To work from absolutely anywhere seems perfect, if not ideal. Why wouldn’t you want that extra leisure time in the shower over beating the morning traffic, trying to get to your first meeting on time? Why wouldn’t you want less stressful mornings, that extra time to enjoy your french-pressed coffee instead of having to fight for that last parking space in the office building? Why wouldn’t you want the freedom to choose where you want to work from instead of being limited to the confines of an office cubicle? And why wouldn’t you want that extra snuggle time with family or an extra shuteye over that grueling one hour (or more) commute back home?
You’ve heard and read about the perks of working remotely. The reasons seem countless and undebatable. The flexibility it offers and the idea of working from a beachfront, from a mountaintop, or just working from home in your pajamas with Spotify in the background, as it is often portrayed, just seem like the best thing in the world.
But is remote work for everybody? Does everybody have the necessary discipline, the organizational and management competence that remote work actually demands? Behind the hype and the glamour, what does it actually mean to work remotely?
My name is Isabelle Adviento, and I’m a Hiring Tournament Operations Manager at Crossover. I had an opportunity to interview Edward Guevara, a Finance and Operations Manager at ESW Capital, who seems to have this whole concept figured out- perfecting the balance between family, passion, sports, and remote work. But contrary to what everybody believes, it’s not all beaches and picnics (though we enjoy that quite more often than most people) and landing a remote career is definitely not handed out freely. One does not just get lucky. Edward had to apply three times, waited six months, before landing his first remote job. And it took him a long time and a whole lot of hard work -consistently exceeding expectations, maintaining to stay on top- to get to his position today.
Edward Guevara shares a peek into his daily life and tells us what it really takes to work remotely.
I: How did you end up working remotely? Was it a decision you made intentionally?
E: Yes, it was a decision I had to make. Before working remotely I used to go to a regular office where I had to endure a total of 4 hours travel time daily due to Metro Manila’s outrageous traffic. It was physically dragging and I know I had to transition one way or another.
I: How did you shift your mindset (traditional job to remote) and prepare yourself with no face-to-face contact with the people you work with?
E: I used to work as an Operations Manager in a BPO industry catering to global clients. This work environment involves a lot of non-face-to-face interaction with people all over the world so it really wasn’t a big adjustment for me.
I: How do people react when they find out you work from anywhere?
E: People don’t usually understand at the beginning the nature of the work that I do, but for those who do they are always curious about how it is like. The questions I get are always around how the meetings work and how does the schedule look like. I see a mixed sense of wonder, amazement and a little bit of skepticism when I explain how it works.
I: (In the Philippines- some people automatically brand you as a virtual assistant if you’re working from home) Can you please tell us what you do?
E: I started as a Customer Support Manager overlooking the Billing Department and worked my way up to the Finance and Operations Manager position. I now have three teams in my current role – Accounts Payable, Billing Back Office and Financial Planning & Analysis. I’m responsible for ensuring that these teams are operating efficiently and continuously improving.
I: What motivates you? What do you think helped get you where you are?
E: I was raised by a single mom, my dad died when I was 3 years old. So that motivated me to work hard and strive to always be on top. I’m a breadwinner supporting my mom and I help out some relatives too. Knowing that a lot of people depend on me keeps me motivated. And that strong motivation resulted to always strive for continuous improvement.
I: How many people are you currently handling?
E: I have a total of 16 people under my supervision.
I: How do you manage a project that involves a lot of steps and a lot of contributors from different locations?
E: If you’re working with people from different parts of the globe defining timelines is key. I’m not strict in terms of work schedule but I am very critical in meeting deadlines. I always start with defining the process, this involves brainstorming with the team. We outline all the deliverables, dependencies, we then start defining milestones and timelines and start prioritizing in accordance with each item’s importance and urgency. If these are all in place and are made clear to the team you can expect a seamless workflow regardless of each other’s timezone. By the end of the day, location is never an issue, it’s always time management that plays a big part.
I: How long have you been working remotely?
E: I’ve been working remotely for 7 years and 9 months now for the same company.
I: What is your biggest concern/issue working remotely? How do you handle conditions of a remote job?
E: Internet stability is always a concern. The internet in the Philippines is still far from perfect in comparison to other Asian countries. I always make sure that I have several back-ups and contingency plan so that this doesn’t become a problem.
I: What is your most valuable asset when it comes to remote work?
E: My ability to learn quickly on my own. Unlike in a regular office setting wherein people would always be available for you to tap for help, it’s quite the opposite when working remotely. Being self-sufficient plays a big part, this gives your client the confidence that they can always rely on you to deliver even with minimal supervision.
I: What struggles do you normally encounter (if any) and how do you cope?
E: I’m always given a new department that I have don’t idea how to run and I have to learn it fast. I’m lucky to have been given good talents who helped me learn the ropes really quick. The recent challenge I had was being given the Financial Planning and Analysis team. It was composed of people who’ve been doing it for so long and I had to enter the team with zero knowledge. I cope by learning fast. I push myself to learn. Up until now, I’m still learning, there’s always a lot to learn.
I: How do you plan/manage your daily activities? Can you tell me what your typical day looks like? What’s your natural rhythm?
E: I have a daily schedule and this helps a lot when working remotely. I wake up at 3:30 PM and have breakfast (yup, I still call it that even if it’s in the afternoon), I then go to UFC Gym where I teach Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu from 5:30PM – 7:30PM. I squeeze in a short workout after that, come home at around 8:30PM, have dinner and start working at 9:30PM (8:30AM CST). I then finish working at around 5AM then sleep and repeat the same cycle the day after. This is my typical Monday to Friday schedule. I still work during the weekend but just to check for any urgent emails that need my attention. As much as possible I spend my weekends with my family and doing personal activities to get my mind off work. We would go out to watch a movie, I’ll then go to the gym to do more Jiu-Jitsu and at times we would go out of town to take photos and videos to exercise my creative mind. I do photography and filmmaking as a hobby.
I: What are the items you need in your physical workspace to be successful in your job? What are the essential basics?
E: A computer with a good amount of memory works best. In my job where I have to work with massive excel files amongst other tools, having an 8gb (or more) worth of RAM prevents my computer from being slow and unresponsive. A workspace away from house chores is ideal to avoid distractions, this also leads to better work rhythm.
I: What are the common misconceptions about remote work?
E: That it is easy and not a real job.
I: How do you use technology throughout the day, in your job and otherwise?
E: As I work remotely, a majority of my day revolves around technology. Everything that I do, a financial report or a short film, are always shared through the cloud. Talking to people will be through a form of email, some sort of messenger or Skype. Learning happens online, either through an online course or a web-based training. Technology is everything.
I: How do you balance your work life and the rest of your life?
E: Time management is critical. Part of the struggles in working remotely is overworking or underworking. You have to be disciplined enough to follow a personal set schedule so you don’t fall into these two pits. When you’re scheduled to work you must work and when you’re scheduled to go out and workout you also must do that otherwise you’ll find yourself not getting work done or overworking yourself.
I: Is there a career in remote work?
E: Yes there is, as long as you don’t slack off there’s no way but up.
I: Do you believe that people have already embraced the concept of working remotely?
E: Not everyone. Most people I know still don’t understand how this works. Some see this as a temporary job or worst not a real job.
I: Is remote work for everyone? What makes one a right fit for this setup? Are there any qualities, habits or traits one must have?
E: Working remotely is not for everyone. I’ve seen people who started working remotely and ended up going back to a regular office job. This type of work gets lonely at times, especially if you’re the type of person who is used to having a lot of office fun and usually goes out for drinks after office hours. In order to be a fit in this remote working environment, your self-discipline must be top notch. Integrity plays a big part so as being able to learn and work under minimum supervision. These are traits that aren’t easy to find.
I: Do you see yourself going back to working in a traditional setting?
E: No, I can’t picture myself in a regular office setting anymore. The time I save working remotely translates to more time for my family and personal growth. Time is everything.