Sharonika Camplin joined Polycom in 2007 as Senior Marketing Manager for Australia and New Zealand, based in North Sydney. Four years later, having met her partner in Cairns, she decided to trade a hectic city life for a more tranquil life in a rainforest setting and become a full-time remote worker.
Not only did this move bring with it a change of scenery, but it also dramatically changed Sharonika’s career path – where she took on a broader Asia Pacific role and inherited a regional team based in Singapore.
Nine years since joining Polycom and several promotions later, Sharonika explains how anywhere working has helped her progress her career while having and raising a young family.
In your experience as a full-time remote worker, what have been the biggest advantages of flexible working?
There is a quote that is used often that homeworkers are 40% more productive and I must agree. Since you don’t have the distractions of the office, you are more focused on the projects and work and I found that this surprises people! Often when I tell others I work from home, they ask me how I stay motivated or not end up in front of the TV (or fridge) all day. But for me and many others in my situation, it’s the exact opposite. Anywhere working means I don’t waste time commuting, whereas in the past this could be up to two hours per day. I also save on costs of transportation, parking and eating out. I stagger my work hours so I can drop the kids off at daycare by 9am and pick them up at 4pm, get dinner prepared, get through our usual family evening routines, and then get back to work later if required. I can run errands and put a load of washing on during the week, find time to exercise and have weekends and evenings to spend more quality time with my children.
Do you ever feel like you miss out on working in an office?
Working from home is not easy and requires discipline – a lot of it. When I first made the ‘tree-change’, I found that I was having trouble sleeping and found my stress levels rising. There were some days I wouldn’t leave the house and realised that besides my partner, I had not spoken to another person that week except in a work meeting! In addition, there is some guilt associated with being able to work from home and live in an amazing place – and as a result, I worked even harder.
A typical day at the office involves some time catching up on a personal level with colleagues, or stopping by someone’s desk to bounce off ideas and ask questions. At the end of the day, you may not get through all the tasks you set off to do. As a homeworker, you can get through a lot of activity, but then you put pressure on yourself to push even harder.
So, I have learnt a bit more about balance, I don’t mean work/life balance but about blended working. Staggering hours, working out of cafés, taking some time out to go for a walk or get a massage – talk to people, get on video with close colleagues for a chat rather than just a meeting. If my kids are at home for some reason, I don’t have to take the whole day off, I just work around it. There have been times that my kids have joined team meetings too, they have an extended family of ‘aunts and uncles’ across the world!
Occasionally I travel to a Polycom office and when I do, I love the interaction. I do miss being in that office environment, but for me the benefits of what I have and how I can plan my work around life are more important.
What are your essential tools for flexible working?
I don’t know how I would function without high quality video collaboration! This technology has helped me establish great relationships with colleagues around the world, many I haven’t met in person, although we meet virtually often. This type of relationship-building would simply not happen if I couldn’t see them face-to-face! My essential tools consist of:
- A standalone video unit, which helps a lot because I can continue to have my laptop just for working on. It also integrates with my Outlook calendar which is super helpful as it alerts me to the next meeting and it’s a simple click to join
- Software video solutions if I decide to work elsewhere, such as a café or another part of the house (and a 4G modem as WIFI can be unreliable)
- Two monitors, for ease of moving between applications
- A dedicated office space. For me it’s in a separate unit on our property. Having your ‘office’ on your dining table, simply won’t work in the long run.
- Skype for Business for instant messaging with my colleagues and checking if they are available is important too. It allows me to get quick answers or set up an impromptu discussion.
- A task list, whether its physical or online is very helpful, especially when you have many projects on the go and a virtual team to manage
What advice would you give employees looking to pursue remote working options whilst retaining their jobs? How should they approach their managers?
I’ve been lucky that the organisation I work for has a culture of flexible working and activity based working. We have many work from home employees and pretty much all others take advantage of flexible working when required.
So the first consideration would be, what is the culture of the current organisation and how open is your immediate manager to flexible working? Not every job will be suited to remote working, so it’s important to recognise this too, and if you desire to work remotely then you will need to look at career options that enable you to do so.
Secondly be open as possible with your manager. In my own team, I have some fulltime homeworkers and others that will work part of the time at home. At times, they need to shift how they work due to commitments with family or study or even to extend a holiday and work remotely from there. They will be open about how they work and I am very accepting of how they choose to work. When I decided to make the move to fulltime homeworker as I was moving location where there was no office, I told my manager 12 months in advance, this gave her the ability to adjust for this.
Thirdly I truly believe if you are a committed, high-performer, the company (if you work for a good one) will support you and you can create a role best suited to remote working full-time or for some of the time. At least that has been my experience in Polycom.