By Robert L. Dickie III
Like it or not, the Monday-to-Friday, 9-to-5, clock-in-clock-out work-week is quickly becoming a relic of the past. Working remotely is becoming more and more common all the time. The freelancer economy in the US is big and getting bigger. Freelance and gig workers comprise 36% of the workforce, and that number could be over 50% in within 10 years. As on-demand businesses such as Uber, Lyft, Instacart, and TaskRabbit offer people the opportunity to create their own schedules and work on their own terms, people have flocked to gig jobs as their side hustles or full-time employment. Freelance contractors are gigging in other industries as well, including writing, software development, and web design.
As the gig economy has grown, so has the demand for flexible work arrangements. Technology has made it possible to earn from home without sacrificing career advancement. Thanks to platforms such as Google Hangouts, Zoom, and Slack, you can be in touch with colleagues throughout the day while maintaining your own schedule and creating the type of work-life balance that works for you.
In corporate America, there’s a growing trend toward Results-Only Work Environments (ROWE). This was patented by two former Best Buy human resources employees who were tasked with developing a flexible work schedule that satisfied everyone. These two women decided what employees ultimately desired was to be in complete control of their time. So the new system was simple: no mandatory attendance at meetings, managers don’t dictate any hours or schedules, employees don’t talk about the amount of hours worked, and employees are 100% accountable for delivering results.
In an “office” setting there are varying degrees of adoption of this method. In companies I’ve worked in, I’ve seen it be very successful. Employees don’t have set hours, although I generally know who comes in early and who shows up later. I’ve judged employees by output only and checked in if I notice someone’s missed deadlines or lack of quality work. But overall, I’ve observed the ROWE mindset decreasing stress and allowing employers to manage the work rather than managing the employees. A lot of people thrive under this low-maintenance environment and actually perform more efficiently and at a higher level. I personally love flex environments and get some of my best work done out of the office with all the distractions and endless meetings. I love working from home and taking a break in the middle of the day to walk around the block with my son.
A flexible work setting is definitely trending right now—whether you are self-employed or otherwise employed. Even if your company hasn’t adopted ROWE, many management teams are becoming more lax about work schedules and location. Some bosses are adamant about work being done in an office among colleagues, but many will be open to at least a trial period of doing some work out of office.
The Pros and Cons of Flexibility
Even though your grandparents’ 9-to-5 workday is mostly history, that doesn’t mean a flex schedule is all sunshine and daisies. Working on your own time and in your own location takes a lot of discipline and a lot of trial and error to figure out what works for you. And the truth is that possibly nothing will work for you—you may decide that you work best in an office and team setting, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Let’s discuss some of the luxuries and drawbacks of this flexible work setting.
One of the biggest draws to ROWE or freelancing is the promise of work-life balance—or as I like to call it, work-life integration. When you’re working from home, chances are that your work and personal life will blend together. You’ll chat with clients after getting the kids off to school, write up a report as they do their homework, and answer emails after you’ve put them to bed. Integrating work and personal responsibilities in a balanced way is critical to making a flexible job work.
That’s why I advocate building a career around your passions; if you’re going to be doing your work all throughout the day and bringing it into your home and family, you’d better love what you do. If you don’t love the work you do, you’ll be bringing your misery or boredom home with you every day and letting it affect your family and your safe place. I don’t feel the need to “go to” and “come home from” work every day because my work is an extension of who I am. It fulfills and energizes me in all areas of my life.
For most people, the ability to set your own schedule is definitely a luxury. Scheduling appointments when you need to, getting kids to and from school when you need to, sleeping in when you want to are all perks of this new flexible work environment. For people who like to hit the gym in the morning but not necessarily at 5am, the ability to start work a little later in the day is a big plus. For people with kids, starting work early might enable them to pick their kids up from school in the afternoon. And for the night-owls, the ability to dig in to some projects in the late hours of the night is a luxury. However, along with this flexible schedule is always the necessity of discipline and focus. If you’re fitting in work around your personal life, you need to make sure you can be disciplined enough to give work its due time and effort.
You’re on Your Own
If you need someone looking over your shoulder and holding you accountable, working in your own place and on your own time could be a disaster. I’ve seen fantastic workers flounder in a flexible work environment because they relied on regular feedback and encouragement to motivate them. The gig economy demands that you be a self-starter. You have to be internally motivated to pursue new goals, meet deadlines, and continue leveling up in your work. This scenario is an excellent option for some and might prove to be tough for others. You also need to have a certain amount of confidence in yourself. Even though today we have the technology be in touch with anyone at almost any time, there will be many more instances for you to have to make judgment calls. If you easily second-guess yourself or have work that really requires team input, working on your own might bring more stress than convenience.
Your work success ultimately comes down to knowing yourself. Autonomous work environments sound fantastic, and they are, for a lot of people. But if you know that you need more structure to be productive, don’t fight the way you were made. The environment that works for one person may not work for another. Whether you desire to work in a traditional office setting or go a little rogue, the important thing is that your environment gives you the support you need to thrive.
This is why I am so excited about the Bonvera opportunity. For those who wish to become an entrepreneur and have a side business or for those who wish to jump in and work full-time in this new economy with a flexible work schedule we are developing Bonvera to be a “business in a box” tailor-made just for them. With a relentless focus on world-class products, a fanatical support team to handle all the office operations, a growing global community, and a “real world MBA” education program for entrepreneurs, we are building Bonvera to be the best entrepreneur opportunity around.
Regardless if you join this team, I highly encourage you to educate yourself on the growing trend of “freelancing” in this new economy. Not only does it offer incredible benefits many businesses are starting to take traditional 9-5 jobs and move them into freelancer status. Those who know how to operate and thrive in this new environment will be ahead of their peers and have success in this new economy. Now is a great time to take control of your time and schedule and build the life you always wanted that works around you…not the other way around!
Follow Robert Dickie III on Twitter @RobertDickie and on Taking the Leap Podcast. You can tune in on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favorite podcast player.