It’s the episode you’ve been waiting for, the one packed with remote work tips! Because as event professionals, we spend a good chunk of our time on the road. And in the case of Endless, the entire company is remote. So learning how to balance work with life, fighting isolation, making sure we do our best without working too much are all key aspects to master. And that’s exactly what we bring you on this week’s edition of #EventIcons!
Joining Brandt Krueger and Will Curran are Kaitlin Colston and Mariana Fernandes. Both Kaitlin and Mariana work at Endless as the Content Alchemist and Content Chemist, respectively. And the four of them have enough experience working remotely to share with you the absolute best remote work tips! So, are you ready to get iconic? Press play and follow us on this journey!
Remote Work Tips: Let’s Talk Location
When it comes down to remote work, the location of choice varies from person to person. And each of our guests has a specific way to go about it. “I usually work at home a lot of the times in this office”, says Kaitlin. “But also depending on what I’m doing or if I need complete focus something that, I’ll also just go to a coffee shop where no one’s bothering. And then also it’s nice just like if you’re going to visit somebody you can take off on the road and you don’t have to take time off. You can still work from wherever”.
Brandt tells us that he’s been freelancing for over five years. “So when I am home and in town, I work out of my lovely home office here. And then the complications from there is as most or a lot of event professionals, I find myself on the road a fair amount. I think I was home for maybe five days during the month of January. So it’s been an evolving process. But I guess for me my personal challenges are keeping this office space organized in a way that makes me comfortable and works”.
Away From Home
“So for me, it was really organic to be able to do this shift from being a college student to working remotely”, says Mariana. “Because in Europe we have this coffee shop culture kind of life. So it was always really a part of my workflow because I really enjoy being surrounded by people and by background noise while I’m working. So I very rarely, I very seldom work from home. Because I feel if I’m confined into the same space for many hours a day I go a little bit of crazy”.
“Mostly I wake up and I just go to a coffee shop and I work there for around about four or five hours”, she adds. “And then I come home and fit like gym and social life in that context too. But yeah, I’m a coffee shop life kind of person and I feel it really works”.
“I think coffee shops are probably my thing for sure too”, says Will. “So mine’s kind of similar to Brandt I’m on the road a lot for shows and events. And I also really love to travel too. So sometimes I just go to Ireland for a week just to enjoy the work and remote work from there. But when I’m not in Ireland or onsite at a show this is my home office/studio. This is where I’m most productive. But also very common as these guys know is that I’m also usually caught either at Press Coffee which is down the street or Luana’s which is basically a restaurant coffee shop. And I love working there especially if I’m feeling de-energized I go there to kind of get re-energized by people and everything like that”.
Coffee Shop Buddies!
In our list of remote work tips, having a buddy stands out nicely. “I’ve discovered when Will and I are onsite together, having that coffee shop buddy is a way to stay really engaged and to stay on task”, says Brandt. “Sometimes I’m really productive during a show because I have to be there. And I can’t get up and move and walk around. Sometimes I have to be paying attention to the point where I can’t do email or anything that. But the same kind of thing with a coffee shop to a certain extent. Because you’re there and the other person is there. And so it’s a lot more difficult to get distracted, wander off, do something that you shouldn’t be doing right now. So I find it helps keep me on task”.
“I do agree with you”, says Mariana.”And I have a friend that I met here in Slovenia that also works remotely. And we have this partnership going on where two times a week we go to a place and we work together. So that helps fight isolation, which I feel is a challenge of remote work definitely. You also kind of have this office banter that you don’t get any other way. But it also helps keep you focused. So definitely good tip right there”.
“I think that’s the term lately now is coworking spaces and everything like that”, adds Will. “I definitely think for sure there’s a need for it. Absolutely have that buddy. And I say constantly, people that I don’t even work with that literally I have no reason other than they’re a friend that I know they work remotely I go, “Hey, you want to co-work today?”
One of the biggest cons of remote work is the adjacent isolation. Without an office to go to and co-workers to talk to and discuss trivial matters, how can this be tackled? Mariana “Isolation, especially for me, was a big concern”, says Mariana. “Because I’m very much a people person and like I people and I like to be surrounded by people. So I think Slack helps a lot and the meetings that we have. So trying to make it work with your team that you have weekly meetings or biweekly meetings. And that you have regular one on ones and that you just chat in general even if it’s not about work with the rest of your team. That helps”.
“Having the buddy that we were talking about helps”, she adds. “Coworking spaces that you can rent a desk could also help. And they usually have these little Slack channels in between them and they organize group activities, so that’s also a good one. But I guess it also depends on how you schedule your work. And how you schedule your day to day in order to fit more social life into weekdays than you would normally on weekends if you worked a regular nine to five”.
Staying In Contact With Your Team
“Mariana’s on my content team and we have a biweekly meeting that we didn’t have that for a long time”, Kaitlin explains. “I didn’t want to add another meeting to everyone’s plate. And eventually, I just decided it was something we really needed to do and just by having it, I feel like the whole team has gotten closer from it and we do go off and banter into other things. And I think that’s different from a normal nine to five corporation at the office, you might stay a little more focused on the meeting”.
“Sometimes we go off and we’re okay with that because we want to actually have those relationships and friendships too”, she continues. “So we build that time in to make sure that we are not only just getting our work done, but we’re growing those relationships. Because that can be harder to do remotely. Sometimes I’ll Zoom our sales girl Karmen just to talk while we’re working. Just so it’s not so isolating. So you have to be careful in really thinking about have I talked to a human today?”.
Brandt – A Different Perspective
“People think of me as being a social animal because I do this show and I speak publicly. But I’ll be honest with you, I’ve never felt that isolation ever since I started working from home”, says Brandt. “I like my quiet time. About a couple of years after I did it my wife also started working from home. And I kind of missed just having the house to myself. It’s also great because I can go off and we can have lunch together. But it is kind of funny I had to get used to working with someone again”.
“I was very lucky that I had mentors that had prepped me for a lot of it”, he adds. “And so I’ve always been in that mentality of getting up, taking a shower, getting dressed for work and going to work. So that’s always helped with that mentality of this is work time. And then really as soon as the kids are home, I do try as much as possible to switch that part off. And then spend time with the family or go out with friends. So for me, I get my socializing through other means like this show”.
The Importance Of Getting Social
A list of remote work tips wouldn’t be complete without talking about socializing. “So one of the best things I ever did was schedule literally in”, says Will. “Sandbox dinners on Tuesdays, Wednesdays is board game night, Thursdays is movie night, Friday I try to do something fun. Back in the day, I used to be doing high school dances on Friday. Saturday nights I did high school dances. Then Sunday was decompressing, watch video time and then repeat all day long. But I think that helps a ton too. I’ve noticed even going remote is that hey, I’m going to go do something fun and integrate that to the workflow”.
“And push the people in your life who not necessarily work remotely to also do those things with you”, adds Mariana. “So convince your friends and your boyfriends and girlfriends and roommates to let’s play pool tonight. Let’s go to the movies. Or let’s go for a coffee because I’m losing my mind and I haven’t talked to a human being in 48 hours. You know what I mean? Just don’t let it get to the breaking point of isolation”.
“If you are close to that breaking point and you need to talk to somebody, reach out to your friends”, says Kaitlin. “Or just see if they can just go and get coffee. Sam and I will go out and make sure that we do Friday date nights. But it’s so important to just get out. And sometimes I get used to being in the house other than pickup and drop off for Chloe. And I have some trouble shutting off work. So it’s just so important to force yourself to go out and do other things. It’s not really forcing because you have tons of fun but just remembering to do it can be hard”.
Managing Global Teams Remotely
Managing a team is challenging as it is. Now imagine managing a team that spans the entire globe! How do our guests do it? “So it’s interesting running a team, several teams that are global”, says Kaitlin. “I have people in Bangladesh, I’ve got people in the States, there are people in Eastern time and there are people in California. But learning to work around their time zones, especially. I think one of the hardest parts was just deadlines. Because it might be the middle of the night or it might be Saturday for them. And so thinking about where they are when I set deadlines for people or when we set up meetings”.
“Also just cultural differences”, she adds. “Knowing different holidays that maybe I don’t have or celebrate that are in their worlds. And making sure that we’re honoring those. It’s definitely been really interesting and eye-opening just to learn more about different cultures. Learn how to work as a team with so many people, so many different places”.
Over Communication Is Key
“You have to rely on asynchronous communication as much as synchronous communication”, says Will. “So not just relying on having lots of meetings but being willing to use Slack to communicate. And talk through things and being able to admit when you have issues. This becomes part of your culture. We start hiring based on that as well. People who are globally thinking, who are comfortable doing it. And we’ve fired people because they can’t work remotely and we fired people because they can’t think globally. But it’s been really cool because it allows you to see an evolution of your culture in a lot of ways”.
Reinforcing The Importance of Timezones
“I think you’re right that it is a mindset to a certain extent”, says Brandt. “There’s a lot of really good event tech all over the world and as I’m taking phone calls, I really tried to think about what time zone that person’s in. When I go to set a date or something in an email I try, to put their time zone first and then my time zone”.
“So first of all, it forces me to think about what time it is going to be for them for the appointment. And then it also I think is it shows a level of respect”, he adds. “I think there’s a lot of people in any business, any industry that they’re always thinking about their time zone. And speaking as someone who’s just in the central U.S. central time zone. Even in the U.S, you can feel there are certain people that just clearly they put the meeting when it’s most convenient for them without giving any thought to that you might even be in a different time zone”.
“I think it’s funny because when companies are trying to go remote they always go “Well how do you know everyone’s working? How do you know they’re getting things done?” And it’s actually the opposite. How do you know they’re not working all the time and overworking themselves and burning themselves out?”, wonders Will.
“You don’t. It’s a constant struggle”, says Brandt, “And so a lot of it is trying to work smarter instead of harder. When I was on the road I actually went out of my way to try and work more so that I wasn’t so behind by the time I got home. And as a result of working that way, I was gone for a month and it still only took me a week to get caught up. So that being said how do you avoid overworking? You just have to be very intentional about it”.
Discipline Is Key In The Remote Work Lifestyle
“I think if you want to work remotely, discipline is the word you have to live by”, says Mariana. “Because it’s a very slippery slope. If you’re not a disciplined person, you can really easily work too much or not work enough. So what works for me is I plan the meetings that I’m going to have. And I plan how many posts I have to write or how much research I have to do ahead on weekends”.
“And it works because it helps me structure my days and my weeks. It helps me say this day I want to go to the gym and this day I want to do this and I don’t want to do that. I think that if you’re a disciplined person it’s going to work for you. And just because you work on weekends it doesn’t mean you’re overworking because you already allowed yourself to take a morning or an afternoon during the week. And this is what I love about remote work culture. You’re not prioritizing your work over your life or your life over you’re work. You just find this balance that I think it’s really important to have in life and I really appreciate that”.
“It is cool when you have those different timezones. And just how our workflow works so beautifully partially because of the differences, everybody’s doing their part. The next person wakes up and does their part and the next person wakes up and it works out so well”, says Kaitlin. “But you also have to tell yourself it’s okay to not message people back right away and set those boundaries. I know I definitely got super overwhelmed with remote work around July I think and I ended up putting my daughter in school five days a week. But you have to have working hours and a better balance for your own mental health. And so just finding that balance and setting the boundaries I think is really important even with the timezones”.
“I’m definitely a huge proponent of that for sure”, says Will. “Make it so you have the choice and it’s your choice to look at the notification. Not the phone pushing it on you for sure. And people sometimes freak out because they’re afraid they’re going to miss something. But there are tons of communication channels. If someone needs to get ahold of me, usually something really bad is happening. And I always just used to freak out like what happens if I go on Slack and someone’s trying to message me. But literally everyone has my cell phone number. Everyone knows how to email me. But literally people know how to get ahold of me”.
Anyone who lives the lifestyle knows that one of the most important things is the workspace. What are the essentials? I just need two things”, says Mariana. “I need my computer and some coffee and that’s it. It’s light life. And when I’m working at home I’ll have my two little baby flowers. Because I love nature and I love to be surrounded by nature when I’m closed at home”.
“I always have a notepad. I’m that person, it’s always here”, says Kaitlin. “And I have to have that even if I’m out at a coffee shop or something, just to jot down ideas or whatever on my to-do list. Obviously a computer, good WiFi. Because we do tons of video calling all the time and so if your internet sucks it’s going to be just blocks of blur and awfulness for you. So I think that’s really important for me. And also I like to have a comfortable chair. right now I’m sitting on an exercise ball because I got tired of my chair today”.
“Depending on where I’m at and what I’m doing, I can get by with just a laptop”, says Brandt. “It’s really the core of what I need is just that, everything else is a bonus, it’s gravy. So I’ve got my Surface Pro 6 that I quite enjoy. And for me, that’s my mobile office because I’ve got a pen that I can take notes. As a result, actually, my desk and stuff here is pretty Zen. Because if I figured that all I really need is my computer. I’ve got things set up with as little as possible on my desk. That being said, there’s still quite a bit of crap on my desk because I have two keyboards”.
“I don’t think I’ve ever said this publicly but I use the same shampoo and soap and everything that I use at home when I use it on the go”, says Will. “So it makes you just feel more you’re at home and get you in the same mindset as well. The laptop on the go is the Surface Pro X, which we talked about in the Event Tech Podcast. I’ve been still loving that thing one of my favorite remote working things, which I have shared this with so many remote working people is these Plantronics headsets”.
Final Remote Work Tips
“For me, a lot of it is email management”, says Brandt. “I think people too easily just give up. That’s why there’s a lot of pressure sometimes to use things Slack which I feel has its own positives and negatives. I think it is totally doable. It’s totally doable for event professionals, it’s totally doable even if you’re the type of person that has 10,000 new messages in their inbox sitting right now bouncing up and down 10,000, 10,000, 10,000. We can get you to zero you just have to be a little bit vigilant and use filters like nobody’s business”.
“I’m going to say try as hard as you can to establish some sort of a routine”, says Mariana. “Not something that’s super rigid. Something that’s flexible but something that you have at least the bare bones of what you’re going to do this day or this week. So you don’t fall into the trap of again working either too much or not enough. I think that’s what helps me the most”.
Loving What You Do
“I think the only way this works is really liking your job and finding meaning in it”, says Kaitlin. “Because I think if I hated my job I would just go to Target during the day. Along with limiting distractions. So just making sure that I’m not by a TV, making sure my phone is not within reach. But at the end of the day making sure that I believe in what I’m doing. Because if I didn’t I’m not sure how this would go. So having that belief and a really strong team has made all the difference for me”.
“And I think far too often people look at technology and apps and things that as a hindrance to getting work done”, says Will. But you have to look at it as a tool. And you have to find what tools work best for you and what’s the best for the job and that can allow you to get so much work done. I use the tools that I feel best with that allow me to stay connected. You have to find out what those tools are and if you don’t know where to start, just go watch the last 200 episodes of Event Icons where everyone says their favorite tool and resources out there and you’ll get an exact idea of what it looks like”.
And that’s a wrap on this week’s edition of #EventIcons, packed with amazing work remote tips! How do you go about working when you’re on the road? Share your favorite tips with us. And make sure you tune in next week for another amazing edition of the show, with even more iconic guests!