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Are freelancers more or less likely to return to clients' offices, post-covid?

Are freelancers more likely to push back on heading on-site if clients ask? Or our members excited to get some proper face time with their team now?

As we look towards physical spaces re-opening, and people returning to offices, workspaces, coffee shops and more - there's plenty of debate around whether employees should just continue to work from home.

For freelancers and the self-employed, this has long been a common way of working anyway, but many freelancers spend a good deal of time in their clients' offices, and many clients demand us being on-site.

The Weekly Question from July 17, 2020 asked: Are we as a community more likely to push back on heading on-site if clients ask? Or our members excited to get some proper face time with their team now?

Mike reflects that where he works from doesn’t have any impact:

I worked my last day in a client’s office on Feb 6. I’ve been super-busy since during a period of disruption, so it’s clearly not necessary.

And Phee explains that working remotely is not a new thing for many us:

I've worked from home throughout my freelance life, apart from one part-time contract, and I'll never go back to full-time office life unless it's my own external office. I enjoy the flexibility and privacy of working from home. I like visiting people in offices for a day or afternoon, but I wouldn't go back ft.

Cat explained the ‘return to something more normal’ would be good, but perhaps not yet:

I [used to] usually go in every so often for some face time, but I don't think it will be until autumn as i have no desire to get on the tube into central London right now. It would be lovely to get some normality back though at some point.

Matt B said it really depends on who is asking, and the commute still plays a big role:

If it’s my Suffolk-based client with a spacious country office, I’m up for it. The tech startup working out of a central-London basement, not so much. This is mainly because of the commute, not the locations specifically.

And Anand wants to ensure the reason for working physically together is valid:

I wouldn't mind working from the client's office (if its adhering to the social distancing rules) but would also question the need and the requirement. If its F2F meetings, I understand but if working in silo sitting at a client's office, not sure I would want to.

Ella has a space of her own to work from, and would be keen to focus on spending her working time there:

Last summer I took on a small office on a farm (as I mentally needed the separation of work & home). During lockdown it felt like a really bad decision and money wasted. But, right now, it’s actually making me feel more comfortable. I work with some clients that really need that F2F meetings and get energy from being around others, but by being able to hold things in my space, I can control the situation a bit more and feel loads more comfortable. No public transport trips, clear signage, social distancing layout of desks, sofas, windows wide open, loads of cleaning products etc.. I’d be very reluctant to go to public spaces for meetings, or confined offices, and think I’ll feel that way for a while. But here I control the narrative a bit more.

Letitiah has decided to go WFH entirely, and asked her clients to agree to this way of working

I quite like the WFH set-up and have asked all my clients if I can continue working remotely full time for the foreseeable future. Some of them want me in the office P/T but I am trying to convince them that one or two days max is the most I want to spend in the office. I am trying to fulfil my digital nomad ambitions!

Niels observes that there are more discussions around where/how we work as a mixed hybrid of in-person and off-site, and this seems like a positive thing for everyone:

Denmark has been opening slowly over the last two months and we’re pretty much back to normal again. but with more hand sanitizer and no hugs. I’ve observed that I have more conversations with the teams I work with around designing meetings/workshops/whatever for either in-person, online or mixed. There’s no longer an implied default of “everyone is at the office all the time”. I really appreciate that added flexibility.

In summary

Whilst naturally there’s huge variation in personal feelings and preferences towards how we work, it’s pretty clear that:

  • Having to work face to face isn’t necessary, but it does have its benefits for many, not least social and collaborative.
  • Exploring a hybrid on-site/off-site approach, where the right tasks are done together, and others can be where people feel most able to work, makes sense for all businesses, not just freelancers.
  • Having an open conversation with your clients about how and where you intend to work from, and discussing it upfront is essential, and more and more clients are open to remote working.
  • Having a space which is your ‘place to work’ can have significant benefits, and helps you put boundaries in place between work and home.
  • Working exclusively from home is still a great option for many, but however you choose to work, make sure you’re doing it in silence, and are staying connected to your network of support.
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