Lessons in Workshifting: From Bali Beaches to the Colorado Rockies

I quit my job as a financial analyst to build a business online. In the years since I’ve worked everywhere from the beaches of Bali, to the mountains of Colorado, to my home in Portland, Oregon.

When I began my foray into online work, I spent six months working out of a small apartment in Bangkok, managing a team of designers and developers for a product development and e-commerce organization. This meant that on any given day I was working with and managing people on three different continents, and in just as many time zones.

It was a pretty exciting concept at first. I couldn’t wait for more personal flexibility in my day-to-day life. Simple things like the ability to work out when I wanted, and more free time for family and friends were some of the biggest draws.

However, I very quickly realized that my new lifestyle required a few adjustments in my thinking order for me to maximize its benefits.

Separate Work from Your Personal Life

The first lesson I learned when I began workshifting is that when you work from home you need to set much clearer boundaries between work and your personal life.

When your office is just ten feet from your bedroom, or in the case of my studio apartment, in your bedroom, it’s tough to get away. I’d wake up early to talk to the sales team in the United States before they went home for the day, talk with our intern in London, and then spend the afternoon working with our developers in the Philippines. I’d then end up staying up late to catch the sales team first thing in the morning, turning what used to be a standard8-hour day into a 16-hour horseshoe-shaped schedule.

Due to the evolution in technology, being outside the office can very easily make you more accessible than you are when you’re at your workplace – so set your limits and don’t be afraid to communicate them with your team. Create a schedule that works for you and your business and stick to it.

Make Time to Communicate

One of the things I was looking forward to most about working remotely was the prospect of enjoying more free time.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t quite the case.

While yes, I did have more freedom to roam around the house, or go work from a coffee shop or co-working space, I still had to work as much as I ever did, and sometimes more.

One additional requirement of workshifting was the need for more frequent communication. Without seeing people face-to-face on a regular basis, I found I needed to more consistently communicate the status of projects and show how they were moving forward. This took a little more time than I expected, but it helped my company see that I was as productive as ever in my remote work environment and it kept me in the loop with my team.

Due to this, for the first few months I ended up actually taking less time for myself, until I had established a more regular communication schedule and created a strong track record for remote reliability.

Find New Social Outlets

The potential social black hole of remote working was perhaps the biggest surprise for me.

When you work from home, it’s very easy to throw on your sweatpants, sit down at the computer and not leave for days at a time. If you aren’t careful, your personal life can quickly disintegrate. Soon, loneliness can overshadow the benefits you previously enjoyed from your flexible work arrangement.

I learned this in the first few months and eventually started building social activities into my calendar. Whether it’s meeting someone new for lunch, setting up a meeting in person, or simply going in to the office occasionally (if possible), it’s important to continue to exercise your social skills and build relationships. You may even find new social outlets – like local clubs or professional organizations- that will enrich your life and forward your career.

It’s Worth It

Now that I’ve been working remotely on various projects for over two years, I can safely say that workshifting is the ideal work situation for me. Not only has it made me a more productive and happier person, but it has helped me establish a more balanced lifestyle that I could never find in many corporate environments today.

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