When life abruptly changed for most of us this year, I remember thinking to myself thank goodness I’ve been working remotely for almost a decade. This isn’t that new to me. I’ll SO be fine. It’s funny to look back on my confidence now because there were so many things I didn’t anticipate: the amount of global stress, the fact I’d never been in one place for this long in years, and most importantly the fact that while I was pretty set up for working on the go…the people around me were not. And boy did that have an impact.
As the daughter of business owners, ones who don’t have to be tied to anything more than their devices to get things done, I’ve had remote work styles as a part of my upbringing. My mom is the person that you’ll find sitting in the passenger seat of her car trying to get an agreement out before dinner. “Let me just send this last email,” are famous last words in our family. But she taught me some things about working on the go with grace, which I’ve replicated in my own life. Because the reality is, we all know that person who is anything but graceful. The one who is always SO on their phone, keeping it in hand’s reach at all times. The person who completely doesn’t hear a thing you said because they’re distracted with something on their device. It creates a void between you and them that can feel isolating, disruptive, and distant.
I don’t want to be that person. AND, I totally have been. I’ve missed out of my friends’ laughing because I’ve been knee deep in finessing an Instagram caption. I haven’t given attention to my partner because I was firing off some emails and slacks. Or I’ve let a lack of connection, service or load time put me into a panic because I can’t answer my team’s question in a timely matter and I’m leaving them high and dry.
If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that these relationships are paramount to our ability to navigate challenges. The blissful moments with the people in our lives can provide far more lasting joy than achievements or accolades ever could. And while the benefits of remote work are amazing (in my opinion), if boundaries are left unchecked, our on-the-go working styles can absolutely start to chip away at the strength of the one connection that matters the most: our relationship to ourself. That’s why I’ve teamed up with T-Mobile this year to support women working their way through the new norms, new stresses, and new everything of this year.
If you’ve found that working on the go has been both killer for your sense freedom, but a hinder on your relationships, these tips should help:
Say it! Acknowledge what you’re working on
If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of someone constantly on their phone while they’re with you, you know the feelings that can show up. Sometimes, if I’m super annoyed, my brain can run. What is so important, why is it more important than me, am I boring, did I do something, do they wish they weren’t here right now? Obviously, I know these are mainly irrational thoughts but they still show up. And I can imagine other people have felt that way in my presence when I’m working from my phone…like they don’t matter to me…which couldn’t be further from the truth. So, the way I’ve found handling this when I’m trying to get something done (because there ARE times we need to get work done while we’re with other people) is to say, “Hey, I’m taking care of something (insert actual details) and I promise I’ll be more present when I’m done. Give me ten.” This acknowledges you know that you’re disconnecting from them and focused on something else. And it acknowledges their feelings and existence at the same time.
Invest! Get the right tools.
One of the big things about “working on the go” that no one realizes (or…they didn’t until we’re all basically doing it this year)is that it really matters what you’re working with. And I’m not just talking about your work from home set up. The reality is, we don’t have to be on our computers to engage in meaningful work, conversations, or problem solving with our team. I’ve had some of my most important zoom meetings from my phone, while riding shotgun on the way back from a weekend in the mountains with T-Mobile 5G on my device. AND, I wouldn’t be able to do that if service was spotty, my phone couldn’t handle it or if data transferred super slow. I used to pass on invitations because I’d have the thought of what if my service isn’t good enough to take that meeting or load that work? Legit, I don’t have to think like that anymore because the capacity of 5G is wild and is available in more than 7,500 cities and towns. Anddddd the Samsung Ultra 5G that I use for work takes legit the best photos and videos ever. I’ve been able to shoot my opening monologue of an episode of WOMAN ON… upload to dropbox while on major deadline…while driving from the beach to my partner’s family’s house…and haven’t missed a beat. That would have been impossible on any other network. And it’s bound to make some cool things possible in the future, over and beyond work.
Boundaries please! Create “no work” times
Here’s what took me WAY too long to realize: that just because I can work from anywhere doesn’t mean that I need to be working at any time. This is probably the lesson I’m still most actively trying to practice. It’s something I spoke about with T-Mobile back in June and that I’m still navigating. When an email or slack comes in at 9 PM while I’m driving back from dinner, I don’t need to immediately handle it. If someone is on another time zone and cranking on deliverables at 4 AM my time, that doesn’t mean I also need to be working and responsive. Just because there’s not a set office to “leave” doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still have hours that we turn off. Which is hard because our phones are basically always on us. So, I’ve taken push notification off my phone for email and slack. I check them when I login to see them. It gives me a bit more strength in keeping my own boundaries and giving my brain a rest.
Connect! By putting your phone somewhere (anywhere) else
Our relationships are stronger and more loving, when our connection to ourself is intact. That’s really hard to do if we’re constantly stressing over work issues, and it’s REALLY hard to do when we’re not in tune with ourself because we’re so invested in looking at the lives of other people on social media. You need down time that doesn’t include your phone. You need hobbies, and self reflection and interests that don’t require being connected. If you find ways to connect back to yourself, you’ll have more to give to the people that you love. Put your phone away. Not only for yourself but also for building the connection with the people you love instead of being so distracted all the time. Focus is a beautiful thing: on how you feel, on who you love, on what is around you. And that’s really hard to do if your device is on your bedside table, or face up at the dinner table, or permanently glued to your hand.
But don’t forget!…Be kind to yourself.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that many of us are working on the go and working while doing nine million things because we have no choice. I’ve heard from SO many women in my personal community, in the WOMAN ON community, and in my networks just how hard it is to get it all done, stay sane, support the family and work. The reality is, this huge burden is showing up in the numbers: 1 in 4 working women is considering downshifting their careers due to increased burden work has put on them and their families (and over 800,000 working women have dropped out of the workforce this year, almost 4 times the number of men). Next month, I’ll be facilitating a conversation with leaders at T Mobile to discuss how their teams are recognizing these realities and supporting women in meaningful ways. There is a care crisis in this country. If we fail to see it, we’ll fail to solve it. (tweet it!)
Remember, you’re doing your best. You’re supporting your relationships and getting work done. Hopefully these strategies can support you in enjoying that while still keeping the most important thing in the world in tact: our relationships with our people.
This post was created in partnership with T Mobile, who has America’s largest 5G network. So many of us are figuring out 2020 mobile work thing together, so I wanted you to know what’s working for me!