Whether you work for yourself or an employer, chances are you’ve worked remotely yourself or have at least heard about this shift in workplace and work-style. The idea of virtual working isn’t new, but it’s definitely growing, with 43% of employees working remotely for at least a portion of the workweek.
It’s not just the rise in the remote working that makes this workplace phenomenon so striking, it’s the increase in companies bringing on remote freelancers and sole proprietors. According to Work Place Trends, a staggering 74% of companies plan to hire freelancers rather than find full-time employees in the next year. And it’s no surprise because it works so well for all parties; the companies get access to an enormous pool of exceptional talent without needing to bear the expense of a full-time employee, and the freelancers have the opportunity to pick projects and clients, developing their own niche and preferred style of work.
Another interesting element of remote work is the global adoption of coworking spaces. These communal work settings aren’t just a trend, they’re the trend. According to Business.com, coworking is the “fastest-growing work trend this decade, and extensive research suggests that coworking spaces have become the most productive places to work.” Moreover, according to research by Small Biz Labs, by 2020, coworking spaces and coworking members will increase to 26,078 and 3.8 million, respectively. That’s a staggering 41% compounding annual growth rate. One of the biggest draws is the ability to work anywhere, anytime, as long as there is a coworking space in town so that professionals can become digital nomads.
All the traveling and uncertainty can seem like a freeing dream to some and a stressful nightmare to others. That’s why it’s important to stay mindful about keeping the right work/life balance and knowing when it’s time to unplug.
“You have to find a rhythm that best supports you,” says Andrea Ward, of Andrea Ward Management and Be Here and Serve, an intuitive business management agency that aligns internal operations with leadership values. “Traveling is hard to manage. That’s why it’s important to have a clear idea of which days are going to be workdays and which are not.”
Andrea and her husband, Ryan Berg, Designer and Founder of Soul & Heart Creative, a community-conscious web design and branding firm, are a coworking couple who have an impressive aptitude for the remote working lifestyle. Once or twice a month, Andrea and Ryan are on the move, bouncing around out west between San Diego and San Francisco and then back east from Boston to D.C.
“We both have clients all over,” says Ryan. “Technology helps a lot.” Both Ryan and Andrea use various forms of communication to host weekly meeting with their clients and ensure all their needs are being met. From traditional conference calls and email to social media and video conferences, they utilize a gamut of tech resources that help them bridge the gap between time and distance.
“I have regular weekly meetings with my clients,” Andrea notes. “This gives me an operating rhythm that keeps me in sync with them and the projects we’re working on. We almost always do video calls. I find them to be invaluable.”
Zoom happens to be Andrea’s communication method of choice, and she’s not alone. Some of the biggest companies, including Google, Match.com, and Ticketmaster use this user-friendly platform to ramp up the productivity of their remote workers.
Better Work through Coworking
While some remote workers still revel in the ability to work from home in their pajamas, there are many who have exchanged their sweat pants for slacks and joined a coworking space. A lot of research has revealed the benefits of this transition for both businesses and new coworkers. A Global Coworking Survey by DeskMag found that, of respondents who had recently joined a coworking space:
71% said their creativity had increased
62% said their standard of work had improved
68% said they were able to focus better than at home
64% said they could better complete tasks on time
But there was another unlikely finding that’s particularly interesting. Although most company leaders would assume remote work would reduce engagement, Gallup found that the most effective workers were those who spent 60% to 80% of their work time off-site.
Matching these finding, the Global Coworking Unconference Conference showcased research that found:
84% of coworkers said they were more engaged
69% said they learned new skills
68% reported they improved their existing skillset
Remote Working Could Boost Businesses’ ROI
“I’ve seen tremendous growth with my clients,” notes Andrea. “After you incorporate your values into your business, there is no confusion in the marketplace.” While this may seem esoteric, there is substantial research that backs up Andrea’s observation.
Gallup found a huge correlation between engagement—which is known to increase significantly in remote workers—and profitability. In fact, Gallup’s finding show that the businesses with top quartile employee engagement ratings were 21% more profitable than those in the bottom quartile. With the correlation between engagement, profitability, and remote working in mind, there is a good chance remote workers, both employees and contractors, will bring a positive ROI to your business.
What If A Coworking Space Isn’t an Option?
Although coworking spaces are known to boost productivity, creativity, and focus, they’re not always an option if you’re a nomadic worker. “We like to find a coworking space, but if we can’t, we just like to find a good coffee shop where we can buy breakfast and lunch and just work from there,” Andrea says. “It’s nice to have exposure to different work environments.”
Ryan agrees with the method wholeheartedly, “We end up working from coffee shops a lot because it’s a good social environment, you can get food and snacks, and I’ve even met a client or two at a coffee shop in San Diego.”
Build Your Network and Retain Clients Remotely
You hear it all the time as an entrepreneur: you have to network, but how? “When you’re in a big company you’re kind of forced to network. When you’re working for yourself, you still need that same network, you just have to be more conscious about how you build it,” says Andrea.
“In a lot of ways it’s more work to do it yourself,” admits Ryan. “You have to find those groups and those organizations that resonate with you.” Both Andrea and Ryan go to conferences all over the U.S. including Wisdom 2.0 and the World Domination Summit (where Ryan and Andrea first met) to meet like-minded individuals who value the same principles in business, mindfulness, technology, and other aspects of their work and lifestyle.
“When you’re working remotely, this is how you start to build a community that aligns with values you care about. That’s how you find out about different movements that are happening in your industry or some related field,” confirms Andrea. “You feel more connected that way.”
Andrea does note, however, that going to these conferences in not just a means of gaining leads or looking for work. “If you’re there only to get clients, it doesn’t feel good. People pick up on that,” Andrea says. “I’ll have people ask me, what is the ROI on that event? I think to myself, ‘what the hell are you talking about?’ I don’t go to gain business. I go because it’s really appealing to me and those are the people I want to be around.”
Both Andrea and Ryan have gained clients from these conferences. However, each client originated from a meaningful relationship that was formed before business was discussed. “Having that once a year conference, when everyone comes together and those activities and moments are shared is key, says Ryan. “That way, when you’re staying connected online and through social media the rest of the year, the relationship is that much stronger because you have those shared experiences.”
Andrea and Ryan share a set of values in their respective businesses. Both Be Here and Serve and Soul & Heart Creative seem to have an intrinsic set of values revolving around service, mindfulness, community, and making a positive impact.
“Nearly 100% of business is formed via networking or a personal referral,” says Andrea. “I think there is this trend of wanting to do Facebook ads, Instagram ads, and grow your following, but in my experience, that is not a direct indicator of sales. You make sales from meaningful relationships and the positive impact you can have on someone’s business.”
If you would like to reach Andrea to discuss cultivating a more mindful approach for your business, click here to contact her at Be Here and Serve. If you’re looking for stunning branding and web design, stop over to Soul & Heart Creative to contact Ryan about your creative needs.