We're living in a day and age where we’re no longer trapped at a desk in an office block. Technology makes it a reality for many employees, freelancers, and entrepreneurs to work from home or whilst travelling. The workforce is dominated by Generation X and Millennials- people raised and fuelled by choice and independence.
The fantasy of complete control and utter freedom that's associated with being your own boss is appealing to many. We even get cool, hipster names like "Digital Nomads" and "Location-independent Entrepreneurs"! However, like all things in life with benefits, there are also challenges we need to overcome in order to reap the rewards of our non-traditional career path.
Following our FSB Regional and National Awards for Micro-Business of the Year 2018, I've been asked for advice from aspiring or struggling entrepreneurs about how I've built and maintained an international business and a team of over a dozen talented, motivated workers without ever renting or owning office space.
I'm also releasing a book about my professional journey in a couple of months. While the topic is fresh on my mind, here are five habits and productive actions that have helped me and my team achieve more quicker!
(* these points relate mainly to self-employed, freelance workers; however employees that have the flexibility of working from home or whilst travelling may also find these helpful!)
No matter where we are in the world, we need to create a dedicated workspace to put our mind into "work mode". If we’re not regularly going into an office, we don’t have that mental preparation that tells our brains, “you are entering a work environment”.
So we need to create one (even if it's poolside from time to time - ah, especially if it's poolside because we need to focus to do our best work!!).
Have an area dedicated to working. Here’s a basic checklist of what you’ll need:
The last point is particularly important for those of us with children or roommates. I used to have an “open door” policy with my kids. After all, working from home means more family time, right? However, letting my kids barge in whenever they want is hugely distracting and not very productive.
We all remember the viral video of the BBC reporter interrupted by his kids during a live broadcast, right?! That stuff happens when you work from home, even when we don't allow it, imagine if we didn't try to prevent it.
Instead of trying to juggle my attention between my family life and my work life all day, everyday, I created boundaries. This allows me to focus on the task at hand 100% (e.g. being a parent, or being a business owner) instead of giving each 50% of my time and energy. I even have a sign I hang on my office door that reads "Mommy is Working, Please Keep Out, Thank You", and my kids know I'll come downstairs when I'm finished working just like people come home from their workplaces.
When we work remotely it’s easy to fall into the trap of doing what you want, when you want. There’s also the issue of putting yourself into “work mode” and avoiding the temptation to procrastinate (especially when the weather is nice and the outdoors are calling!). We all need to develop a work routine that works for us and the way we operate.
For those of you that are more right-brained - creative and “big picture” workers - set up a routine and structure that puts you in the right frame of mind for work. Those of you that are more left-brained - detail orientated and system driven, - map out a clear work schedule using 15 or 30-minute intervals.
Here’s what you need to do (this works for both types of workers):
The most important aspect of this is discipline. By developing, and sticking to, a routine or schedule that works for you, you’re going to see a huge increase in your productivity.
You’re also going to minimise the stress of remote working. This may sound silly, but it’s easy to become obsessed with only doing work and to lose out on seeing friends, family, and maintaining a “real” life because we're not in a traditional work environment where social plans are often made. By sticking to your schedule or routine, you enable yourself to be productive and make time to enjoy life.
Without other people around you, it is easy to procrastinate or get distracted. When we work remotely, we need to make sure that we’re accountable for the work we’re completing or not completing.
I was fortunate when launching my recruitment advertising service because I had two things that kept me on target everyday. Firstly, I had a mentor that I trusted and who had a vested-interest in my success to check in with daily. Secondly, my work was all online, so my clients could see in real time what work was being done even though we were miles apart. Not everyone will have these two factors readily available, so here are some other ways to make sure you're staying on track...
To make sure we’re hitting our goals and not wasting time here are strategies to stay accountable and even making remote work fun:
By turning your work into a game and finding external sources of accountability, you train yourself to turn productivity into a habit. Once a habit is formed it becomes a natural part of your routine and you’ll find yourself looking forward to working on your projects and business.
When you work from or remotely it’s easy to only spend time in your home or home office. Why would you leave (especially if it's cold or raining!)? Everything you need is right in front of you; coffee, tea, and comfort - plus the whole world is at your fingertips through your mobile phone or laptop!
This can destroy your working and social mood, and remove the main advantage of being a remote worker - having freedom and a better work/life balance!
When you’re a remote worker you have the freedom to work in a way that allows you to operate at peak efficiency. Here my top tips for making full use of that freedom:
If you’re a remote worker, socialising and getting outside can dramatically increase your happiness and lower your stress levels. Less stress means you can work more efficiently and produce higher quality work. For those of you that have yet to make the transition, make sure that you follow the tips to avoid some of the issues I ran into.
The truth is that being a remote worker can be one of the most difficult things to excel at. We're forced to keep ourselves accountable, motivated, on time, on track, ahead of the competition and more all whilst managing our time and enjoying our freedom!
It's our passion, commitment and enthusiasm that get us through the toughest times. The truth is if you don’t have a passion for the work you do (whether you’re employed or running your own business) remote work is going to be at least 1,000 times more challenging. A hobby becomes a chore and a freelance business becomes a job when there's no emotion attached to it.
Here are some of my favourite ways to stay passionate about my work or business:
“Passion” is an intangible part of work but it’s important if you want to be successful. Test out lots of different ways of building your passion to find what works for you.
Remote work and working from home is an amazing tool that can help boost your productivity and accelerate you toward your goal. However, it’s easy to fall into the trap of distractions, loneliness, and procrastination.
Here’s a quick cheat-sheet of what we covered above so we can avoid those downfalls and not just survive, but thrive:
· Create a dedicated workspace: Physically and mentally separate your workspace from the rest of your life
· Build a Routine/Schedule: Routines and schedules get you into that mental work state that’s essential to be productive
· Implement accountability strategies: Find someone or something to help keep you accountable, set rewards for hitting targets, do what you need to do
· Go Outside: Make full use of the freedom of remote work and socialise and go outside. By staying in your home all day, you limit your creativity and energy
· Manage your Passion: It’s easy to feel disheartened when working by yourself. Regularly do “passion building” exercises to keep you motivated.
Remote work is a great way to give you and your team more happiness, freedom, and autonomy. All three of those traits have been proven to increase efficiency, productivity, and lower employee turnover. If you’re looking to start remote work, or want to train your team with remote working, and want advice from the the FSB Micro-Business of the Year Award winners, send me a PM to see how we can work together.
I'm sure there are more things that have helped us along the way, What are your top tips for remote working?
Kristen is an award-winning global business owner, keynote speaker with a passion for travel and adventure. She is a a people-focused entrepreneur who built a business from scratch to help like-minded individuals. She is a visionary with a passion for helping others find their calling and achieve their full potential. Kristen launched her own media and recruitment advertising company in 2014 as a result of her vast experience and the understanding that she could help other Sales Directors grow in a similar way.