In April, our CEO, Natalie, and Director of People Operations, Lorissa, headed out to Orlando—the home of Disney World, palm trees, and sun—to visit some of our newest team members. They wanted to hear first-hand how our remote working model affects the lives of our employees.
Back in late 2016 we chose Orlando as the location for one of our newest remote team clusters. Even though our virtual receptionists work from home, we like to make sure we hire people in clusters. This allows us to choose locations that fit our company, where we can find the best employees to deliver great service to our clients.
Another bonus to clustering our remote hires together is that we can get them together for an occasional meetup. And that’s just what Natalie and Lorissa had in mind when they got to the Sunshine State.
Remote team meetup in Orlando
Once they arrived in Florida, Natalie and Lorissa met up with our team members in the area to share a little bit of company history, news, and core values. They talked about our QA process and found out about how the different team members discovered AnswerConnect and how they’ve liked the job so far. Among the virtual receptionists they met were Marily, Tia, and Linda.
Performing great customer service
Marilyn grew up as part of a family troupe of circus performers, traveling around North America in the 80s and 90s. Her brothers are still performing, riding motorcycles inside metal spheres of their own construction. But Marilyn wanted something a little more traditional, she says, so she settled down in Kissimmee, Florida.
She got a job at Victoria’s Secret and over about five years worked her way up to the position of Recruiting Supervisor. In the meantime, she kept her love of performing alive by staying involved in theater and teaching aerial yoga in local parks.
Eventually, though, her commute of nearly an hour each way, late hours closing the store, and the hectic pace of selling in a busy retail environment started to wear Marilyn down. Her anxiety got so bad that she even wound up in the hospital. “I realized that it wasn’t the thing for me,” she says.
By joining AnswerConnect as a virtual receptionist working from home, Marilyn is now able to use her customer service skills in a flexible schedule she chooses herself. “My purpose is not just to sell, but to help,” she says. “That’s fulfilling for me.”
Now, Marilyn says, she has a new appreciation of something she truly values—time. “No amount of money can buy time,” she says. “It’s something you have to protect. You have to choose how to save time for you, time for work, and for important things like family. I believe through this job, honestly, that’s where I learned these things.”
As the mother of three daughters, Tia has her hands full. She had worked in a call center before coming to AnswerConnect, but never from home. “I love the way that we can schedule when we work and how long we work,” she says.
AnswerConnect receptionists are able to choose their own shifts—and since we operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, there are usually plenty to choose from. The receptionists with the highest QA scores pick first, which gives everyone incentive to do their best.
This flexible scheduling has helped Tia even more lately, as she’s been dealing with some back pain. She’s able to schedule herself for three hours and then take an hour off to rest her back—something that just wouldn’t be possible at most jobs.
One of Tia’s daughters attends Florida Virtual School, a fully accredited online school. So both mother and daughter are able to work virtually, over the Internet. And on breaks, Tia can help her daughter with her homework.
“I like the flexibility,” Tia says. “I like that I don’t have to go through traffic. I like that I can be here when my kids get home from school.” She particularly appreciates the point-based system that allows a receptionist to wipe away points accrued through absences by working certain high-priority shifts (such as weekends) that are hardest to fill. “No job has that,” she says.
School’s in session
Linda began working for AnswerConnect a couple of years ago, when she lived in North Carolina. She moved to the Orlando area to help care for her ailing father. It was supposed to be temporary, and because she answers calls over the internet through our virtual model, she could work from just about anywhere.
But Linda soon realized she would be needed longer-term, and AnswerConnect wasn’t yet licensed to hire permanent employees in Florida. “It was weighing on me,” she says. “If I stay, I lose my job. But if I go back, he has no help.” As fate would have it, AnswerConnect expanded into the Orlando area around this time. “Sure enough,” she says, “of all the states they could add, they add the one I’m at.”
Linda originally started with us after years as a corporate accountant. She left the 8-to-5 world, she says, to homeschool her children. “It was one of the best decisions I made,” she says. “It’s made a huge difference in our relationships, education, everything all around.” But when she became a single mother, she had to find a way to support her kids without giving that up.
She started investigating work-from-home opportunities, but found few legitimate ones. “I went with this company because they just seemed to really care. You weren’t just a number. I really liked their ideas, their mission statement, everything about them.”
When shifts become available, Linda checks her family’s calendar for any upcoming appointments or activities. Recently, she says, she scheduled herself around her daughter’s trip to a wildlife sanctuary on a barrier island off Florida’s coast. “I love the fact that I can literally build my schedule around everything else and still have a full life,” she says.
Face time for virtual teams
Meetups like the one in Orlando help our virtual receptionists and other team members get to know each other. Remote working has the tremendous benefits of flexibility and greenhouse gas reduction. We wouldn’t do business any other way, but we also recognize the value of getting together in person sometimes.
Our people are what allows us to deliver the best customer service available. They’re the core of our business, and we try to give them everything we can to succeed at work and in life. Sometimes that means blending the two in creative ways.
Have you worked as part of a remote team? Or considered trying a remote model at your company? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.