One of my goals this year was to read more, and specifically to alternate fiction with non-fiction. In that spirit, I just finished Simon Salt’s Out of Office: How to Work from Home, Telecommute or Workshift Successfully.
Seems like it would all be ‘been there, done that’ info for me, since I’ve worked from my very own corner office (of my bedroom) for the better part of the past four years. I thought that perhaps I’d pick up a few tips, since Simon is a renowned speaker and strategist, and well versed in everything ‘out of office.’ But what I actually took away from reading Simon’s book is that there’s quite a bit more to the decision to alternate working arrangements than simply necessity (as it was in my case).
I’ll admit that a good deal of the analysis, while interesting, didn’t have much immediate impact on me. I’m already in a situation in which I work ‘out of office’ so the considerations about whether or not I’m suited to such work, the considerations to a corporation in having ‘out of office’ workers and the nuanced dynamics that apply to each don’t specifically apply to my current situation.
What does apply is the reassurance that working ‘out of office’ is a valid, savvy and—if done correctly—profitable way to do business. I appreciated the various tidbits scattered through the book, such as the Pottery Barn online space planner tool and the CamCard app and the iDone This, RescueTime and Breaker tools, all of which were new to me.
I like that Simon was honest and transparent in the book. Yes, sometimes I head to the grocery store at 10am, because I know the lines will likely be shorter and yes, I often use my phone to stay connected while I’m out with my kids but wish to be seen as ‘in the office.’ There’s no sugar coating from Simon that this flexibility can be a godsend at times, but it can also be a detriment if self-discipline is an issue.
The real guts of Simons’ book for me, however, was Chapter 7—Rule Setting. This chapter starts with a discussion about the modern reality of being constantly connected to our work through our phones and technology, which I think provides us a terribly false sense of importance. Rule #1 smacks that misconception with the declaration that we are not as indispensable as we believe. I struggle most with Rule #2, which is that there is a real difference between being flexible and being a doormat.
In all, Simon lists five rules in Chapter 7 that, for me, boil down to focus, transparency and flexibility (not in schedules, necessarily, but in which rules you make and when you enforce them). Most importantly, he makes it clear that even though working ‘out of office’ can be rewarding in many ways, it isn’t all fun and days at the beach; there are genuine challenges, like isolation, self-discipline, budgetary considerations and logistical concerns that extend past one’s desire to wear bunny slippers to work and impact family, co-workers, clients, prospects and bosses (depending upon each person’s circumstance).
I recommend this book for anyone considering the notion of leaving a job in which someone else stocks the staples and copy paper, but not so much for the app recommendations or specifics of how to arrange an office or work on the road; I recommend it instead because it’s rich in experience, opinions and self-assessment resources (a quiz and several questions peppered throughout the text) that will help answer the first and perhaps most important question, which is ‘is working out of office right for me at this time, in this place and for this opportunity?’
Oh, and there are adorable cartoons to boot.
Disclosure: I was given a copy of “Out of Office” for review purposes. All opinions are my own.