Home office is the buzz word these days. But how do people actually do it? I have been working remotely from my desk in Salzburg for international clients in London and New York these past years. Here I am sharing my experience.
Photo: deathtostock/ Design: tomorrow stories
After I had lived abroad for many years, I found myself back in Austria 7 years ago as a young mum with no set career. Yearning to be with my child, but at the same time also wanting to use my experience in a job that fits my international background, I set out to establish myself as freelance writer and translator - from my kitchen table. I was sure that with our new means of communication via the internet and mobile phone, anything was possible.
A plan that - as I soon learnt - was not something, Austrian businesses encouraged: Being present on the job, no matter how productive you are, is something deeply ingrained in our work culture. Logging in as many hours as possible, even if it´s spending more time at the coffee machine than doing your actual job, is something employers seemed to value above anything. At one interview I was told: "If you work from home, how do your colleagues know that you are even working? They will be too jealous of you." This short-sightedness and complete lack of understanding for this new way of work made me feel utterly frustrated. „What does it matter, where I write”, I would say. My job works best in isolation and when I don´t feel stressed. I can be a hundred times more creative when I am not distracted by a regular office environment. So initially, I could only find small freelance projects here and there. Several times I considered giving up freelancing and for a year, I even went back to being present at an office.
Nevertheless, I began to connect with companies that understood where work is heading in the future: First and foremost a large Austrian magazine, where I was able to work as a local writer, pitching my stories via e-mail and on the phone to the editors in Vienna, typing my articles into the magazine layout on Censhare and receiving feedback from the team via more phone calls. Through this first experience, I gained valuable insight into how content projects can be set up remotely, giving me more confidence to apply for jobs on an international level. I pitched successfully to a travel brand in the US and found myself one Friday afternoon in a Skype call with the Soho office in New York. I was soon receiving translation projects that I worked on together with their office in Berlin. Then I joined an international community of freelancers where I became part of large content projects for two international clients: One day I was on Google Meet chatting to the Head of Content in Lissabon, the next I was pitching a PR campaign via videocall together with our team to an international NGO in Barcelona - while each one of us was sitting in our home offices in London, Bristol and Salzburg!
Over 300 writing and translation projects later, I can say that working remotely is totally doable for companies and employees alike - all you need is your laptop, a good internet connection and a few online tools which I will be sharing in another article. For me, the pros far outweigh the cons: I enjoy being able to set my own agenda (at least to a degree: there are still very tight deadlines I have to follow and I have to work on weekends a lot, too) I do not have to commute and am able to save this time for my family. And I feel a lot less stressed working from home than having to rush between the office and childcare in the afternoon. Brave new times call for brave new models of living and working. Let´s embrace it!