1. Hey, can you please introduce yourself?
I’m Laura Spawn, and I am the co-founder and CEO of Virtual Vocations, one of the web’s largest remote job boards. We’ve been around since 2007, connecting job seekers with legitimate remote job openings and helping them find fulfilling and flexible careers that fit their unique—and often hectic—lifestyles.
I’ve personally been working remotely for almost 15 years, and I am passionate about all the benefits that virtual work and the digital workplace offer to both individuals and businesses. I have three children, a husband and two super cute dog babies, Jilly and Ivy. I’m currently located in the beautiful state of Oregon.
2. What motivated you to choose remote working?
Working from home has always been a priority for me. From the start, I wanted to be at home with my three children, and because my husband’s career required us to move around quite a bit, especially in the early years, I found remote work was the only way for me to contribute a steady income to our household on a regular basis. Working from home looks different for me now that my children are almost grown, but I still wouldn’t give up the flexibility and freedom it offers me on a daily basis in terms of managing my own schedule.
3. What were your initial months like? Did it live up to your expectations?
Before co-founding Virtual Vocations with my brother Adam Stevenson, who is our Chief Technology Officer, I worked remotely for a few other companies, and it was definitely a time of transition for me as I figured out how to create a schedule that would allow me to both be productive at work and still be available and present for my then-small children. Then and now, I appreciate that these opportunities provided me with the flexibility to be at home with my kids without sacrificing my career or income. Remote work has always exceeded my expectations in terms of giving me control over my personal time and helping me contribute to my family financially.
4. How did you find remote working roles?
When I was actively looking for remote roles with other employers, I spent a lot of time researching companies—I’d scroll up and down job sites looking for remote openings, and then spend hours digging around the web to verify the legitimacy of the employers offering them. I quickly found that company research takes up quite a bit of time, which is what led me to start Virtual Vocations more than 14 years ago—I wanted to make that part of a remote job search easier for everyone.
5. What have been the best, good and worst aspects of remote working for you?
The best parts of working remotely for me include having the flexibility to control my own work hours and being able to be available when my family needs me. But like with most good things, there are a few drawbacks. One of the downsides to having so much flexibility in your schedule is that it’s easy to blur the lines between when you’re on the clock and when you’re not. Trying to fit five-minute work tasks in around fixing dinner or helping your kids with their homework can leave your family feeling like you are working all of the time, even though you may feel that you are prioritizing them over your job. Sticking to clear boundaries between work time and family time can be challenging, but it’s essential to a really successful remote work situation.
6. What tools do you swear by while working remotely?
Our company has evolved over the years in terms of the communication tools and platforms we use to get work done. We went from communicating primarily by email and phone calls in our early days, before there were so many digital communication platforms to choose from, to embracing tools like Slack, Zoom and Axosoft as well as HR platforms like Gusto and Weekly10 to help manage all of our daily operations. We do have regular video meetings among both managers and team members, but software tools like these allow us to continue to work asynchronously much of the time and allow for maximum flexibility and freedom in all of our schedules.
7. Your most exciting/ hilarious experience since you started working remotely.
I’m not sure if this qualifies as an “exciting” experience, but it’s certainly hilarious to me looking back. During one of my very first video conferencing collaboration sessions, I did not realize I would actually be on video. I thought we were holding the meeting via audio only, so I decided to get in a quick lunchtime workout before hopping on. It turned out that I was set to be part of a video panel discussion and, much to my chagrin, I was the only one wearing workout clothes and looking, shall I say, unprofessional for the topic and setting. The experience taught me to always err on the side of caution and be both presentable and prepared for any type of online meeting.
8. What is your golden advice to a new remote worker?
If you’re new to the world of remote work, the best first step to take to ensure your success from the start is to establish clear boundaries between your work time and your personal time, and vow to stick to your schedule as much as possible.
While one of the greatest benefits of working from home is the flexibility it provides, being able to work at any time can actually hamper your overall productivity, and you may find yourself working longer hours than you might have in a traditional work setting. Sticking to a regular schedule can help you maintain a balance between your career and personal lives so work doesn’t bleed into family time.
Along those lines, it’s also a good idea to create a fixed workspace in your home so you don’t end up writing emails on the sofa while watching TV or taking calls from the dinner table while eating. Being able to step away from your workspace at the end of the day is important, so don’t be afraid to set boundaries and hold yourself to them.
9. How do you see your career shaping up and your goals?
At this point in my career, and especially with it being so focused on the digital workspace, I and others on my team are heavily involved in watching and aiding in the transition to remote work that so many professionals and businesses have experienced and are still experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been exciting to watch the remote landscape change at such a fast pace over the last year, and I’m looking forward to seeing it grow and thrive in the years to come, while continuing to support both individuals and businesses as they realize the benefits of flexible work and move to incorporate it in their careers and business processes.
10. How do you expect remote working to evolve in the future?
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so many people have experienced remote work and the benefits of it, both personally and from a business standpoint. In the coming months and years, I expect that most companies will be adopting new hybrid-remote or fully remote work models at some level within their organizations—but even if they don’t, and instead opt to continue with on-site work, business leaders and their teams will be much more familiar with remote work and its processes from this point forward, and they will increasingly be forced to interact with other companies and individuals who have opted to work remotely. The benefits of remote work for both employers and employees as well as the widely expanded talent pool when recruiting remote workers help make a strong case for businesses to embrace some type of remote work model in the years ahead.
11. Where can we follow you on?
My company is active on various social media platforms including LinkedIn and Facebook, and I’m also a regular contributor on the Forbes Human Resources Council. You can follow along with us at: