From the beginning, Shield Geo has always embraced flexible working conditions. Initially, this was to support the frequent travelling and family commitments of our founders Tim Burgess and Duncan Macintosh, but as more employees came onboard flexibility remained.
As a global company with a distributed team and varying commitments, personalities and working preferences, it’s important to us to judge our employees on their output and not just their logged hours at their desks.
We think flexibility promotes trust, ownership and autonomy while also taking the pressure off our employees to make their life fit around their work schedule. This way, if someone needs to go to the doctor, wants to watch their child’s sporting match, or simply feels more productive outside of traditional working hours – Shield easily accommodates for them.
To highlight the many ways remote work ‘works’ for our employees, we’re sharing their stories and showcasing what a healthy work-life balance means for them.
Gabrielle Whitfield is one of our global mobility account managers. She’s involved with a lot of the client-facing portion of the Shield offering.
Gabby came onboard just under a year ago with a background in in-house global mobility and global HR.
One previous role had an offsite aspect, but most of her career has been in an office, with limited flexibility.
“I’ve wanted to work remotely for a long time, but it hadn’t been an option,” Gabby says.
“A lot of companies just don’t believe in it, so I was quite shocked when I came across this role.”
Gabby finds the flexible conditions work exceptionally well for global companies.
“Our clients are in different countries and time zones, so there is no set [time where everyone is working],” she says. “I’m not even in the same country as my team.”
When you’re already working at different hours due to time zones, sticking to a traditional 9-5 seems arbitrary.
In fact, Gabby finds starting her day earlier or picking up some tasks later in the evening can be really helpful with these time zone constrictions.
“When you have clients that are asleep when you’re at work, you still have to make it work.”
But the positives aren’t just in getting work done – though Gabby does admit she’s more productive working from home – it also helps Gabby achieve a greater balance in her life, which is something she’s always striving for.
“Knowing I have the flexibility is great because not every day is going to be the same,” she says. “Sometimes it doesn’t always flow, and that’s ok.”
“[Often] people’s idea of you being productive is, ‘Were you here at your desk from 9 – 5?'” Gabby says.
“I just don’t think that’s how productivity works.”
As someone who is naturally a planner with lots of to-do lists, and assigned tasks for every day, Gabby has had to be intentional in slowing down and embracing the ebb and flow of a changing week.
She’s developed more peaceful practices to encourage balance and move away from the stress and anxiety we can sometimes feel at work.
“I’ve recently gotten back into yoga – Bikram and also body brain yoga – it focusses a lot more on the mental and breathing,” she says.
“When I worked in an office I was like, ‘I gotta get this done because I gotta get out of here by 4, because the traffic’s bad and it’s gonna take me an hour to get home, and I gotta pick my kid up. There’s so much anxiety surrounding that.”
Removing the commute from her day and having more control over her daily routine has helped Gabby move into a happier and healthier space.
“When you don’t have to worry about commuting in, and you can just wake up, turn your coffee pot on, maybe watch the news whatever it is you do and then sit at your computer – it just seems like the more natural thing to do.”
She also loves the balance this lifestyle affords her family life.
“There are some days where I may work a little bit later because I left work a little bit earlier on another day,” she says.
“I think it takes a lot of pressure off wanting to do things with your family and not feeling guilty.”
Gabby’s son plays a lot of basketball, and she loves being able to go watch him play, even if his game isn’t at the close-by home gym.
|6:45||I wake-up, get my bearings and head to kitchen for coffee or tea. Turn on the news for a quick look.|
|7:00||Start sorting through my inbox to see what has come in overnight, prioritizing what needs to happen first, by taking into account the time zone of the requestor. Timing is everything when working across time zones.|
|7:30||I have breakfast. I like a little variety, so it changes throughout the week in no particular order. Fresh berries with cinnamon toast or a croissant, with eggs and bacon, or lox with cream cheese and tomato on an everything bagel. Some mornings I’ve been known to have chips and dip!! 😊|
|8:00||I’m checking our team Skype feed to see what’s happening with my “Dream Team” in EMEA, what team updates have come in from Nikki and touching base with my Global Mobility Associate to go through the tasks for the day.|
|8:30||I am full throttle into completing my tasks for the day; responding to emails, cases, any new client handovers, and taking calls with employees or clients.|
|12:00||Lunch is usually at home. Something quick and easy with sparkling water! (love my fizzy stuff). Usually turn on CNN, BBC or ESPN on my patio to catch some fresh air and sunshine whenever possible!|
|12:30||I try to squeeze in the gym or body brain yoga for lunch when I can. It’s a good energy boost to reset in the middle of the day.|
|2:00||I continue working unfinished tasks from the morning and any new ones that have come in.|
|3:00||Take a break to refill my water cup and eat something. My son is usually home from school by 3:10, we have a quick chat and catch up on his teenage life 😊|
|3:30||I’m finishing up the last tasks of the day and mapping out the next. I usually start to get messages from my clients/employees in Asia. I try to respond to those quickly if possible. The finance team is also coming online shortly thereafter, so I usually start to see updates or requests from them. I try to send out new updates to clients/employees in EMEA, APAC or AUS so they do not have to wait another day.|
|5:30||Once a month I have handover calls with the Implementation Team in my early evening because of the difference between US and AUS. |
I’ll have dinner at home or out with family or friends, some form of exercise if I didn’t get around to it earlier in the day, my sons school stuff, run errands, do some cleaning and whatever else requires my attention. There seems to always be something to do.
|8:00||Time to chill. I’ll sit on my patio, have some bubbly, catch up on ESPN or a game of basketball, football, tennis etc. I love sports and being outside by the pool.|
While Gabby loves flexibility to change up her hours, and go to her son’s basketball games and weekly yoga classes, she does admit working from home requires a bit of self-awareness.
“Some people are really productive first thing in the morning and then like to take a break in the middle of the day to regroup. Others of us like me I typically like to get through it in one go,” she says.
“You have to know what works for you.”
This applies to the work-life balance as well.
“Often with remote workers, their partners are the only people they see in a day so when they come home, they kind of get pounced on with questions,” she says.
“Being able to leave your house and have adult conversations is really important to not feel isolated.”
For Gabby, that means visiting friends or family throughout the day.
“Sometimes I’ll go to the coffee shop nearby – sometimes I’ll pack my laptop up and go to my mums to work, she lives not too far.”
Sometimes it’s good enough just to change up the scenery to encourage motivation and clear your head.
“Often I’ll work on my patio outside so I can get some sunshine,” Gabby says.
“I have a pool in my backyard so I just like to be out there because I can see the water – it just changes my mood.”
– Bree Caggiati | May 2019
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