I have a dream…
…a dream that one day we will all leave our connected devices and laptop computers at home, and spend an hour or so travelling to another location – and maybe even another computer – so that we can arrive at a place I’m calling “the office” to reconnect and start a day of work.
We might check our messsages before leaving the house, and perhaps fire off a few responses saying something like “I’ll get straight back to you just as soon as I get to the office”, but essentially we’ll be stopped from being productive until we get to our destination.
We’ll waste a bunch of time, a whole bunch of money and arrive slightly more deflated than when we set off.
And then – and here’s the best bit – we’ll do it all in reverse on the way home at the end of the day! We might miss the kids bedtime, or the school play, or romantic dinner with our nearest and dearest, but that will all be part of the fun!
I’m going to call this “commuting” and it’s going to transform business as we know it…
No, wait. Strike that! Did I say “dream”… ?
We’re pressured into grinding jobs that leave us frustrated and fatigued. Sold into a sedentary lifestyle that turns our bodies into shapeless lumps. Chided into following a pre-determined path that avoids risk and is devoid of adventure or originality.
The worst part is that the mediocrity often sneaks up on us, dressed as convenience, security and comfort. So we often don’t even notice it, until it’s too late. Infiltration through obfuscation.
Commuting to a communal place of work 5-days a week seems so counter-intuitive to me these days. It restricts the time you have to work, play and enjoy life and forces us into a sedentary life of desk-locked drudgery, interspersed with periods of commuter hell. And with very little upside.
It is time to put a stop to this madness and reclaim our lives, before it’s too late…
For the vast majority of my professional career (roughly 20 years to this point) I have commuted to my place of work and spent my days at one desk or another. Every day, day in, day out, no matter the weather, no matter the world outside. No time for anything else. The desk has been my friend, nemesis, and jailer over the years. And the most shameful part of all this is that it has all been my own doing. As a business owner, I have no one but myself to blame!
But that was then…
Now things are different.
Let me tell you how I escaped from behind the desk…
But first, some maths
With an average commute time of 1 hour each way, 5 days a week, plus the distractions that accompany the commute (getting ready, getting out the door, grabbing a coffee at the other end, and so on), I estimate that I spent 2.5 hours of each day simply getting to and from my place of work. (Actually, closer to 4 hours a day nearing the tail end of that 20 year stretch, but I’m going on averages here).
Calculating that I probably worked 44 weeks each year (less than some people), that adds up to an enormous waste of time; 550 hours to be exact, just shy of 69 x 8 hour days, wasted. Or, to put it another way, 3 and a half months’ worth of 8 hour days, just getting to work.
Every year, for 20 years.
That’s close to 6 years of my life travelling to and from work.
One third of my 20-year career spent just getting to a computer in another location other than my home.
I realise that this sort of exercise can be applied to pretty much everything in life, and almost always the totals are alarming (total number of years spent in bed, on the toilet, eating dinner, surfing the net and so on), but in most other cases the activity is justified… In the case of the commute to work however, it can no longer be.
In today’s connected world there is simply no excuse for it, no need for it, and no way I will allow it to creep its way back into my life again.
Don’t get me wrong, working alongside your colleagues is important, sometimes, and nothing can compete with face-to-face, personal contact, sometimes. But only sometimes. Sure, create a place of work that you and your team can call “HQ”. Create an identity and a group spirit in a central location. Get together to discuss projects, meet clients and share a few beers. All fine. Just don’t fall into the trap of thinking that 9-5 working is the only way to get things done, build team spirit, manage your staff (or yourself) or succeed in today’s business landscape.
Whether employer or employee, by embracing a remote mindset, founded on self-discipline, good communication and collaboration tools, trust and mutual respect, you can transform your life and your opportunities.
Since breaking free from the daily grind, my family and I have discovered a new kind of freedom. The freedom to work anywhere, live anywhere and enjoy all the extra free time that was previously sucked into the commuters’ abyss.
Embracing “remote” really can change everything. My life is richer, my experiences broader and my story so much more engrossing, thanks to it. And my children are experiencing so much more that life has to offer. New cultures, new experiences, bigger scenery, a greater sense of adventure and a belief that the whole world is available to them. I couldn’t hope for anything better to teach them.
You don’t need to lose control to embrace a remote working lifestyle (it’s amazing how many people think that you do). That’s the amazing thing about this “remote” business; Control comes as part of the package. Control to live where you want. Control to live how you want. Control of your environment, your time… It is astonishing how transformative it is to the quality of your life.
Don’t work harder, work smarter.
There are now countless web apps to help you work remotely and build a productive remote team. I recommend you do your own research, as it won’t take long to come across a vast array of options, but a good place to start is Google (Docs, Drive, Hangouts, Gmail etc) and 37Signals (Basecamp, Highrise, Campfire). Between them, you should have everything you need to get started.
There’s plenty of other options, but I find Google alone pretty much covers all my needs.
And for co-working spaces – for that all important (but not constant) face-to-face time – NextSpace on the West Coast, We Work Labs on the East Coast and the wonderful Central Working for those in London, are all great places to start looking. (Google: coworking spaces + your chosen location – to find others near you).
So, if this way of working is so great, why don’t more people embrace it?
Is it fear? A fear of “the unknown”? A fear that it might not work out, that things might not be as they imagined…?
Sure, “the unknown” is a scary thing for most of us. But I’m here to tell you that in this case, you have nothing to fear. Whether employer or employee, you can – and should – free yourself from the 9-5 mentality, step away from the desk and rediscover your freedom to work when and where you like.
If you were able to plan the next 20 years of your working life, and had complete control over how and where you worked, would it involve spending 6 of those working years simply travelling to and from your place of work? 6 years of your life sitting on a train, or on the tube or in a traffic jam, spending money getting to a computer in a different location? No, of course not. It’s total madness and a hangover from a bygone era.
It restricts where you live, your cost of living, your family life, family time, leisure time and personal freedom. All things we hold dear.
It’s time to take stock and do something about it. Don’t blindly wander into the next 20 years of commuting hell. Stop now while you still have some life left in you!
Seriously, what are you waiting for? Talk to your boss, or talk to yourself (delete as appropriate) and take the first step to a richer and more rewarding life.
Let’s resign “commuting” to the history books and help transform life and work in the 21st Century.
Addendum: I wrote this post in this spot right here. I hope to see more of you out in the open soon!… just don’t forget your laptop!
*Disclaimer: Regarding the quote at the top of the post, from the book Winning Isn’t Normal – I discovered Jason’s book through a link on his blog. I haven’t read it, just peeked at the Amazon preview and was struck by the above extract. I cannot, however, vouch for the book itself!
Is this your first time here? If so, thanks for stopping by! If you’re looking for my Tumblr blog, you can find that here. I’m a Digital Strategist, entrepreneur and Head of Digital Business at Advertising M&A, the specialist Mergers and Acquisitions consultancy exclusively for the advertising, digital, media and marketing services sectors. I am also the Founder and Editor-in-chief at advertising industry blog Inside MarComs, featuring Q&As with brilliant people in advertising and marketing, as well as Founder and Principal of Rick Palmer Consulting, offering my personal expertise to private clients. You can find out more about me by reading my biog or connecting with me on LinkedIn.