Back to Blog

How SMG employees are embracing a remote-first work culture

Mar 09, 2022

How SMG employees are embracing a remote-first work culture

From trading daily commutes for an extra hour of sleep to only having to worry about wardrobes from the waist up, those of us who have been able to work from home over the past two years have undoubtedly noted some personal benefits. While not without its challenges, the shift to a remote-first culture brought on by the pandemic allowed many to recalibrate their approach to work-life balance.

As we near the two-year mark of SMG transitioning to a remote-work model, we asked SMG employees how they’ve adapted to this new normal and are using it to spur positive changes in their everyday lives.

Todd Leach | Chief Client Officer

Tell us about your journey back to running and how that’s impacted you personally and professionally?

To be clear, I never ran unless being chased or for football practice and games. Remote-first saves me an hour a day minimum in travel to and from the office. I set a goal of walking every day when COVID started, and that led to running by August of 2020. I have now completed 2 half marathons and continue to run several times a week. The biggest impact is I feel healthier, and I have better stamina throughout the day. It has become such a habit that even if the weather is bad or I am traveling, I still make time for exercise.

In 2021 you completed the Kansas City Corporate Challenge Half Marathon. Do you have a health or fitness goal for 2022?

More bike riding, another half marathon (or two), maybe hike a 14-er in Colorado, and deadlift 225 pounds (slowly working my way back in the weight room).

What advice would you offer someone who’s interested in getting active and building healthy habits? 

One step, literally, at a time. My first walk on March 14, 2020 was 1 mile. I just kept at it. Oh, and I love the book Atomic Habits. If you are looking for a simple formula and process for setting goals, it’s a great resource.

Kate Gold | Associate Director, Learning and Development

Balancing a career and a family often resembles a tightrope act. How has remote-first impacted your work-life balance?

Being remote-first has added so much time to my day to spend with my kids. I used to spend about an hour a day just commuting, which meant I also had to drop my children off early at school. Now, I can log on before my kids wake up and take 10–15 minutes to understand my day. I can get them up later, enjoy breakfast with them, and see them off on the bus. I can also take short breaks throughout the day to do small, quick tasks at home. That means when the kids get home and my evening starts, I can enjoy my time without worrying about those tasks that would normally be done during the evening. I have also noticed that because I’m not overwhelmed thinking of all the things I need to do when I get off work, I can focus more during my work time.

As you reflect on your time working remotely, what do you like most about your new routine?

I enjoy having more balance. I like being able to spend time in the mornings and afternoons with the kids—and they have noticed, too. They like that I’m able to catch their games and pick them up from the bus stop. They also like being able to play with neighborhood friends after school because they can come straight home and don’t have to wait around at school until I get off.

What advice do you have for fellow working parents?

The key is balance. I try to use my mental breaks as an opportunity to do something that needs to be done around the house. If I have 5 minutes between calls, I’ll move the laundry over. If I’m feeling overwhelmed, I’ll take 5 minutes to prep dinner. My family will likely not notice all the cleaning that is happening, but they notice I am more present, relaxed, and focused in the evenings. Also, make sure you don’t spend all your time working just because your computer is at home. Have very specific start and end times and stick to them as much as possible.

Melanie Hager | Sr. Creative Designer

Anyone who has worked with you has seen your immense creative talents as our graphic designer, but how did you get started in pottery?
I took classes in high school and college and always enjoyed it. In college, my husband (who also took pottery classes in high school) purchased an old potter’s wheel for $60 at his professor’s estate sale and we hung onto it, storing it in his mom’s garage until we purchased our own home. Our house is an older home with a stone basement and the perfect place for a pottery studio. The extra time at home during the pandemic allowed us to clean up the basement, dust off the wheel, and get back into pottery again.

What’s been the most fulfilling part about launching Basement Potters?
All the support from people I know has been amazing! Seeing orders come through from old co-workers or people I haven’t seen in 10 years has been especially fun. Feeling validated that what you think is cool and functional, others agree and are willing to purchase. Also, my day job designing requires working in front of a screen and gathering feedback and edits from others. With pottery, I get to be away from a screen and be creative with my hands. I’m also my own critic!

For folks who are interested in a side hustle, what advice can you offer?
Set expectations and boundaries. For me, it was important not to overcommit my time. After all, I wanted pottery to continue to be an outlet. While there is a monetary aspect to it, I didn’t want to add another 40 hours a week of “work” or stress myself out by overcommitting. Also, don’t be too hard on yourself. Nobody starts out being proficient in anything. Give yourself time to improve your craft.

Haley Dahl | Sr. Product Analyst

How did you find out about the Tulsa Remote program and what inspired you to take the leap?

I lived in Tulsa for 8 years while I was completing my undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Tulsa. That connection caused me to see a lot of Tulsa-related content on social media, including the Tulsa Remote program. I’m originally from Oklahoma City and my parents still live there, so when I heard about the program, I was interested since it helped me move closer to my family. When I researched the program, I was very interested in the benefits—access to a coworking space (36 Degrees North in downtown Tulsa), free social and networking events, $10K stipend, and a welcoming community of remote workers. Moving cities as an adult is hard—you don’t always have a way to break in socially, so a program of transplants from all walks of life who are looking to make connections is a great way to soften that transition.

For you personally, what’s the greatest benefit of working remote?

I love the flexibility of being a remote worker. If I need a quiet, heads-down environment, I can get that in my home office. If I have a relatively meeting-free day, I can work from my patio or go to the coworking space. Plus, not having to leave my 1 ½ year old miniature schnauzer, Stevie, home alone for 8+ hours a day is a perk—every day is dog day.

What advice would you offer to someone who’s considering relocating?

Relocating is challenging, but it can be even harder if you are moving alone or moving to an area where you don’t know anyone. One of the things that I found helpful was being part of the Tulsa Remote program, which gave me a built-in community. If you’re interested in relocating, there are programs similar to Tulsa Remote all over the country (West Virginia, Northwest Arkansas, and Southwest Michigan, to name a few).

Interested in exploring what remote-first work could like for you?

Just like SMG employees are using the remote-first culture to grow both professionally and personally, we’re taking advantage of the opportunity to grow our teams by expanding our geographical reach. If you’d like to explore opportunities to work in the rapidly growth experience management industry, visit our careers page.