I’ve been working remotely since 2017, well before most office workers were forced to work from home because of the COVID-19. While the way I worked was not disrupted by the pandemic, I was unfortunately laid off. I needed to find a fully remote company and one that offered flexibility in my schedule, not something a lot of companies had incorporated at the time.
When I joined Motus in August of 2020, I was extremely pleased to hear that they were embracing the Mobile Workforce mentality going forward and making that a core part of the culture. Mobile Workforce is more than just working from home. It’s the flexibility of working where-ever and whenever, as long as your work gets done.
Whether you’re new to work mobile or ready to expand your horizon, here are a few tips that outline how I embrace the work mobile mentality.
Finding my balance in work and life is important. I enjoy the work I do and sometimes that means I put in more hours than I would if I went into an office. As a graphic designer, a good chunk of the work I do doesn’t require me to be “online” all the time. Unplugging, putting music on and getting in the zone is a regular thing for me. Because I make my schedule, the work that doesn’t require face time with others is usually done at night or on weekends. This is not a requirement in a Mobile Work culture, it’s just something I found to work for me personally.
Besides working during untraditional office hours, I always make myself available during the day for any calls or communication that might happen during that time. I consider 9:30-5:30 EST Mon-Fri to be my desk hours, when I am always available to the rest of my team. I take an hour for lunch, usually around noon, and make sure to take several breaks throughout the day, sometimes going for a walk to enjoy the fresh air.
Having a dedicated space for working is also important to me. I’m the type of person that needs structure. Having a desk setup that works for me is extremely important to work effectively and efficiently. Sitting at my desk signals in my mind that I am here to do work. I rarely use my desk space for personal use. For me, I need to make a distinction between where my work and life diverge. Having the dedicated working space is crucial to that. That said, when I don’t need to be available to others, sometimes sitting on the couch while putting together a Powerpoint deck is the way to go.
I understand that my job is not the same as someone who is on a phone or in meetings all day. Those types of jobs and the people who work them have different needs and requirements. Part of being an employee in a Mobile Workforce culture is taking into account all the different responsibilities of my own job, seeing where that overlaps with others I work with and managing my time based on that. Knowing what they have going on that could affect me is an important part of managing projects and my work schedule.
Another thing to consider is where you’re located. As a fully remote company, Motus has employees across several time zones. My 5:00 PM is someone else’s 2:00 or 3:00 PM, meaning they might still be working when I traditionally would be signing off. By working mobile, it’s up to me to make a schedule that compliments my own situation while taking into consideration the work/life balance of those I work with. We are no longer bound by the 9 – 5.
There is a sort of dance going on with all the different jobs and working styles in a Mobile Workforce company culture. Because of that, good communication is important. A lot of the communication in a Mobile Workforce environment is written rather than verbal. The challenge of not conveying tone and body language through text is important to consider. Some people like to use a lot of punctuation to express their emotions. Others use very little. If it’s not clear what someone’s intentions are, just ask.
The good thing about having a lot of written communication is most of the time it keeps everyone on the same page. With a distributed workforce, it can be easy for conversations to be siloed and for others to feel left out or in the dark. By implementing regular check-ins, meeting agendas, follow-up notes and clear objectives and guidelines for projects into your process, there’s a better chance that everyone will be in sync and working forward effectively.
The tools and processes your company uses will be essential for providing an effective Mobile Workforce culture. Our team leverages Slack for quick, internal communications. We have channels that support specific teams, projects and topics. We also have shared PTO/Vacation calendars that inform us on who’s out of office, while also using status updates and emojis in Slack to make it clear when we’re unavailable. It’s common to see a vacation, workout or lunch emoji next to someone’s name, letting anyone know they’re not currently at their desk.
In a Mobile Workforce environment, the lines between work and life can become blurred. That can quickly lead to burnout if you’re not careful. It’s extremely important to balance your personal life with the responsibilities of your job. If I have a particularly busy and overwhelming sprint, as a “reward” I look ahead in my calendar – at least 2 weeks – and choose a day to take off for personal time. I may not get immediate relief, but I know that I am using my PTO and taking the time for myself I know I need.
My job requires me to work on a computer. To balance all the screen time I get, I’ve made it a point to pick up some hobbies that aren’t digitally based. Gardening, sewing and reading are my go-to activities, as well as hiking and going for walks. Having these analogue activities is a wonderful mental and physical cleanse from the burdens of a digital world.
Working anywhere gives an employee flexibility to work when they want, where they want and in the way that suites their and their team’s needs. Just be sure you’re setting yourself up for success. Create a work environment that compliments your strengths. Know your team’s dynamics and communicate clearly and often. And be sure to take time for yourself outside of work!