I’ve been a prolific Foursquare user ever since it was released several years ago. I rely heavily on its Swarm check-in app to keep a digital journal of my travels for auditing, sharing, and the occasional #tbt.
I recently did some searches for words like “work,” “office,” “Fuze” (our company name), “working,” etc. in an effort to find all of the places I’ve checked-in over the past two years where I was working.
What I discovered was actually a little surprising.
All in all, I found 428 “offices” in my travel history. That’s 428 unique places that I can claim to have been doing work at.
Here’s a sample of some of the random places I’ve called an office:
- A Waffle House restaurant in Atlanta, GA
(breakfast meeting with the local sales team)
- Stalled somewhere in the south of France on the EuroStar train from Paris to London
(a video call with a customer back in the U.S.)
- A donut shop in Park City, Utah
(emergency virtual team meeting during a ski weekend)
- The pilot’s lounge at Heathrow Airport
(internet was down in the BA lounge so they brought me in there as I claimed I needed to join this emergency meeting)
While I was looking through this diverse list from across the globe, I started thinking about how few of my friends and colleagues are able to work in these sorts of places with any kind of consistency.
Some of course, would just prefer not to, and that’s perfectly fine.
However, in working at a globally-distributed company I have found that my ability to work from anywhere has not only increased my productivity, but also has allowed me to enjoy the freedom of having the world as a workplace.
For me, that beats the corner office any day.
- Build Hubs, Not HQ’s
More than anything, leaders and companies today should focus on making their spaces more conducive to the modern digital worker.
At our company, Fuze, we’ve recently taken steps to do this by making our new headquarters a true hub for our workforce. Our offices are now designed around collaboration spaces – both for large-scale meetings as well as smaller, huddle sessions – in addition to more traditional, individual work spaces. It has lots of “hotel” desks for employees like myself that are typically there for a few days before moving locations.
We made these changes because an increasing amount of our employees expressed a desire to work from home, and a majority of remote/field workers (myself included) wanted a better experience when they are in an office for a few hours or a few days. This was coupled with the primary goal of using the office space to work more collectively with fellow colleagues when you’re face-to-face.
In this way our office has become a hub for face-to-face interactions and networking amongst teams. Unsurprisingly, this has led to higher productivity and better ideas, since workers can take care of their own agendas at home, and spend their in-office time focusing on shared projects.
- Embrace Mobility
Individually speaking, in order to do this well you should invest in some common tools of the trade.
My must haves?
Get a good headset (I love the Apple AirPods). Get a great portable battery (I love my Anker). And get comfortable using remote collaboration software.
In terms of helping your employees become more mobile, take steps to build positive team culture by requiring video to be turned on in all meetings, and practicing effective video conference techniques.
Perhaps even more importantly, be sure you’re present and stick to your meetings schedule whenever possible while traveling. This will encourage your team to do the same.
At the end of the day, transparency and mobility like this is good for everyone, and has been shown to increase productivity and employee satisfaction – two important indicators of a successful business. The reason why is not a difficult concept to wrap your head around, since if employees are encouraged and able to work whenever and wherever they want, they’re able to get more done.
- Be Physically Present
Another way to encourage working remotely and collaboratively is to plan time to bring your team together at one of your company’s hubs once per quarter.
When doing this, budget and spend the money to bring remote people to the hub. Also, make sure it is not always the typical two-day “offsite” gathering, and instead do a week where everyone just “works from the hub.”
Doing this will leave time for spontaneous and planned face-to-face meet ups, which are some of the best opportunities you’ll have to connect with your employees during the get together.
Importantly, these one on ones will also offer a chance for you to promote further mobility by doing things such as bringing the meeting outside – a surefire way to be more effective and constructive with this time.
- Balance Your Life
Ultimately, moving around a lot will often translate into suddenly realizing you never found the time to get to the dentist or run other life errands that you needed to be home for in order to do.
To remedy this, I make a point of blocking off one Friday per month to pack all of those appointments and tasks into, and I leave that day otherwise untouched on my calendar.
Doing something like this will ensure you remain grounded.
Embracing a flexible work style will unlock your true productive potential and probably even make you happier in your job, but without balance it can also allow your work to bleed too far into your life.
In other words, go see the dentist.
And, if you find yourself on a EuroStar train or sitting in a Waffle House somewhere in Georgia, you can have that video conference. But don’t forget to also appreciate the French countryside flying by, or just how much you enjoy putting syrup on top of everything.