Remotely Speaking

There was a time in my career when I was working with a group spread out between seven offices in five countries. Even the small team I managed sat in two corporate offices and two home offices. So even on those days when I went in and sat at my assigned desk, I was pretty much on my own.

At first, it was a little strange — juggling phone calls to cover time zones in a way that didn’t have anyone up too late or awake too early, learning how to screen share over various corporate sponsored chat applications, and just dealing with the fact that a lot of the time, I couldn’t see the faces of the people I was working with. But the strangeness didn’t last that long. In fact, eventually, I began to cherish it as a job perk, rather than as just another hurdle to overcome.

The “digital age” has connected us in ways many people never thought possible. Just a decade or so ago, documents needed to be faxed or mailed to conference call participants. With today’s collaboration tools, however, you can build those same documents in conjunction with people in seven different cities in five different time zones and not really even notice that you are sitting in your living room in flannel pants and a t-shirt.

Technology has freed us from the shackles of the cube and has granted us leave to do our jobs not just when we want to, but WHERE we want to.

Last summer, I was lucky enough to spend a month in a villa on a cliff overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea in Italy. My family was visiting Calabria, where my Great-grandmother lived before she came to America. I spent my days touring the countryside, eating amazing food, visiting historic ruins and tasting every desert known to man. Then, thanks to the beauty of time zones, I settled into work just as my compatriots on the east coast were starting their day, and worked into the evening, stopping for dinner when my co-workers broke for lunch.

The beauty of the situation was that many of the people I was meeting with had no clue I wasn’t sitting at my desk in a cube nineteen miles south of San Francisco until I shared a shot of the sunset I was watching while we had our “morning” scrum meeting. The way we work today makes our location irrelevant. And in this new universe of work/life balance, it’s more about getting the job done than about clocking in and sitting in your assigned seat for eight hours. The job I do is about results, not about putting on a tie and commuting for an hour every morning.

This new mindset opens up doors not just in terms of location, but in terms of optimizing time. Tight deadline? No problem, I stay at the villa for the day. You hand off what you finished at 5PM Pacific Time, and I’ll pick it up at 9AM Europe/Rome Time. By the time you wake up tomorrow, we will have effectively worked on this for 20 hours straight.

Remote work gives us a flexibility that has never been seen in business before. That flexibility, however, does require a heightened sense of responsibility and motivation. If you actually LIKE being micromanaged, remote work probably isn’t for you. But if you’re a self-starter who can take a project and run with it without having to be handheld the entire way? Now we’re speaking the same language.

~by Clay Robeson, AlphaPixel Reach Writer

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