Live more, work less — How remote work has made me more productive

Bali Flylancer Katie, living more — working less.

I don’t like to spend any more time looking at a screen than I have to.

The ‘best times of my life’ have been in the real world, offline. Whether it was exploring my surroundings as a little girl, up all night as a student, or hiking through the mountains of Guatemala… it’s my experiences away from a screen that have shaped who I am.

Fortunately, remote work enables me to do just that — spend more time in the real world.

The Work Illusion

I used to believe that being productive meant doing ‘normal office hours’ in a ‘normal office environment’. So when I started my career I did just that. I spent every day commuting to the office, eyes glued to my computer screen, unconsciously clocking in the hours.

The more ‘screen time’ I did, the better I looked to my company and colleagues. It was about the illusion of work, not actual working. At some point, it became clear to me that the office was just a building where people went to trade in their time for money.

Last year, I decided to cut the ties and go ‘remote’, moving from London to Bali. Chasing the dream of working for myself, in control of my environment and routine, I had very little idea of how it was all going to play out. What I was certain of, was that taking a step into the unknown felt far more comfortable than continuing in the wrong direction.

Starting off with one small freelance gig, I’ve had to work hard to reinvent my career remotely. There have been times when it’s felt like continuous trial and error. But through this process, I have finally gained clarity on what I really want professionally — which feels like my biggest achievement in a long time.

Flylancer Katie working hard in Chiang Mai, Thailand, not posing for head shots.

The Remote Myth

People often say that remote workers are unproductive. This ideas stems from two myths: a) that people can’t manage their own time, and b) that we must constantly be working in order to be productive.

A lot of people believe that it’s not possible to work effectively away from an office. They cite distraction, laziness and apathy as the culprits. Funnily enough, these are all things that I came to associate with offices back in the city.

It is true that we need a degree of routine, however, the point at which routine stops being beneficial and starts to be counterproductive, varies from person to person.

Just walk around any coworking space in these communities, and you won’t see rows of employees scrolling absently through their Facebook newsfeeds, but resourceful and collaborative workers, actively choosing to take part in skill shares, going to talks, or spending their lunchtime helping someone out.

With more professional freedom, we make better choices

A traditional office environment doesn’t allow us to alter our schedule to reflect our personal rhythm or workflow. We just arrive at 9am and leave at 5pm so our boss can see how ‘productive’ we are. Remote working takes into account the true nature of work — that some days, you’re productive for four hours, and some days, eight or nine.

Being productive is about learning to switch off without guilt. It’s about investing in time spent offline. Because when you’ve indulged in that moment fully, eased the pressure and allowed yourself experiences outside of work, you can get back to your tasks satisfied and stimulated.

Countless studies tell us that the concept of ‘putting in the time’ is ineffective and that the more satisfied employees are, the more productive they become. Sweden have even experimented with six-hour workdays in an attempt to improve employee happiness. Companies who participated have seen less employee turnover and higher levels of creativity and productiveness.

Mindlessly tapping away at our computers and denying ourselves enjoyment does not yield better results. Deep inside we all know that.

Coworking from paradise, Hubud, Bali.

A better alternative

It’s time for us to put a plug in the collective drain and admit that working Monday to Friday 9–5 does not work for everyone.

The technology is here for us to all make a change. We are able to work anywhere around the world, regardless of where our colleagues are. Remote working software focuses on output, so that our skills and contribution — not our time sheets — are what’s important.

Let’s start building more honesty and flexibility into our daily routines — whether it’s going all the way to remote working, or simply asking your employer for a bit more autonomy over your schedule — to live more and work less.

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Katie is a member of Flylancer, a global community for location independent professionals to meet, share and have fun together. Join her and others here.