Remote working is more accessible to both employees and the self employed than ever before. This is largely due to an improvement in technology and tools, enabling employees and consultants to work from wherever in the world they may be with ease.
For the remote workers themselves, this affords an opportunity that previous generations rarely had: to be able to travel and work at the same time. It no longer has to be one or the other.
There are huge benefits for employers too. Remote workers typically report lower levels of stress, which in turn increases efficiency and productivity. It can also result in lower overheads for employers.
But remote working requires discipline, and it isn't free of pitfalls. So what makes for successful remote working?
I asked four successful remote workers to share the tips and tricks that keep them productive.
Aleyda Solis, founder of Orainti.
Aleyda Solis packs a lot into her schedule. As the founder of Orainti, she works as an international SEO consultant and speaks at conferences globally, so combining work and travel successfully is essential.
Her experience of remote working is vast, as she explains:
"I started in 2012 working in-house SEO for an online marketing department that was spread out across Europe, sharing similar time zones. Then in 2013 I worked remotely as an SEO for an American online marketing agency with offices on the East and West coast, while I was in Europe. And in 2014, I became independent with my own SEO consultancy. My base is in Spain, but I travel a lot for both business and leisure reasons with clients all over the world."
This passion for combining work and travel resulted in her co-founding Remoters.net, a resource for other digital nomads and remote teams to get advice, tools, and information. Her best advice for maintaining productivity while working remotely?
"Make sure your communication setup is ready for working remotely, whether from a single location or on the go. This means you need access to internet, with at least as much bandwidth as your base office location and a great data plan for your mobile so you can tether in the event that you don't have access to Wi-Fi.
"Another vital thing is making sure your smartphone battery won't fail you. Backup battery covers and portable chargers will help there.
"Finally, consider a proxy and, ideally, VPN. Sometimes hotels (or even countries) block certain online resources you need access to, and you'll need a way around it."
Courtney Seiter, inclusivity catalyst at Buffer.
Courtney Seiter works for Buffer, an organization with a distributed team. Courtney's role as inclusivity catalyst means she focuses on the intersection of workplace culture and inclusion at the company.
On the side, she's also the co-founder of Girls to the Moon, a company that builds confidence in girls age 10-14.
With these two projects, productivity is essential, and her advice is to make use of offline time too:
"My top tip comes from my teammate Rodolphe, who shared it in his post on Gmail tips learned from working at Google. I had no idea you could use Gmail offline, too!
"For train/plane/car rides, or even just during a Wi-Fi shortage, Gmail Offline allows mail to be read, responded to, searched, and archived without network access. When you're back online again, Gmail executes all the changes you made while offline.
"So even during Wi-Fi-free travel, you can avoid inbox overload when you arrive."
Amy Harrison, owner of Write With Influence.
Amy Harrison is a copywriter, content trainer, and owner of Write With Influence, an online resource that helps business owners write better marketing content faster. She is also the host (and many of the characters) of AmyTV, an online sketch comedy show about writing better business copy, and a speaker at conferences internationally.
With all this going on, productivity on the move is an absolute must. For Amy, routine is key:
"I try to have a starting ritual that mimics a more traditional 'office' routine. It's easy to grab the laptop or notebook and settle on the couch, but subconsciously that tells me it's sofa time, not work time!
"I like to set up everything the day before at a table, making sure I've got everything I need within reach. Then in the morning, get ready as normal and head to the 'office'. This mental separation makes me much more focused on work (rather than getting distracted by household chores and habits)."
Ben Dodson, freelance iOS developer.
A freelance iOS, Apple Watch, and Apple TV developer, Ben Dodson has worked remotely for six years and now takes on remote contracts exclusively. This means that on any given day, Ben can combine working with a good walk and relaxing with video games.
"Typically, I'll wake up and deal with my dogs first thing, around 6.30 a.m., while getting breakfast ready for my wife. Once she has left for work, I read and deal with any overnight emails before doing a concentrated burst of work until around 1 p.m.
"After lunch, I'll typically go for a walk and do a bit more work before playing some video games on my PC before my wife gets home. We'll then walk the dogs, cook some dinner, and generally watch TV. Once she falls asleep, I'll either do some more work or play some video games depending on how busy my schedule is."
His best piece of of advice for maintaining productivity and a balanced lifestyle as a remote is all about scheduling:
"Develop a schedule and stick to it. The hardest thing in the world is finding the motivation to start on a new project, but once you've done 10 minutes of work you'll be raring to go on to the next 10 minutes, and the next.
"To work remotely, you need the self-control to work when you don't want to, the passion in your work to keep going, and the common sense to know when a 30-minute break is going to actually help rather than hinder you.
"I strongly recommend a tool called Cushion as an incredible way of managing your schedule, invoices, and expenses; it'll make sure you don't get overbooked (a big no-no) and also help you manage your finances better."
Schedules, routines, and tools.
We have better technology than we've ever had, and thanks to smartphones, we can be connected wherever we are.
Of course, that doesn't mean remote working is easy. It requires self-discipline, the ability to self schedule, and a good set of tools, as well.