Liz McGrory Works Remotely
Founder Fulltime Remote Worker Freelancer Self-Employed
How and why did you start working remotely?
The first time I worked remotely I was working for my previous company and I was at the end of my pregnancy. I couldn’t believe how much work I got done when I was home, plus how good it felt to be *so* pregnant and still being able to work up until I literally left for the hospital.
After my third child was born I left my corporate job to focus on my business and a year later I became a freelance writer for About.com as their Working Mom Expert. I am able to support working moms because I’m not deep in the trenches stuck to a schedule! I’m unsure how I could be there for my clients without the flexibility that I have.
My writing job has been amazing because I am a one-person show guided solely by the numbers. I have very little interaction and guidance from the company and am free to write about what I want.
In my previous corporate job, I worked as a senior technical support engineer. My schedule was done for me each week and was cut up in 30-minute chunks of time on an Excel sheet. I will never again live 40 hours a week by an Excel sheet. Working remotely with such great flexibility is what I had wanted for a very long time.
Most importantly, I am more present for my family now more than ever. I have three children with some special needs and special dietary needs. I feel like my choice to work remote has made my family a happier one.
What advice would you give someone considering a remote job?
Change is scary, but I’ve learned that when something scares you it’s a signal you’re meant to go for it. Create goals that will get you that remote job and start working toward them to distract you from the fear.
Imagine what your lifestyle would look like if you were to work from home. If you can’t imagine it then you have some decisions to make. What changes would you need to make in your life so that working remotely is possible? This vision will work nicely with the goals I recommended before.
Last, get real clear on your personal and professional values and priorities. When things come into question, it’s a time and energy waster to hem and haw over a decision. When you work remotely, time is precious, especially if your schedule is flexible. Every minute counts so you can’t afford to use it and your energy on being uncertain. Your values and priorities are what dictate your choices and help you balance your work and your personal life.
How did you convince your company to let you work remotely?
When I worked from home in my corporate job they loved that I’d work instead of calling in sick, so luckily, no, I didn’t have to convince them.
What are the biggest benefits to working remotely?
I feel competent, which is a big value for me. I feel competent because I’m getting my job done the way I want to like my job as a business owner as well as a working mom. Another benefit is that I’m proud of the way I’m living my life! This has been such a big dream for a long time and I’m finally doing it. I feel like a high-functioning mom because I can be taking care of my family and working in a way that suits me.
What are the greatest challenges to working remotely?
If I am not organized it’s easy to get overwhelmed. I can feel when it’s happening and have learned that in that moment, whatever is going on, I need to admit I’m in over my head and I need to regroup. There’s no one to tell you that on a daily basis when you work remotely. You are your own boss with goals you need to hit.
It can also get a bit lonely working remotely. I’ve had to find ways to get socialized to satisfy that need to connect with others so that I can continue to grow personally and professionally.
How do you avoid becoming distracted when working remotely?
At the beginning of the week, in my paper calendar (I use an online one as well, but love paper) I transfer data from my monthly calendar to my weekly one. I also need to write a list of assignments. That list may have follow-ups I need to do or writing assignments with how many days or weeks I have left.
Also, when I find that I am distracted I ask myself why. Am I procrastinating for a reason? Maybe I just need a movement break so that I can regain my focus. Becoming emotionally intelligent has helped me immensely in keeping the focus on my priorities.
What is a remote work pain point, and how do you address it?
I miss the water bubbler conversations. To overcome this I used Meetup.com to find women entrepreneurs to network with. I’ve also joined associations to be in touch with people with a similar background to mine. Social media helps as well, but nothing beats face-to-face interactions.
What gear can't you work remotely without?
- My laptop bench. I store tools in it plus my glasses.
- My paper calendar (it’s where I have my weekly priorities I need to accomplish, plus my calendar)
What apps or websites can't you work remotely without?
- My online scheduling calendar, Timetrade
Do you work from a home office? How is it organized?
I do but it’s very minimalist. I try to work paper-free so that’s one less organizational task I need to care for. I have a desk with my laptop, laptop bench (in case I’m on the couch), smartphone, iPad, and an organizational bin. In the bin, I keep my paper calendar, any paperwork that needs attention, folders, magazines I use for research (like Working Mother magazine), and other office supplies.
What’s the hardest part about working with a traditional team while you’re remote?
Written communication is super critical to your success. People can read between the lines, misunderstand you, or assume things. The more proper your manners are, the better. Keeping your communication clear, concise, and short is important, otherwise when people skim your email (because that’s what they do initially) they miss your point.
Then there is when you misunderstand someone else because they weren’t clear. So much time and energy can be wasted on assumptions, so it’s worked for me, in life and in work life, to avoid assuming things until you get the concept or point of an email of conversation. I’ve learned to stay curious and keep asking questions until things are really clear to me. When you work remotely you can’t be afraid to ask questions or say, “I don’t know.”
What’s the best way to find a remote job?
Keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities. That’s how I found out about the my job. I was part of a working mom bloggers Facebook group and someone posted the job was available. If it wasn’t for me being active in that group I wouldn’t have learned about the opportunity.
What does your remote company do?
I offer coaching services for working moms who want a better work/life balance. I also write for About.com as their working mom expert.
Would you consider returning to a traditional office job, or are you remote for life?
Hands down, remote for life.
How has working remotely impacted your career plans?
When I started working remotely full time I made a career change, so it acutely impacted my career plans (for the better).
How do you stay connected with your local community?
My children are my connection to my local community. Through them, I’ve met other moms in the area that I enjoy hanging out with. Facebook and Instagram keep me in touch with what’s going on in their life and their kid’s lives.
My remote and flexible schedule has also allowed me to volunteer for PTO activities. Being in touch with the school system makes me feel my children are safe and cared for.
How do you stay connected to your professional community virtually?
LinkedIn groups and Facebook groups have helped me grow professionally. I’ve also set up phone calls with some of the people in these groups to form a deeper connection. It’s been great!
How has your remote job impacted your life outside of work?
I feel less stressed. I used to have these aches in-between my shoulder pains, they are gone. My complexion didn’t use to be great, now it’s clear. One of my eyes used to twitch often, although you couldn’t see it, but now I don’t experience that anymore. Working remotely has been a game changer for me.
How has working remotely impacted your family life?
If it wasn’t for my remote work I wouldn’t be able to be there for all the needs my family has. Remote work has been the reason why my family is as happy as they are. If I wasn’t around as much as I am we wouldn’t be in a good spot.
How do you manage work life integration?
I’ve learned to let things go a bit. Sometimes I’ll be in the middle of a great thought about work at the end of the day when the kids start to come home. I’ve learned that once the kids come home they must be the priority; otherwise, I just get frustrated that I can’t keep working. On the flip side, I’ve let the housework go more because when the kids are gone my work has to be my priority. The laundry can always wait.
How do you stay physically active while working remotely?
We got a puppy! She’s my reason to get out and go for a quick or long walk. Yes, it’s another responsibility, but she calms me down and gets me outside for movement breaks.
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