The virtual office and its effect on work-life balance.

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The digital world continues to evolve with relentless pace. As it does, it creates new possibilities for employees, sole traders, freelancers or start-ups to work remotely. Right across Australia, and indeed the world, a powerful trend is seeing more and more people being able to create a flexible work-life balance, including the opportunity to work from home.
By its very nature, working remotely enables greater flexibility and can provide the inspiration to encourage a more productive work ethic. It also allows people the opportunity to prioritise – family, health, life and work. And let’s be honest, who wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to work from home when faced with potentially painful commute?

The best of both worlds
Technology advances, financial pressures and changing work/life attitudes are also seeing an increasing number of people opt for a sea or tree change, moving out of the city to seek a more rewarding existence in regional areas. Doing so allows for one foot to be in a more relaxed regional environment, whilst still being ‘corporate’ and connected to the industries and clients who pay the bills.

It’s a shift reflected in the rise in freelancing across Australia. In fact, in 2015 the ABS recorded over one million independent contractors in Australia. This trend towards more flexible, freelance arrangements is likely to increase and according to Upwork (2015) it’s already estimated one third of the Australian workforce delivers some form of freelance offering.

Clearly, flexibility is one of the great advantages of doing business in this way. It’s good for the service provider and it can also provide advantages for the businesses they work with too, allowing them to be more scalable and reactive by having access to the right resources to deliver on its capability, as and when required.

Technology lets us work…anywhere

These days there are so many great utilities, social networks and apps. Whilst often born from purely social origins, they can also be used to keep us connected and in control of our work for longer and with more people in more places.

Video conferencing, project management systems, shared cloud storage and continually-evolving tech tools all make it easier to connect, share and collaborate – regardless of where you happen to be. In 2018, you can work from almost anywhere.

But…there can be a cost
This high-level ability to stay connected and work remotely or from a virtual office can still have its drawbacks. One of our greatest learnings is the importance of ensuring the right balance is struck between what works from a productivity point of view but also personal satisfaction.

Speaking from experience and having worked in many big organisations, especially in creative environments, the daily connectivity and sense of real human community can quickly become a missing link when we work virtually. It’s very easy to feel isolated. The exceptions are situations where you are frequently meeting people face-to-face, or perhaps working virtually in a space that still encourages a community connection. It’s quite easy to feel you’re working from a different planet, trapped in the confines of your small, single-seat space!

Working on Mars
People can quickly become absorbed in a virtual world when they’re constantly glued to a phone or a computer, both in personal time but also in business. Drawing boundaries of what is real human contact, as opposed to those in the digital world, is essential or you can essentially find yourself working on your own isolating planet – your own lonely Mars.

Add a sea-change into this scenario, where you are new to an area, and there’s a strong chance a sense of overwhelming solitude can strike, adding to the pressures of success and sense of self and satisfaction.

Human relationships matter most
We all know relationships build strong business connections, whether a client, supplier or colleague. This simply can’t be done solely from the confines of an isolated office. It’s even more pertinent when it comes to working in regional areas of Australia. Here, there’s nothing more important than getting out there, meeting people, sparking up relationships and being part of your community. As we all know, communities can help generate insights, innovate, collaborate and nurture complimentary business relationships.

Two heads always beat one
Even more importantly, whether you need to network or simply bounce ideas off other people for sense check, there’s always going to be someone or something out there that can enhance your work or idea. The best thinking rarely comes from an echo chamber.

We’re social creatures, so by enabling yourself to be out there, for the next business idea, next client or sale, there’s more to simply being in your isolated digital space. Whether you’re a sole trader, employee, start-up or corporate refugee, being digitally connected enables efficiency and productivity, but human connections and communities helps drive success, but more importantly sanity.

Don’t forget to switch off occasionally, and look around you to make sure you’re not on Mars.

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