I often think back to January 2020 when I started working remotely for Inkhouse after four years of in-person time in our San Francisco office. While a daunting experiment to take my job on the road and move to London as the solo Inkhouser, I was excited about the challenge and opportunity.
I packed my bags, squeezed in my laptop stand, adapter cords, portable mouse, and keyboard, and thought I was ready for anything. However, all of my concerns about missing in-person client meetings, social events, and water-cooler chats that I cherished oh so much in our San Francisco office disappeared in March 2020 when my entire team moved behind the Zoom screen from home.
Our CEO Beth Monaghan recently said that, as we continue in this virtual workplace experiment, “we’ll keep learning what works and what doesn’t, but our primary goal will be to maintain the kind of culture that helps us do our best work. We’ll keep evaluating these practices over the coming months and will judge our approach by two metrics: our client work, and our employee satisfaction." I couldn’t agree more. As a full-time remote worker, here are my tips for remaining engaged from afar, no matter where you’re located:
Never leave a meeting without contributing something. Even if it’s a simple idea or comment, it’s important to be heard and remind your team that you’re tuned into priorities and the tasks at hand. This will be especially important as more people return to the office and are in the same meeting room together while some remain on Zoom remotely
Be vocal on Slack. I know we’ve all had a bit of Slack fatigue, but it’s such an easy and fast way to be present. Chiming in with ideas, new trends you read about or an idea to move a client’s request forward goes a long way.
Get involved in company-wide initiatives. The pandemic removed barriers between offices and in-person activities, so take this as an opportunity to get involved remotely. Happy hours, peer panels, DE&I initiatives and presentations have all gone online, so make sure you’re still a part of it
Maintain manager and mentor relationships. Just because you can’t walk to Starbucks or have a casual catch-up in the kitchen doesn’t mean you should forego the regular check-ins - however informal - that you used to have in the office. These are often the first meeting to cancel when you need to free up some time, but don’t get into the habit of it. It’s critical to check in on career progress, goals, and challenges you’re facing often, regardless of location. Maybe tune into your next check-in on a walk sans video or grab a coffee at home and relax
When you’re on video, be present and avoid multitasking. This is hard for all of us when we live in a world where we’re being pinged on Slack and email during meetings. It’s really obvious when teammates are engaged - and not - on video. There’s nothing worse than repeating something or asking for something off-topic because you weren’t able to give your full attention to the meeting
Make informal connections with your coworkers. The Donut plugin on Slack makes this so easy and fun. Sometimes it’s these informal, non-work-related conversations that can brighten someone’s day or create a new connection. You never know what similarities you may share with someone else at your company!
In this new world of working remotely, it’s hard to find boundaries while also being present and feeling "always on." I’m forever thankful that in 2020, Inkhouse offered Summer and Fall Fridays, where we could step away at 2 pm to start the weekend early. I’m excited for next year when we’ll have Forever Fridays, where everyone will be able to sign off at 2 p.m. on Fridays—this will help us create more space and boundaries in today’s hybrid work model. Inkhouse is committed to being the place where the best people come to work, which in turn helps us produce great work for our clients. It’s working for me and my teams and I’m excited to see what we keep doing together, remote or not.
Jill is a vice president, based in Sacramento, Calif. With nearly nine years of agency experience, Jill is passionate about telling creative stories and moving the needle for fast-growing startups. She co-leads the security practice at Inkhouse and has taken companies through major financial milestones, from launching out of stealth and early financing rounds to IPOs and acquisitions. She helps spearhead the international partnership program at Inkhouse across EMEA and APJ for clients looking to expand efforts worldwide.