FSFP started as a virtual company in 2007 — and 15 years in, we’ve sure learned a lot working remotely.
To celebrate our 15-year anniversary this month, we asked some of our team members for their thoughts on remote work, and they didn’t disappoint. Working remotely is ingrained into our company culture, and we hope you can learn a tip or two from us!
1. We look for ways to interject fun and show our personalities at work.
We rely heavily on Slack and Zoom, and these are where a lot of our fun happens. We add virtual tacos (Slack emojis) to messages when we acknowledge co-workers who deserve praise. And we share pictures of our pets and other tidbits from our lives in our #water-cooler channel on Slack and in our Zoom backgrounds.
Some of our other community-building ideas include:
- We invite a co-worker to a virtual coffee break or lunch where we talk over Zoom while we drink our fave brew or eat lunch at home.
- We recognize everyone’s birthdays on Slack.
- We ask people to share a pic of their pets and, soon, we plan to ask people to show off their hobbies on Slack.
- Earlier this year, we did a “two truths and a lie” game on Zoom where we tried to see how much our teammates knew about each other.
2. Working from home may look different than expected and each day brings something new.
FSFP’s Angie Prior says, “The #1 success criteria to me is being flexible and open. Working remotely can save time and the planet. No hours are spent commuting and vehicle and gas expenses disappear. Remote work also supports a flexible schedule — valuable when spanning multiple time zones (across both our clients and colleagues.) It’s important to take breaks, move your body, stretch, take a short walk or call a friend! And make sure you have an ergonomically correct office setup.”
3. Having a dedicated space to work each day is key.
Whether it’s a home office or a designated desk, have a space where only work is done. FSFP’s Teri Hinds has some tips: “Depending on your living space, it may be tempting to tuck your workspace away in a corner or set your desk facing a wall, but I found that I need something other than my monitors to draw my eyes up and away throughout the day. I’m lucky that my desk is in front of a big window. I have several plants on a hanging shelf I can see just above my screens and a bird feeder hanging outside. It’s a great way to make sure I give my eyes a break throughout the day!”
4. We don’t have to be in the same building to develop meaningful connections with teammates.
As we come out of the pandemic, some business leaders are telling their staff that coming back into the office will facilitate more meaningful connections. Kelle O’Neal, FSFP’s founder and CEO, says that notion doesn’t match her experience working with a remote team for 15 years: “You can connect in a meaningful way with teammates and clients virtually. We do it every day.” Kelle says it’s as simple as thinking about the types of conversations you’d have in person — asking, How was your weekend? or How’s your daughter getting along in college? — and doing the same with remote teammates or clients.
5. Maintaining strong relationships with our clients isn’t hampered by working remotely — those VIP connections are actually enhanced.
FSFP’s Bob Gifford has a unique work-from-home story — he decided to move across the world while continuing his work as a consultant. He says, “While the COVID-19 pandemic was horrible in so many ways, one thing it showed us is that we can conduct very successful consulting projects without being onsite with the client. I can have strong relationships with clients and colleagues whom I have never met in person. This led me to make a big decision. My girlfriend is Romanian, so we decided to move to Bucharest to be close to her family. I can still consult with clients in the U.S. remotely, just as I have for the past two years while choosing to live where I want to live. FSFP has been wonderful in allowing me this freedom to work from a home on the other side of the world.”
6. There are many tools that make remote work work for us (Slack, a personal tool, etc.).
We use Slack to message one another during the day. Some of us connect our Outlook calendar to Slack to show when we’re in a meeting. To keep our priorities top of mind, many of our data management consultants choose to use Todoist or other task-tracking tools to stay organized. Whatever the tool, they certainly help us be as effective as possible while working from home.
7. Daily WFH (work from home) routines are helpful and they bookend the start and end of our day.
Waking up at the same time each day and shutting down the computer at the end of the day can help with time management and work/life balance.
8. We make sure to take the occasional break, going for a walk or running to the USPS before the 5 p.m. rush.
Some of us spend a few hours working from a (quiet) coffee shop or other location to change up the WFH routine. FSFP’s Callie Kinnan appreciates a change in scenery: “I started going on walks during the pandemic, and it’s something I love to continue to do. It really helps me think. Some days, I’ll walk to my local café/bookstore and work from there for a while. A walk and a change of location sometimes help me solve a problem or think about things in a new way.”
9. Schedule meetings to be 25 or 50 minutes long, so you (and who you’re meeting with) can have a short break to stretch your legs, get a snack, etc.
This is an FSFP best practice and it ensures we have a few minutes to take a breather and prepare for the next meeting.
10. We find we’re more productive working remotely without the usual in-person office distractions.
FSFP’s Chadia Mugisha prefers having control over her environment. She says, “I know working remotely is not for everyone, but it is the best fit for me as someone who is highly sensitive to stimulation. Research on the topic shows that highly sensitive people thrive when they are given the flexibility to minimize stimulation (noise, light, rush) in their work environment. Working remotely allows me to be productive in that the energy that would otherwise be spent on commutes/travels or office activities is spent on the work at hand.”
11. WFH doesn’t have to be a permanent choice for you.
It might be something you do for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Collectively here, we all enjoy it. Depending on your stage in life and work style, working from home can be a temporary arrangement that fills a specific need at that time in your work or family life.
12. Distractions (kids, dogs, Amazon deliveries, significant others asking a question) are inevitable, and we don’t let those things stress us out.
Stepping away from our desk for a moment to attend to something important only takes moments out of the day and it’s WFH business as usual now. “One of the many things the pandemic taught us,” says FSFP’s Melanie Deardorff, “is to be accepting of interruptions. What used to be seen as an awkward, even annoying, moment — like when a baby starts crying and interrupts an important conference call — is acceptable and even expected now. And I’m so glad we’re collectively more understanding around situations like this.”
13. We find better work/life balance working remotely but still have to remind ourselves that working evenings or weekends shouldn’t be the norm.
Teri appreciates the flexibility and doesn’t mind the occasional late night. “There are inevitably some days where my brain is foggy or my focus is more scattered than I need it to be for the project at hand,” she says. “Knowing I have the option to walk away (assuming I won’t miss any client meetings!) can be a huge relief. Coming back in the evening or on the weekend is sometimes much more efficient and less stressful than trying to bully myself through a low-focus moment.”
14. With more people working from home these last two years, the practice is now more widely accepted — and that leveling of the playing field has been interesting for us to see.
When we started as a remote company in 2007, we were more of a rarity for a consulting firm. We sometimes had to fight for legitimacy in some people’s eyes. Now, it’s great to see other organizations working remotely and thriving!
15. Working from home is an adjustment, but it doesn’t have to be a difficult one!
Some of us never worked from home before we came to FSFP. The learning curve isn’t a steep one, thankfully. Now, we couldn’t imagine not being remote.
We hope our list of 15 things inspires you to try something new as you WFH — or interact with people who do.