Cindy Reisner is the Director of Qualitative Research at a market research company in Pennsylvania. She is also a mom of three and lives with her family in the suburbs of Philadelphia. As a longtime remote worker, Cindy has mastered the best tactics to be her most productive self, despite her children also being home due to COVID-19.
Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Cindy. We are grateful to hear your story of remote work life.
Since 2011, Cindy Reisner has been a remote worker focusing on qualitative research and reporting for clients, most of whom specialize in healthcare. She and her colleagues help their clients better understand their industries. COVID-19 hasn’t affected Cindy’s work life much, as she always worked remotely and her husband is an essential worker. The only significant change to her workday is that her kids are now at home.
For Cindy, “work has been okay.” For her company, however, “not as much.” Due to COVID-19, she says, “Clients don’t want to spend as much money on projects because budgets are down. They also want the work done faster, because things have been changing so rapidly. Now, coworkers are working harder to meet faster deadlines.” Fortunately, the people Cindy works with still have their jobs, but some froze their activities when the pandemic struck.
A frenzy of activity, then back to normal
In the beginning, Cindy says, “Clients thought it was insensitive to send surveys on things unrelated to COVID-19, like customer service. For just about two weeks [in March], nothing happened.” Those who had never worked remotely were still “getting set up at home, so it was quiet for a little while.” Once everyone settled in, “There was a frenzy of COVID research. I researched doctors who did not work during the crisis because they deal with non-essential surgeries.” We completed this research quickly, and then the research timeline eventually returned to its usual pace.
Throughout the pandemic, Cindy appreciated her flexible hours. Nowadays, her kids sleep in until noon, but before the school year ended, Cindy managed all their schedules by starting work early. Since her husband, a doctor, did not stay home “for even one day” during those first few months, Cindy started early to work before her kids woke up. Cindy’s three kids are in middle school and high school, so they “don’t need me to make breakfast or lunch, but I try to check on them.”
For a remote worker like Cindy, a private office is key
Thankfully, Cindy has a private office, which is a “huge factor” and provides necessary privacy. Many of her coworkers must work in small spaces and have little kids at home. Reisner’s kids completed their virtual learning in their bedrooms. “A couple of times I tried to make them come out and work in the dining room so we weren’t four computers in four rooms, but they hated it,” Cindy said. “That lasted one day.” Now that her kids are done with school, she tries to keep them busy. For instance, they are planning on repainting old bookcases together.
Before COVID-19, Cindy says she spent “more concentrated time at my desk and left at definite times.” Now, there is a more rapid back and forth between working and not working. Cindy enjoys remote work because it allows her to have the flexibility she needs to fulfill her other responsibilities as a mom. It helps her run quick errands, be there when her kids get home from school, drive carpools, and make dinner for her family. “I like to have nights in the week where we all sit down and eat homemade food together. I may not be able to do that if I were commuting from an office.” “In the summers, I’ve always liked working at home because if the mailman came, I could run out and see if I got a letter [from my kids] from sleepaway camp.”
For this mom, being a remote worker works beautifully
Cindy recalls her remote work life when she was in her 20s, living alone in New York City. She says, “I would realize that I hadn’t seen a single live person all day.” She says that if she weren’t a mom, she wouldn’t enjoy remote work as much. “It would be too lonely. You don’t have a reason to get up and get dressed.”
Although the research interviews Cindy conducts for her clients are supposed to be completely objective, she cannot help but start her conversations with “How’s your health? Is your family okay?” She feels it’s rude not to ask, even though she says it means the interview is technically no longer truly impartial. She maintains objectivity by explaining at the get-go that “This is not an interview about COVID, but if your experiences during this time are relevant to what we’re talking about, then make sure I understand that.” She asks her interviewees to “try and answer questions based on what it was like before COVID, but they can’t and it may never be like that again.”
Don’t forget to shut down at the end of the day
When supervising her colleagues, especially those who are younger and have never worked remotely before, Cindy is adamant that they stop working when they did prior to the pandemic. She says, “Just because the computer is in the house doesn’t mean you have to use it. That was something I learned a long time ago.” When she sees colleagues working late into the evening, she says, “Get off your computer! Don’t email me back! Stop reading emails on your phone!” Cindy does some work at night because she has other daytime responsibilities. But she doesn’t want her employees working straight through all day and all night.
Her number one piece of advice for remote workers is: “If you don’t have a physical wall [separating you from work], you have to create a ‘time wall’.” Your clock has to become the wall that separates your work and personal life.” She adds, “It’s easier to start when your routine is not based on the time. For me, it’s when I push the button on the coffee pot. That’s when I start my work day.”