Working without Borders

Summer is in the air and once upon a time, the summer season meant taking time off for road trips with the family. In the old world, we’d save up vacation time and take one big trip or maybe a couple of smaller trips. Thanks to COVID and the rise in remote work, the dynamic has changed and for many of us, this shift has led to a new definition of work/life balance. Summer is no longer the designated season of travel, as traveling in any season is now a reality for many of us. Essentially, we are now working without borders.

Personally, this year has been one of my best years, not just from a business perspective, but a personal one as well. As a business owner with the ability to work remotely, I have worked in Chicago, Dallas, Colorado Springs and New York. Later this year, I will also be spending time in Australia. Would any of this have been possible pre-COVID? Likely not. While I am a business owner and already had some level of freedom, the pandemic normalized remote working and clients that would have normally required in-person meetings are now preferring to meet via Zoom. These changes have allowed me to spend more time with my family (the reason for many of my trips) and have a much better quality of life. Work/life balance is no longer relegated to evenings and weekends.  

My story isn’t unique. Three quarters of remote workers surveyed by cited work/life balance as the top benefit and over 50% reported reduced stress. Many of those surveyed stated that they would consider leaving an employer if they could no longer work remotely. Once you have something good, it’s hard to let it go. From the employer perspective, over half of those that offer remote work options reported improved employee morale and reduced turnover. Plus, 50% of businesses experienced operational cost savings.  

So, why isn’t everyone doing this? Like most things, it’s a matter of personal preference. Some employers prefer to have people in-house to keep company culture alive and some feel that need to monitor employee activity more. Plus, some jobs just aren’t conducive to working remotely.

From the employee perspective, some people may prefer the in-person teamwork and comradery that is found in offices. Others may have too many distractions at home or may not have the structure they need. Clearly, it is not for everyone, but it is a silver-lining of the pandemic – we now have the option of remote working. People are now taking more control of their professional lives and it’s a new kind of freedom.  

While there may be plenty of benefits for remote workers, there can be some pitfalls. The one that I have experienced is the ability to “leave” work. In office settings, generally you leave your job when you leave the building and when you are on vacation, you are on vacation. As a remote worker, it’s a little too easy to open the laptop during “off” time and the lines between “work time” and “off time” can get incredibly blurred. I had to learn that just because you are a remote worker doesn’t mean you are on-call all the time. You still need to take care of yourself and take vacation and sick days when you need to.

Also, remote working, especially for a business owner, can be challenging if you don’t have the right support and structure in place. To be successful, you will need to create your version of structure that will enable you to be as productive as possible during your work hours.

Next month we will dive into key elements needed to be a productive remote worker. Until then, go enjoy some time outside with those that matter to you most.