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For the second post in our Telework Week 2012 series, we have a guest post from Sean Ogle (@seanogle). Sean is an expert at helping people turn their passions and skill-sets into sustainable businesses that can be run from anywhere on Earth. As the founder of Location 180 and Location Rebel he uses the power of his blog to get the message out of the benefits of remote work and lifestyle entrepreneurship.

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In late 2009 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.

Photo Credit: bramvera

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  • Tomas

    Hi Sean, I was at TEDxCMU, great talk!!  Couldn’t agree more about the new American Dream.
    I have the “crazy” idea of establishing a Data Analytics Consultancy firm in Bali.  Even thinking of trying to bring CMU and other Universities that might want to join in as a viable place for faculty and students to go when taking a sabbatical… a sort of Silicon Bali, but with a more holistic, oriental philosophy approach and way of life, that would be my ideal.
    Maybe the last part will be difficult, but working from there might not.  
    My main concern would be bandwidth (essential if you want to see people face to face via Skype) and almost any other task… in order to get clients I would be working with other people established in other cities. How do you see it? What would you recommend??

    Regards,
    Tomas

  • Retouchriley

    This is an excellent blog. I have had the same experience working as a photo retoucher based in Boulder, Colorado. Most of my clients are in New York City. The process has been such a learning experience. One of the many challenges I have faced is understanding my clients immediate needs and also their hesitation in hiring remote workers. I often need to travel to meet new clients or to remind my existing clients of my presence. The interesting thing is, since I’ve started working remotely, I work harder, longer hours, and I’m more active in my industry than when I was when I worked as an on staff, full time employee for the same companies.