November 2018, after a few months of finalising the plans, I moved to Malawi with my partner Esmée. She went to work in a local hospital in Blantyre, I became a remote Strategiemaker. Now we’re back after: 7½ months in Blantyre, Malawi and 5½ months in Cape Town, South Africa. And to conclude… you should also consider going away for a while.
Being away created space for reflection. After years of running projects on a day-to-day basis I suddenly had the time and distance to look back. Rethinking the value of each project, and learning about my own values through the process. I noticed that in retrospect the societal impact of projects (or purpose), the depth of the strategy and tangible results are key drivers for making my heart beat faster.
In addition, the past year has created many opportunities to expand my worldview. Meeting new people from different cultures and reading books. Especially the sessions with Dineo from the Hub and the local entrepreneurs have opened my eyes on how many different motivations and ways there are around entrepreneurship (and being confronted with my own assumptions).
#worklifeintegration: 7 hour delay with the Ilala Ferry, perfect for reviewing some decks [pun intended]
And finally getting to a point of work-life integration. When out of the office you can build your daily routines around your energy. Most days I would get up with sunrise, have breakfast, ride my bike and start work afterwards. With the flexibility you can get much work done during your most productive hours, and when you run out of energy you can just switch to some chores like doing the groceries (which can be a whole experience in itself).
There are downsides to being away, one is the lack of face-to-face communication. With today’s digital tools it’s easy to communicate from different sides of the globe. However, for some settings the digital tools don’t compare to the ‘real’ thing. Moments where you struggle with a problem and you want to quickly get some input from a colleague, or while being in a call with more than 6 people on the other end discussing furiously (so it feels sometimes). So if you go, be prepared for these moments.
…AND THANKS TO…
Working remotely is not something you can do by yourself. Everyone around you, including your colleagues and clients have to support you. If they are open for you to join digitally then it’s up to you to make sure your internet connection works, is stable and your sound setup works. So a big thanks to my colleagues and the teams & people I’ve been working with during the past year.
A few tips for a remote set-up:
- Use tools like Mural or Microsoft Whiteboard as a shared surface for collecting input and sketching
- Get a good laptop stand to raise your screen in combination with an ergo keyboard & mouse to turn any surface into a relatively comfortable workspace
- Use a Mifi-router when you need a lot of data and use your phone as a backup
#mobileoffice: compact yet comfortable workspace
If you’re curious to know more about my experience, don’t hestitate to contact Pieter.