We’re living in an exciting time, with more potential for flexibility in our working lives than we’ve ever known before. The tools we use for browsing the web and keeping up with friends can also let us choose the way we work – but only if we grab that freedom with both hands and make it our own.
Two years ago, I realized that was exactly what I had to do. I was getting frustrated with my daily trek into the office, working from rush hour to rush hour and coming home exhausted. It wasn’t efficient and it was definitely ruining the other areas of my life. Most companies go to great expense to place their workforce in a centralized office, with desks arranged so the managers can keep an eye on everyone. But I didn’t need or want a desk to pile papers on: everything I needed was on my laptop and I could access it wherever there was Wi-Fi.
That’s not to say there aren’t advantages to being in an office. Sharing space with your colleagues is not only good for your social wellbeing, it’s also conducive to team bonding and creative collaboration. But the idea of being in the same place at the same time, all day, every day for the next 20 to 40 years seemed to me a little crazy.
What’s more, I already had all the tools and technology I needed to enjoy more freedom without forgoing the benefits of close contact with my colleagues and clients. I made the leap and have never looked back.
I actually wrote the first half of this post in a cute little bar in Amsterdam, looking out over a canal while drinking beer and chatting to the locals. The rest was written at a dining table in a house near the beach in southern California. Free-working in this way wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago – and even if it was, no one would have thought it could be so straightforward. But now I can write my copy, create a suitable image, publish to the website and promote it across social media all from the comfort of my bar stool. And if I need to collaborate with the rest of the KindredHQ team, I can jump on Skype and check in whenever I want.
So ask yourself, does your working environment inspire you, or are you needlessly chaining yourself to a desk for the best years of your life? If you do want to break free from the office, here are my tips for making a success of it:
Get kitted out
Start the day with a fully charged laptop and mobile – and take chargers with you just in case. Along with a 3G or 4G phone, get the lightest laptop you can afford. My preference is the seriously portable MacBook Air because of its extra-long battery life, fast start-up time and a total weight of less than 3lb.
Know your Wi-Fi and power sources
When you’re out and about you’ll probably need to connect to the internet and you don’t want to risk running out of power. So before you head out, research the best places to get connected or find a plug socket. Sites like www.worksnug.com are a good place to start (there’s a very handy app as well) and we’ll also be creating lists of our own most inspiring places on KindredHQ.
Another great option is a co-working space where you can rent a desk or meeting room by the month, week, day or even hour. However, my personal favourite is the often-overlooked hotel lobby, as most of them will let you work there all afternoon for the price of a latte, in surroundings that are far more luxurious than those of your local coffee shop.
Challenge your boss
By this point, if you’re working or freelancing for someone else you may be thinking, ‘Are you crazy? I can’t do that, my boss would never allow it!’ But have you asked? Many enlightened bosses already understand that working outside the office has considerable benefits for both the individual and the business. And even micro-managers can be convinced that you don’t need to be glued to the desk. Suggest working one day a week ‘from home’ and agree on some increased productivity targets. Without a rush-hour commute to ruin your day, you should easily smash the higher targets and start to bring your boss round to a free-working approach.
Don’t simply swap one rut for another – keep things fresh by choosing different places to work. I love an amazing view and always find inspiration at the Royal Festival Hall or The Barbican in London, but you might enjoy the tranquility of a library or the bustle of a bar. It’s good to mix in some sunshine, fresh air and exercise too. I like to make phone calls when I’m on the move and send emails from my favourite cafes in a sort of Wi-Fi-crawl around the city.
Whatever you do, just remember that we were never designed to spend the day sitting in artificially lit, air-conditioned boxes. There’s a whole wide world out there and it’s yours for the taking – so go on and get it!