faces, and people do a wide range of things.
Some are entrepreneurs, and some are working for bigger companies. Everyone is really smart. It’s something I look forward to every month.
How do you find other remote workers?
Mostly word of mouth, and the brewery has put us on their public calendar. That is kind of cool.
What advice would you give to newcomers to the remote work lifestyle?
Be intentional about planning social time. I have a happy hour, and I also do regular peer remote “coffees” to talk about how things are going, and just build work friendships.
I would also recommend getting out of your house at least once a day. We have talked about winter in my happy group, and about how easy it is to go days without going outside.
I think a lot of people have misconceptions about working from home. I have never turned on the TV once. I try to be disciplined during the day. I don’t nap or do chores; that doesn’t work for me. But I think some people can successfully work those things into their day.
At my work-from-home happy hour, we were talking about how some people must be in their office to work. Personally, I like to move around my house, sometimes at the dining room table, sometimes on the couch. Sometimes people like to be in a coffee shop, but that doesn’t work for me because of all the video calls.
Sometimes if I need to get something done, like a piece of content, I will go to a coffee shop and put my head down.
Part of working remotely is finding out where and how you are more productive.
My biggest professional advice is if you want to continue to advance your career you have to be intentional about developing work relationships. Set up regular video calls, and take advantage of travel opportunities to meet with people in person and keep building relationships.
What advice do you have for companies to make remote work effective?
Provide the right tools for people to be successful. I love Slack and Zoom, and I’ve also used Skype for Business a bit. Empower people to connect faces to voices. Being on video calls are way better than just audio calls.
My other advice for employers is just to trust that hardworking people are going to do just as good of a job remotely as they will in an office. I think a lot of people are more productive at home. I hear a lot of people in offices say they stay home when they are on deadlines. It is possible to get a lot of work done remotely.
Have you found working remotely valuable as a working parent?
Yes. When I first tell people I work from home, they think I can be with my kids all day. Which is not true; I need to work. I have full-time childcare. But say they have a soccer game at 4:30. It’s a lot easier to go to that without the commute. And if someone is sick, it is easier to go pick them up from school quickly.
Just as remote work makes it easier to manage personal appointments, it makes it easier to manage activities and appointments with my kids. I can take my kids to the dentist and still get my work done, whether it is early or late in the day. Or maybe I’m literally working in the dental office waiting room.
Any other thoughts on remote work?
Once you start living this lifestyle, it’s hard to imagine going back to the office. If I ever go back to an office, I would hope I could maintain a certain degree of flexibility. Having that level of trust from my employer is like the difference between being in high school and college. I think it’s a much better model for adults to work under.
There’s a book called Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It that lays out the results-oriented work model. Whether you work at home or in an office, I really believe that’s the direction many companies should go. It’s all about the work you can accomplish, and as long as you can do that and build the relationships you need to meet your goals, your location matters less.