Modern Financial Planning: Thriving in a Remote Work Environment
With the onset of stay-at-home and safer-at-home orders, we’ve pushed 2030’s technology needs up to 2020. Try to imagine, if you will, how this would have unfolded if it were 2010 or even the year 2000. What we’re collectively able to do from a place that’s not our usual workspace — be it an office, cubicle, or desk — during this public health crisis is eye-opening, to say the least.
Remote Work on the Rise
In a USA Today survey from earlier this month, 54% of workers estimated that their productivity has increased during pandemic-related workplace restrictions due to things like reduced time commuting, the absence of distractions from co-workers, and fewer meetings. And while productivity is up, the more interesting — and likely more lasting — part of the circumstances thrown at us all with COVID-19 is how functional many organizations remain while large swathes of the workforce work from home.
Where does this lead us? Well, consider that a survey of CFOs revealed that three-quarters of them plan to shift at least some jobs to permanent work-from-home status. It would seem that the combination of higher productivity and obviously lower overhead has had an already lasting impact on the C-suites of many companies. As office space turns into server farms and distribution centers, this makes the ability to work effectively from a remote location a valuable, sought-after skill.
Imagine two candidates — both A players, both checking all of the proverbial boxes — but one candidate clearly demonstrates a strong capability of working when, where, and how best aligns with their skills and the organization’s needs. If that alignment favors a remote work environment, the well-versed will now have a nice leg up on the competition.
The background from which I write: Financial Planning Fort Collins was built with an ethos of working when, where, and how feels most productive and inspiring. Sure, we have an office, a normal workday, client meetings, team meetings, to-dos, and everything else. But what we don’t have is a policy that ties anyone to a desk or a specific workspace from said hour to said hour. In my opinion, we’ve thrived in this environment and it helped us seamlessly transition all of our operations to a remote environment early during the crisis.
Perks of Remote Work
An easy-to-understand benefit, like effectively working “in” a high-cost-of-living area — while actually living and working from a lower-cost area — can almost speak for itself. Imagine the impact on your financial plan: Your ability to thrive in a remote or dispersed workplace allows you to reap cash-flow planning benefits. This includes everything from potentially lower taxes when compared to your employer’s headquarters location to a greater earning potential than your immediate living area may bear. Use that extra money for something important enough to you to wind up in your financial plan.
But working remotely isn’t all reward and no drawback. It’s easy to fall into a less-than-productive and enjoyable place if you’re not careful. Remember: The goal is to be a capable remote worker and, whether that’s for your own business or your employer’s, it’s important to be intentional about shaping your environment to get the best out of yourself.
Of course, there are many tricks you can use to make the most of your time working from … anywhere!
Maintain regular working hours and create a workday routine
While it’s not always possible to stick to a traditional 9-to-5 schedule — especially if you have children at home — many remote workers find it helpful to maintain regular working hours. If you work alone, having a set schedule can help reduce distractions while improving productivity. And if you work with or for others, you can set your schedule and let co-workers or clients know when you’re available to meet, collaborate, and more as well as when you’re not around.
Have dedicated workspace
Whether you work from a collapsible desk in your tiny home, the kitchen table in your apartment, or your home office, designate your space. Again, this can help increase productivity, but it also allows you to physically “leave” work. It can be as simple as storing your work materials and folding that desk down or moving them out of the kitchen at the end of the day. This lets you separate work life from home life, which leads me to my next point.
Create and maintain work-life balance when work is “always there”
When going to work means entering your office space or flipping your laptop open, it can become easier to keep working — and miss out on “you time.” Even if clients or teammates don’t expect you to be “in,” it can be tempting to work just a little longer or get one more task in before the day’s end. And longer workdays can creep into your personal time. Don’t sacrifice self-care!
Maintain work relationships or create a support system if you’re a solopreneur
Even in our connected world, staying connected can be harder than ever. It can be isolating to work alone, especially if you’re used to being part of an office community. Thanks to technology, you can re-create opportunities for interpersonal communication through chat tools, video meetings, and virtual break rooms. And whether you’re used to going solo or not, joining like-minded professionals in a study group or for some coffee talk as you start your day can inspire your professional life. Or bring back a sense of community — and have some fun while you’re at it — by meeting with others for after-work get-togethers or happy hours.
Communicate with those in your shared space
While you’re keeping lines of communication open with those outside of your workspace, don’t forget to do the same with those who are — literally — the closest to you. If you’ve been in more virtual meetings than you can recall lately, you’ve probably seen or heard a child or pet in the background. These interruptions may not be entirely avoidable, but you can hold tight to your newfound productivity by letting those who you share your space with — like your children, partner or spouse, roommates or other family members — know when you’re available to them and when you’ll be focused on work.
Secure your data and devices
Many companies with physical offices invest in security for obvious reasons, and working remotely shouldn’t be an exception to working safely and securely. While especially true if you work with sensitive information, taking these measures can also simplify your life. Hence the name, virtual private networks (VPNs) secure your internet connection for increased privacy. When you use a shared network, your VPN encrypts your files, so others using the same Wi-Fi can’t access them. For drives and physical devices, set up password protection and encryption to keep contents from prying eyes. And instead of maintaining physical documents, digitize and protect them, too.
Simplify with technology
You’ve likely already increased your productivity, so don’t lose it now! Avoid wasting time by employing tools that automate tasks or link your software to reduce copying and pasting or to send you alerts so you don’t have to spend precious time searching for what you need. Another way you can simplify: Use a secure password manager, and stop losing precious seconds — and brainpower — to racking your brain for credentials. It all adds up, and you might be surprised at how much of your time you can claw back by using tech tools.
Are you considering remote work? Maybe you’re thinking of moving to an area with a lower cost of living in hopes of making your salary go further. Or perhaps you’re searching for a remote position that could offer you a higher salary while staying where you’re at. In either case, you might be wondering, “Where would that leave me financially?” You’re likely after those cash-flow benefits, after all!
Before going remote or choosing where your new “home base” will be, it can be helpful to project how both financial and non-financial considerations could impact your remote-working future and your financial plan. Work with your financial professional to run the numbers so you can make the most informed decision possible.
And don’t forget to add it to your financial plan!