What's it like to work remotely at IHME?

Published July 20, 2023

a pet dog supervising their owner's workday from home

As part of IHME’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, staff have developed Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), which are identity- and experience-based groups for staff to connect with each other. Remote@IHME is an ERG for all staff who identify as remote employees. To get a sense of what it’s like being a remote employee at IHME, we asked the leaders of Remote@IHME a few questions.

What are the benefits of working remotely at IHME?

Steve: Oh my gosh, so many! Zero commute, comfy clothes, and a highly personalized working environment (music, my own desk, etc.) are huge perks. Further, I find it easier to focus if I need to keep my head down on a task since there are less distractions out of my control. And something I don’t hear talked about often – healthy food choices, since there is less pressure to eat out or grab something quick. Finally, being at home makes it much easier to complete all those other adulting tasks like getting to doctor appointments on time, taking care of dependents (two cats in my case :)), etc.

Anna: When IHME allowed staff to work remotely from any state, I was able to move home to Oregon to be closer to my family. That has been really wonderful. I also really enjoy having no commute! I like having the freedom to dress comfortably, listen to music or a podcast while I work, and cook meals for myself during the day.  

Stephanie: One of the key advantages is the ability to recruit diverse talent from across the country. By allowing remote work, we can tap into a wide pool of skilled individuals who are passionate about what we do but may not wish to reside in Seattle. This flexibility in hiring enables us to assemble a highly talented and diverse team. Another major benefit is the freedom and flexibility that remote work provides. I have the privilege of working in the comfort of my own home within a carefully curated office setup that greatly enhances my workflow and productivity. This personalized work environment contributes to a more fulfilling and efficient work experience. Additionally, remote work allows me to be closer to my loved ones. For the first time in a long while, I can enjoy the proximity of my community and have more quality time with the people who matter most to me. Without the option of remote work, I would not have the luxury of being close to my support network and participating in the local activities that are important to me.

Jessica: I agree with my colleagues on all their points, with added emphasis on how remote work has opened doors for people who identify as caregivers and need the flexibility to take care of their dependents. I’ve only known remote work my entire professional career and had the opportunity to see various remote cultures before coming here. My core criteria for a thriving remote culture are:

  1. Trust in my capabilities and commitment;
  2. Recognition that we are humans with multifaceted existences;
  3. Dedication to social impact.

IHME exceeds these and then some.  

We know remote work has its own set of challenges. How do you make remote work work for you?

Steve: Loneliness is one of the biggest obstacles of remote work for me as well as distractions that didn’t exist in the office (my pets demanding attention, interruptions from my partner who also works from home, etc.). For loneliness, I’ve found that trying to engage folks during Zoom meetings (when there’s time!) and via Slack about non-professional topics is helpful (How’s your new puppy? Did you see that new movie?) For distractions, my partner and I have agreed that a closed door means we’re busy and also understand that it’s totally acceptable to ignore the doorbell. As for the cats…they continue to distract as they please!

Anna: Seeing people, even in a Zoom meeting, goes a long way toward feeling connected! I have a regular Zoom coffee chat with my work best friend, which is our way of replicating us being together in the same shared office space pre-pandemic. I also regularly engage in our community-building Slack channels, like “pet-pics,” to show off my cute cats to my colleagues and admire their furry friends.  

Stephanie: I’m similar to Steve, I like to DM colleagues on Slack about things that we share in common, from TV shows, to new sneaker releases, and productivity music playlists – the small moments of connection help to make for a much better work day. I also enjoy going to work by the water on no-meeting Wednesdays, which is great for my mental health as it pulls me away from the desk and into nature. Oh yeah, if the day is dragging, I like to blast my midday energy boost playlist and dance around my living room for about 15 minutes. Sitting at my desk for hours at a time can be super stressful on my joints, so a little movement always does the trick!  

Jessica: At IHME, my biggest remote challenge has been creating personal work boundaries with no clear marker to the beginning and end of the work day. The work is fascinating, the mission is noble, and the flow-inducing rabbit holes you can fall into are endless. What helps me the most with creating balance is using a purpose planner where I plan and timebox not just work goals, but also intrapersonal and interpersonal goals. The consistency isn't perfect, but I am not trying to be.

How does your team maintain a sense of community?  

Steve: As a software engineer, we have daily “stand-ups” in the morning as well as optional check-ins in the afternoon exactly like we did before we went remote. To further mimic office life – where one could walk to someone else’s desk for questions – it is highly encouraged on my team to ask for help as needed in the team’s dedicated Slack channel.  

Anna: We do an icebreaker at the beginning and a “win of the week” at the end of our regular team meetings, which I find to be a great way to get to know my teammates. It also lets us share in each other's achievements, both work and personal. We have also done virtual team-building activities, including an escape room and pumpkin carving.  

Stephanie: We organize in-person strategy sessions. These sessions allow us to work together on new initiatives, leveraging our individual strengths and expertise. Collaborative work helps us gain deeper insights into each other's working and leadership styles, facilitating a more cohesive and efficient workflow. It also provides a valuable opportunity to brainstorm ideas, offer feedback, and collectively make informed decisions. On my small  team of two, we also meet twice a week where one meeting is more task-based and the other meeting is focused more on catching up and identifying what support is needed personally and professionally.  

Jessica: My team has weekly meetings where we carve out time to check in with each other or present content of our choosing. We also encourage scheduling casual one-on-ones, which I love having on Fridays to kickstart the weekend vibes.

This blog post is the first in a two-part series on the hybrid work community at IHME. Continue reading part 2, Building a remote community at IHME.

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