Back in January, I had a completely different definition of my ideal work environment than I do now. I thought I’d want a balance between plenty of face-to-face interactions and independent work, opportunities to expand my business attire wardrobe, and engaging assignments that didn’t require me to be on the computer all the time.
The possibility of interning for a virtual company wasn’t even on my radar. When my sister asked if I would ever consider working from home, I said, “Yeah, I think that’s just not for me.”
Funny how things don’t go according to plan.
Since June, I’ve been interning at Ride the Sail Marketing (RSM), a completely virtual company. There’s no face-to-face interaction, no office space to use, and everything is through the computer.
Luckily for me, it’s actually been great!
Here’s what I’ve learned about working for a virtual company:
Respect the research
Given the world’s current work situation, truckloads of information are available on the internet about creating the best working-from-home habits. These tips and research bits serve as great resources for business leaders looking to promote productivity and employees looking for the healthiest ways to adjust to remote work.
There were some pieces of advice I ran across that I’d already figured out for myself, such as learning to set boundaries and stick to a routine. But these two major themes from recent research stood out to me:
A Korn Ferry survey from early June found that 64% of professionals feel more productive working from home than in the office.
Cigna’s 2020 Loneliness Index indicated that remote workers are more likely to feel lonely than in-person workers.
Finding this research was crucial in reminding me that I was in good company. First, nothing was experimental about working for a virtual company; many people had done it before and liked it. And second, I was perfectly valid in missing in-person interactions when I started.
Internet isn’t reality
“Create a separate space in your home where you can work during the day. Curling up with your computer in bed may be super comfortable, but it isn’t going to help your productivity in the long run,” I wrote…from my bed.
Despite research helping find a rhythm and trust the experience, you’ll drive yourself crazy if you try to follow every single tip.
For example, I recognized that setting up a designated workstation in the house was a great tip. Logically, I knew it helped the brain associate that place with focus and productivity and also made it easier to mentally check-out for the day.
However, I also found that it wasn’t precisely my work-from-home style. I got drained from focusing in one place for too long, so I ended up traveling from my desk to my bed, floor, couch, dining room table, and even front doorstep.
There’s plenty of advice going around on how to function when working from home for a virtual company, but it’s useless unless you learn to adapt those suggestions for what works best for you.
You can’t learn everything from a Google search
Besides my own research and experiences, I learned a lot from the other team members at RSM. They’d been working RSM a while, they knew how to function as a virtual company, and it was useful to watch them (in the least creepy way possible, of course).
Here’s what amazed me most: They take breaks. Often. And without feeling guilty about it!
There’s a cultural understanding at RSM that you’re allowed to be human. Unexpected things pop up during the day, exhaustion hits you in the face like a ton of bricks, or other people in the house are going off the walls. It happens. And instead of stressing themselves out by trying to stay glued to the computer, they tap out for a hot minute to deal with what’s going on.
This flexibility is one of the most fantastic perks about working for a virtual company, and learning how to take intentional breaks was essential to my working remote experience. Not only do the breaks help my stress levels, they also increase productivity because I take the opportunity to recharge before wearing myself too thin.
Surprises of working for a virtual company
- Working on a computer all day does come with its silver linings. Yes, my eyes get tired sometimes, or I’ll get the occasional headache from focusing on the screen too long. But by the end of the day, I’m much more eager to put my screens away, get active, and spend time with my family.
- As it turns out, I don’t need to expand my business attire wardrobe to feel put together. Working for a virtual company reduces my need to appear successful. Whether I’m sporting lipstick and a vintage dress or the same sweatshirt I’ve lived in all week, my work speaks for itself.
- There can still be a balance of independent and collaborative work, even when the team lives all across the country. It’s been nice to set my own pace on the days filled with independent work. And I even get excited about collaborative projects because there’s more opportunities than usual to bounce ideas off each other.
- While there’s no face-to-face interactions, I don’t feel like I’m missing a personal connection. In fact, I’m more at ease with the RSM team after a few months than I was with in-person co-workers with whom I’d worked for a couple of years because RSM encourages authenticity and micro-conversations to foster relationships.