Categories
digital nomads future of work remote working

#44: A Day in the Life of Brittnee Bond, Founder, Remote Collective.

I believe all people should have access to remote work, and I intend to make this a reality.

Brittnee Bond, Founder, Remote Collective.

Thinking big 💡

I wake up, I meditate, I go swimming in the sea. I run, I do yoga, and then I sit down and start work.

I’m doing crypto investing right now and investigating blockchain, specifically to help women gain more financial freedom, so I’ll spend a couple of hours on calls with people and then I do a lot of community building. We build gardens, we help the local Thai people. So, there’s just constantly things happening.

But the first part of my day is like for me. For soul-building, for my creativity and then I do my work. And then I have time to give back to the community.

A day in the life of Brittnee Bond, Founder, Remote Collective – the latest video in Hoxby’s Workstyle Stories Live: a series of real-life stories that showcase the transformative power of workstyle. Brittnee is a remote work consultant and a coach for women entrepreneurs, currently based on Ko Pha Ngan, a tiny island in Thailand.

Pre-remote, she worked as a Paralegal in Intellectual Property law for six years.

An hour on the train each way every day, work for 8-9 hours, and that was my life.

Was it like Suits, the TV show? A stressful work culture with long hours and corporate tension?

Yeah, I would say it’s creepily accurate. My friends loved watching that Suits show, and I’m like, I can’t watch that, that’s my everyday life. Sometimes they would even have places at the office where you could sleep, just so you would keep working. It was really bad.

What was the dealbreaker?

I always wanted to work remotely. Even when I graduated high school and into university. That was my thing. I wanted to help people and make an impact, but I wanted to have my own freedom.

She worked as an internal consultant for three law firms helping them to go paperless and getting the systems in place to work remotely. She made herself indispensable and kept going, creating opportunities to build the workstyle she wanted.

The third firm let her work remotely and live in Costa Rica – the start of her remote working adventure.

It worked perfectly, her KPIs were off the charts and she proved she could do it. But after six months they wanted her back in the office.

The culture within the legal field, it’s too traditional for me, I can’t handle it. They were willing to let me work remotely because I’d helped them so much, and then the attitude was like, okay, we gave you your six months, and now you need to come back to the office and work for the rest of your life for us. And I was like, I can’t do this.

It was 2014, and this is like, old white men in suits, you know. They didn’t even like the idea of me being seen near the beach when they had to be in the office.

Professional jealousy, maybe?

She quit her job to do other things, first setting up a travel company to help pay her way, and then consulting for large corporates in Asia, based in Kuala Lumpur, flying out to a different country each month, and helping them to run their companies. There weren’t that many people with her business background in Asia at the time, so everyone wanted to work with her, and her workstyle was negotiable. She could start building her own projects and had a big mindset shift…

I am good. I don’t need to prove to myself anymore that I’m successful. And I also really, really wanted to help women.

So she started consulting companies to go remote.

So many companies are just trying to meet their KPIs and make a profit, and they don’t have the time or emotional energy to transition to remote, so I was like, I can step in and help. So that’s what I’ve been doing for the last couple of years.

Lots of takeaways here – she quit!! Thinking about where we’re at now – after a year of working at home – employers need to create a situation remotely for their top talent, an environment where they can thrive, so they don’t lose people. The law firms she worked with had an opportunity to think differently and mark themselves out as trailblazers: ‘The first paperless law firm with remote workers’ – that would have been great PR, but they didn’t see it that way – trust was an issue.

People want flexibility, freedom, and autonomy at work – give them that, and they will give you their best.

I also love what she has to say about mindset and money after raising capital for her ventures.

There’s so much money out there in the world. I want you to be able to access that money. So if you have questions about how to raise money… how to find the shared audience, please reach out to me because this is the stuff I live for, especially for women entrepreneurs, because I think so many women don’t realise how much money there is out there. We feel like we almost need to be given permission to even go after that money.

I’m giving you all the permission in the world right now that this is your time to shine, and I want to help you do that, if anything, just to root you on.

An inspiring story on evolving your work to enable your travel, escaping the bureaucracy of corporate culture, and creating a life you love.


🙌 The Hoxby Way 

I’ve renewed my passport with Hoxby to stay in the community for another year. They’ve introduced The Hoxby Way, a new way of doing business that will help them collaborate more closely as a community. They are merging their ‘core’ and Business Units into a single organisational structure made up of 10 functions with an MD for each, in response to feedback that things can feel a bit siloed. Good stuff. The goal is to continue to grow the community and create 30% more work for their consultants.

There are lots of questions, comments, and enthusiastic emojis flying around on the Slack channel, so it will be interesting to see how this develops and what new projects come in.

You can join the Workstyle Revolution community on Mighty Networks. It’s open to everyone who believes in what they are trying to achieve including those outside Hoxby.

Our goal is to replace the traditional 9-5 system with workstyle, fitting work around life and not the other way around.


Go deeper 🛠

🚀 Brittnee Bond on the future of remote working, getting into blockchain and launching the Women’s Circle Mastermind (Remote Collective).

👨🏽‍💻 The Rise of Working From Home (The Economist). The shift to remote working has gone better than expected. People are working longer hours, but they report higher levels of happiness and productivity. On the pros and pitfalls of remote work, the rise in work-from-home technologies, and new laws regulating remote work.

💻 The Nowhere Office (Demos) – The first report from the Chair of the Demos Workshift Commission, Julia Hobsbawm, says that lessons learned from the pandemic should inform an entirely new way to approach work, workplace, working life and productivity. ‘Everyone wants jobs, but they want something else too: meaning. Work-life balance. In other words, a work shift.’

👩‍💻 After working at Google, I’ll never let myself love a job again(New York Times). A former software engineer at Google on learning the hard way that no publicly traded company is a family. On the upsides of remote work: ‘I took a role at a firm to which I felt no emotional attachment. I like my colleagues, but I’ve never met them in person.’ 

📅 Save the date: Hoxby will be chatting to Ali Green on 29 April about remote work, non-traditional career arrangements and building rural economies through location-independent work. You can sign up and join Ali Greene’s live Workstyle Story.


Welcome to my bookshop! 📚

I’ll be sharing books in my bag and recommended reads on Bookshop.org. They pay a 10% commission on every sale and give a matching 10% to local bookstores, an integral part of our culture and communities. I would be very happy if you make the odd purchase here.


🕵🏻‍♀️ Work with me 

Leopard print, always. Worry less and rock a red lip. Remote worker, problem solver, internet person.

💡 Something you want me to write about? Leave a comment or email nicci@niccitalbot.io

☕️ Has this helped you? Buy me a virtual coffee

📩 Subscribe to The Shift here

👋 Copy Club, 6 pm GMT, Saturdays on Clubhouse – drop in!

Categories
Freelancing future of work remote working

#43: How to Thrive as a Soloist

Thinking big 💡

This month, Bruce Daisley ran a Twitter Spaces chat: Has the Work Culture Myth Been Busted? Rebecca Seal (author of Solo) made a point about offices that set his pulse racing (I can totally relate to this): 

Rebecca Seal, via Bruce Daisley

We mustn’t let the conversation about the future of work be dominated by loud, white male CEOs or by poorly worded staff surveys. If we sleepwalk back into the old ways, we will miss the moment of a generation, the chance to make work equitable and to design it in a way that puts human lives at the centre.

Bruce has written about it here: Offices are a Battlefront for Equality – a call to action to embrace new ways of working that are productive, fair for all and will transform the lives of millions, i.e. women, 50% of the population, many of whom have quit the workforce over the past year as they can’t juggle the demands of work and childcare. I talked about this in an earlier post on the Double X economy by Linda Scott. 

Bring it on! The juggling act between work and childcare is nothing new, but I hope we can learn from the past year and take the opportunity to reset work cultures and fix the barriers holding women back at work. We all need to step up. You can start by connecting with Rebecca here

I didn’t quit the workforce when I had Julieta but was self-employed so had no proper maternity leave. I stepped up the freelancing to keep my career going while my partner commuted to London at 5 am every day. And later, as a single parent living miles away from my family, it’s been the only way I can operate. I’ve been working this way for 15 years and remote working suits me, but there was no other option while she was young. I’m not alone. As the rise of Mumsnet, Netmums, Digital Mums, and ‘mumpreneur’ culture shows.

I’m half-way through Solo, and it’s an inspiring read, the next step along from the freelancer bibles. Less of the practicalities and more about the way you work. How to work well in isolation and how to thrive as a soloist. She’s taken the best ideas in psychology, economics, social sciences to help you stay resilient, productive, and focused in your company of one. She also explores the idea of meaningful work. Her inspiration came from not being able to find a book which answered her question: if I’m doing what I’m supposed to love, why am I sometimes so unhappy?

We are not farming a hot and dusty hillside 7,000 years ago. We are not Victorian labourers. We can do what they were denied. More than any other group of workers, soloists have the opportunity to change things for the better.

Rebecca Seal

AND: this new report from Demos think tank is along the same lines: a call to action about using the lessons learned from Covid to campaign for a new way to approach work, working life, the workplace, and productivity. The rise of The Nowhere Office, where work is based on outcomes not hours worked. 


End of lockdown review 

I’ve been thinking about the people and things that have helped me through the past year. I did a quarterly review this week – helps to get the fire in my belly – and wrote a plan. As Darren Murph, Head of Remote, Gitlab, says, ‘Documenting everything solidifies a remote company.’ ‘It’s the most valuable skill in tech’, says Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield. 

I started by making a list of all the things I’ve achieved this year. What has energised me? What has drained me? Financial wins? What impact has my work had? What new services, products, and packages have I launched? What skills have I learned?

Then a deeper dive into how I make my money. Other ways I can make money. New offers, promotions, raising prices. What’s not working? What systems do I need to have in place? What am I putting off, and why? Thinking about mindset, physical health, hours worked, and social networks. What habits have I created? (apparently, it takes 66 days to build a new habit). What are my flow activities? What can I automate or stop doing? 

I spent a couple of hours on this, so it’s a long list. The next step is to create a vision – 5-6 things I want to achieve. Then choose the top three for the next three months and make them specific. Break them down into 12 weeks steps – one action per week – and get them in the calendar. 

I’ve used the FAST framework for goals – frequently discussed, ambitious, specific, and transparent. They may change, but it’s good to have things written down. I’ll try to do this every quarter.

Changes I’m making: Working less (‘one piece of research surveying 1,000 freelancers suggests because self-employed people take fewer holidays and tend to consider themselves on duty for longer each day than employees do, we work up to 65 hours per week’). My core hours are 8 am – 1 pm then a two-hour break to go for a walk (been inspired by Sabatigo’s Wonder Walks to explore entrepreneurship.) People are refitting shops, selling fresh fish, takeaway breakfasts, street markets, making street art. Someone has built a Rent A Pod in their garden for hire by the hour for work or dinner.

I’m still plugged in, however, so I need to challenge myself to go for walks without my phone. 

Back by 3 pm for admin/emails/calls till 5 pm finish. Having this routine has helped with boundaries, and I’m more productive with time constraints. The old adage: work expands to fill the allotted hours (and more). I do a lot via my phone which means I’m always on, and it’s easy for work to spill over into the evening.

I’ve booked a week off over Easter and will redesign my studio. I’ve bought a Freedesk desk riser so I can stand for a couple of hours a day – ‘sitting is the new smoking.’ ‘It’s been out of stock since November, so I think it speaks for itself.’ I’ve become a plant parent – getting into biophilic design in the workplace and bought some nature art – I’m happiest out walking so let’s bring nature inside. I bought a Stanford map of the world – sticking pins in it to mark where I’ve been and want to go. A remote retreat this summer, and a city break later in the year.

I had my first residents’ meeting at the House of Beautiful Business. A mime artist, DJ, update on House Work, and 1-1 Zoom chats with other members. I met a human rights consultant and a humane branding consultant, both based in Berlin. Waleria also teaches Conscious Connected Breathing so got me on to that. I’ve been doing this exercise every morning and it’s transformed my day. Less shoulder pain from desk work since I started doing it. 

What’s your lockdown takeaway? 🍕 🍛 🍣 How’s it been for you, and what changes are you making this year? 

Mine’s an Indian – anything with panini. Julieta’s is a chocolate pizza.

Never eat more chocolate than you can lift.

Back in two weeks. 


Go deeper 🛠

📚 How to work alone – more about the book and some useful resources for soloists. Rebecca is also a food writer, so she knows what tastes good and what our bodies and brains need. I have her LEON Happy One-pot Cooking

🎧 The Solo Collective – a podcast for anyone who works alone, whether for yourself or by yourself, featuring experts and solo workers discussing topics like burnout, self-sabotage, mental health, and happiness at work. 

🌵 Green friends! How to incorporate biophilic interior design into your home.

💬 Bruce Daisley on why offices are a battlefront for equality

📌 Demos’ call to action: The Nowhere Office by Julia Hobsbawm. 


Welcome to my bookshop! 📚

I’ll be sharing books in my bag and recommended reads on Bookshop.org. They pay a 10% commission on every sale and give a matching 10% to local bookstores, an integral part of our culture and communities. I would be very happy if you make the odd purchase here.


Work with me 🙋🏻‍♀️

Leopard print, always. Worry less and rock a red lip. Remote work evangelist, problem solver, internet person.

💡 Something you want me to write about? Leave a comment or email nicci@niccitalbot.io

☕️  Has this helped you? Buy me a virtual coffee.

📩 Subscribe to The Shift here.

👋 Copy Club, 6 pm GMT, Saturdays on Clubhouse – drop in!

Categories
future of work remote working technology

The future of work after Covid19 — get ready for big changes

McKinsey: Almost all new jobs will be higher paying after Covid, and many lower-paid workers will have to change careers. More focus on skills than job titles. Periodically reinvent yourself. Be a worker-learner.

Thinking big 💡

According to new research from McKinsey, the way you work post-pandemic will look very different from how you do it now. 152 pages of data-driven insights exploring the long-term impact of Covid on eight economies. What geographies will shift? Which industries will lose jobs, and what will expand?

I’ve read it all, so you don’t have to. I tripped over a paving stone out running and landed on my wrist. Aaaggghhh!! I haven’t been able to do much but read. I’ve combed through the exciting bits for independent workers, women, and working parents.

Ambition is hibernating, and people are sheltering in jobs.

Grateful to have a paycheque, too knackered to job hunt and staying put while the economy is slow. A large group (mostly white) in steady jobs. A smaller group (mostly black, Hispanic) are taking action, upskilling and looking to switch jobs. They have a strong desire to step up and go their own way. “I can do better if I set up my own business.” I’m seeing a lot of this on Clubhouse.

Remote work + virtual meetings

72% of companies are planning hybrid work post-pandemic and reimagining how work gets done. They’ve realised people enjoy having more time at home and are just as productive, if not more.

People are spending a lot of time on their computers by themselves, and that can be done from anywhere.

The UK has the highest potential amongst eight countries for remote work as business & financial services and computer-based office work represent a large share of its economy. Things we’re struggling to do remotely — making critical decisions, negotiation, onboarding, brainstorming and innovation.

How will offices change?

Office vacancy rates are increasing dramatically worldwide. If 20–30% of the workforce are working at home, companies will reduce their office footprint and set up satellite offices over time. They can broaden their talent pool and have a more diverse workforce in different places. Smaller cities and rural areas are coming up with incentives to attract remote workers. Tulsa, Oklahoma, offers those who relocate for at least a year $10,000 and access to co-working spaces. Hawaii has its Movers and Shakers programme, attracting remote workers with free airfare, discounted hotel rooms, and co-working spaces (some volunteer work required).

I’ve heard real estate experts talking on Clubhouse about the rise of co-working spaces with childcare facilities. Companies can also hit their climate change goals as “20% of business travel may never return” to be replaced by virtual meetings and conferences. After the 2008 crash, business travel took five years to recover compared to two years for leisure tourism.

Acceleration of automation and digital technologies

There’s a shift to digital channels, online apps and robotics. Amazon has added over 400,000 employees worldwide (warehouse workers, engineers & more) and grew its workforce by 50% in 2020 to meet online services’ demand.

Periodically reinvent yourself. Be a worker-learner

We’re seeing changes in hiring practices, focusing on skills, not academic degrees, which means increased diversity. Google, Hilton Hotels, Ernst & Young, & IBM have removed degree requirements from job postings to focus on skills. The importance of having a secondary skill — apprenticeships, coding boot camps. Plan on your career being varied — portfolio working, income diversity, & mentorship. “Periodically reinvent yourself.” Be a worker-learner and follow the markets — tech, pharma & business services are booming.

In Europe and the US, workers with less than a college degree, members of ethnic minority groups, and women are more likely to need to change occupations after Covid-19 than before.

Freelancers & contractors are ahead of the game as we’ve been doing remote project-based work for years — it feels like the rest of the world is finally catching up. The challenge is taking time off to invest in yourself, paying for training, and keeping it all going with no sick pay, holiday pay, and expensive childcare. Women still do the bulk of unpaid domestic work — even more so during the pandemic. And we’re all working longer hours during lockdown.

I’m training to be a UX Writer — not much of a thing 10 years ago and now in demand and well paid. It’s different from copywriting and content writing — more niche and focused on user experience, psychology, & empathy. Helping and guiding people online rather than selling to them. UX is one area of tech where women are well represented. Interesting to speak to two journos at the UX Writers Conference who have moved into tech:

UX writers get high off of UX writing in a way that marketing copy won’t ever do for them. And passion makes for great work. Yael Ben-David, Fundbox.

If I can make a council meeting interesting as a journalist, I can be a technical writer. John Collins, Atlassian Design.

As the report says, we’re in an age of specialists over generalists. Let’s see if I get high on it 😉

Better policy support for indie workers

Some innovative ideas, including income support programmes for worker-learners, relocation assistance, training grants (I’ve had them from my trade union, not the government). Increased minimum wages, reformed taxation, better internet infrastructure in rural areas, a national platform based reskilling pass (learning for life) as they have in Singapore, India, & EU countries. And permanent policies like portable benefits allowing indie workers to work across gig platforms while getting medical services & other benefits.

Governments could also consider extending benefits and protections to independent workers working to build their skills and knowledge mid-career.

The pay-off will be a more talented, resilient and better-paid workforce. The SEISS grant gave the self-employed the same protection as employees for the first time and it makes sense for governments to offer more benefits for indie workers over the long-term. Businesses will be using our skills to adapt. In a survey of 800 executives, 70% said they will hire more freelancers, post-pandemic.

Jobs of the future

3D printing engineer, robot repair technician, algorithm bias checker, office disinfector, chief medical officer, chief fun officer (had one write to me this week), smart home designer…Will AI take over copywriting?

Let AI give your marketing team some relief, say Phrasee. We’ll take care of stuff like email subject lines, push notifications, and social media posts — with human oversight, of course — while your team handles the more interesting stuff.

We still need humour and empathy in customer service. Robots just aren’t built to care — yet!! I did the Guardian Book Club with Margaret Attwood talking about her 2003 book Oryx and Crake.

“Will you ever retire?”

Odd question to ask, why would she?

“Writers don’t retire.”

Oryx and Crake is the bigger picture and explores what will happen when the BIG pandemic hits and begins wiping out the human race.

Covid is a trial run, so get ready.

The advice 🤔

Economist Linda Scott on how cultural assumptions hold back women’s economic potential — and some practical solutions that could liberate us:

By far the most effective thing the whole world can do to help include women is to provide, universal, affordable, high quality childcare. And the benefits to this are so enormous, it would pay for itself. We don’t even fully analyse what the benefits are. It would definitely pay for itself, especially in the western counties, there’s no excuse for not having it. We’ve known we need it for 50 years.

And now in the pandemic, we’re seeing in a very large way what it’s costing women but we’re ignoring what it’s costing the economies. On average, women contribute just under 40% of GDP and that’s being left on the table, at a time when we need to recover. And that’s insane.All over nature, but particularly among primates, the mothers are the providers. This is what mothers do. And it’s what we should let them do that rather than trying to stop them in their path.

The Double-X Economy: The Epic Power of Empowering Women

Go deeper 🕵🏻‍♀️

💻 McKinsey: The future of work after Covid19 — the pandemic has accelerated existing remote work trends, e-commerce and automation, with up to 25% more workers than previously estimated needing to switch occupations.

🛠 Is the CV dying? (This is Money) — not entirely, but it’s becoming less relevant to skills-based testing. “I think the future is answering questions, video clips, portfolios and presenting reasons why you want to work for the company.”

🕵🏼‍♂️ This went viral on Twitter: Chris Herd spoke to 2,000 companies over the last 12 months about their plans for remote work going forward.

🚘 Gig economy Uber drivers are ‘workers’ — what’s it mean for you? Analysis from the National Union of Journalists London Freelance team.

👩‍💻 How to manage a remote team — free training (starts this weekend) from Gitlab’s Head of Remote, Darren Murph and Jessica Reeder.

💪 TUC Women’s Conference ’21, 3–4 March. Inspirational speakers, thought-provoking discussions and engaging workshops. Tackling the issues affecting women at work. Book your free place.

I’ll be there!

Welcome to my bookshop! 📚

I’ll be sharing books in my bag and recommended reads on Bookshop.org. They pay a 10% commission on every sale and give a matching 10% to local bookstores, an integral part of our culture and communities. Check it out here.

Work with me 🙋🏻‍♀️

Leopard print, always. Worry less and rock a red lip. Remote work evangelist, problem solver, internet person.

💡 Something you want me to write about? Leave a comment or email nicci@niccitalbot.io

☕️ Tips & large bank transfers welcome

📩 Subscribe to The Shift here

👋 Join Copy Club, 6 pm GMT, every Saturday on Clubhouse

Categories
digital nomads future of work remote working

The Shift: #31

The new lexicon of work for 2021; The boom in Zoom towns; The greatest migration in human history; How to manage a remote team.

Happy 2021.

It’s been a Covid Xmas — I’m in recovery. Julieta tested positive at the hotel just before her flight to Italy and then tier 4 came in so flights from the UK were cancelled anyway. We came home for 10 days of self-isolation. Covid knocked me out — headaches, fatigue, loss of taste and smell, brain fog. But no cough or breathing problems thankfully, I just needed to rest. It feels good to be on the other side and let go of my anxiety about catching it and whether to have the mix-match vaccine (no thanks!) I enjoyed my mini-retirement, binging on Walter Presents, and want more of these in 2021.

I don’t do new year resolutions but it’s a good time to reflect on last year, be intentional and build on the positive habits started during lockdown — or ‘stacking’ as James Clear calls it in Atomic Habits. The New York Times Well team has a 7-day challenge for 2021.

If ‘unprecedented’ was the word of 2020, this year we have two: Flexibility and work from anywhere (WFA).

McKinsey’s research: Independent work: Choice, necessity and the gig economy reveals 20–30% of the working-age population in the US and Europe, or up to 162 million individuals are engaged in some form of independent work. The UK government has a Good Work Plan with advice and skills for people going self-employed to help them succeed. The DWP is hiring loads of work coaches to help with this with a focus on self-employment.

With remote work going mainstream, people are already fleeing big cities for a better lifestyle and we’re seeing a boom in Zoom towns around the world. Pieter Levels, the founder of Nomadlist, says we’re on the verge of the greatest migration in human history… not nomads travelling perpetually but millions of people relocating semi-permanently to places better fit to their way of living.

Here’s the new lexicon of work to get you set up for 2021:

Work-on-demand, Work from anywhere (WFA) 💻

There are more online platforms to find remote work — We Work Remotely, Remote OK, Upwork, Toptal, People Per Hour, Freelance Writing Gigs, Yuno Juno, Remotiveio, Hoxby, Teachable, LaborX (crypto jobs), Kolabtree, Nomadlist, The Dots (LinkedIn for creatives). More people are using The Dots to apply for projects so it’s worth watching their webinar on how the algorithm works to get to the top of the search results. Pip says tech is booming so to think about pivoting to work for a startup/tech company. There are loads on the site. They’ve also added a remote work section so you can filter projects. I’m seeing lots of articles about the best remote companies to work for and top freelancers in various places which shows the market is maturing.

EdX: Online learning 📚

Doing a three-year degree at 18 in a brick and mortar institution (and getting into debt) is no longer appealing or relevant. We need lifelong learning and affordable training we can do from anywhere. More platforms are springing up to cater for this: Coursera, Udemy, LinkedIn Learning, Khan Academy, FutureLearn, Lambda school, EdX to name a few. I’ve signed up for three courses: CitiesX: The Past, Present and Future of Urban Life with Harvard University, anthropology of current world issues at the University of Queensland, and how to manage a remote team with Gitlab and Darren Murph. These are free and I can pay for certification if I want it. For nomad parents, there’s lots of innovation happening in this space e.g. Galileo global school.

Community, collab and co-working 🤝

The best work platforms are helping freelancers to grow and develop their skills and connections rather than just listing jobs. We’re seeing more reward & recognition for loyalty, e.g. you’re more likely to get to the top of The Dots’ algorithm if you engage regularly, ask questions and help others. They have handpicked mentors/ambassadors and encourage you to credit a team member for project work so you both get recognition. Several Slack groups have Ask & Offer walls/Opportunities so you can find hidden jobs that aren’t advertised. They are offering training, education and events — like a one-stop-shop. We’re also seeing a rise in flash freelance teams coming together to work on projects. Work is coming from a range of sources not just employers.

Digital nomads, slowmads, flexpats, and subscription living 🌏

It’s predicted there will be one billion digital nomads by 2035 and the term will become less relevant as more of us work remotely, relocate and travel more. The rise of 5G, 6G and remote work visas will make it easier for people to stay in one place for longer and give back to local communities i.e. teaching tech skills. Countries like Georgia, Portugal, Estonia, Bermuda and Barbados are leading the way and governments will need to compete to attract the best talent. As Matt Mullenweg says, the smartest people will want to work this way so companies need to keep up.

We’re also seeing more startups and hotels offering flexible accommodation and subscription living, e.g. CitizenM and NomadX. I’d like to see a shift from westerners travelling to developing countries to live better lifestyles without giving much back to local communities to people from all countries being able to travel and work — so we need more flexible visas or an international visa that’s open to all. See One Way Ticket, the digital nomad documentary, which explores the pros and cons of this lifestyle.

Tools 🛠

I wrote this in Roam Research — a notetaking tool for networked thought. Just having a play with it to see what’s possible and liking it so far. Daily notes, journaling, articles, to-do list, bi-directional linking, a mindmap graph. A bit of mind gardening — it’s your second brain. It will be a great tool to help with workflow and research. I quite like writing in bullets — it speeds things up (you can disable this). Lots of beginner tutorials on YouTube.

Thanks for spending part of your Sunday with The Shift 🙏

See you next week — Nicci.

Hi, I’m Nicci 👋 — a journalist and writer. I write The Shift, a newsletter on the future of work, creativity, and travel. If you like it and want to read more, please consider becoming a paid subscriber here. Or if you prefer, you can buy me a coffee here. Find me on Twitter @niccitalbot.

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Newsletter

The Shift: Issue #18

How to be productive WFH without going crazy; The State of Remote Work 2020 Report; Inbox Zero.

I did some training this week on ‘how to be productive working from home without going crazy’ with Thanh Pham, founder of Asian Efficiency.

Marie Kondo’s relative, surely!?!

I’ve been working from home for years and enjoy it, but am curious to know what else I can do to improve my set up and make it more fun. We’re six months into this global WFH experiment, and after this week’s government U-turn, it looks set to continue for another six months.

So, what have we learned so far? Will WFH be a permanent thing for companies or just a byproduct of the ‘interim economy’—a term used to describe the theoretical two years it could take for the economy to bounce back after lockdown? A new report on The State of Remote Work Q3 2020, highlights some significant and emerging trends. Read more.

Categories
Advice. Opinions. Conversation.

The Shift: Issue #3 – Interview: Matt Dowling, Freelancer Club.

“Try living a day without art, music, video, photography or design and see how you feel.”

Matt Dowling, Founder of the Freelancer Club, on his creative journey, growing a business that supports freelancers, and how companies can adapt to new ways of working.

What inspired you to set up the Freelancer Club in 2014? 
Way back, I was a freelance photographer prior to setting up the Freelancer Club. I had an unpleasant experience with a client who kept me on the hook without pay for six months, asking me to shoot their collection week in, week out, whilst plying me with excuses why my invoices hadn’t been paid that month. I had dropped my other clients and had to borrow money from friends to pay the rent. After six months of chasing, I paid a visit to their head office and discovered they had gone bankrupt. They were using me to produce content to sell the last of their stock. That incident cost me £11,000. 

The story made the papers and several freelancers reached out to tell me they had experienced something similar. This sewed the seed for Freelancer Club. I became very interested in the way companies (startups and corporates perceived and treated creative freelancers) and felt there was a desperate need to provide freelancers with a support network. 

You’ve grown it from 30 to 40,000 members. What was the strategy and what services do your freelancers most value? 
The club started with a small group of friends I had worked within the fashion industry. They loved the concept and through word-of-mouth, the club just took off. It’s been a very organic process. At the heart of the club is a sense of community and belonging. That you are a part of a tribe brings a sense of comfort, and that has played a big part in the club’s success. The members value access to paid opportunities and the ability to take ownership of each job. Being able to meet other freelancers for collaborations and an abundance of learning resources to develop their business skills.

How does Freelancer Club differ from other job platforms?
Our business model differs from most other freelance platforms. Upwork, Fivver, and People Per Hour, for example, use a marketplace business model. They sell the promise of work and take a commission on any of the matches. We believe there is a healthier way to develop a freelance business and find work. Freelancer Club, as the name suggests, is a subscription-based membership community. Anyone can join for free to gain access to a range of benefits that help them grow their business in a much more robust manner. For example, all members can access articles, videos and events or post and apply for test shoots (collaborations) to help them build their portfolio and meet others in the freelance sector.

When a member feels ready to apply for work or would like to access an archive of learning content, they can upgrade to a Premium Membership to access paid opportunities, premium content on the Academy, and a bunch of other valuable features. When they land a job on the platform, they take 100% of the rate. We don’t charge a commission, and both parties are free to engage in future projects without involving us. We don’t believe in quick fixes or freelancers having to under-cut each other. Our members develop their freelance businesses with us so they can pick up work via our site or many avenues. Proactive members grow to become well-rounded, independent freelancers who aren’t waiting for the ‘phone to ring’.  

How many jobs did you place last year?
It’s not as cut and dry as a figure from the database. When we connect the client with the freelancer, they often take their conversation ‘off-site’ (we don’t hold money on the platform). We’ve helped facilitate over 200,000 freelance jobs since launch, but I imagine that figure is a lot higher when one considers the offline connections and repeat business. 

Which work sectors are growing fast? 
The digital space is the obvious growth sector. Designers, UX/UI, Developers… Less obviously, we’ve seen a boom in Videography over the past few years. Lots of photographers have added this skill to their repertoire and, as demand for video continues to grow, the supply has followed. 

What have you been doing during this time to support forgotten freelance groups – PAYE, sole directors, new starters?
Fortunately, as a nimble startup, we could adapt quickly as soon as we saw what was coming down the line. On a local level, we offered free one-to-one consultations to our members, advising how they could adapt their business and offered moral support. We also opened up a lot of content to ensure our members were getting value while the market settled. To help financially, we gave our members the option to freeze their membership for a period. 

On a broader scale, we raised our concerns about the lack of financial support for the self-employed and unintentionally found ourselves as one of the leading voices in what later became known as the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS). It’s interesting how one reacts in a crisis. Our business was taking a hit, and we were implementing strategies to combat the situation as best as we could, however, it felt more appropriate to focus on the freelancers who we knew were going through hell. The act of supporting others gave us a greater sense of purpose. 

We conducted hours of interviews and campaigned hard to get freelancers the financial support they desperately needed. When SEISS was announced, it was an incredible feeling, however; it didn’t last long. We realised around two million freelancers would be ineligible, so we started a new campaign, this time with a group of influential businesses to add more weight. We’re still banging the drum. 

And the #NoFreeWork campaign?
Our #NoFreeWork campaign has been going for years. It’s at the heart of our mission statement. Our aim is to eradicate exploitative unpaid work in the freelance sector. What started as a hashtag has seen the campaign mentioned in Parliament and new legislation pitched to MPs at a roundtable with some of the most powerful names in our sector. I regularly speak at universities to highlight the realities of freelancing to the next generation and the pitfalls of free work. We champion businesses who treat freelancers with the respect they deserve and have gathered thousands of signatures on our petition.

Our aim outside of the legislative piece is to change the culture around unpaid work and highlight the value that creatives contribute to the economy and people’s lives. Try living a day without art, music, video, photography or design and see how you feel. We must protect the creative industries and be aware of their true value.   

Are clients getting on board with remote working?
We’ve seen a jump in remote opportunities, as was predicted. However, it’s not only the remote work one might expect. From brands hiring photographers and models to do Facetime photoshoots to promotional video content made from stock footage, homemade video and a lot of imagination, companies and freelancers have adapted to lockdown. The soft skills that all of us have had to develop is online communication, be it on Zoom, Slack or many platforms we’re using to chat. Freelancers must learn how to deliver and build trust entirely online, and communication has never been as valuable as it is now.  

Tell us more about your Freelance Academy and Concierge Service…
We have a sister company called Freelance Academy. It’s an online learning platform that delivers bite-sized courses tailored to freelancers. We brought an element of this into the Freelancer Club and give our members access to a range of workshops, interviews and discussions so they could continue to develop their skills during the lockdown. We’ve covered everything from marketing and sales workshops to discussions on working from home with Caroline Bayley of BBC Radio 4, and the value of creativity with Patreon.

We launched the Concierge Service as a new concept right before COVID-19 hit – good timing, huh! It’s a service that helps companies hire freelancers without the fees or faff. It combines innovative technology and human insights to make it easy for companies to build their freelance workforce. Post a project for free, choose the Concierge Service and our team will do the rest. A recommended freelancer will contact you, and the company takes it from there. To reignite the freelance economy and help companies get projects done, we’re running a campaign called #UnitedInBusiness that offers all new businesses £200 worth of Concierge Credits to spend on freelance hires. 

What trends do you see for work? Is this the end of the 9-5 office?
A few years ago, we transitioned from an office-based industrial-era business model to an exclusively agile, fluid company. My team are all freelancers and work remotely, so I’ve been on this journey first-hand for a while. The technology and tools that facilitate agile work are racing ahead whilst company culture and processes are sorely lagging. One of lockdown’s many legacies will be how comfortable we are with online communication, collaboration, and adaptation.

It has forced companies to assess their processes to facilitate remote working. However, integrating Slack, Monday and Zoom into a pre-existing full-time team is the easy bit. Sourcing, managing and developing a new agile workforce is an entirely different proposition, not to mention company culture in relation to freelance hires. We help companies source freelance teams by connecting them to talent, however, we’ve offered advice on integrating, managing and keeping those teams as businesses learn to adjust to an alternative way of working. 

Remote working is here to stay, however, COVID-19 has put into focus the importance of social interaction and ‘watercooler’ moments in a company context. Now all of us have tasted life as a remote worker, companies have data to determine if it’s a viable option whilst workers – even those who are stretched to the limit – will have experienced the advantages of WFH. Combine these factors with the level of introspection and reflection on what really matters in life and the pending boom in the number of newly self-employed individuals, and we could look at a very different working landscape.    

I suspect we will land on a hybrid model that combines time in the office and working from home. Less travel, downsizing, and an actual work-life balance that is not just a buzzword. Those who can facilitate this new world will reap the rewards. Those who dig their heels in might get left behind. 

If you’re looking for freelance work, visit www.freelancerclub.net.

Podcast 🎧:
ArtPaysMe podcast with Matt Dowling. Matt spoke to Duane Jones about creativity in business and what the education system can do to support creative industries.

Webinar:
Small Business Minister Paul Scully on Ltd company support. Good webinar this week with team IPSE who are still banging the drum for #forgottenfreelancers. I asked whether new sole directors can apply for the SEISS scheme as we are still technically ‘self-employed’ and have to do a personal tax return (computer says yes… it’s a grey area). Scully said he would look into it so keep an eye on IPSE’s Covid-19 page for an update.

Upcoming:
#TheRecoverySummit – June 15th-19th – the latest thinking on the global economy, leadership, managing change, innovation, disruption and resilience. It’s free – sign up here.

National Freelancers Day on June 18. The focus is on wellbeing, winning work, finance and taking charge. Good speaker line up, it should be an inspiring event.

Book:
Company of One by Paul Jarvis – why staying small is the next big thing for business. Exploring how to make your business better instead of bigger, and how you can thrive with less. Halfway through this, it’s excellent.

Categories
Advice. Opinions. Conversation.

Remote working – an end to the office as we know it? 

Office workers have been catapulted into the biggest ever remote working experiment during the global pandemic. How are employees adapting to the new normal of working from home full time – and how can we fine-tune our workstyle to avoid a new phenomenon: Death by Conference Call?

New research reveals productivity, happiness and office culture are booming with the shape of the office set to change forever:

  • Almost 3/4 (71%) of office bosses are pleasantly surprised by team productivity during lockdown despite more than half (54%) being nervous about their teams remote working before the Covid-19 pandemic
  • Over half (52%) say their organisations are MORE productive remote working than in an office – a surprise to almost 3/4 of bosses
  • Nearly 2/3 (58%) of office workers say remote working provides them with more autonomy to do their job in a way that suits them
  • 1/4 (25%) believe they’ll remote work at least half the time after the pandemic is over (compared to 10% before)
  • 70% of business owners and 78% of senior management agree ‘remote working is the future of my organisation’. 34% of business owners are considering moving to an entirely remote office

Nice to have some good news, especially as the lockdown measures (and remote working) look set to continue indefinitely. The study, conducted by Hoxby, a virtual agency and consultancy on the future of work, also found:

Effective Working: 71% of office workers think their employer is well set up for remote working. Almost 2/3 (58%) say remote working provides them with more autonomy to do their job in a way that suits them, rising to 63% of those in a managerial position. Only 19% say they prefer being in an office.

Happiness: 57% of managers think remote working is good for mental health, with only 14% recognising any adverse effects. Two-thirds of office workers agree that though the current situation is challenging in other ways, they are enjoying the fact that remote work means they can spend more time with their family, rising to 72% of those with young children. Only 8% say teams seem unhappy as a result of remote working.

Office culture: Over half (55%) of office managers say office culture is just as strong as ever, with office chat continuing just in a different form. Only 18% of office remote workers have seen any negative impact. 

The future is now
So, will this signal the end of 9-5 office culture? 1/4 of workers think they will remote work at least half the time after the outbreak, compared with just 10% before and 12% of the workforce say they’ll be working entirely remotely after the outbreak, compared to 4% previously.

Before the pandemic, 45% of office workers surveyed were required to be in the office ‘at all times.’ This is expected to fall to just 27%.

How might UK offices change shape?
70% of business owners and 78% of senior management agree that “remote working is the future of my organisation.” The lockdown has led to many reviewing how their businesses are structured. 42% plan to reduce the amount of office space they need. 49% think they’ll encourage more remote working. 34% are considering moving to an entirely remote office.

We still need to fine-tune remote working
48% of office workers admit they’re relying on conference calls too much and would like to learn more about other working practices rising to 63% amongst business leaders. 44% of workers are on conference calls “most of the day”, 54% of those who are managers. Junior team members need more support with set up.

Stuck in the 9-5
It seems we’re stuck in the 9-5 mentality, a throwback from the industrial age. 77% of business leaders expect their teams to work similar hours. Only 12% are trying to buck this trend for their teams, i.e. trying to escape the shackles of presenteeism. 34% of senior managers said remote working was something they wanted to do more of but felt they should be ‘seen’ to be in the office.

Great to see such positive outcomes after just five weeks of lockdown – with no practice run! I hope companies take this on board and rethink how they operate. As the founders of Hoxby, Lizzie & Alex point out, “Changing working practices is about putting people, their lives, their work, their mental health, all of these things centre stage… To avoid the ‘death by conference call phenomenon’ and ‘coat on the back of the chair’ expectations of presenteeism… “Organisations need to keep a watch on remote working practices and evolve and better them by gaining a deeper understanding of technology and virtual leadership.”

It’s time to leave the industrial age behind and adopt digital age working methods to improve diversity, productivity, and wellbeing – happy workers tend to be loyal ones. This shows remote is the future of work and there’s no going back, so it’s just a matter of fine-tuning our methods. It’s is an opportunity for companies to trailblaze with workstyles that are more flexible, more productive, and more enjoyable.

Use this time to get your head around new technologies, build online communities, and do things differently. There are more effective ways of working that may cost less. If it’s working well why would we want to go back to the old way of doing things?

Hoxby has a #RemoteAgainstCoronavirus campaign for a better remote working strategy. I recommend these articles:

Recognise that Remote Working is not the Same as Working from Home

Focus on wellbeing and mental health – The importance of, and practical tips for, looking after your mental health during the crisis.

Don’t be paranoid and start to view success based on output – five rules for leading remote teams.

The importance of building virtual communities and community engagement.

Hoxby’s remote working strategic approach.

Censuswide researched 1,003 office workers currently working through the pandemic between 22/4 – 27/4/20. 

Photo by Georgie Clarke.