How Working Remotely Helps Me Prioritize Wellness

Tiffany O Cagwin is operations manager at Shogun. She graduated Kent State University with a degree in middle childhood education, language arts and social studies.

In this Q&A interview, Tiffany talks about her path from educator to yoga studio owner, and all the career stops in between. She also discusses the importance of wellness and how she — and others — can incorporate it in their everyday lives.

Tiffany joined the team in January 2020. She’s doing this interview from her home in Syracuse, New York.

Question: Your first degree was in education. Did you begin your career as a teacher?

Answer: That feels like a lifetime ago, but yes, I did! 

I was a fourth grade teacher for one year at an elementary school in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. It was an amazing experience. I really bonded with the kids in my classroom that year, many of whom found me years later on Facebook and keep in touch with me to this day!  

Ultimately though, I realized my heart wasn’t in it enough for the long run. So, I decided not to renew my teaching contract the following year.

Q: Good for you for realizing that early on in your career and being brave enough to act on it! Work-wise, where did you go next?

A: I transitioned back into the business world. I had worked for an accountant doing administrative work throughout college, and was also the office manager for a ski resort during the winter. This experience made the leap from teaching to business fairly seamless.

Over the next few years, I tried my hand in a few different roles, ranging from account management for a large manufacturing company to being an executive assistant for the president and two SVPs at a Fortune 500 financial services company. Then, I landed on a career path in higher education. 

I started in higher education at Syracuse University in an entry-level position, but was soon promoted to assistant director of financial aid at SU Law School. From there, I was recruited to work at Suffolk Law School where I started my MBA and planned on advancing my career in higher education administration, with aspirations to be the head of a school at some point.

Q: You were pretty busy forging a career in business and education. When did yoga come into the picture?

A: My very first experience with yoga was about 15 years ago, but I would say I've been committed to regular practice for about 12 years.

During my time at Suffolk in Boston, I was practicing yoga regularly in the city and decided to pursue my 200-hour Yoga Teacher Certification. I had only intended to obtain the yoga certification as a way to deepen my own knowledge of yoga philosophy — but when life circumstances took me back to Syracuse, New York, in 2011, I decided to open a yoga studio. Thus began my journey as a business owner for the next eight years.

Q: Can you talk a little about running your own yoga studio?

A: I owned my studio — O Yoga — for eight years, and sold the business in 2019. It started as a tiny, one-room operation with myself and a few other teachers; by the end, it was a multi-location operation with a staff of approximately 75 people.  

When I opened in 2011, there was not much of a yoga scene in Syracuse. By the end, O Yoga was hosting some of the world’s most renowned yoga teachers for workshops, making Syracuse a yoga destination for people from all over the country. I never imagined the business and the yoga community in Syracuse would grow the way that it did… it was an incredible experience!

Tiffany Cagwin leading an outdoor yoga session in a city
Image credit: Tiffany Cagwin

Q: Yoga is often mentioned hand-in-hand with wellness. What does wellness mean to you?

A: My idea of wellness has certainly evolved over the years into a more holistic view. To sum it up, I would say it’s having a harmonious, balanced life full of purpose, happiness, prosperity and freedom. 

When it comes to wellness, we get bombarded with messages telling us that a specific diet or way of life is the key to wellness. But I truly believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Of course, to live a fulfilling life, we want to make sure our bodies and minds are as healthy and vibrant as possible. But there are so many ways to find that optimal health. So, the most important thing is to make self care and wellness your priority, not put in on the back burner for “someday.” 

As far as why it’s so important to me and when it became such a central focus for my life, this article probably sums it up best, because it’s a long story!

Q: How did your focus on wellness affect your job search after selling O Yoga?

A: During the sale process of my businesses in 2019, I realized quickly that remote work was definitely going to be the best fit for my lifestyle. 

I’m so much more productive and comfortable in my home office and love that I’m able to set up the environment that feels the best for me — soft lighting, essential oils diffusing, the windows open and my dog at my feet! So, I focused my job search on sites like We Work Remotely and AngelList and had set up alerts to be notified of postings that fit what I was looking for. 

And actually, I already knew about Shogun — my husband decided to switch our chocolate business website from Wix to Shopify in 2019 to begin selling the products online. We discovered Shogun Page Builder in the Shopify App Store.

I did some research to learn more about the product and remember being very impressed by not only the product, but the company as a whole… being fully remote, the company values and the benefits. I added it to the list of companies to keep my eye on for postings, so when I got an alert through AngelList for the operations manager position, I immediately applied!

Q: How does working at Shogun help you prioritize wellness?

A: Working at Shogun gives me complete freedom in terms of my environment and schedule — this allows me to maintain a healthy life.

On top of building my ideal office space, I’m able to eat healthy food easily throughout the day, which makes a huge difference! I can walk into my kitchen anytime to whip up a smoothie or make a cup of tea. I’m able to cook nourishing meals for my family for dinner because I can get a soup going during the day or put something in the oven for later. I also love the flexibility of schedule that allows me to take my dog for a late morning walk, ride my Peloton at lunch or pick my son up from school (pre-COVID, of course). 

I’m also encouraged to share my passion with others. So, I began leading a weekly meditation session on Fridays, which has been awesome.

a woman surrounded by candles and a statue leading a guided meditation
A screenshot of Tiffany leading a guided meditation over Zoom

I record the meditations for anyone who is unable to attend during the live session and share them every week in Slack. Many people have reached out to me to say how much it has been helping them, especially during this stressful time of life for all of us, so it makes me feel good to be able to help in that way.

Q: What can other remote companies do to help promote wellness among the staff?

A: People, especially ones working remotely, want to be “seen” and know that someone cares. I feel fortunate to be in a position where one of my job responsibilities is connecting with people. But honestly, this is the responsibility of everyone at the company. It should be part of the culture that’s encouraged — that everyone makes time to reach out to colleagues randomly to say hi, ask how their day is going or schedule a Zoom coffee chat.

Offering virtual classes like yoga and meditation is another great way for remote companies to promote wellness. You can tap into expertise on your team if you have a yoga teacher on staff (you’d be surprised how many certified yoga instructors there are out there) or easily find a yoga teacher to contract outside of your organization. 

Some other fun ideas: 

  • Create “step challenges” (most people have step trackers these days, but a FitBit could also be a great gift for employees).
  • Host virtual walkathons or marathons and raise money for a cause.
  • Create a wellness channel on Slack where people can connect over fitness and healthy food ideas.
  • Start a wellness/mindfulness book club.
  • Pay for fitness/yoga memberships or subscriptions.

I could go on and on. But the idea is to get creative, offer some fun ways for people to connect around wellness and make sure above all else that your staff knows you value their health. If they know you care about their wellness, they’ll feel more confident making choices to prioritize it.

Q: For those stuck in an office, any tips or ideas for how they can implement wellness during the workday?

A: If you’re working in an office, you can definitely do things to take care of yourself throughout the day. 

The two most important things everyone should be doing throughout their day is move regularly and drink lots of water! I know it sounds simple, but they are very easy to overlook when you get in a zone behind your computer. 

I love to get up about once an hour and do a few stretches. When I worked at SU Law School, I used to close my office door and do a handstand a few times a day for a burst of energy and to get the blood flow going in my legs the other way. Now, I’m not suggesting if you work in an open office space that you bust into a handstand in the middle of the room (although your co-workers would probably be super impressed), but there’s simple poses you could even do sitting in your chair.  

The point is, if you don’t want to end up with back pain, super tight hip flexors and permanently rounded shoulders, make some movement throughout the day a priority. As far as water, most of us fall short here too. I’ve found that filling up a giant water bottle and having it on my desk helps keep me accountable.

Some other ideas:

  • Find a buddy at work and go out for walks at lunch time if you can.
  • Pack a lunch and snacks from home so you’ll eat healthier throughout the day.
  • Put a blue light filter on your devices or wear blue light glasses.
  • If you can get it approved, I highly recommend getting a small air purifier for your desk area. 

Incorporating some of these tips can go a long way toward reducing headaches (if you have them) and improving your overall energy and mood during your work day. And who doesn't want to feel more energized and happy throughout the day?

Are you interested in joining our fully remote and globally distributed team? View the open positions at Shogun and apply today!

Kathleen Garvin

Kathleen Garvin is managing editor at Shogun. She’s worked for back-to-back (to-back) startups and lives in St. Petersburg, FL, via Philadelphia. You can reach her on Twitter.