Anyone who is—or would like to be—a business owner or freelancer, is by definition not a great fan of limits. They like to work on their own terms, make their own decisions, and not be told what is and isn’t possible.
In the introduction to this series, I mentioned I left Leeds after failing to start a business. I hit a crossroads pretty early on in my life when I realised that as well as not wanting to work for anyone else, I also didn’t want the stress and commitments of running a conventional business. I was stuck, and desperately searching for a third road to go down.
I’d been a big fan of Tim Ferris, Sean Ogle, Rolf Potts, and many of the other location independent moguls for a while, but they were big Americans hot shots, and I was just some restless kid from a small city in the north of England. However, it was clear that with more and more promotion of this style of living to the mainstream, along with the advancements in tech, we were in the midst of something that was sure to change working habits forever.
A New Era of Limitless Working
Limits are expanding, but habits don’t change overnight. Many companies have invested so much money and effort into fixed assets—glass palaces, company policies, elaborate board rooms, and various water coolers—to ever consciously admit that it’s actually all no longer needed, and give it all up.
The reality is though it’s more than possible. Living proof of which is Connected UK, who in 2012 went from having a staff of around 30 employees all working from company offices, to a completely location-independent business ran by a distributed team living across the UK and beyond.
But being possible is only half the battle. Whether or not it’s actually desirable and profitable for employees and companies, is whole other kettle of fish.
When making large investments, such as say in a new website, the public have traditionally preferred dealing with matters in person. But those days are long gone; now everything we do, from booking extravagant holidays to buying household essentials, is done online—with the same level of trust and security as when dealing with people face-to-face.
So it can be a lucrative model from a business perspective, but aside from that, why would we as company owners and employees want to do it?
Why Go Remote
Benefits for Employees
Location independence: It can be as modest as wanting to work from home more often, or as lavish as jetting off on a round the world trip; whatever it is you were putting off until retirement, can be fully actualised today.
More Trust and Flexibility: With location independence comes a life free of managers looming over you and the constraints of traditional working hours. So whether you are more energetic in the morning, like to burn the midnight oil, or can only work from the beach with a piña colada, as long as the work gets done, the time and place is irrelevant. That also means if one of the kids wants to go to the zoo for their birthday, or you suddenly remember a friend’s wedding is tomorrow, you have full control to rearrange your schedule and make the time you need.
Happier on the Job: With more trust, flexibility, and free time, who wouldn’t be happier? But if you need concrete proof, in a study conducted by Stanford researchers, compared with their office counterparts, those working from home were found to be much happier on the job.
Benefits for Companies
Less Capital & Investments: The “under one roof” model of the industrial revolution has been superseded by a new paradigm: moving work to the workers, rather than workers to the workplace. That means there’s no need to burn money and resources away with permanently-staffed, fully equipped glass palaces.
World Class Talent: One of the main draws of big cities for companies is the talent they attract from the world’s greatest institutions and organisations. But if you are flexible on location, you don’t need to live in a major metropolitan area to access a world-class pool of talent.
Happier staff & Better Results: Every company owner wants a happy staff. And when combined with being free of the distraction-ridden office environment, the elevated mood can do wonders for improving individual and overall company performance. Having remote staff also removes chances of falling back on ‘the body in a chair equals productivity’ fallacy that many managers use to measure performance. Secondary factors like time off work and punctuality are thrown out the window, and employees can be judged solely by the quality of their work.
Flexibility & Location Independence: Thanks to the plethora of apps available, today you can even run a business from your smart phone. And all the factors above contribute to why you would feel so at ease doing so.
Dumping the desks
For me, it was only a matter of weeks before I was ready to dump the desk for good, but for those such as Connected UK, AT&T, Intel, and the U.S. government, it can take many months, or even years to make the transition.
However, it’s easy enough to test the waters. A manager could consider allowing a few employees to work remotely one or two days a week, or when a trained employee needs to move away—rather than loosing them and the time you have invested in them—try putting in place a temporary remote working contract.
Sitting in an office from 9 to 5 is no longer necessary to get things done, but it takes an extra effort to proof it so. That effort needs to be consistent and come from both company owners and employees—as we will see in the following posts that things aren’t always plain sailing.
Remote working was the third road I found—albeit it was more like an obscured, dirt trail off the side of a main highway. But since I made the decision to go down it, I’ve never looked back. Soon that dirt track will be a mega highway, and those who are not on it will simply be left in the dust.
Until next time,
Joseph Pennington is a freelance writer and long-term traveller from the North of England. Find him on Medium exploring remote working, technology, spirituality, meditation, and everything in between.