How to Thrive and Find Belonging in a Virtual Workplace
Staying connected 3,000 miles from headquarters
By: Katie Titus, Veda Customer Success Manager
I live 3,330 miles from Veda’s Madison, Wisconsin headquarters in the small city of Fairbanks, Alaska. I’m a people person and an extrovert who gets energy from sunlight and social interaction. Then why you might ask, do I live in interior Alaska and work remotely?
I joined Veda upon finishing my graduate degree in public health. Since my husband is in the military, I knew we’d be moving around and that I needed a remote job. Luckily, due to the pandemic, many companies were offering remote work at the time. While scrolling LinkedIn, Veda’s deep purple brand logo, unique founder story, and mission to make our health system more efficient immediately piqued my interest.
“After interviewing with my now-colleagues, who made me feel comfortable, confident, and welcomed, I knew it was the perfect fit.”
Shortly after becoming a Vedan I learned that my husband and I would be moving to Fairbanks, Alaska sooner than expected. In the middle of November, after having worked at Veda for only one month, we started the 100+ hour drive from Columbus, Georgia to Fairbanks, Alaska – all with Veda’s full support. Veda is a fully work-from-home company but I would now have the distinction of being the most remote remote worker.
It all happened very fast: New company. New place. New darkness. New version of cold I wasn’t accustomed to. New house. New car. And having only been married seven months, a relatively new husband.
It didn’t take me long to realize I needed to find purpose and belonging in order to survive in all the newness.
In a matter of three months, I learned. I learned to shovel myself out of a snowstorm. I learned to put heating oil into my home’s oil tank. I learned to bundle up and run despite -40 degree temperatures (yes, that’s a negative sign in front of that 40). I learned I could run toward a moose and it wouldn’t charge me. And one of the most rewarding things, I learned to find belonging at work from 3,330 miles away.
10 Ways I Found Belonging
Seeing as remote work has become more commonplace, I’m offering up the specific things I did to connect to my colleagues and work. These helped me feel like a part of a team and fit in even when I was physically distant:
- I trusted my manager and VP to direct my work. Through months of conversation, they helped guide me toward my goals and eventually accomplish them.
- I dressed the part—complete with professional outfits, Zoom backgrounds, and a workspace I was proud of. That way, if anyone wanted an impromptu meeting, I was ready and excited to join.
- I was aware of how much space I was taking up during virtual meetings. In college, I learned the phrase “take space, make space.” It has always stuck with me. I assessed how much I was talking, and made sure others were also getting to contribute to the conversation.
- I owned my personality. With remote work, I find it easy to feel replaceable because others can also get the work done. I felt like my personality could set me apart. It became about how I did the work and with what attitude I did it that mattered most to me.
- I found meaning in the small things. If a 1:1 went really well with my manager, or my whole team joined a Zoom call to collaborate in what we call Zoom parties, it made my day.
- I learned to leverage my manager who taught me to never stop learning. The more questions I asked, the better we both became at communicating and working together to make our work lives more productive and fruitful.
- I learned to make a list of my accomplishments at work for days when I have imposter syndrome. (I also learned this from leveraging my manager.)
- I didn’t make work my everything and I didn’t expect work to be everything from my coworkers. I learned that CEOs, Vice Presidents, managers, and board members are people at their core with life responsibilities outside of work too. I learned it was okay to take and enjoy time off because my coworkers understood and related to living life outside of work.
- I viewed travel as a privilege and not a burden when I participated in in-person events.
- I connected with my coworkers even when it didn’t come naturally. Sometimes connection is natural and when it was I would go with it. Sometimes, however, connection is uncomfortable, and I learned to try despite the discomfort because even if there wasn’t an immediately apparent reason to connect, there was someone on the other end of the Zoom trying to find belonging too.
I feel lucky to work at Veda and definitely feel like an important part of the team. However, it took hard work and time to get to this level of comfort and belonging. Working remotely, and in a time of economic and global instability, is an ever-changing challenge. I continue to lean on those I trust for guidance and find joy in the journey.
Katie Titus is a Customer Success Manager at Veda. She’s a proud dog owner of the cutest puppy on the pet-pic Slack Channel, Nali. She earned a Master’s in Public Health from UC Berkeley in September 2021 and started with Veda shortly after in October 2021. She is passionate about expanding access to healthcare and feels her work at Veda contributes to this passion. When she’s not working, Katie is chasing adventure, spending time with her family, and sharing joy through health and fitness.
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