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Lessons on Productivity Learned at Surf Office

You can hear it time and again in media, Slack conversations, at community meetups... remote workers work more and are more productive than those based in offices. Since Surf Office opened in 2013 we've welcomed hundreds of professionals who went down the remote route. Productivity has been repeatedly one of the most discussed topics whether we spoke to solo digital nomads or companies enjoying their retreats. 

And rightly so. Being able to do more in shorter time and in exciting surroundings is the main draw of this lifestyle. Talking with others and seeing it with our own eyes, some themes and patterns have been popping up regularly. 
Here is what we've learned so far.

Productivity is not tied exclusively to 9-5

A half-empty office and people taking a break to explore the city or surf for a couple of hours, that’s quite a common sight at Surf Office around 2pm. Mornings and late afternoons are often reserved to do the main portion of the work. And it makes sense - in the morning people are motivated to do the work quickly so they can go surfing while in the afternoon everything is quiet so they are keen on hustling until late evening.

Thierry, a web agency co-founder, had a similar routine breaking his days with surfing lessons and finishing around 8-9pm. Takeaway? If he can inspire you in any way, let it be this: don’t feel pressured to have any kind of routine apart from the one that works for you.

Simple is efficient

When it comes to apps and online tools, keeping it simple has proven to be optimal for companies and individuals alike. There’s no need for overcomplicating your working days trying out the latest app fads. If a simple package such as Google apps can do the job, go with it and spend more time on something that creates value. Otherwise you can end up jumping between the apps for the sake of trying out and just waste your time. 

From what we’ve seen and heard, these are the most popular staples, no matter how large the company is:

  • Google Docs and apps for collaboration
  • Skype, Google Hangouts and Zoom for calls and meetings
  • Basecamp and Trello for project management
  • Hipchat and Slack for team communication
  • Dropbox for storage and file sharing

Networking leads to better outcomes

This is true for most businesses, but in the remote world it’s even more palpable: personal connections lead to new ideas, better results, and open up business opportunities. 

Pierre-Philippe Emond, a Canadian agency owner, knows something about networking when he says that you have to play all the cards life gives you. As he sees it, even waiting for a car rental at the airport is a networking opportunity. Accommodation built around community offers a perfect setup for traveling professionals as there’s always someone like-minded around to get a new perspective, exchange ideas and experiences.

For Jasper Ribbers, having an online business is not something you can do on your own. “You really need support, feedback and ideas from a lot of people,” he says, and adds that places like Surf Office give you the possibility to engage with other entrepreneurs.

Retreats benefit all teams

As a coworking and coliving space, Surf Office saw companies that are completely distributed and have no permanent base—companies that hold a tradition of annual offsites and businesses that are usually happy in their offices—but wanted to try remote for the first time. It appears that all kinds of businesses are prone to experience the benefits of a team retreat, no matter what their goals are, be it team building, hackathons, or just getting together.

Even a simple change of scenery can unleash bouts of creativity, not to mention so craved uninterrupted periods of focus that are harder to achieve in everyday grind. 

And although the exact work and play ratio is up to each team, including fun activities is highly recommended. Relaxed workforce is more creative, more productive and overall happier. 

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If it’s done on a computer, it can be done remotely

Being able to work remotely is usually not subject to any special requirements. More often than not it’s only our conventional mindset that puts limitations on what can or cannot be accomplished outside the company premises. We’ve hosted a variety of professions ranging from lifestyle coaches to HR to operations director. And yes, even the most emblematic web designers and programmers, but they are definitely not the only ones that can take their work on the road. 

Doing a great job has little to do with one’s whereabouts if the only thing you really need is internet access. Admittedly, remote work takes discipline, self-motivation, and believing in what you do but these don’t magically appear once you sit on an office chair.

That is also why we will always be championing remote work, especially if productivity is at the core of the argument. Our experience has shown that remote setup is not a barrier to a great work, but on the contrary, its driving force.

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