Today’s remote workforce has become much larger than a year ago. Many technology companies have made plans for permanent work-from-home jobs or hybrid options that allow employees to work from the office and at home. According to a November Indeed report, 96% of tech workers believe that remote work is here to stay. 

In February, Sandra Lopez served as the speaker for WOZ and ENTITY Academy’s Fireside Chat on “Staying Polished and Professional When Working Remote.” During the chat, Lopez spoke on a few changes in work that have occurred in the last year. She also provided advice and insight on what remote workers can do to remain confident while acknowledging and valuing their mental health.

Who is Sandra Lopez?

Sandra Lopez is the Vice President/General Manager for Intel Sports and is in charge of marketing and development efforts for the company. In 2021, she was featured as one of the Top 100 Women in Technology by Technology Magazine and HITEC 100 Most Influential Hispanics in Technology

Lopez is also a mentor for ENTITY Academy, a female-focused education company. WOZ partnered with ENTITY Academy in 2020 to help women succeed in male-dominated tech sectors like software development and data science. 

Starting a Remote Job During COVID-19

During her fireside chat, Lopez introduced attendees to Jess David, Marketing Manager for Intel Sports to explain what it is like to be hired for and start a job remotely during COVID-19. 

David provided a few key tips for new employees who are completing onboarding training and starting their work remotely. These tips, as well as several more, are highlighted in a LinkedIn article David published in January. 

Ask questions that can’t be Googled.

During the interview or hiring process, David notes that it’s important to be inquisitive about the company and the position. If you have questions that weren’t answered in your research about the company, or while you’re speaking to a current employee, then go ahead and confidently share your thoughts and ask what’d you would like to know more about. 

Find a buddy and mentor.

Beginning a new job remotely can be a challenge. According to a 2020 Global Research Study by Lenovo, one of the greatest challenges remote workers face is that they experience a reduced personal connection with coworkers. 

David says that having a buddy and mentor is ideal when first getting a job. A buddy can help answer less pressing questions and explain the culture and environment of a company. Meanwhile, a mentor can help with career development and learning. If a company doesn’t set it up formally, then you can ask someone casually or ask someone in a higher-up position if they can set you up with a mentor. 

Set boundaries and take care of yourself.

Even if it is uncomfortable for a new employee, David says that it’s important to set up boundaries for remote work. According to a recent Gallup survey, employees that are working remotely due to COVID-19 have been experiencing high levels of burnout. 

Setting time to take a break can increase productivity and help with feelings of stress and burnout. Hence, it’s important to communicate to your boss if you feel like you need a break during a specific time to increase productivity or lessen stress. 

Understanding the New Zoom Office

For most people, the new Zoom office means a nice shirt, sweatpants, and comfy slippers. However, Lopez says that rather than opting for comfy clothes, showing up to a meeting in a full dress can make you feel more confident. 

Lopez’s statement is backed by several studies. For instance, a 2017 study found that those who wore professional clothing showed higher levels of self-esteem and self-efficacy. 

Another idea that Lopez offered was finding opportunities to speak with coworkers in more of a casual setting. For instance, depending on the office environment, creating virtual coffee chats or happy hours before or after work could be a great way to interact in a social capacity, even while working remotely. It also brings some levity during this time when many states and cities still have strict social distancing guidelines. 

A Commitment Toward Professional Advancement

Even though COVID-19 has made some changes to the way we work, Lopez stresses that an employee should still embody the same principles and priorities they had when they worked pre-COVID. 

“Part of getting the job done is focusing on you and your career,” said Lopez during the Fireside Chat. 

Lopez says that employees should always be finding time to spend on their professional development. Even during COVID-19, there are still opportunities available to virtually meet other people in your field. Allocating time to network with others in the industry not only allows you to learn more about what other people in the industry are doing, but it opens up more possibilities to advance your own career.

Sophia Acevedo

Sophia Acevedo

Sophia Acevedo is a journalist based in Southern California. She is a 2020 graduate from California State University, Fullerton, and a proud Daily Titan alum.