An Undefined Year: Tales of a Remote Office Manager

During the pandemic, Jessica finds herself running an office remotely. What challenges does she face? And what solutions does she find?

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Remember when I first started as an Office Manager without an office?

Well, When our Chief Brand Officer Elisa interviewed me in March, I was stoked to have found Tymeshift. I am not going to lie; I was also quite scared about what that would mean for the team and me. After all, I had just been hired to run an office I could not go to.

You’ll be happy to know I’m still here!

“Here” meant loosely, as I’m still not in the office. How did I do that, work full-time, pursue my hobbies, and keep my sanity at the same time? No clue.

I blame it on my office ninja skills.

As 2020 comes to an end, I’m as busy as ever (and thankful for that!). The challenges this year brought, I believe, forced us all to grow as professionals, teammates, and most importantly, they motivated us to step up our game. 2020 also made us ask ourselves the question:

“Who do I want to be at my job?”

How do we cope, support each other, and maintain a positive attitude in these unprecedented times? How do we bring our full selves to work and support teammates in doing the same?

I somehow felt that it was my responsibility to figure all of that out. As Elisa wrote in that original job description for my role: 

“It’s about finding the right person who will adapt to new challenges and make the role their own.” 

And that was exactly what I did.

This year, I made sure I was open to redefining my job responsibilities and taking on new opportunities for team collaboration. While handling all of the HR admin responsibilities of a growing team, recruiting, accounting, online event planning, supporting the marketing & sales teams, and now dabbling in content, I was a part of a company-wide effort to develop an internal culture based on trust, kindness, safety, and fun (a lot of fun!).

Got sick… this is how our team cheered me up!

How are we keeping everyone united and feeling connected?

1. Remote yoga sessions for 15 min x 3 a week


When the Zoom fatigue kicked in, we stopped our weekly company hangouts on Fridays after work. Instead, we replaced them with yoga moments during our lunch break, three times a week. It seems surreal now, but for months we did manage to keep this routine sacred. We had a Slack channel dedicated to it. Each time we would hop on a call, one of us would share their screen, and we would follow a YouTube practice (in case you were wondering, Yoga with Adriene was a favorite!)

Why did it work? We went with the flow (yoga joke!). We kept it short and used the yoga channel to motivate each other. It was also a chance to bond with colleagues we wouldn’t normally work with even if we were in the office. We were a bit too ambitious and eventually switched to one hour once a week, which looking back, wasn’t realistic. At the moment, we are considering going back to the 15 minute practices, and we are still using that channel to motivate ourselves to do more exercise. We also want to add a short meditation moment to our practice in the future.

2. Tymeshift FM — our morning radio show


During isolation, an all-team newsletter became crucial. That newsletter only lasted for one edition, as we moved into a different format: a weekly vlog with personal and work updates, games, book recommendations, recaps of what was happening on Slack, you name it.

It’s been a collaborative team effort in which everyone is invited to participate and bring their own content and ideas to share and interact with the whole team. We’re currently in the 24th edition, so I would say we are going strong! It’s been an amusing way to keep connected. I think it works because it is short and totally optional to join.

You might wonder why I call it a radio show when it’s a vlog. That’s because every time I record it, I imagine I’m on a radio show, which would be my dream job in a parallel universe. Yes, my colleagues are extremely patient with me.

Real talk, it is not always easy to keep it a constant each week.

You can imagine that between managing all my job responsibilities, it does not always feel like a priority to record a video and do something fun during my work hours. The work rush gets in the way, and that’s exactly when I need to stop, breathe, and realize why it matters.

3. Surprise care packages for the team


When I first saw the pictures of the team receiving their surprise care packages at home… I was emotional. It took us a couple of months to produce and coordinate special swag for our gang, and they had no idea what we had been up to.

Plus, sharing their photos and unboxing videos on our general Slack channel became a bonding experience in itself. Now, we all have the same hoodies and masks all around the world!

4. Remote team meals


Once a week, we would stop what we were doing at the Lisbon office to eat lunch together. We kept that option remote so that we could catch up over a nice meal regularly. Admittedly, it does take a little longer to coordinate that everyone receives their food order on time. But again, these times call for special measures.

It is all in the small things. I am happy that I get to bring some light to others as my job. If that comes from a nice dessert or making sure everyone has the proper conditions to WFH, I’ll do it gladly.

Still, we are very cautious about Zoom fatigue. So we are keeping non-work online gatherings to a minimum. The last one of 2020 will be a remote Christmas event — got to keep the Christmas spirit alive!

5. Book Club via Slack


As a software startup, we love Slack. So our book club is currently happening in that format. There, we independently started to work on reading goals, keep each other motivated, review books, and discuss what is on our list. With this group alone, I read 16 books this year (my original goal was 12), and this year’s winner is waaay ahead of me. Instead of stalking colleagues on social media, we became the kind of people who stalk each other’s Goodreads — just kidding…but for real, though.

View from Miradouro do Bairro da Graça, Lisbon

Wearing many hats

As an Office Manager, I knew I’d be wearing many hats and juggling lots of tasks on a daily basis. Office Managers do a million things under normal conditions but adding a worldwide pandemic means wearing many hats stops being a “nice to have” and becomes necessary.

Office Management can mean a lot of different things depending on the industry, so there is a lot of room to reinvent that role if you’re given the chance. That’s especially true in this day and age! Whenever people ask me what I do for a living, I cannot say it in a few words. What I do feels like more than the sum of all my tasks and duties, and that’s what I love about it.

Whatever changes 2021 brings, here’s what I want to manifest: I commit to adapting to new changes and bring my full self to work, hoping that “to work” will finally involve a daily commute to a lively office in the heart of Lisbon.

About Tymeshift:

We’re Tymeshift, an effortless WFM solution made exclusively for Zendesk to make workforce managers’ lives easier. Our workforce management tools include shift scheduling, forecasting and analytics. A perfectly intuitive Zendesk integration makes your CX agents’ lives easier. Learn all there is about us and our product on tymeshift.com

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