Many of our readers are interested in location-independent business models and remote work. But what are the pitfalls? What does location-independent work really mean? How does networking work? And how can agencies trust their home office employees more? Eight questions for Sebastian Kühn from the Community Citizen Circle.
Whether it's misconceptions about the dream job, bureaucratic obstacles or a lack of self-discipline: there are numerous challenges waiting for so-called digital nomads or remote teams and managers. Our interview shows you how these can be mastered together.
With Remote Work to more self-responsibility
Sebastian, the interview Becoming a Digital Nomad on our blog was by far the most read in 2019. Why are time and location-independent business models so fascinating?
First of all, it should be said that the cliché of the digital nomad, who earns his money in a hammock with 4 hours of work, has of course acquired an image through media dissemination that may be critically questioned. Digital nomads are as multifaceted in their personalities, needs and desires as other groups of people are. What we have in common is a common set of values based on self-determination and self-responsibility.
I think many people today feel a sense of emptiness and a longing for adventure that they see satisfied in digital nomadism. Personally, I'm fascinated by the freedom to work from anywhere - and to be able to choose both working hours and content relatively freely. I see my companies as playgrounds where I can develop as a person. I didn't have these opportunities when I was an employee.
Working Remotely: Advantages & Disadvantages
Pitfalls for Digital Nomads
Relaxed working under palm trees is a common cliché you address. Location-independent work is not always as easy as one might imagine. What do you think are the three biggest pitfalls with the concept? And how do you overcome them?
Point 1: Many people run after a dream idea without critically asking themselves if they can endure the uncertainty that comes with it. Do they want to take the risks and really take complete responsibility for their lives? That's why the question "Who am I and what do I actually want?" is at the beginning of all considerations. In order not to realize after a few months that I have acted against my own values.
Point 2: There are bureaucratic obstacles to overcome. Should I deregister? How do I open a bank account without a permanent address? Where do I pay taxes? In which country should I register my business? How do I insure myself? Here I have to look for solutions on my own responsibility and can no longer hide behind the care of the state.
Point 3: The often changing environment and the free allocation of time are both a curse and a blessing. It takes discipline and routines to work productively when I no longer have fixed office hours. I stay in the same place for at least a month to create a productive work environment for myself there. When I travel faster, I travel and work only in "maintenance mode". Traveling (fast) and working at the same time is an illusion for me.
What qualities should you personally bring to be able to live the model permanently? And who should better keep their hands off it?
The values of freedom and self-determination should be more pronounced than the desire for stability and fixed structures. I have to be able to endure uncertainties and adapt to new situations. In addition, I have to be prepared to take complete responsibility for my life, both in terms of successes and failures. What generally applies to self-employed people is even more pronounced in the case of frequent changes of location.
Tools for Remote Work
How can you still stay close to your employees from a physical distance? How can you still gauge moods in your company or agency? Find out in our article on Remote leadership
This is a challenge that our ten-person team at Citizen Circle, which is completely remote, is growing with. In addition to communication via the Slack chat, project management via Trello and Google tools, and weekly team calls, we consider personal contact to be essential.
We have one day a week when we not only have a team call, but also schedule virtual coworking time. We talk about breakout rooms at Zoom in small groups over the short term. Other than that, we deliberately schedule on-site times every few months in our inner circle to collaborate in sprints. The extended team gets together at least every 6 months to foster interpersonal relationships. And to create a sense of "we".
Tools for home office and remote work
Do companies in the technology environment have to jump on the remote bandwagon if they want to find enough new employees in the future? What does the corporate culture have to look like to ensure that the remote model does not fail?
We are currently experiencing in this Corona period how remote working can work even for large corporations. In order to find the best employees in the future, I think incentives such as flexible work locations and hours, the opportunity for personal development within the company and co-determination are extremely important.
Trust towards employees should be firmly anchored in the corporate culture (this goes both ways). We try to involve our team in as many decisions as possible and give them more and more responsibility. At the same time, we are always testing new working models, such as the 3-day week at the moment.
Managers: relinquishing control
Many companies or agencies fear a loss of control if they let their team work from home. How can this dilemma be solved?
Here, every manager has to work on his or her own attitude. The desire for control usually stems from one's own ego - I want to feel important and needed, so I control my employees' every move. In this way, however, they can never learn to work on their own responsibility.
The better goal for me as an entrepreneur or leader is to make myself obsolete. If I'm only needed a little, then I've done a good job (even if my ego sees it differently). Then I can work on the company instead of losing myself in small-scale day-to-day work.
The Citizen Circle is a community for digital, time and location independent business models. How did you come to this topic yourself?
I have been travelling the world as a digital nomad since 2012. Especially in the beginning, I often missed the exchange with like-minded people, which is why I started early to gather other digital freelancers around me. At the beginning of 2017, I joined the founding team of Citizen Circle, which was founded in 2015 by Tim Chimoy, Kris Braun and Dennis Hessenbruch.
An African proverb says "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, you must go with others." With this attitude, we are growing together with our current 500 members.
Community for Remote Work
Who can help with the Citizen Circle join us? And how do you support your members?
We welcome all freethinkers and difference-makers looking for a home. The focus in our community is on digital independence, although other life topics such as health, relationships and money are also always on the agenda. We use location-independent business to bring more freedom back into our lives, though that's by no means the end goal.
We offer an extensive online platform with video courses, forums, mastermind groups, a very active Slack chat and regular online workshops. Our members network there to start businesses together, place orders with each other, get feedback for ideas or to support each other in marketing their offers.
To create a connection between the online and offline world, we organize conferences abroad twice a year and two larger meetings within Germany. In addition, our members meet at monthly local meetings in 15 cities in the DACH region. Also at regular "Workations" (mix of Work+Vacation). See the overview of our events.