Remote Work in the Eyes of an ‘Evil’ Human Resources Expert

Published: 2021/4/15 | Updated: 2023/3/16 | Suzanne Lucas

When it comes to Human Resources demystification, no one does it quite like Suzanne Lucas aka the Evil HR Lady. Following our webinar on How to Make Remote Work Part of Your Team’s DNA, the HR expert, truth-teller and TEDx Talk speaker dives into her personal experience with remote work providing additional insights to the ones provided by leading remote managers and industry experts during the inspiring & insightful conversation we had back in December 2020. Suzanne, the floor is yours.

I started working at home in 2003. It was a temporary change because I wanted to be home with my baby. The internet was dial-up. I was the only person in my department working remotely. There was no plan other than I would do work. 

You may think you know how to do remote work but –

Many companies switched to remote work in 2020 in basically the same way–on the fly. Now that you’ve had a year, are you still operating this way? “Go home! Do work!”

In December, a group of remote work experts presented a webinar for BeeBole: Make Remote Work a Part of Your Team’s DNA and said, this is not the way to do remote work. You need a plan and a purpose and guess what?  You may think you know how to do remote work–because you’ve been sitting on Zoom meetings for the last 12 months, but that’s different than making a plan. 

I found their insights on creating intentional work from home advice crucial for all of us. While I’m still working at home and intend to forever, I had to figure out how to do it all on my own. But, the pandemic taught me that, even though I love working at home, I miss the interactions I had with meetings and with lunches with friends.

And that’s one of the problems you face with remote work, says Leah Knobler, Director of Talent Acquisition at Help Scout. There’s no running into people (although there is an add-on to Slack called Donut that allows you to run into people virtually!). You have to purposely and purposefully communicate with people. She explained that you often have “a higher level of transparency, thoughtfulness, and intentionality because great remote companies have to have these things in order to thrive.”

Boundaries are crucial

Another challenge that I face as a remote worker is boundaries. My desk is three feet from my bed. Sometimes I work late at night, and sometimes I work early in the morning. And sometimes, I don’t know when to say no. (I once agreed to be on a podcast–that they wanted to record early on a Saturday morning, I was so annoyed that I agreed to do this, but it was my own fault, I should have said no. I don’t work on weekends.)

Darren Buckner, Co-founder and CEO of Workfrom, says that–in remote work–creating boundaries often lands on the individual. Instead of having boundaries created by an office (this is the executive floor!) and a physical separation between work and life, employees have to create their own limits. Good leaders, Buckner says, can provide guidance, but it takes time for an individual to make those boundaries. Your CEO is never going to come to your house and say, “stop working while you eat lunch.” You have to do that yourself. 

Now, building boundaries is a bit easier when you do have some structure you can fit into. You can build habits around that, which can be challenging to do if you’ve switched from co-located work to remote work. This is probably one reason I like working part-time in the office and part-time at home. 

If you made the switch to remote work in 2020 by force, you need to remember, as Laurel Farrer, CEO and Founder of Distribute Consulting, points out that “Remote work in 2020 is not work as usual.” People didn’t go into this intentionally. Some people didn’t even get a week to plan. Today you’re in the office; tomorrow, you’re remote for the following year. 

It was kind of like when I started working remotely–except it was just me while everyone else was in the office. It takes time to work things out and time to get something to function right. If you do it carefully, you can build a great structure and get everyone proper habits.

Embrace the future of (remote) work

The more I think about the advice I got from this webinar, the more I think about building structures in other remote work situations. Patterns and plans that I had to figure out for myself are now available to others. Someone has probably already come up with a solution to at least some of your work from home struggles. It’s time to branch out and look around!

And even if you think that once everyone gets their Covid-19 vaccination, we’ll all be back in the office, this work from home thing isn’t going away. Your business may decide to have permanently remote staff. If this is your plan, make sure you do it carefully. Get your communication software functioning. Learn to embrace zoom. And may 2021 be an easier work-from-home year than 2020!

Photo by Norbert Levajsics via Unspalsh

An American in Switzerland, which means I'm late and I overshare. HR Writing, Speaking, Workshops, and Webinars. Snark at no extra charge.


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