5 insights solo entrepreneurs have about the Future of Work

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I’m hearing more and more stories of employers begging their staff to come back into the office after the pandemic shifted everything they thought about the “best” way to work. It turns out that the world does not come to a stop when people don’t have a boss to look over their shoulder. In fact, most employees were more productive!

So why is “full-time, workplace-based” work still considered the gold standard when it comes to employer expectations?

Of course, there are some jobs that really need you to be hands-on… and these were the ones most affected by the lockdowns. Either staff were on the front-line or they were stuck at home on JobKeeper… or worse.

But for everyone who can (and did) work quite productively from home, here are a few things that you need to explain to your employers, picked up from my own and my many colleagues’ experiences as solo business owners.

Adults can be trusted to act like adults.

If employees are engaged, appropriately remunerated and treated with respect, they will do their jobs quite well without being dictated to about how, where and when to work. They’re not kids, and they don’t require constant supervision!

Having autonomy and flexibility can actually help people be MORE productive.=

Solo business owners get their work done. If they don’t, they don’t get paid! Sure, there are times when it’s a slog and they may have to adopt productivity hacks or seek out some extra accountability, but if the work’s there, it gets done.

Sometimes that means working late nights and weekends… sometimes it means whipping off a few emails before spending a day at the beach to enjoy the sunshine without all the crowds.

For parents, flexibility and autonomy is even more important. They allow for slower mornings without having to rush kids out the door, shorter and less stressful daycare days, enjoying some bonding time after school before finishing off a few last tasks, celebrating their kids’ achievements at assemblies, helping out with sports days and canteen duties, and allowing their kids to enjoy pyjama days during the holidays.=

Trust breeds trust. Most people I know want to do a great job. They also want to keep their jobs. So they’re not going to abuse their employers’ trust if it’s on offer. As long as the work gets done to the standard required, does it really matter whether they work 6, 8 or 10 hours a day? It usually all works out in the scheme of things.

Which then leads us to…

Value-Based remuneration works.

If you run a professional services business you are probably familiar with the term “value-based pricing”, and it’s likely that if you haven’t done so already, you’ve considered ways to use it as a replacement for your hourly rate.

Why? Because it more accurately represents the value of the work you deliver. It means that you are rewarded for your expertise and outcomes, rather than your time. I mean, why should you get paid less, or be “rewarded” with additional work, just because you’re able to complete your work quickly and effectively?

When a business’ client commissions a project or buys a product, they know what it is worth to them and what they are willing to pay. If they receive the value they are expecting, they’re happy. Simple.

Employers, on the other hand, pay us for a minimum number of hours – whether we deliver the best value for that time or not. This leads to inefficiencies at one end of the spectrum, or at the other end, greater demands and longer working hours – and more likelihood of burnout.

Paying people for the value they deliver, and then providing them with the freedom and flexibility to work out how and when they deliver it, including working fewer hours if they can deliver the same results in less time (appropriate to their role, of course), seems a much fairer deal to me.

Online relationships can work brilliantly. IRL is even better. Choose to do both.

No, this is not a call to a full-time, return to the office! As we learned during lockdowns, there are numerous benefits to working from home – no commute, greater connection to our families and local communities, ability to work uninterrupted, etc – that made life so much easier, productive and happier for employees.

However, having others to collaborate and share ideas with, formally and informally, is one of the best benefits of working as a larger organisation. I know I miss having a team around me!

I’ve built up some amazing relationships online with my clients and business networks over the years, many of whom I’ve never met in person. But there really is nothing like being in a room with other people who are working towards a shared purpose. A lot of communication and energy exchange happens in real life that is missed when meeting online… and this is often where the magic happens.

So employers… make your “work-in-the-office” days ones that bring people together for collaboration, brainstorming, co-working together in teams and community building, and save “work-from-home” days for productive, individual work. And please learn how to have fewer, shorter and more productive meetings!

Self-Development and Leadership are NOT “soft skills”.

Probably the hardest things we do as entrepreneurs is show up for ourselves and our business every day, despite the many challenges that come our way. In fact, I often say that running a business is the greatest self-development journey a person will ever go on.

It takes courage to be optimistic in the face of setbacks, set and uphold boundaries, have unfailing confidence in our abilities, charge what we’re worth (and follow up late payments), manage our relationships with our clients, suppliers and support networks, speak our truth, and be “authentically marketable” in a public forum (social media, anyone?). And yet every single solo business owner draws on this courage every single day.

And we also do our work.

This is hard stuff! Humans are not machines, so productivity should not be the only measure of success.

Workplaces are the main source of community for many people, so it makes sense for employers to invest in building a strong culture and supporting their people, who give so much of their lives to helping their organisation achieve their goals, to be their best selves.

It’s good for individuals, and as any solo business owner can tell you, it’s REALLY good for business!

There is more to life than work!

OK, there are probably more than a few solo business owners who need to learn this one too!

While our political leaders may be fixated on economics, the reality is that much of the “real work” of society is done outside of the economy. Whether that be raising children and caring for other family members, creating a home environment that is clean, safe and comfortable, strengthening relationships with those we love most, being actively involved in our communities, pursuing fun and memorable life experiences, or just relaxing and unwinding so we can work effectively, we need to have non-work time to do all the other important things in life.

Being stressed and always “on” is not good for our health, our relationships or our world.

So let’s all cut back on the “hustle” and put aside “busy-ness” as an indicator of success or self-worth.

This is the only lifetime we’ll get, so let’s ALL live, laugh and love a little more.

This article was originally published on Flying Solo – Australia’s Micro Business Community.

Cath Connell | Wholehearted Success Coach

About Me

It’s been quite a journey to arrive here… and yet this is probably where I’ve always been heading. Sharing my experience, skills and knowledge to help reimagine work, life and leadership, and bring greater humanity and community into our working lives.

With over 25 years’ experience as a marketing professional – many in my own business – combined with a life-long curiosity and passion for positive psychology, leadership development and personal growth, I have explored ways we can achieve a more “wholehearted” version of success based on four principles – Purpose, Prosperity, Connection and Joy.

Using these as a foundation, I believe we can reshape our world into one that is more sustainable, loving, kind and connected.

Are you ready to join me?