In this segment of Stories from the Couch, our employees share their stories about how remote work promotes better lives and better work.
As employees of a company that has been remote for more than 20 years, we enjoy flexible schedules that allow us to do many things that would not be possible if we were in offices every day, 9-to-5.
Our lives are richer as remote-work employees. From attending kids’ sporting events to volunteering at our favorite nonprofits, we are more engaged in our communities, happier and more productive than we might be in a traditional environment.
Read on to see how some of us have learned to make the most of being “office optional“!
SHORT STORIES About WHAT WE CAN DO ONLY BECAUSE OF REMOTE WORK
Precious Time for Precious Memories
Working remotely allowed me to schedule the time I needed to take my Dad to his doctor’s appointments and help take care of him when he was on hospice.
Toward the end of his life, I worked from his home 3-to-4 days per week before he died of cancer. He needed the support and love of his family 24/7, and without Centric and its generous work-from-home policies and technology, I would have never been able to do that. I still was able to work every day and be there for my father! I am forever grateful.
–Angela Foster, HR Partner – Talent Management, St. Louis, MO
For the Greater Good
Being a remote workplace allowed our team to put specific goals for community engagement into action this year. We developed a variety of opportunities across multiple locations so employees could participate in ways that best suited each person’s time constraints, workload and lifestyle.
Initially, they had an option to volunteer physically. We even committed time in a business unit meeting to packing toiletry kits for the homeless before dinner. But, we also made sure they could help by donating goods or making financial contributions remotely.
Eventually, our work evolved into several themes centered around the basic needs of children and specific organizations: Feed a Child (Feed My Starving Children), Educate a Child (Bernie’s Book Bank) and Provide a Child with a Bed (Sleep in Heavenly Peace). COVID did stop our activities temporarily, but our remote culture gave us the flexibility to pivot and keep going.
We have used remote-work technology to coordinate fundraisers for small businesses and first responders. We raised more than $700 for the hospital workers at Glenbrook Hospital Emergency Department, more than $600 to support Big G’s Pizza, which delivered pizzas to both staff at St. Joseph’s hospital and LifeScan. One employee held a birthday fundraiser to collect raised money for the Silver Cross Hospital Meal Train to deliver tacos for lunch to hospital workers.
So, while we can’t physically be together, our remote work culture and technology has helped us come together all years to help others. Hopefully, we’ll be able to host in-person soon!
–Roshan Stouwie, Manager, Gurnee, IL
Remote Men Can Jump
One of these days, I’m going to be recruited to play on an NBA team. What NBA team wouldn’t love to sign a mediocre (at best) 30-year-old dude who spends more time working on his emerging “dad bod” than his jump shot? I’m sure plenty of NBA scouts come to Midwest YMCAs looking for the “right talent”. . . right?
Pre-COVID, I played basketball like I was trying out for the New York Knicks next week. Working for an amazing company that allows me to be remote meant I could balance my work to (not) achieve that life-long goal of being in the NBA.
The freedom and flexibility remote work gives me meant more time relieving stress and having fun playing basketball, which made me better and more efficient at my dream job (well, second-place dream job).
In 2020, COVID presented the only real deterrent to achieving my goal of being drafted from YMCA pickup-ball into the NBA. Because of social distancing, I couldn’t join my fellow NBA hopefuls on the court. Instead, I started running without a basketball hoop as my endpoint, and no one chasing me. Lame, I know.
Lameness aside, running is an acceptable substitute stress-reliever. Today, being remote lets me take 20 minutes to get a quick marathon (or two) in before hopping onto my next call. The freedom and flexibility that comes from remote work means I can take time for self-care, which allows me to deliver rock-solid outcomes to my client.
–Joel Longanecker, Senior Consultant, St. Louis, MO
Have Teams, Will Feed You
As a fully employed, safe-at-home person, I wanted to do something to help others during a time of uncertainty when the COVID crisis became all-consuming. After chatting with others at Centric, I knew I wasn’t alone in this feeling.
My mom is a health nurse, and she was experiencing firsthand what it was like to work in healthcare. That gave me the idea to have dinner sent to an emergency department. I did a Google search, found the number directly to an executive director of the Northshore Healthcare System, and was able to easily get in touch with someone who could tell me which hospital needed food, what to send and when.
Making the most of Microsoft Teams and my flexible schedule, I communicated efficiently with the Chicago business unit, and within the day, we were able to send dinner from a locally owned restaurant to a staff of 30 at a local hospital.
It felt great to be able to help those front-line workers while giving business to a local restaurant that was facing its own battle because of in-person dining being shut down. It was cool to see our business unit donate enough money that we could do it again the next week!
Laps and Snuggles to Go
One afternoon I was on a conference call with my daughter when I noticed she felt warm. The thermometer confirmed it — she had a fever. All she wanted was for me to take her upstairs and snuggle with her on the playroom couch. So, laptop in hand, that’s what we did.
Five minutes later, she was asleep, but I continued working and attending conference calls without missing a beat. I felt so good knowing that my baby and my job were both getting what they needed from me that afternoon — neither was going to suffer.
She was feeling better the next morning and wanted me to go swimming with her in our pool instead of our sitter. I had worked until 10 the night before, so I felt zero guilt in spending a little extra time with her. I always envisioned I would be a stay-at-home mom, but I didn’t realize I would be able to be the kind of mom I wanted to be while enjoying a career I love and contributing to our household financially.
If it weren’t for the healthy remote-work culture I enjoy at Centric, I would not have chosen to continue my career after having children. I am so grateful that I’m afforded the ability to have a career I love and be the kind of mom I want for my kids!
–Jennifer Jackson, Campaign and Project Manager, Spring Hill, TN
Workout from Home
One of the non-negotiable things for me is getting my workout in every single day. When I first started with Centric nine years ago, I was working remotely part-time, and my workout was usually a 6 a.m. weight or treadmill workout in my basement. I was pretty much a team of one, and I was missing adult interaction. I found a 6 a.m. boot camp class that helped fill that void.
Sadly, about two years in, the boot camp gym closed and my kids’ schedules changed. But, then I discovered CrossFit. I found a gym about a mile from my house.
The class fit right into my family routine and part-time work schedule. I could get the kids off to school in the morning, work in the afternoon, and be done to run carpools and attend school and sporting events for the boys. The group of people at the gym were so welcoming and encouraging. They have now become some of my closest friends.
When I started considering a full-time position with Centric National Marketing, I was concerned about giving up my new routine and all those familiar faces. I didn’t need to be. Working remotely gave me the flexibility to block off my gym time, so I could keep my workouts a top priority while working full-time and fulfilling my work responsibilities every single day. Because of my remote-work life, I can stay healthy and be a good team member at the same time!
–Yvette Stoltman, Digital Marketing Manager, Powell, OH
Working Remotely – Before, During and (Hopefully) After!
I’m so grateful for the opportunity and continued stability during a worldwide pandemic, which hit just a few months into my job with Centric–and what an easy transition! I feel fortunate to have a company that was “remote before remote was cool.”
My preference is still to be with my clients, in person, on-site. However, I love that I can continue to do what I do best for my clients anywhere.
So, the highlights of the past six months all due to remote work? Here are just a few:
- Driving down the highway through the Kansas plains, on the way to Colorado with my family, learning a new Microsoft app to use with my client when I return.
- Passing hours on end in the hospital waiting room for a loved one, welcoming the comfort and distraction of a “normal” workday with familiar faces on video calls.
- Hopping on calls in the car during my teenagers’ regular orthodontic appointments.
- Logging on during kids’ sports practices – in the car, on the field or in an aquatic arena (got to watch that moisture on the laptop).
- Connecting with my teammates for virtual coffees and lunches – the best breaks in my day!
- Working at home alongside my three kids, all of whom just kicked off virtual learning – fifth, ninth and 11th grades.
- Doing what I do, from anywhere – thanks to Wi-Fi or hotspot.
- Being with trusting and encouraging clients and teammates each and every day!
–Tammy Graham, Senior Consultant, Wildwood, MO
Finally, Time for Laundry!
One of the privileges I enjoy while working from home is the flexibility to turn some of my work breaks into completing small household chores. The ability to intersperse meetings, emails, and other work with small breaks to throw a load of laundry in or run the dishwasher means I don’t often have a looming list of chores to accomplish once my “office” work is done.
It ensures I get screen breaks throughout the day, leaving me feeling overall more refreshed and productive! And, seriously, who else gets to say they can do laundry while at work?
Meanwhile, many businesses’ need to adapt to an online work model brought with it some unexpected opportunities. One of my good friends, who works for a major Seattle-based public transit agency, recently shared the joys she can experience being able to interact with her one-year-old son in a way that she could not have done previously.
She can often come downstairs from her workspace and interact briefly with her son before returning to work, which means she’s been able to experience many of those “firsts” she would certainly have missed had she been commuting to and from work.
I don’t expect much of the working world will want to return completely to how things were before after they’ve experienced what’s possible with this work-life balance model – something Centric has been taking advantage of for a while!
–Ruth Harrell, Client Services & Delivery Analyst, Seattle, WA