Day in the Life of a Remote Worker: Terry Acker

Day in the Life of a Remote Worker

This spotlight illustrates how each remote worker finds freedom and productivity in their everyday life, in their unique way. Get inspired and see how you can improve your workspace, workflow, and work/life balance.

Name: Terry Acker
Pronouns: he/him/his
Current Job: Head of Design @ Parabol
Current Location: Flint, Texas
Current Computer: MacBook Pro
Current mobile devices: Pixel 4a, iPad Pro

What led you to choose remote work?

 A few years into my career, I realized there was a growing number of missions I could be passionate about at organizations that had the culture to support self-managing workers. These companies didn’t require me to relocate. I embraced the idea of having more control over my daily schedule, getting 1-2 hours back from commuting, and being able to travel on occasion while working. I didn’t want to depend on finding work at a limited number of local companies that seem interesting.
In 2011, I started my first remote job at BoomTown (real estate marketing software). They had a strong culture that allowed me to grow professionally. I made many friends there.
Fast forward to 2015, I joined forces with Jordan Husney to start Parabol with a mission to make software for remote teams. Our combined experience working for and with distributed companies led us to pursue this mission. The company has been fully remote since the beginning. We believe this way of working can empower many organizations. We’ve used our software to run our internal meetings for years now. If that sounds like a purpose you can get behind, we’re looking for folks to join us!

What does your typical workday look like?

6-8am: this is a window for personal time. I’ll use this time to work out, for reading, writing and prayer, or to work on a project. Currently, I’m using it to chip away at building a chicken coop. By putting this personal time first, it gets done. If I put myself last on the list, I never make the time.
8-10am: we’ve had 4 kids in the last 5 years. This time is for family: making breakfast, changing diapers, getting kids off to a good start, getting dressed, and showing up to work.

10am-6pm: this is my typical work window for the day. I try to group meetings in the morning so that the rest of the day is clear, or in the afternoon so that I can do deep work in the morning. When I’m at work I’m very focused, but I do believe in the power of breaks to let the mind simmer on problems. It’s important to step away often and not solve everything on a laptop. It’s also good to get out of the chair and away from the screen for the back and the eyes.
6-10pm: the evening is for family or social time. There’s plenty to catch up on with 4 small children. Maybe we play a game, or play outside, or go for a family walk. It’s also important to make time as a couple after the kids are in bed. Between the kid-demic and the pandemic, we have to have dates at home. Rarely I’ll take a later-than-usual meeting if we have trouble finding time. Sometimes I read internal team communications, or professional reading, to soak up more context in a relaxed way.

Describe your workspace setup:

I have a flat desk. I use an old Apple display on a stand to help me with my posture and distance from the screen. I like the laptop’s keyboard and the high-definition screen to check visual details. I find the steady ‘warmth’ of a lamp to be cozy. I have a little cactus.
I use a basic chair on a carpet protector. I don’t like arms on a chair, nor wheels. It’s easy to hop in and out of. It’s intentionally less comfortable. It forces me to sit up and get up often.


What do you listen to while you work?

 With most tasks I find vocals to be distracting. I’ll listen to instrumental music, e.g: Balmorhea, Explosions In The Sky, Erik Satie, Hans Zimmer, Hiroshi Yoshimura

Biggest challenge you’ve faced in working remotely (or are currently facing amidst the pandemic), and what you’re doing to get around it:

There are 2 sides to this coin: the day is very dynamic having small children. They play, fight, and cry—all loudly. They break down the door. My wife can always use a hand holding a baby, or changing a diaper, helping with homeschool, etc. You may suspect this makes working from home difficult. However, the flexibility and focus that remote work provides shines in this case. Because I know the day can have many demands, I’m better at focusing on my tasks. Because I know I sit in the chair too long, taking a break to give a 15 minute math lesson is helpful for my brain and healthy for my body—and I get to bond more with my kiddos.

Aside from your phone and computer, name a gadget you can’t live without in your workspace:

 I’m a big fan of having a whiteboard. It’s another surface for solving problems away from a screen. I appreciate the limited medium.
Currently, I have it installed on the wall behind my desk so that I can share it with folks over video. Most of the time I take pictures and drop them in Figma or Slack.
 having a design session over Zoom, baby in arm

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