Last year I moved across the country to take a role as Innovation Director at a business incubator for teens and young adults in Memphis, TN. While I have an “office” and work normal 40 hour weeks, what most people don’t realize is that before taking the position I negotiated a flexible working agreement that allows me to work from any location and set my own work hours. Though it does come with it’s unique challenges, this working arrangement has completely changed my life. Here are a few things I’ve learned from a year of flexible full-time work.
1. Just because you have a full time job doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the flexibility of remote work.
We often seem to think of remote workers as these magical beings who own their own businesses and spend their days working as digital nomads in the most picturesque locations, but many people who enjoy flexible remote work have full-time jobs too. Some people have arrangements that allow them to work from home every day, and some do a hybrid of working on location, and working remotely like me. Before taking my current role I never realized this type of working arrangement could be possible for me, but I realized that by simply asking for what I wanted and finding an employer whose values aligned with mine, I was able to create a working arrangement that allowed me the freedom I needed to feel human.
2. Creating a bit of structure can help you avoid chaos
When you’re given complete freedom over your schedule it can be pretty freeing, but that freedom comes with it’s own challenges. If you’re like me, you enjoy having freedom and autonomy, but a little structure can be your best friend. It can be easy to become distracted or thrown off when you’re constantly working in new environments or working irregular hours. I combat this by creating a dedicated workspace in my home, and sticking to set hours when possible. If you’re not working from home and don’t have a truly dedicated workspace, you can trick your brain by creating one on your laptop or computer. Most operating systems will allow you to create multiple desktops which help you to separate all the things you’re working on into different virtual workspaces. I have a desktop dedicated to my full-time director role, one for my coaching and consulting work, and a personal desktop where I surf the web and communicate with my friends. Our brains can easily become overwhelmed when we have to process tons of information, so this little trick can help create a bit of structure and help your brain be more productive.
3. Find tools that help you stay connected
Thanks to the internet it’s relatively easy to stay connected to your team, whether you’re at home, working from a coffee shop on the other side of town, or leading a meeting halfway around the world. I’ve learned that while working remotely, especially in a leadership role, it’s crucial to have several tools on hand to facilitate collaboration with your team. There are countless apps and digital tools that can help you keep the lines of communication open with your team - here are my top 3
Slack - Slack is an amazing communication tool that’s especially useful for large remote teams. It allows you to chat, share documents and links, reference archives, and even offers multiple integrations to larger software platforms like google drive, and enterprise software like salesforce. It’s my number one go-to for quick communication with my team while I’m away from my office, and I have no idea how I ever lived without it. No wonder nearly 50% of remote workers use slack - it’s a brilliant tool.
Google Hangouts - If you’re like me and need to host meetings while you’re working remotely, you need a tool that can facilitate group conference calls and won’t break the bank. I’m an avid user of all things google, but I especially love google hangouts because it’s completely free and allows me to host virtual meetings with individuals, and groups via internet or phone with very little hassle and pretty consistent connectivity.
Trello - Trello is my to-do list on steroids. I’ve tried a great many productivity tools over the years, but Trello never disappoints, and is a must for coordinating projects with your team when you’re not physically in the same space. This tool allows you to assign tasks to your team or yourself, and to track the progress of your projects. My work, my coaching and consulting, and the advisory board work I do all involve teams in different parts of the world, so I’ve got to have a tool that helps me stay on top of things. Trello always delivers! Their basic plan is amazingly functional...and FREE.
The past year has shown me that with a little planning ahead, even those of us with more “traditional” careers can enjoy productive work while traveling or simply telecommuting from home. Having the option to create a flexible schedule and work from anywhere has improved my productivity, fueled my creativity, and helped sustain my inspiration. Though it comes with it’s own unique challenges, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I hope what I’ve learned can help employers find value in creating more remote working opportunities for their employees, and inspire more people to believe that remote work isn’t exclusive to world travelers; if you’ve got a computer and a steady internet connection - remote work can be an option for you too!