Flexjobs Rise of Remote Work

This article is part of a monthly newsletter covering the latest stories and insights from remote work leaders, experts, and advocates around the world. Hit ‘subscribe’ to get notified about future articles and share your thoughts in the comments below!

For the Rise of Remote Work interview series I had the pleasure of interviewing Brie Reynolds, Career Development Manager at FlexJobs.

Brie Reynolds

Brie Reynolds is the Career Development Manager and a career coach and resume writer at FlexJobs, the award-winning site for remote, flexible schedule, and freelance job listings.

Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got into remote work?

I’ve been working 100% remotely since 2009 and with FlexJobs since 2010. Before that, I worked as a college career advisor in Boston, a job I absolutely loved. It was very much an on-campus job, but every now and then we were able to work from home, and that’s what sparked my interest in remote work. During that time, I also started freelance writing about job searching and careers, which I did remotely as well.

Why did you make the switch from a traditional 9-to-5 office job to working remotely?

In 2009, my husband accepted a job that would rotate him through different offices and positions throughout the U.S. over the course of three years. We’d been in Boston for 10 years at that point, so it was a chance for us to see the rest of the country.

Regular and predictable communication is critical in a remote work environment. Don’t leave your manager or colleagues guessing.

How long have you been working remotely and what lessons or ‘key takeaways’ have you learned along the way?

I’ve been working fully remotely for 11 years. A few lessons come to mind:

  • Regular and predictable communication is critical in a remote work environment. Don’t leave your manager or colleagues guessing. Ask questions, report on progress, offer and ask for help, and start casual conversations to deepen your work relationships.
  • Distraction and focus will always be a struggle. Even 11 years into this, I still have to set up routines and plans to make sure I’ll be able to focus on my work during work hours!
  • Take full advantage of the freedom and control afforded by remote work. Set up a home office space that you love to be in. Make yourself comfortable. Enjoy your ability to manage your wellness during work hours, with short breaks for fresh air and activity.
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Tell us a bit more about FlexJobs and your role as Career Development Manager.

FlexJobs is a fully distributed, virtual company with no offices. So remote work isn’t just encouraged, it’s required! 🙂 As the leading online service for professionals seeking flexible work, specializing in full-time and part-time remote jobs, we’ve helped more than 5 million people in their job searches since we were founded in 2007. FlexJobs also offers robust ongoing career support including a career coaching program to support our job seekers.

That’s my role at FlexJobs – managing and growing our career coaching services. We have a team of eight outstanding career coaches and resume writers who help job seekers with one-on-one career coaching, resume reviews and rewriters, weekly group coaching Q&A sessions, and regular job search webinars on each piece of the remote job search process. Our goal is to empower job seekers with the knowledge and tools they need to successfully land a remote or flexible job.

Can you share a few of the biggest challenges you or your team have experienced while working remotely? What have you done to address those challenges?

Some people find remote work isolating, but as an introvert and someone who enjoys solitude, that’s one of the things I love most about it. There are plenty of chances to communicate and collaborate with team members throughout each day and week, which can really help overcome any potential isolation. 

One of the challenges I’ve enjoyed working through most is how to build a cohesive and collaborative team in a remote environment. You have to make time for casual conversations that help your team get to know one another better. The team at FlexJobs has been really creative about this for years and was even awarded a Top Company Culture award by Entrepreneur and Culture IQ.  

Here are just some of the ways we’ve incorporated purposeful sharing and relationship building:

  • A buddy system for new hires where they’re paired up with someone who isn’t on their immediate team to learn more about the company as a whole.
  • Scheduling monthly virtual office-wide lunches.
  • Virtual coffee breaks to create water cooler time,
  • Virtual team pizza parties (company pays for employees to get pizza delivered to their house)
  • Leveraging Yammer, FlexJobs’ company-wide intranet, in an impactful way.
  • Posing a “Question of the Week” such as “What was the first record or CD you ever bought?”; “coffee or tea?”; “how many states have you been to?”; “yoga or running?” etc.
  • Creating groups for connection over shared interests (Pet Corner; Book Club, Crafts, Cooking, DYI; Run, Bike Move; Joys of Parenting, Health & Wellness)
  • Hosting virtual baby showers
  • Organizing virtual yoga and belly dancing classes
  • Starting company-wide wellness challenges, like “Veganuary” during the month of January.

How do you make sure remote employees are both happy AND productive while working remotely?

It really comes down to giving people the tools and equipment they need to do their jobs well, creating robust documentation for processes and job duties, and having regularly scheduled communication opportunities like quick check-in meetings, longer deep-dive calls, and cross-team training. One thing we all try really hard to do is stay away from micromanaging by focusing on the processes people use to do their jobs, and the results they’re seeing. If we can smooth any bumps to make it easier for people to do their jobs well, they’ll be happier and more productive.

“One thing we all try really hard to do is stay away from micromanaging by focusing on the processes people use to do their jobs, and the results they’re seeing.”

What do you think are the most common reasons companies hesitate to embrace remote work?

What we’ve seen is that managers who are hesitant about remote work are still relying on 20th-century managerial practices that focus on facetime and seeing people in the office. Those aren’t particularly meaningful measures of productivity, effectiveness, or professional aptitude, but they’ve been very widely used. And in a remote work environment, they definitely don’t work. Managers who excel in remote work focus on open and proactive communication, effective processes, and results-oriented outcomes. The good news is that if companies can shift their management focus towards those things, they’ll be better off whether they have in-office or at-home workers.

“Managers who excel in remote work focus on open and proactive communication, effective processes, and results-oriented outcomes.”

How do you think the COVID pandemic might change the way we work?

In this situation, companies have no choice but to give remote work a full and complete chance to work. There is no alternative if many companies want to continue operating. And that’s likely why we’re seeing survey after survey of business leaders who say their employees are productive and effective when working remotely even during a pandemic, and they’ll continue to use remote work even after the pandemic is over.

[…] employees are productive and effective when working remotely even during a pandemic, and they’ll continue to use remote work even after the pandemic is over.

What is your number one tip for companies looking to transition into remote work or fully distributed work after COVID-19?

Take time to think about what you want remote work to look like in your company. Will it be fully remote, a hybrid of in-office and at-home work, or occasional remote work? How can you support remote workers in the long run with the tools and equipment they need? How will you build a work environment that allows in-office and remote workers to interact, collaborate, and thrive together? Rather than continuing on with whatever temporary setup you’ve had in place for the pandemic, be thoughtful about what your remote work program will look like in the long-term.

Anything else you would like to share?

Understand that working remotely during a pandemic comes with a huge number of challenges that aren’t normally present with remote work. Households are full with partners, spouses, roommates, and children. Childcare isn’t readily available, virtual school takes time and energy, multiple people using home internet at the same time drains speed, and everyone is under additional stress because of the situation overall. So, if remote work has succeeded during this time, then imagine what it can do during more normal circumstances!

This article is part of a monthly newsletter covering the latest stories and insights from remote work leaders, experts, and advocates around the world. Hit ‘subscribe’ to get notified about future articles and share your thoughts in the comments below!

Rise of Remote Work

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: MANDY FRANSZ

Mandy Fransz is an Online Business Strategist, LinkedIn Expert, and Remote Work Consultant at Make the Leap Digital. She manages the fast-growing Remote Workers on LI group (+65K members) and she has been featured in Thrive Global, VIVA, LINDA. Feel free to connect with Mandy or book a free strategy call to discuss a potential collaboration.