Today, I thought it might be interesting to write about a time-sensitive topic — employees who can’t easily do their jobs remotely. Recently, we hired a fantastic office manager for our brand new Lisbon office. She packed her bags, moved to Lisbon, and then…couldn’t go into the office. Here’s her take on this situation and how she’s getting things done.
Elisa: Let us know a bit about yourself!
I am Jessica, a Portuguese self-proclaimed office ninja who landed at Tymeshift this month as Office Manager (aka ecosystem creator). In other words, my responsibility is to manage Tymeshift’s brand new office in Lisbon and be the team’s organizer.
At the moment, I am transitioning from having 3+ jobs and an infinite amount of hobbies to starting this new challenge. I’m also adjusting to settling into my home country, where I didn’t live for most of my twenties. That is challenging on its own.
In and outside of work, I am outgoing and love to be around people. I dance lindy hop (swing) and am an outspoken activist for LGBTIQA+ and women’s rights.
Elisa: Ok, so you were born in Portugal, but where were you living for most of your twenties?
Before landing in Lisbon, I lived in Ljubljana (Slovenia) for 4 years. Before that, I lived in Utrecht (Netherlands) for about 3.5 years. After 7 years abroad, it became clear I wanted to bring all my experiences back home, and that growth meant going back to my roots, personally and professionally.
Elisa: Can you share a bit about why you chose Tymeshift as a way to start this new chapter?
I first heard about Tymeshift from Ivy, my college friend who works there. She posted a vacancy online. I checked it, saw the Team page, and I knew I wanted to be a part of the company right away. Funnily enough, I was so excited after learning about Tymeshift that I applied for a position that was more technical than what I would normally apply for, knowing I wouldn’t be the top candidate (but really hoping I would be).
True story. At the time, I decided to take the approach that I’ve heard works for a lot of people (well…male people) and applied regardless of whether or not I felt like I was the best fit, because why not!?
I know a lot of women avoid this approach because we are taught to be more contained and self-conscious, and a lot of times, that is what is holding us back professionally. I didn’t want to let that happen to me. That’s what I was thinking of and guess what?
In my mind, my end goal was to find a challenging office management position. But I told myself I would apply for other opportunities if the place felt right. That’s how I first applied: Tymeshift felt right. Thankfully, without me knowing, that opportunity was there all along. You (Elisa) saw my profile and reached out, and ended up offering me a role.
Now I know that you were planning to hire but hadn’t posted the job online yet, because you thought I would be the perfect fit. I was lucky this role was in your plans and that the timing was just right. It’s not every day that a job offer lands on your lap that matches exactly what you hope for, but you never know without trying!
What if I had never applied, because I thought I wouldn’t be good enough?
Looking back, it feels like this is precisely where I should be (except the part where I am quarantined in a small cozy room in the center of Lisbon and not in our brand new office).
Elisa: I’m SO glad you applied. The second I saw your profile, I knew we’d have a place for you. When you got the Office Manager position, what opportunities were you excited about? What challenges did you expect to face?
I was excited about becoming an office Marie Kondo (“I love mess!”).
I started a list with ideas that I thought I could forget once I would be too busy with daily matters. The list was there to remind me that no matter what, I want to be someone who brings positive change and energy to a team. I wanted to keep the big picture in sight, which is more than ticking a box on a list of job responsibilities.
I was so excited about the fact that this was a brand new position that I would have to build from scratch. That immediately changes how you are onboarded and gives you a lot of freedom to explore possibilities and to shape the position. Maybe for some that is scary. To me, that’s incredibly thrilling!
I had a very clear picture of what to expect, but I could not predict the biggest challenge of all: being an office manager stuck at home.
Elisa: That was surprising for all of us. How did you feel when you found out?
I did not have time to really let that sink in! I was in the middle of packing 7 years of my life in boxes and suitcases.
In retrospect, I didn’t imagine this could really happen. It turned out that my flight to Portugal was actually one of the last ones before airports started shutting down, and people were stuck, so I was lucky.
Miraculously, I had everything planned out so well — mostly. I had a long-term room reserved before even landing. When I heard about being on lockdown, I was relieved I had a place to stay and had everything I needed for a smooth start. But hey, that is why I am an office manager!
Elisa: How are you distance-meeting the team and getting into your work groove?
I am trying to be part of the moments we create together online and I make an extra effort to be communicative. I try to anticipate the needs of others who are going through the same thing, so I try to cheer people up with funny memes and my odd sense of humor. As I am a people person, I always feel I can’t quite bring that energy across online. And that makes me stressed. But everyone has been so warm and welcoming that I have felt very comfortable being myself, and I cannot wait to feel that energy in person!
As for getting into the work groove, I am trying to establish a morning routine that involves waking up early, getting some fresh air, and making myself some coffee before turning on my laptop. I’ve also turned to my work best friend, Trello, to keep me organized and in-check. I get great pleasure from seeing the little cards going to the done! column.
Elisa: Any tips or advice on how you are managing an office without physically being in the office?
I am managing a physical space that I have never been to, which would not be possible without the technology to see the space remotely. Thankfully, I have a really patient colleague (…you again, Elisa!) who measured furniture on my behalf. Which made me think about how much of our lives are happening online. I have worked remotely before, but this is new. I cannot wait to see the office and work from there and make it a comfy space for everyone.
In the meantime, I am making sure that when the Covid-19 pandemic ends, we have the best possible space to go back to. Hopefully that will be soon.
What has helped me:
- Pretending that I am in the office.
- Reminding myself that all service providers are in the same situation, so it is a great occasion to be extra kind on the phone and build nice professional connections.
- Foreseeing what our needs will be in the immediate term, and what they will be right when we get back to the office as well as our first month there. That way, we’ll be set when we return.
- Making the time to be online with my colleagues to avoid isolation and get to know them better.
Since this is a totally new role, I have also been writing down processes, lists of contact providers, spreadsheets…did I already say I love mess?
I blame that on my Virgo rising.
Final thoughts from Elisa
Hiring the “right” person doesn’t mean you’re just looking for someone to follow the position description perfectly. That’s a big part of Tymeshift’s company culture. It’s about finding the person who will adapt to new challenges and make the role their own. Sometimes we are all not the best fit for a role we see advertised, but that doesn’t mean we’re not the best candidate. So get out there and find a job you know you can bring a lot to and apply. You never know what could happen!
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