Vanessa Tierney of Abodoo is standing outside by a tree and smiling into the camera.
Vanessa Tierney. Image: Abodoo

‘We will never go back to the commuting society we once were’

9 Jun 2020697 Views

Vanessa Tierney of Abodoo gives her tips for working remotely and discusses what we might expect from the future of work.

Vanessa Tierney is CEO and co-founder of Abodoo, a talent-matching platform for remote recruiters and jobseekers.

Currently, she’s heading up the development of Abodoo’s strategy from her base in Wexford, and overseeing the expansion of its talent heat-mapping licence internationally for governments to help support economic recovery and growth after Covid-19.

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Tierney has more than 15 years of international executive search, leadership and talent acquisition experience across Europe and the US, and has been working remotely for almost a decade. She recently co-authored a book about the topic, Your Company Without Walls, which will be released this month.

I spoke to her about her experiences of remote working and how she balances family and working life.

‘The beauty of working remotely revolves around the concept of found time’
– VANESSA TIERNEY

As someone who has worked remotely for many years, what have been the most important things you have learned with respect to productivity and mental health?

In terms of productivity, firstly it’s important to identify if you’re a morning person or an evening person. Structure your day so you’re working on your most challenging tasks during the time when you’re at peak performance.

Secondly, it’s really easy to get carried away and sit for hours in front of your laptop, so make sure to schedule time away from it, whether that’s some exercise, some gardening, family time – actually factor this into your daily schedule. I would also encourage people to use as many apps as needed to help with scheduling, administration and communication.

Keep a mindful eye on your mental health. Depending on whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, you may need to proactively make time to interact with others, whether that’s team members or colleagues. This is very important. The beauty of working remotely revolves around the concept of ‘found time’ – the hours you get back from the commute to invest in you and your life. If you reallocate this time well, you will really reap the benefits.

What have been some interesting recent trends you’ve seen in remote work?

When we first came up with the idea of Abodoo, we had noticed a growing trend of senior professionals being offered greater flexibility in terms of their weekly office schedule. This meant that sourcing was not location-specific for key roles. Fast track three years, and now this flexibility has permeated every level of a typical organisation. Now there are hundreds of companies globally that are 100pc remote.

One of the biggest trends we are currently seeing is the acknowledgment among companies that remote working is here to stay. Another term we like to use is ‘smart working’, which represents the bespoke remote-work formula that works for a particular organisation, their business, their people and their culture. Now that they’re realising that this is a model they will build on, they’re investing in training initiatives for their people and implementing the right technology to ensure key processes are secure.

Businesses are also recognising the importance of spreading the savings that will naturally be incurred from no longer absorbing the expenses associated with a full office and reinvesting this in their people. Increasingly, companies are also seeing the value of bringing in gig workers to do project work during these uncertain times to keep the doors open.

Do you see remote working becoming a bigger part of working life after Covid-19?

I would like to highlight a few points that will help Ireland to fully embrace remote working after this crisis. Government plays a very big part in this. There is amazing talent right across the country, and there are a lot of people in industries that have been badly hit that have transferable skills.

Abodoo is working with councils around the country with our talent heat-mapping technology to map the skills of the regions in order to attract employment and to support the creation of more digi-hubs.

This will mean that in the long term, we will never go back to the commuting society we once were. 1.9m were commuting every day last year. This way of life is definitely passé.

What are some of the challenges of balancing parenting with working remotely?

Juggling family and professional life can be very challenging. Children need love, care and attention and require you to be fully present. But equally, so does a full-time career or if you’re running a business. Here at home, thankfully, there are two of us, and we’re able to strike the right balance that works for us.

When you’re on with the kids, you’re on with the kids 100pc. When you’re focusing on business, your attention needs to be unwavering. For people who are on their own with kids, it must be extremely difficult in these challenging times.

Business leaders must demonstrate real empathy and genuine emotional intelligence to appreciate the individual circumstances of their workers and make allowances and exceptions accordingly.

For other mothers out there, what advice would you give them?

Right now, my advice would be to do your best but don’t put too much pressure on yourself. We’re all human and we’re all having our own unique journeys in trying to get through this. When we emerge from this pandemic, there will be an amazing opportunity for women to find a new work-life balance through smart working.

For those who have perhaps spent years of their lives commuting, felt stressed trying to pick up their kids from childcare on time or who have constantly felt very stretched, now is the time to prove that you can be productive remotely, that you can be trusted to get on with the job. This is also an opportunity for your employer to lean into the smart-working trend and help you to have a better balance in life.

I would also encourage women to find their tribe, and by that I mean finding people or women they can rely on to support them with the children if they need to work longer hours or travel for work occasionally. Having a strong support network is so important.

If you could tell yourself one thing when you were starting out on your remote-work journey, what would it be?

You can do this! Every mother tends to critique themselves across the different categories of life, but we are all multitasking and trying to do our best. Sometimes all you need is for someone to tell you, or for you to tell yourself, that you can do this. Women really are incredible.

Also, I’d tell myself: ‘Vanessa, you could live anywhere.’ It took a number of years of remote working for it to crystallise in my mind – if I don’t have to be in the city every day, I can live much further out and have much more space for the children, more options for schooling and a completely different lifestyle. Relocating turned out to be the best move of our lives.

Are there any podcasts or books you recommend?

I’m really enjoying the Rich Roll podcast as it covers all areas of life, providing a really holistic view. The Masters of Scale podcast by Reid Hoffman also gives super insights to start-up companies that have scaled.

As for book recommendations, I recently finished Michelle Obama’s Becoming, which was very inspiring, and I’m currently reading Tribe of Mentors by Timothy Ferriss.

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa joined the team as senior Careers reporter in July 2019 with previous experience in science communication and media. With a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication, she is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos.

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