The year is 2015 and the virtual workplace is now more the norm than the exception.
In 2011 SMACK! Media was founded in San Diego, CA with a small and mostly local team. Today, the SMACKANISTAS are spread across the country from Southern California to Boston and even in remote mountain ranges. The locational range, while certainly providing challenges, also gives us dynamic perspectives, broader relationships, increased efficiency and unique opportunities to approach PR and marketing with our clients. When asked about the decision to build SMACK! Media in a static location or with a remote team, Eli offers this, “We contemplated getting an office space but ultimately, I liked the flexibility of being able to roll out of bed early in the morning (as in 430 or 5am early) and get in a good hour or two of work before the kids woke up (she has two young boys). It’s sometimes the best time of the day because my mind is clear and I get a sense of peace and happiness knowing that my little angels are sleeping right above me. The same applies for evenings after the boys go to bed. During the day, it’s great to be able to return from a workout and just get to work, yes, sometimes even skipping the shower and just cranking away at my standing desk while I have my post workout shake or meal. It’s invigorating. Lastly, even though my kids are in school and we have a nanny in the afternoon, I like being able to take a break, see them, have a snack with them and ask them how their day was at school. The ability to manage my time is the biggest reason we opted for a home office.”
Eli shares her tips for managing a remote team with Deborah Mitchell of Entrepreneur this week, “There are fewer meetings and more time to crank out what’s important,” she says. “We don’t get bogged down with office distractions, water-cooler talk or meetings and instead are focused on our weekly goals and tasks at hand. Again, if you can manage your own time, we all find ourselves to be more productive.” Read the full article here.
Below is an exclusive look at our individual and team perspectives about what it is like to work from home while still being part of a very close knit team environment:
The SMACK! Media team is comprised entirely of extremely driven professional women who balance their work with SMACK! Media with training and competing as professional athletes (Sara Hendershot is a 2012 Olympian, Natasha LaBeaud Anzures is a professional distance runner for Brooks and Team Canada, Joanna Murphy is a professional steeplechaser for New Balance/Boston, Morgan Gonzalez runs for Puma and trains with the prestigious Mammoth Track Club and Eli Carlson has qualified and competed in the Boston Marathon and raced and completed an Ironman). The ability to work from home and fit in both work, training and the requirements to maintain health with such a high level of achievement has been a major draw for all members of the team. Joanna Murphy, who qualified last weekend for the USA Indoor Track and Field Championships in the 3K shares, “As I started taking my own training more seriously, I began to desire more flexibility for training. Working from home allows me to work wherever I am and have more fluidity from work to running.” Likewise, Natasha adds, “Working from home allows me to still get my long workouts in before work, but without having to worry about an added commute or sitting at a desk all day. I can stand up, stretch, walk around, all while working away.” Natasha recently competed in the Pan American Games in Colombia and will head to the World Cross-Country Championships in China next March, all without skipping a beat at work thanks to the telecommuting format that allows her to work anywhere in the world. Sara adds, “I love that I am able to continue to train for the Olympics and still work for SMACK!, which wouldn’t be possible if I had to go into an office each day. I can get my sessions in and still work on the go, from wherever I might be between practices. Sometimes that’s at home, other times it’s in the gym or a coffee shop.”
The glamorous side of working from home that most envision is also paired with some unique realities. The entire team admits they typically work while still wearing their sweaty workout clothes or PJs, but not at all out of lethargy or laziness–“When I get home from track practice,” Morgan shares, “I find myself supercharged and ready to get straight to work. The thought of changing my clothes, as silly as this sounds, feels like it will slow down my momentum so I usually just power through.” In fact the ability to work at all hours (and without the impediment of a dress code and typical schedule) can be the biggest challenge of all. Natasha has discovered that stopping work is the biggest challenge of working remotely, “Since your workspace is always around you, it is easy to constantly check in on emails at all hours of the morning and night.” Sara offers her solution to the itch to keep working after hours, “I leave my cell phone plugged in a different room when I sleep so I can’t be tempted to respond to late night emails or check for east coast emails coming in early when I should still be asleep!”
As a team we prioritize a structured but flexible schedule that works for each of us, all while sharing weekly goals and objectives to keep each other on track and prevent us from losing focus on not only our client work and goals, but also, our personal goals that can relate to health, athletic goals and even family. This balance keeps us extra productive and energized. And while we may not be able to hold office meetings and luncheons on a weekly basis, our experience of “team sports” and use of technology has enhanced our ability to foster close relationships, effective team work and communication amongst us. Natasha was drawn to the amazing team relationship at SMACK! Media, “Even though we are not sitting next to each other in an office, we have great brainstorming sessions and have cultivated great relationships.” And as every athlete knows, a strong team always has a caring and intelligent leader driving the ship, “Eli was an All-American Coxswain and 2-time National Champion at Princeton University, so she is a motivator by nature. Her daily enthusiasm is infectious and inspires us all to cheer and help each other on,” says Morgan, who has been with SMACK! Media for four years and consistently seen this leadership in action. Technology such as Skype, Face Time, Basecamp and regular phone calls to communicate and stay in touch with each other are crucial for our team. Joanna likes to pick up the phone, “I schedule regular check ins with Eli to make sure we are on the same page with what the weekly goals are and where we are at with projects. I also try to think like I’m still in an office – if I have a question I will call Morgan, Natasha or Eli, just as if I were walking over to their desk to ask them in person.” And while the distance can pose some challenges, SMACK! Media still prioritizes face-to-face gatherings whenever possible. This week Eli met Natasha and Sara for lunch with the Livestrong.com team and personal chef Arianne Resnick (pictured below). This spring Joanna and Morgan will be in San Diego to race and spend time with the other SMACKANISTAS.
The variety of locations also adds an interesting and positive element to our team. Opportunities to connect with media, host events and even be inspired by different scenery across the country helps create new angles and ideas for pitches to the media. “Before I moved to Mammoth Lakes I had never lived through a cold and snowy winter because I grew up in sunny Southern California, ” Morgan elaborates, “The new location broadened my perspective, allowed me to relate to more people and even inspired me to try new activities like cross-country skiing, rock climbing and fishing which has aided my pitches because I can speak authentically through experience.” With home offices in San Diego, Newport Beach, CA, Boston and Mammoth Lakes we can utilize our varied locations to help each other and ultimately cover more ground than if we all worked from one set location. The home setting also allows each of us to cultivate a work space that works best for us personally.
Eli is in the midst of building a new home complete with her dream office which will have an ocean view and large windows (Pictured above). “Combine that with a standing desk and a vibrant office space, and I couldn’t think of something more motivating than that. Sorry, but the tight cubes and fluorescent lights don’t do it for me. They drain my energy and sitting all day is not part of my character. In fact, I walk around my office while I take calls and draw inspiration from nature and scenery.”
For Natahsa the best way to think out strategies is to get up and move. She will sometimes, “go out for a run and think about my clients, and come back refreshed, and overflowing with ideas. I have worked in the office setting before, and have found that this helps me much more than just remaining still and trying to solve an issue.”
Joanna usually get out to a coffee shop at least once per week, “I like to get in some social interaction. But usually I will work at the kitchen table surrounded by food and coffee or from my bed (it’s just so cozy!).”She also takes advantage of the sunshine to work outside, pictured below during a recent training camp in Boulder.
Sara is always on the go between workouts and appointments, “I take a lot of phone calls in the car which always makes my time driving feel more productive!”
And further still off the beaten path, Morgan has gone to great lengths to find wi-fi in the forests, the tops of mountains and the wilderness near her home where she can work undisturbed and take in inspiration from the beauty that surrounds her, “I’m a bit solar powered and find myself extremely energized by nature. My best thoughts happen when I’m outside and I often take conference calls from the side of a trail where there is no white noise to disturb the conversation or my thoughts.”
Other tips and tricks that motivate the SMACKANISTAS or help them nail a task include:
Getting up to pitch first thing in the morning before a workout.
Skipping a shower until work is done.
Heading to the library.
Taking a stretch break.
Working while standing up.
Never bringing a laptop nor work into the bedroom.
Keeping your desk clean and organized.
Fuel properly and get enough sleep for optimal brain function.
Ultimately working from home offers us and our clients the unique ability to capitalize on proven methods for work efficiency. By making everyday and each task a team effort we are able to maximize and bring out the best in each other and produce the results our clients are after, while maintaining a high quality of life and chasing after our sporting dreams. “Working with a team of serious athletes is a motivational catalyst,” explains Morgan. “You nail the workout or race and then you take that energy and success home with you and want to do the same for our clients. Likewise, when I nail a big pitch I step onto the track with more confidence. Success breeds success and the team feeds off of each other in this way.”