Building Strong Relationships When You Work from Home
The new world of work is upon us
On the verge of the fourth industrial revolution – one largely driven by technology, working in an office is becoming less necessary, less coveted and could even prove costly. Rental costs for offices in desirable locations have in some places skyrocketed, while being present at the same location, at the same time is becoming less important for many multinational organisations and virtual teams, made up of individuals from different geos.
At the recent Web Summit 2017 in Lisbon, Portugal, one of the overarching themes was the future of work. In his talk Upwork’s CEO Stephane Kasriel highlighted the fact that technology is making remote, location-independent work the norm and that in the coming decades a larger percentage of the workforce will comprise of freelancers vs. employees. These independent workers are now able to find work through platforms like Upwork, Guru, Freelancer, Outsourcely and even more traditional job sites like LinkedIn. There are also websites that specialise in the syndication of remote only jobs, such as Indeed.com.
The freelancer toolkit
Independent workers are better equipped than ever to communicate with their employers, team members, fellow freelancers and support teams. Many are using Slack to stay in touch and collaborate on projects, both in their professional and in their personal lives. As a freelancer, I have also used Whatsapp, Viber, Skype, Skype for Business, Telegram, Google Hangouts and even Facebook Messenger to communicate with clients. Wherever my clients are, there I am, although at times I wish we didn’t have to use so many applications to talk to different people.
That’s the world we live in, though; everyone’s free to choose the app/interface they feel closest to and there isn’t a singular standard that we all agree to use. In work, Slack is becoming the preferred platform for many teams and having a desktop version certainly makes working with it easier. Grouping conversation topics in channels helps increase productivity and track decision-making in teams.
F2F vs. video conferencing
Tales of freelancers working in their pajamas have long been the subject of viral jokes but like any joke, there is an element of truth to it. Sometimes when you have a videoconference to join early in the morning, you would just put on a presentable shirt without worrying about the lower part of the outfit, hoping you won’t have to get up in the middle of the call, exposing your teddy bear-patterned PJ bottoms to the world.
Being away from the office certainly doesn’t mean working 24/7, however, and that’s something clients hiring freelancers need to understand. I have had many calls scheduled before, during and after the lunch hour, after working hours and even on weekends, which assumes that freelancers don’t need to eat, don’t have lives and don’t enjoy time off. I even had a situation when one of my clients was very surprised when I informed them that I would be going on a two-week holiday during the summer – I suppose they assumed that being location-independent, I don’t need to take real vacations as I am living a perpetual holiday. Nothing can be further from the truth, in my experience. Freelancers who take their work and clients seriously can’t afford to work from sunny beaches with a sketchy internet connection or travel all the time, partying during the day and working all night due to the time difference. Travelling while working can be easier for digital nomads who aren’t bound to an office but having a quiet, temperature-controlled space with a reliable internet connection is a must for getting real work done.
The new office
In addition to working from home, many remote workers are now choosing more social environments for doing their daily work, including coffeeshops and co-working spaces where they can meet other like-minded individuals and socialise a bit. Of course, having to always go to an office defeats the purpose of being a freelancer but having the option to do so when you get lonely, is priceless. Companies like PegusApps offer this option to their team members, holding occasional team meetings at the office and organising a get-together every few weeks for the teams to talk about topics ranging from work to travel and personal matters.
What happened to fun?
At PegusApps, the coffeemachine Slack channel gives remote teams the opportunity to share things with their colleagues that they typically would if they were getting a coffee together at the office. Real-life encounters are also important to home workers and going to the office or a co-working space can offer a temporary solution. There is also a number of digital nomad groups popping up in different cities on Facebook, Whatsapp, Meetup as well as bespoke platforms like Flylancer. They all aim to bring homeworkers together in the physical realm, whether they happen to be full-time company employees or typical nomads. Both of these groups share the need and importance of regular face to face interactions and the ability to build strong relationships and a network offline. Many of the co-working spaces also organise regular events for their residents, ranging from breakfast speaker series like those at betahaus Sofia, or monthly networking + drink events such as those offered by Cloud Coworking in Barcelona.
Copywriter: Ina Danova