A blonde-haired woman in a black top and patterned trousers sits cross-legged on a beige L-shaped couch, working on a Macbook.
Image: Maryrose Simpson

‘Gone are the days of the disengaged, unproductive, weather-ruled daily commute’

25 Aug 2020587 Views

With remote working on the rise, we asked Maryrose Simpson about her experience joining a fully remote team at Shopify.

Maryrose Simpson joined Shopify’s fully remote team in Ireland in February 2018. For her, remote working is best approached with focus and a growth mindset, leaving behind any preconceptions that might hold you back.

Simpson let us know what tools and techniques she uses to stay productive and achieve “work-life harmony”, as well as her solution to stop family interruptions.

‘Work-life balance means that both work and life have to exist in two different states and compete for attention. Work-life harmony simply exists in one state: your life’
– MARYROSE SIMPSON

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What does your current role involve and how is it structured?

I currently work fully remote as a Shopify Plus specialist. My role includes supporting the world’s fastest-growing businesses via phone calls, chats and emails on a global scale.

Have you always worked remotely?

Yes I have always worked remotely. I applied for a position with Shopify back in December 2017 and it was advertised at the time as a remote position. In fact, 100pc of Shopify’s Irish employees work remotely. There never has been an office!

Which skills have you found to be most important for working remotely?

Focus. Ultimately we are working remotely in our home – it’s where we feel safe, it’s our comfort zone and where we get to be ourselves a little more freely. It’s also where all the distractions and responsibilities live, like emptying the dishwasher or taking the bins out etc.

These distractions are easy to ignore in an office, but at home it can be difficult to draw the line between personal and professional time. You need to learn to prioritise where work ends and starts and perhaps even compartmentalise aspects of your home. Otherwise it’s never entirely clear when you’re really ‘on’ or ‘off’.

Also, a growth mindset is important. Any preconceptions of remote work need to be forgotten about – this is a fixed mindset and only ends up limiting your work and your response to challenges. Having a growth mindset allows you to embrace the challenges and see opportunity in something new.

One of Shopify’s core values is ‘thrive on change’, and I find myself saying that daily as processes, advancements and technology change and constantly evolve around me.

What were the biggest surprises or challenges you encountered while working remotely?

I have never felt so included, engaged and part of a team as much as I do within Shopify. Shopify has fostered an incredibly unique team culture that exists on trust and openness to its employees. It even goes a step further and sets out time in your working week for personal development. This is our dedicated time we have to upskill and work on knowledge gaps.

Honestly, this has been the most refreshing part to the position: being trusted to lead my own personal development and even to have the time to self-reflect on what it is I could improve on.

The biggest challenge is communicating with my family to respect my time. To them I seem always available and [they] don’t see the harm in interrupting me when I am in my office space. My rationale is you wouldn’t come into the corporate office and ask to borrow my hairdryer! I try to get them to at least text me if they need to communicate with me. I find it far less intrusive to my working day.

How do you stay productive when remote working?

Dedicated work space. I am lucky enough to have a room where I have been able to set up a home office.

I tend to approach my role and my day as if I am going to the office, minus the mundane commute. This space helps me to physically separate myself from all possible distractions in other areas of my home.

I think it’s just as important to stay unfocused on work outside of office hours as it is to stay productive and focused inside of work. I have learned to compartmentalise aspects of working remotely. My home office is the cornerstone to this approach. I only work within this space.

I have strict boundaries to not allow work to filter into my personal time. My work email and Slack are not connected to my personal mobile and I have a separate laptop for personal use. Disconnecting from work while at home allows your brain time to re-energise and I ultimately do my best work, I have found.

What are some tools and techniques you’ve found particularly helpful while working remotely?

Slack is great for collaboration-oriented projects or even just communicating with your work colleagues. Google Hangouts is great for virtual meetings and the person on the other end doesn’t need a Google account to accept your call. Plus, it integrates with Google Calendar to make scheduling calls easy.

Momentum (my personal favourite) is a browser extension that turns every new tab you open into a reminder of your single most important task to get done and how much time is left in your day to do it.

I also use 1Password. With all the tools and applications we use daily it is easy to forget a password, but having a password manager or secure digital vault where these all are kept saves so much time. Let’s face it, we have all been there (clicks ‘Forgot password?’ yet again).

What do you most enjoy about doing your job remotely?

We all strive for the perfect work-life balance. Instead, Shopify strives for work-life harmony.

Work-life balance means that both work and life have to exist in two different states and compete for attention. Work-life harmony simply exists in one state: your life.

I no longer feel like it’s work v life; my job has streamlined into my life. Gone are the days of the disengaged, unproductive, weather-ruled daily commute. Hello to a life where I close the lid of my laptop and I’m home!

Gaining hours that once didn’t exist, my days now are longer, happier and safer.

Is remote working something that suits everyone, do you think?

I personally love working remotely but I understand it does not suit everyone. Personality types, mindset and home environment come into play here. Employers need to understand some employees are just more self-motivated and succeed in working remotely, while others need to be in a workplace environment to stay motivated and connected to work.

I can understand people finding it hard to transition from being in an active and bustling workplace to feeling alone and not getting that human-to-human connection. I would like to see a shift where employers offer the option of working remotely and employees have the autonomy of working fully remote or a hybrid of office and home.

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