I woke up Monday morning after a sleepless night with a text from my daughter, Ann, “do you have power?”. Only 10 miles from our house, her neighborhood had lost power and Internet access due to the storm while we were up-and-running. Ann works from home as Communications Manager for a national company, and was not interested in wasting a sick day sitting in the dark. So after dropping my granddaughters off at daycare, she set up shop in our dining room.
Except for being limited to just her laptop and not the two large extension monitors in her home office, she was ready for a productive day. A year ago, I would have thought she was crazy for needing two monitors, but she convinced me to get a second. There’s nothing like it for multi-tasking and having multiple windows open when you are working on a project.
We respected each other’s space and work. We had minimal conversation when I went to the kitchen for coffee. But in our two brief morning interactions, we casually discussed the common challenges of remote workers – one being the isolation. And I got some new ideas from her.
Half the dining room table was covered in my receipts as I was working on expense reports. I used to just hand the task over to my executive assistant, but in my new life, I do them myself. I dislike the task so much that I get way behind. Monday was the day to catch up. I was mentally preparing myself for the task of scanning mountains of receipts one-by-one, when Ann suggested I just take a picture with my camera phone. So much easier! After all, she used to be an executive assistant to the CEO and one of the most competent ones I’ve ever met.
I was also working on our firm’s expanding LinkedIn presence and assessing new services we can purchase. When I told her about that, she was quick to share with me some of the things she is doing with her company’s LinkedIn page. More good ideas!
We joked about the power of collaboration and idea sharing at what I described that day as the Schade and Associates worldwide headquarters. She laughed and asked what we were having for our collaborative company lunch. She had something else she wanted to show me with PowerPoint and voice over in case I ever wanted to use it. She had figured it out while developing an onboarding program for new employees, particularly for remote employees. We agreed on the time for the “company lunch and learn” based on our scheduled calls.
We roped my husband into it much to his chagrin – he likes to work more independently. I figured he needed some social time with us. He was working on a correction (in our favor!) to our 2016 taxes and was deep in the details of tax rules. But of course, since he is usually ahead of me on tools, he had already created presentations with voice overs so the lunch and learn was short.
My daughter and I talked about the creativity and learning that comes with working on your own and having to come up with new solutions for problems. When you have a project that requires new tools, you just have to figure them out. As remote workers, we lack the real-time opportunity to bounce an idea off others or ask someone how to do something – there’s not someone in a cubicle or office next door to talk to, or meet at the coffee machine.
While I hope her power doesn’t take another hit soon, I would welcome more sharing and learning. There’s a lot I can learn from her! And if you ask me why don’t we just hire her – believe me, I’ve thought about it.