A $2700 Stipend, Virtual Team-Building, and Mental Escape Days: How My Company Supports Remote Work

Sponsored by Heap

Kristin Davis, Executive Assistant at Heap.

Photo courtesy of Heap.

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Fairygodboss
May 27, 2024 at 1:6PM UTC

“The most memorable piece of career advice I’ve ever received was from my dad,” says Kristin Davis, Executive Assistant at Heap. “He owned his own business and always told me to act like the owner, no matter what my role.

For Davis, joining Heap became a full circle moment. “When I joined Heap, I received shares in the company, so for the first time, I actually am an owner,” she remarks. “As an owner, I look for any way I can add value. I want to do everything I can to help Heap grow and be successful.”

And ownership isn’t the only key perk that Davis has found at Heap. She also truly appreciates the “virtual-first” environment that the company provides, which allows her to work from anywhere and helps her, and other employees, prioritize work-life balance.

To learn more about what it’s like to work at Heap, including their top-of-the-line remote work benefits, we picked Davis’ brain about the company’s flexible work arrangements, benefits and perks, advice for other professionals and more.

Describe your career path.

I have over 12 years of administrative experience and joined Heap as an Executive Assistant in June 2021. My day-to-day work changes daily, and that makes things interesting! I’m also working remotely from Europe half the time and from my apartment in New York the rest of the time. So, remote work isn’t just work-from-home for me — it’s work from anywhere! 

What is Heap’s approach to remote work?

Heap is a virtual-first company. They offer what’s called a “Choose Your Own Virtual-First Adventure!” where each new team member can choose whether to be Virtual Primary or In-Office Primary. I chose Virtual Primary, which means that I work at least three days virtually per week and receive (on a quarterly basis) a Virtual First Lifestyle stipend of $2700 a year to help cover expenses like internet, food and my cell phone — basically whatever I need.  

In-Office Primary is the opposite — people are in the office three or more days per week. While the culture is virtual first, Heap has office spaces in New York, San Francisco and London for those who prefer working in an office. I live in New York and have only been in the office a few times since I joined the company. Don’t get me wrong — the offices are incredible — but I prefer working from home. 

Heap provides a $1000 home office stipend that gives every employee the opportunity to create a home workspace that’s comfortable and productive. I was able to pick out items based on my personal needs. It also has great virtual team-building activities ranging from trivia nights to wine tastings. The company works hard to make sure we all stay connected and build relationships with one another

Heap’s remote work policies have benefited me on so many levels, professionally and personally. Professionally, I’m more focused and productive when I work from home. My work-life balance has greatly improved. I never realized how much actual time I spent commuting to and from an office, and having that extra time each week has been such a gift. 

The culture at Heap is one where people really respect each other's time. For example, even though I’m based in New York, one of the executives I support is in San Francisco. If something comes up after work hours, they’ll schedule a Slack to be delivered to me the next business day. It may seem like a little thing, but it’s really not! 

Personally, I’ve benefited from the remote policy because it’s allowed me to not just work from home but to literally work from anywhere. I spent six weeks last year working remotely from Nice. I spent January 2022 working from Rome. I’ll be working from Lisbon in May, and June is TBD right now — I’m trying to decide between Scotland, Spain or Croatia. What makes it even better is that I get so much support from my team members when I go on these trips. I’m often asked, “Where in the world are you right now?”

How does Heap support work-life balance?

Heap is the absolute best when it comes to supporting work-life balance — they go above and beyond. We have unlimited PTO, but we’re required to take at least 21 days, with five taken consecutively. 

Heap has Mental Escape (known to Heaple as ME days) — company-wide days off to unplug and disconnect. To make something that’s great even better, these ME days are usually  scheduled on Fridays or Mondays, and are often appended to national holidays, turning many three-day weekends into four-day weekends.

What I love is that Heap recognizes that when you’re in a virtual-first work environment, it can sometimes be challenging to step away from work. I know that I’ll be working and decide to do “just one more thing,” and the next thing I know, it’s 8:00 p.m. 

Burnout is very real, even more so when you’re working from home. Ken Fine, our CEO, will often send messages out before an ME day, encouraging us to take this time for ourselves. Heap also has a Treat Yourself Day. Once a year, you can take a day off and treat yourself to something and expense up to $100 of it. All they ask in return is that you share it on the company Slack channel. This year I took my day while I was in Italy and treated myself to a wine-tasting tour in Tuscany.

How might other companies benefit from instituting similar policies?

I think other companies would definitely benefit from enacting similar remote work policies and programs. For one, they’ll have a larger pool of qualified people to choose from. Also, when a company allows their employees to work remotely, they’re sending the message that they trust you and recognize that you’re a professional. That’s a huge morale booster. That kind of respect and trust leads to happier employees and increased productivity. 

What’s your advice for succeeding in a remote job?

Here are my top five tips for excelling in a remote job:

  1. Communication and building relationships when working remotely are keyReach out to team members to check in. Ask questions when you have them. Build connections with the people that you work with. Attend virtual events, and, if you can, attend in-person events, too. Set up coffee breaks or 1:1s with coworkers. Join office groups. At Heap, we have a lot of different Slack channels to help cultivate relationships. For example, I’m a member of a running channel, a French channel and a Wordle channel. It’s connected me to people in the company with similar interests whom I wouldn’t normally interact with during my day-to-day life.

  2. Create a daily morning routine that works for you. How I start my mornings really sets the tone for the rest of my workday. I like to get up, have coffee and go for a run. Then, I go through emails and Slack messages, and write a list of what I need to work on. Yes, I still handwrite lists out — I like the little feeling of victory when I get to check it off once the task is completed!

  3. Have a dedicated workspace with a desk, good light and an extra screen. Two screens are a game-changer when you’re working from home, especially when it comes to productivity. 

  4. Stick with your office hours. It’s very important to have time to disconnect. You have to set boundaries for yourself, even more so when you work remotely. We all know that sometimes things come up that do require attention, but let that be the exception — not the rule. 

  5. Don’t sit all day. Get up and walk around your house or apartment. Take a walk around the block and get some fresh air. 

How can other people find remote work?

If you’re looking for a remote role, don’t give up! There are more opportunities out there offering remote work than ever before. Write down what you consider the perfect role for you, and start from there. I’m not saying it’s easy — it’s definitely not! It took me over nine months to not only find the right role but the right company. 

Network! Reach out to contacts and contacts of contacts. Go the extra mile when you see an opportunity you want. If you see a role posted on LinkedIn, reach out directly to the person who posted it, and introduce yourself. Let them know you’re interested and why you would be a great fit — don’t just apply through a website. Do your research on the company when you’re going through the application process. Be prepared. You can do it!



Want to find a remote job? Heap’s hiring! Check out current job postings via the following link.

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