I'm telling you something you already know. You've experienced it firsthand. When I published my Always on the road article, I was praised by friends, colleagues and social media contacts for being a trailblazer. Compliments are awesome and I loved the praise (who doesn't?), but the more I was praised for being innovative, the more concerned I got about the current state of our work/life balance.
I am pursuing this lifestyle because I have to. And, most days, it's working for me. But shouldn't we all look for ways of working that work with our lifestyle?
Did M-F ever work?
Monday - Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm worked for me when I was in my 20's. I felt like I had all the time in the world for socializing, bettering myself, travel, my family; even with a 2 hour per day commute. Was it because I was younger? Was it because I had fewer responsibilities? Was it because social media didn't exist?
Maybe. But does that matter?
I'm older, have more responsibilities and feel like I really get something out of my involvement in social media (so I'm not giving it up). Let's go beyond the obvious scapegoats and examine habits.
The previous generation spent a lot of energy life hacking, too.
My parents serve as a model for my lifestyle. When I was growing up, my father had his own consulting business and travelled all the time. When we were younger the whole family went with him. We took a lot of time out of school, but my mom helped us keep track of our responsibilities. Once we got older and didn't need as much daily supervision, my mom started taking courses and embarked on a new career; her own catering business.
My parents could do this because they both had their own businesses. They made lots of sacrifices and had periods in their life where they had a lot of flexibility and periods where they had very little flexibility.
I swore I wouldn't have my own business. I wanted the security of a bi-weekly paycheck, 401k's and built-in vacation time. I did that for 15 years and it really worked for me. But, recently, I haven't been able to find a gig that works with my location. So I've gone out on my own. It's working for me, but should you HAVE TO go out on your own to have flexibility?
Technology makes it easier for us to share our lives with others - shouldn't we be doing this for our work lives to make them better? Shouldn't we all be interested in making our work and life work together in the most productive way? Whether or not we have "limitations"?
There are a lot of companies and individuals who are exploring different ways to "hack" the workweek to make it work better for them.
So let's look at who is hacking the current workweek and what are they doing.
Who is building an army of remote workers?
37Signals has written a book on how to make the remote lifestyle work for a business (of their 39 employees, 28 work remotely). To whet our appetite, 37Signals has made several chapters of their book available for reading online. They've put the overviews of these chapters and more about the book on their website and written extensively about it elsewhere:
- Telecommuting isn't a bad thing. It's the future. (with notes to Marissa Mayer of Yahoo)
- Why face-to-face meetings are overrated.
- Cabin Fever.
- Working from home boosts the quality of the work.
- How to work with clients you've never met face to face.
- The true challenge of managing remote workers: people who work too hard.
- The two biggest drags on productivity: meetings and managers.
Buffer has a kick-ass product (it helps you manage and measure your social media output) and an interesting approach to marketing (they believe delightful customer service works as marketing). But Buffer also has a remote team and is writing (a lot) about how they manage it. In fact, they are very transparent about how they run their entire business. Can you grow an army of remote workers who are in sync and working towards the same goals? For a few examples of their thinking, I recommend reading:
- The 8 Most Important Business Tools That Keep Our Company on Track. (several of these tools are for companies who have remote employees)
- The origin of the 8 hour work day and why we should rethink it.
How do you handle the transition to a remote team?
Over the span of two years, WordSouth transformed their company from "a 'normal' company, with everyone working from a central location" to a company with a 50% remote team. Stephen V. Smith wrote about the transformation on Medium. Smith's article talks about how this works from an employers perspective while Marina Janeiko writes about how freelancers can gain trust from their clients while working remotely. I became acquainted with both of these articles when I wrote about my partially remote lifestyle.
Brazen Careerist: If you're looking for a new position, sign-up for the job search tools on Brazen Careerist. They conduct online/virtual career fairs and help empower people to find the job they want.
The beginner's guide to building a remote team: A solid overview and lots of links. You'll have to weed through a lot of information on here to find what you are looking for, but it's worth the time.
Still looking for inspiration? A few related topics
Taking work sabbaticals
If we've been acquainted for a while, you've probably seen my importance of a work sabbatical article. My 2012 work sabbatical lead me to my current working situation. It was rewarding and gave me the courage to reinvent my future. Here you can read I did and what I learned. What would you do if you took a work sabbatical? Do you think I needed a work sabbatical because of my crazy life? Or because of my job?
Moving across the world to shake things up
Anna Adlard moved from North Carolina to South Africa to shake things up, she may be exceptional, but she is hardly alone in this pursuit. Akira Morita is choosing to redefine "home" as his network, instead of a location. Ed Tsue has moved from NYC to China to shake up his life and has written a good bit about what it's like to live and work in China.
Why am I exploring this?
I'm interested in finding likeminded folks because I believe this is the way we will all be working in the future. I've been labelled as someone outside of the norm. I think this label is incorrect. Don't we all want to blend our work into our lives in a way that works for us -- and our employer? I am interested in talking about work/life issues. If we can solve it for a fringe audience, we can make solutions that benefit everyone. Evan Carroll and I are talking about designing for fringe audiences at SXSW in March - perhaps this is another group we should consider.
What are your thoughts? I'd love to continue the conversation.