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New ways of working in West Michigan, part two

Matthew Patulski in his home office.

For an increasing percentage of the local workforce, going to work no longer means commuting to a corporate office from nine to five. John Rumery takes a look at some non-traditional environments in this two-part series that showcases West Michigan's best co-working spaces as well as some unusual mobile working arrangements.
For an increasing percentage of local "knowledge workers" and creatives, "going to work" no longer means commuting in their car to an office for a 9-5 stint. Both nationally and here in West Michigan, there's a trend toward more flexible ways of working. In part one of this feature on new ways of working, writer John Rumery focused on some dynamic co-working spaces around town. In part two, he takes a look at some people who are going beyond co-working and creating their own mobile workspaces. Read on for a glimpse into the life of some local mobile workers, including their tips for making it work.

Beyond Coworking
Working from Home: Ashley Cole Ashley Cole Design, Inc.
Coworking is not the only option for individuals looking to work remotely.  The home office is always an option, but proceed with care.

Cole is a professional interior designer specializing in space planning, interior architecture, interior design, and custom cabinetry/ furniture design for residential and commercial spaces. She works from a home office. “The work I do from my home office consists of answering e-mails, space planning/design development on AutoCAD, hand sketching, research online and overall handling the business side of things.”

Ashley Cole using the large work space of her dining room table.The Vibe: Zen
“The vibe is very zen. My apartment is very minimal in style and I'm surrounded by meaningful photos and objects I've collected through life and from travelling around the world. It is chill and my office has lots of natural light with a view overlooking my Heritage Hill neighborhood.“

The dining room table can be a helpful large work surface.Pro-tip #5: Keep it organized, simple and separate ‘work’ from ‘home’
Cole’s simple advice: keep it simple. “Constant organization is key. Keep your space as uncluttered as possible. It's easy to allow household things to co-mingle with work clutter, so keep it separate. The hardest thing in working from home is creating physical and mental space between "work" and "life." It's hard to shut off when it's right around the corner. A desktop computer, printer/scanner and shelving for storage of materials and samples is all I need, so that's all that lives in my office. Keep it simple.”
Matthew Patulski enjoys great natural light from his dining room windows.Working from home: Matthew Patulski, Capgemini
Working from his home office on the NE side of Grand Rapids, Patulski is a digital wayfarer and member of the Global Marketing and Communications team of Capgemini, a global technology services company with 120K employees in 40-plus countries. “I provide strategy and best practices development for the effective delivery of content such as video, collateral, apps on existing and emerging platforms," he says. He provides several other services as well, all requiring a very connected and high-speed, digital workspace.

The Vibe: Quiet
“I like the quiet a home office provides. I am able to focus without disruption for many hours. On occasion I do need to work elsewhere to change things up. This might mean the kitchen table or a local coffee shop.”

Pro-tip #6: Find your rhythm and prioritize
Patulski stresses the ability to prioritize as he uses a variety of devices and platforms to share information, communicate and manage projects, all across 13 time zones. ”The home office is an opportunity to work at your optimal times of productivity. You might be a morning person or a night owl. Understand your work rhythm and how it matches to your client's needs. It's important to keep people in the loop regardless of when you work. Prioritizing my work for the closing times of my colleagues ahead of me or behind my time is key. This also makes it easy to have a no-meeting Friday where I can catch up my loose ends from the week.”

Extreme mobile working
Working while on an epic road trip: Jonathan Tower, Falafel Software
Tower is a custom software developer and consultant at Falafel Software, a 45-person company based out of Capitola, CA. Many of the employees work remotely.

Prior to June 14, you could find Tower working out of The Factory. Now that it's after June 14, you will find Tower on the road, beginning a most epic road trip with his family -- and working the entire time as traverses the continental United States with his wife and his two children (ages 10 and 7) while hauling a fifth wheel bunkhouse trailer. “My wife and I always talked about traveling and collecting experiences when retiring but we decided, why wait?” Tower says.

The Vibe: Work + adventure
Tower has planned out the trip in a great detail. In some cases the family will stay in a location for several weeks, and in other cases, they’ll just be passing through. In every situation, his travel itinerary will match his work schedule. There will be times where the family will remain at a campground whlle he needs to fly somewhere to meet with a client.

Pro-tips #7-#10:
Because he had the sheer audacity to design a job that allows him to pack up everything up and to take a family on the road for a year, Tower gets credit for the final four pro-tips.
  • #7. If you are combining a year-long road trip with your work, make sure your family is supportive and up for an adventure.
  • #8. Do your research. “I did online research on how to stay connected. I needed a backup plan for everything. I bought wifi boosting equipment so I could work from anywhere. Wifi in trailer parks can be slow. “
  • #9. Work for a cool company that supports mobile and remote workers. “My boss is very serious about getting high-quality people. He wants everyone to have a high quality of life. The work will be better if people are living the ways they want. If you want the best engineers you might have to hire someone in Boston who does not want to move. So, how about someone to who wants to RV all over?”
  • #10.  See #7
You can follow the Tower family on their adventures through his blog: 48 States Project and 48statesproject.com.

John Rumery is the jobs and innovation editor for Rapid Growth Media.
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