Theresa Cramer Works Remotely
Fulltime Remote Worker Employee
How and why did you start working remotely?
I started at EContent in 2008 and we always had a small, satellite office. As our numbers dwindled, so did the reasons to have an office. First I started working from home on Fridays—then I became the editor of the magazine during a particular bad winter in New England. I was lucky if I could get out of my driveway and to the office once or twice a week. I started to realize I didn’t need to be near the office and started thinking about moving closer to friends and family. Eventually we closed the office—which was down to two people—and just started working from home full time.
What advice would you give someone considering a remote job?
It’s not for everyone. Not only do you need to be disciplined enough to sit down and get your work done without anyone looking over your shoulder, you need to know you can deal with spending your days alone (most of the time). Also, get a dog. They force you to get up from the desk and stretch your legs.
How did you convince your company to let you work remotely?
It was a fairly natural progression. Even when we had an office, it was so small and removed from the company’s main office that it was a lot like working from home. I kept slippers under my desk, and would bring my cats to work once in awhile. Eventually it just came down to numbers. There were two of us in an office—and most of the time we were not both there—and we didn’t even work on the same products. It no longer made sense to pay rent for that space.
What are the biggest benefits to working remotely?
For me it’s about quality of life and the quality of my work. I try to work a normal 9-to-5 schedule, but if I’m feeling a bit foggy at 3 p.m. I can take a break and come back to my work later, and I think I do a better job because of that freedom. If I’m having a slow day, I can take an extra long walk with the dog or putter in the garden instead of staring out an office window (or distracting a coworker with idle chit-chat).
What are the greatest challenges to working remotely?
I’m not sure I find anything challenging about it—other than occasionally having to explain to someone that working from home doesn’t mean I don’t work.
Do you keep a regular remote work schedule? What is it?
More or less. I try to stick to 9-to-5 because my copy editors, designers, and sales people all work that schedule. But I also realize I can head to a doctor’s appointment or write a column at night on the couch if I need to. I also do some freelance work, and having a flexible schedule helps me fit that in.
How do you avoid becoming distracted when working remotely?
I don’t. I have no problem getting up and throwing in a load of laundry or vacuuming in the middle of the afternoon when I need a break from the computer. Just like when I was in an office I’d get up and walk around and talk to my coworkers.
What is a remote work pain point, and how do you address it?
Even when we had an office, accessing the server at our company’s main office was always an issue for us. Once Dropbox came on the scene file transfer became infinitely more easy.
Do you use coworking spaces? What are the best ones?
I’ve thought about it, but I enjoy having my dog under the desk and not getting stuck in commuter traffic so I’ve never pulled the trigger.
What gear can't you work remotely without?
- A good chair
- A desk calendar
What apps or websites can't you work remotely without?
- Google Docs
Do you work from a home office? How is it organized?
Yes, and I’ve been obsessed with perfecting it. It’s still not totally there, but it works for me. For a while I had two desks, one for sitting and one for standing. I recently got rid of the standing desk and now I just have one spot by the window so I can watch birds at the feeder, or fox trot by. I’ve got a small futon under some bookshelves on the opposite wall.
How do you stay in touch with virtual teammates?
Because magazine work is so cyclical, I don’t necessarily have to be in touch with all my colleagues on a daily basis, which is to say we don’t need to use Slack or any of the other fancy collaboration tools. We use Dropbox, Gchat, and phones.
Do you have tips for saving money while working remotely?
I don’t want PR people having my cell phone number, so I use Skype instead of a traditional landline for business purposes—even if you pay for a number and the ability to call landlines, it’s still less expensive than a landline.
What’s the hardest part about working with a traditional team while you’re remote?
I suppose it’s guilt. When one of my colleagues has to brave a snowstorm to get to work, and I’m curled with a blanket on the couch, I feel bad. When I run out in the afternoon to do my grocery shopping instead of fighting the post-work rush, I feel a bit guilty.
Would you consider returning to a traditional office job, or are you remote for life?
I’d return to the right office. I don’t think I’d ever want to be in a big office again, but a small office with a few coworkers and a flexible schedule would be fine.
How has working remotely impacted your career plans?
It makes me pickier about potential opportunities. It’s not just about avoiding a big corporate office, but also having the flexibility to do other things. For instance, I wrote a book that came out last spring. If I’d been working 9-to-5 in a big office, I don’t know if I would have had the energy to do that.
How do you stay connected with your local community?
Volunteering is always a good way to stay connected to the community. On a more micro level, I literally talk to my neighbors when I walk the dog. She’s much more approachable than I am, and people want to stop and pet her. You get to know a lot of people that way.
How do you stay connected to your professional community virtually?
Social media makes it easier, but it really is a challenge. Luckily I have former colleagues who are still good friends, and a team of freelancers who understand my situation.
What's the best way to develop professional contacts while working remotely?
I am not a naturally great networker, but I generally go to at least two conferences per year. Not only do I get to see my coworkers, and sometimes touch base with my writers, but I get to meet new people and hear their ideas.
How has your remote job impacted your life outside of work?
I’m a homebody, so I would often find myself itching to get out of the office so I could just go home and relax. Now I’m home all day, so I’m more willing to go out after work. Even if I’m not going out socially, I’ll go to yoga or to my local rock climbing gym to just get out of the house.
How do you manage work life integration?
I’m good about turning work off at the end of the day. I don’t allow push messages to come to my phone, so if someone is sending me emails at 11 p.m., I won’t know until the next morning.
How do you stay physically active while working remotely?
Walking the dog! Sure, I love yoga, but my instructor isn’t going to destroy the house if I don’t go to class. The dog needs to go outside, and lets me know when it’s getting close to our normal walk time.
How does working remotely impact your diet?
It’s a lot easier to snack when you’re a few feet from the kitchen, but it’s also easier to make a healthy lunch and get dinner started early.
How do you cope with feeling lonely while working remotely?
I love to listen to NPR and podcasts while I work. It’s kind of like having a conversation with your coworkers—only probably a lot more interesting and well-informed.
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