Written by James Robert Finder
We’ve come a long way from cube farms and “Where’s my stapler?” in the Office Space. According to a NPR/Marist poll, 1 in 5 jobs in America is held by a contract worker under contract, and contractors and freelancers soon are projected to make up half of the American workforce. Arun Sundararajan, a management professor at New York University and author of The Sharing Economy, says “contract work is the work arrangement for the future… twenty years from now, I don’t think a typical college graduate is going to expect that full-time employment is their path to building a career…”
According to a recent NPR podcast, the percentage of people engaged in “alternative work arrangements” (freelancers, contractors, on-call workers and temp agency workers) grew from 10.1 percent in 2005 to 15.8 percent in 2015. 94 percent of net jobs created from 2005 to 2015 were these sorts of impermanent jobs according to a study by economists Alan Krueger and Lawrence Katz. For further reading and listening, I’d highly recommend checking this 2018 NPR podcast series “The Rise of the Contract Workers”.
More and more, these contract positions are work from home/remote positions. From the 2017 State of Telecommuting Report:
- 2.9 percent of the total U.S. workforce (about 4 million people), work from home at least 20 hours a week, up 115 percent in the past decade.
- In more than half of the top U.S. metro areas, telecommuting exceeds public transportation as the preferred commute option for employees and contractors. It has grown far faster than any other method of transportation or commute.
Entrepreneur.com listed several employer benefits to engaging with remote employees including
- Increased productivity
- Reduced business costs and
- Less turnover
Since the beginning, PLExD has been a fully remote company, with clients and team members distributed throughout the world. We’ve contracted with organizations in all 6 times zones in the US as well as team members in Europe and in Asia. We’ve been successful at delivering projects on time and at or under budget. But that’s not to say that we haven’t made mistakes as well.
So how can you be successful during your next remote project as a consultant? Are you managing a team of remote workers and need some guidance? Either way, we’ve done both. If you’re contracting a provider or providing a service, we’ve found these tips and best practices successful for us and in turn has resulted in our clients thrilled with their results.
Tip Number 1: Become familiar with a variety of tools.
As a contractor, you’ll be asked to jump into projects, often with little to no on-boarding time. Organizations are bringing contractors on as contingent experts, often paying a premium because the consultant already has the skill set and tool knowledge to get the job done right with as little onboarding as possible. As an organization, PLExD has used or recommended to others nearly 50 freemium and open-source tools in order to get stuff done, in almost any project management or design capacity. Take a look at the tool kit here.
Here’s a peek at the PLExD Tech-stack. We’re using these tools nearly every day to complete our consulting tasks as well as our inbound and outbound marketing goals.
- Project Management: Airtable (freemium)
- Time Management: Toggl (freemium)
- Communications: Slack and Discord (freemium/open source)
- Mind mapping: xMind (freemium)
- CRM: Streak for GMail (freemium)
- Scheduling: Youcanbook.me (freemium)
- Marketing Automation: MailChimp (freemium)
- Cloud Storage: oDrive to connect Dropbox/GDrive/Box/One Drive (freemium)
- Accounting/Invoicing: Quickbooks Online (paid)
All of the tools we’d recommend you check out can be found at the PLExD Toolkit. Take a look at the tool kit here.
Tip 2: Create a schedule. Use your calendar
One of the freedoms of working from home is being able to work at the time that works for you! Have a doctor’s appointment? Go to it! Dog wants to go for a walk? Take them! However, this can also throw you off and prevent you from reaching “flow”.
So, what is flow?
Close your eyes and picture that you are rowing a boat. Your attention is focused on the movements of your arms, back and legs all moving in unison, the power of your lungs as you inhale and exhale and feel the motion through the water. You are living completely in that moment, utterly focused on the present activity. Time seems to fall away. You tire, but you do not flag, you barely even notice. That is flow.
According to psychologist Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi, there are ten factors that accompany the experience of flow, including
- Strong concentration and focus.
- The feeling of accomplishment and reward during the act of completion
- Focusing on the present so intently that you lose track of time passing.
- Lack of awareness of physical needs.
- Complete focus on the activity itself.
One of the ways the team at PLExD has been able to achieve states of flow are by creating and adhering to a schedule. By creating and blocking off time for specific tasks allows you to immerse yourself in the task. We’ve found it extremely helpful to enter blocks into our calendar for specific tasks. This does several things;
- Creates a space for isolation. We’ve created a set time that is dedicated to this task, and nothing else.
- Creates a sense of accomplishment. We’ve identified a set amount of time to dedicate to the task, and when that ends, we’ve accomplished something.
- Creates boundaries. We’ve identified that we have many tasks that we need to accomplish and no one task can consume the entire work day.
Tip Number 3: Practice communicating with your team
Because remote employees typically don’t spend much time in an office, they need to be good communicators. It’s critical you’re proficient with both email and phone. As a contractor, if you don’t understand how to relay results in a clear and concise manner, you likely won’t be employed long. Clients don’t want to spend the day chasing down you as a remote worker when they need information or answers. You need to be responsive. That means using away messages, out of office status and communicating using your communication tool of choice. If these aren’t up, I’d expect you to be reachable during the workday, and within minutes, whether that’s through phone, email, or Slack. Be tech savvy! You need to understand how to use the software and important programs of a number of clients as efficiently as possible. The last thing you can afford is tying up a client’s IT team with simple problems that shouldn’t be an issue. Practice using the tools the client uses. We’ve provided some links to free training on a number of Project Management and Communications tools below:
- How to use Airtable
- Slack Certification
- BaseCamp Classes
- Getting Started with Discord
- Microsoft Virtual Academy
Tip Number 4: Take time to disengage
Remote work will lead to burnout, period. Working from home is isolating. Take time to get outside and walk. Take time to go to the gym. Take time to take care of yourself. Especially with the “feast or famine” nature of contracting, it’s important to keep yourself at the top of the priority list. As a contractor, there are no sick days, no benefits. Be proactive and disengage in order to recharge. We’ve found walking (or really any consistent physical activity), going to the gym, reading for fun, and meeting with other professionals can help reduce burn out for yourself and, in turn, lead to better results for your clients.
Any other tips you’d like to share with us? Contact us or InteriMarket for any further information, support or even to see how we make a difference in the world of work via the sharing gig economy and mobility of talent. This post is sponsored by InteriMarket – End to end solution for businesses to hire, engage and manage their external workforces. For a demo or to talk about your needs please contact Bhumika Zhaveri