An explosion of intuitive technology has combined with a 24/7 culture to ignite mobile working. It has undoubtedly been a key driver in the rise in self-employment in the UK (now at 4.7 million according to the latest figures released 9 July 2016) and it is most definitely a characteristic of the future of work.

But a flexible style of working – and the factors which have led to it – can be a tricky thing. According to recent research from The Work Foundation into mobile working in the UK, the biggest cited downside is working longer hours. Without a 9-5 routine (which is a hangover from the industrial era) to provide a barrier between work and life, it’s harder to divide these two.

As an organisation which represents freelancers and the self-employed, we hear of all the ups and downs of choosing a flexible working lifestyle. Aside from the positives of being your own boss, controlling your own finances and choosing your own clients, it can be tough.

However freelancing has risen in the UK by 36% since 2008. And it’s not just freelancers that are impacted by a growth in mobile working.

The rise of the mobile worker

Availability is a keyword here. Availability of mobile devices and of their system security has made mobile working possible by gifting the means to everyone, and is driving the trend steeply upwards. It is hard to quantify the total impact of this trend on our everyday lives, but we are certainly well beyond the ‘tipping point’ of broadband use on mobiles overtaking broadband use on PCs.

Managers working one day a week from home, having the flexibility to work two days a week off-site, companies making more use of freelancers who don’t work from the offices. It’s all becoming less taboo. In fact, it’s increasingly the norm.

We often forget the speed at which this has happened. Even the most advanced technology companies can take years to evolve their ways of working. And according to recent research there are still negative attitudes towards an increase in the adoption of mobile working.

Aside from this, broadband access is still not at optimal levels. There is a stark contrast between broadband in built-up areas and in rural areas. IPSE wants everyone who needs to get online to be able to do so. That is why we are urging Government for commitment to universal coverage of superfast broadband by 2020.

Flexible working tips

Here are some top tips on how to ensure a flexible style of working works for you:

Co-working spaces are growing in number – use them

Co-working spaces often encourage a collaborative atmosphere between businesses and they are rapidly on the rise in the UK. There’s also the potential to meet partners or clients.

“Freelancing can be lonely: we need to break out of the studio, network, collaborate and connect”

 

Do some research into local co-working spots, and be sure to find a few which have quiet spaces for meetings. Do not undervalue the importance of face-to-face meets while working away from an office environment, and encourage clients/colleagues to meet you as a way to cement relationships.

As Freelancer of the Year 2016, illustrator Emmeline Pidgen mentions “Freelancing can be lonely: we don’t have office gossip, weekly meetings or group brainstorming sessions – so we need to break out of the studio, network, collaborate and connect.”

In recognition of the importance of co-working spaces, access to NearDesk venues (which DeskLodge is a part of) is part and parcel of an IPSE membership. As well as this, IPSE is calling for Government to remove business rates from shared workspaces.

Mobile devices and connectivity

Find ways to connect devices that suit your working style. If you’re working on a document on your mobile you don’t want to be constantly either moving between software/apps or emailing it to yourself in order to access it on your laptop. Choose a method and stick with it. Whether this be Dropbox, Google drive, Microsoft 365 or otherwise.

Be careful not to over-use mobile data – a top tip to reduce this is to disable ‘push emails’. This prevents emails to be sent directly to your phone from the server, which uses data each time the email is ‘pushed’ and can mean you’re pushed over the limit.

When to switch off

Finally, and most importantly, be clear to clients when you’re unavailable. The downside to this 24/7 world is that people think you work 24/7, and that’s not possible, and it does no favours to your mental health.

Make sure to set out-of-office replies when necessary (perhaps even for a half a day of serious admin work) and think about having a cut-off time for responding to emails. This is where turning off push-emails plays its part too, so you don’t have a constant influx of communication. Otherwise when does work stop and life begin?

ipseIPSE is the UK’s largest membership body for freelancers and the self-employed. They produce regular reports analysing the self-employed workforce and the future of work. To find out more about IPSE and what they offer to freelancers and self-employed professionals, see the membership section of the IPSE website.

 

Sophie Gibson