Craig Holbrook shares his experience of fully embracing a Work from Anywhere lifestyle in Morocco. He also shares why you should consider WFA, too.
In my first blog, I reviewed the concepts and trends of work from anywhere and hybrid work and how to prepare yourself for success. In this second part, I will address the “why” of this setup and talk about what I have learned since returning to the States.
You may be wondering about my photo above, showing what looks like a recreation of the famous Iwo Jima statue. There is always a story – these four gentlemen were planting a palm tree near us. In the U.S., it would have likely been two folks with a great big truck and crane. In Morocco, I was amazed at the ingenuity of their workers in this task. They could easily dig, move and plant this palm with no machinery, just with some simple slings and levers.
It made me wonder about my team’s regular tasks. How might we re-imagine these to not be so dependent (and sometimes stuck) on the ways with which we have become so comfortable? I believe working from anywhere, especially in a place very different from what you are used to, can have a creative impact on how you think of and do your work. I have many other examples from this trip that had these same creative effects on me. Let me explain.
After working remotely for two weeks in Morocco (and vacationing for two weeks), I feel that I have test-driven the concept enough to have a distinctive view of the value of this type of arrangement.
Why Work From Anywhere?
Working in our home offices during COVID has left many people feeling burnt out. The anxiety of the unknown, coupled with the social isolation from your coworkers, leads to a great deal of stress and exhaustion.
COVID will eventually pass, and much of this stress will go with it. However, most knowledge workers will not automatically go back to five days in the office. More importantly, COVID put a question in all of us, “What is important about my work?”
Quick story. I was in a restaurant the other day talking about the death of the long commute, and a fellow diner interrupted to say she was angry about spending three hours in her car, five days a week, for the last 20 years. She vented that she would never go back to the commute.
With these changes happening, episodic WFA will offer the type of flexibility that will inspire workers and breed loyalty to the firms that enable it.
Working from anywhere can be the reset, break, creativity boost and cure we all seek in our ever-hurried corporate existence.
I think “episodic work from anywhere” is what many knowledge workers can and will want to experience. Some people will certainly move to a far-away island and work remotely permanently. However, many workers will want to stay where they are rooted, work from home several days a week and make extended work and vacation travels periodically.
Making WFA Work for You
Corporate leaders will need to think expansively when formulating their company’s Work From Anywhere policy. Sure, there are all the logistical, legal and tax questions to consider. No problem.
The more important challenges to solve will be how to encourage and enable it to benefit our employees, customers, and ultimately, our companies. Winning teams will likely use this to contain attrition and inspire loyalty but also to improve their products and services to their end customers. I’ve found three models of working from anywhere that can prove to be beneficial:
1. Combine work with vacation
Two-week summer vacations used to be the limit of what corporate bosses would allow. Immigrants from Asia have always struggled with this. How about spending six weeks away and working for three of them? It should provide the continuity your firm needs while giving you and your family time to unplug fully and reconnect with roots.
2. Team retreats
Executives have been known to take an annual planning retreat to provide some focus and bonding on upcoming team goals. Why not extend that concept to all of your major teams? As companies spend less on real estate, they can divert a small piece of that to periodic team retreats.
In software development, go to southern Florida for your quarterly product increment planning. In process efficiency efforts, head to an eco-retreat for your Kaizen events. Thinking about your M&A strategy? Send a cross-functional team off to a week of community service in an underserved area while you plan your next acquisition.
3. Turbocharge the new team, make the human connection
High-performing teams are built on trust and human connection. With teams likely to be more scattered about in the future, there will be a need to gather physically in order to build team relationships and dynamics. Why not make that effort centered around a great destination? Many folks are going to have to travel to the office. Why not travel somewhere far more rewarding?
In summary, managers and leaders must take the time to learn and grow with WFA and hybrid work models. Companies will either gain a tremendous amount of value from these practices or will fail to capture the creativity and loyalty of their employees. Take some time to experiment and learn.