I live in Michigan. The firm I work for is headquartered in New York City.
Twenty years ago it would have been nearly impossible to pull this off. Nowadays, with smartphones and wireless Internet connections, it’s easier than ever to work from anywhere.
I know a handful of people who also work remotely or from a home office, so before starting my new gig with Ritholtz Wealth Management, I reached out to as many people as I could who were in a similar situation to ask how they handled it.
I received plenty of good advice. What follows is some of that advice along with what I’ve learned in my short time as a telecommuter. Here is a short outline of my toolkit for working from anywhere:
You need a space of your own. I know a number of people who work from a home office. Others go to Starbucks or another public space that offers free wireless connectivity. Then there are shared offices spaces. I rented my own office space because I needed to have a place to go to separate myself from the daily duties of being a homeowner.
It doesn’t really matter how you do it, but you have to figure out how to have an on/off switch between work and your personal life. We’re always connected via email these days, but having some sort of separation between where you live and where you work is key.
You need an outlet. I try to go to the gym every day at lunch time. I know others who go mountain biking or hiking in the afternoon. Others take a break to read a book during the day. Some even take a nap. Assuming time permits, having that outlet to clear your head and re-charge almost becomes a necessity when you’re on your own.
You need to use Slack. Slack is a such a simple communication platform that when you explain it to non-users it doesn’t really sound that interesting or ground-breaking. In many ways it is a simple messaging service, but it’s also so much more than that. At our firm it’s basically replaced inter-office emails. No more ‘reply to all’ to worry about. You can have multiple conversations going on with everyone or just one person. It offers search capabilities to review old topics. And it works as something of a file storage system because you can upload files, photos, graphs and presentations.
I would be shocked if Google (or another tech giant) doesn’t eventually buy Slack or try to create their own version of it. It’s that good.
You need to work for the right type of organization. The company and people you work with have to be tech-savvy to make this work. I can think of a few of my past employers where it wouldn’t have worked out because of the people and systems in place. At RWM, we’re basically a paperless firm. All of our third party providers and partners have excellent technology and web platforms. Our client base is spread across the country. This all works to our advantage, but even the best systems and processes wouldn’t matter if you didn’t have the right people in place to utilize them effectively.
You still need to put in some face-time. While it’s great to be able to work from anywhere, there’s still something to be said for meeting face-to-face. Just this week we had our entire team from across the country meet in our NYC office. The trade-off for working remotely is more travel time to meet with colleagues, clients and prospective clients, but that’s true of any firm with a geographically diverse client base. I find it’s also helpful to meet with peers for lunch or coffee and attend conferences to change up the routine.
Not all career paths or organizations are well-suited to allow their employees to work from anywhere, but my guess is this trend will continue to gain traction. Millennials will see this as a huge benefit and lifestyle choice. Whereas in the past many employees expected a corporate pension plan or healthcare benefits, many in the up-and-coming generations will view flexibility and freedom as a huge advantage when deciding which organizations to work for.