It appears that my life of leisure has an official name, courtesy of Microsoft.
I am a moofer. I moof, apparently.
I’ve been moofing for years now. And you should see me moof; it’s quite a sight. I’ve moofed in a hotel room overlooking the Bay of Biscay in San Sebastian, Spain; on a sunny hillside on Capri, Italy; in an Irish pub in the South of France; one time, I even moofed in my friend’s rooftop pool in Rome after a long, lazy day at the beach.
Moof stands for “Mobile Out of Office,” and it’s changing the way people do business.
In 2000, while working at a New York ad agency, I went on vacation to Rome and fell in love – with the entire city. I decided I would move there; it never occurred to me that I couldn’t. I would simply do my job from Rome. Somehow.
I don’t know how I got the idea to be a moofer. Our group was in print production, which is a very hands-on, old-school industry. There also was the question of what I did at the agency, which no one, including myself, knew how to explain. Suffice it to say that it had nothing to do with marketing, advertising or print production, and everything to do with keeping track of a lot of information and an ability to use Microsoft Excel in ways never seen before or since.
The thing I had going for me, though, was that while no one could describe what I did, they knew that if I stopped doing it they would be in a lot of trouble. I used this to my advantage as I took each element of my job and figured out how I could make it work without actually being in the office. I went to our HR Director, who was intrigued by my idea and helped me get my crazy idea approved by the higher-ups.
I made a PowerPoint presentation to my bosses. They had no idea what I wanted to do, but they let me do it. They “fired” me and then re-hired me as a freelancer; I sold all my stuff, bought a plane ticket and, armed with a laptop and one year of self-taught Italian, moved to Rome.
I worked every day at an Internet point near the Colosseum. I had conference calls on my cell phone while I ate lunch in the little piazza down the street. I traveled a ridiculous amount, always with laptop in tow, using dial-up AOL (!) on hotel room phone lines. I met and fell in love with a fellow moofer while visiting the South of France, I think simply because he understood what I did for a living – and why.
Since then, I’ve moofed for two different New York-based agencies, and am now a freelance writer. I travel regularly between Rome and the South of France. The only time I wake up to an alarm clock is to catch the early train to Barcelona. I run errands at my leisure, and get through my to-do list every day. I work during the hours when I feel most productive – which, by the way, are between 2 and 7PM. If I get frustrated with a client, I play with the cat for a few minutes. Nothing in my wardrobe could be defined as “corporate casual.”
Sound too good to be true? It’s not. Whether you want to travel the world or stay at home in your pajamas, chances are your job is moofable. Here are some things I’ve recommended over the years to people who want to moof.
1. Stop using a desktop computer. You’ll never wrap your mind around being mobile unless you do it physically. Get yourself a laptop (if you crunch the numbers right, your company will spring for it) and, even if it’s just in the conference room instead of at your desk, start working in different locations. Take note of what you feel you’re missing by not being at your desk – file folders, calculator, wall charts, etc. – and find a way to make it all happen on your computer. Being a moofer is no fun if you’re carrying around your entire office in a bag.
2. Get organized. If you’re the kind of person who uses their inbox as an email filing system or clutters their hard drive with out of date reports and documents, you need to change your ways NOW. Moof success lives and dies by the ability to respond quickly and efficiently.
3. DO NOT USE A BLACKBERRY. They don’t call them “CrackBerry” for nothing. A lot of making the moofer life work is training your office-bound colleagues – and that means sometimes not getting the answer they want immediately. I know this seems like the opposite advice from #2 above – but being a moofer, for me at least, is about giving just as much importance to living my life as to making the money to live it. Therefore, you want to set clear boundaries in terms of communication. The way you will do this is specific to your job, so I can’t really tell you any more than that. But, trust me on this one – it’s worth it.
4. Take a test run. Your colleagues and bosses don’t like change, and they’ll freak out if they don’t know what to expect. I took two test runs after I pitched the idea to my company – first, from another floor in our building, where I camped out in an empty cubicle, and then during a three-week trip to Rome. I met with everyone – one on one, because it’s harder for them to whine that way – and went over every aspect of my working relationship with that person. I assured them that their Tuesday afternoon report would be delivered on time, or that their morning numbers would be in their inbox by the time they hit the office every day. I sent them an email, and then also printed out and handed to them, a list of all the ways to reach me. This went a long way.
5. Claim responsibility, fix it, and move on. When you make a work mistake – and trust me, it’ll happen – take immediate measures to correct it, FROM YOUR MOOF LOCATION. Do NOT go into the office to smooth things over. If you mess up, fix the problem FIRST and get them what they need as soon as possible. Then, write a short brief on what happened and what you’ll do to ensure it never happens again. Don’t let yourself get caught into defending your moofer lifestyle, because you’ll never win that argument. You must let your actions speak for you.
6. Watch Office Space – a lot. Laugh you might, but it gave me the inspiration to simply tell it like it is when it came to my moof plan. You have no idea how seldom straight-forward logic is used in office communications, and it seems to create a Jedi mind-trick reaction in upper management.
Not everyone has my circumstances, and not everyone has the same desires as I do. But whatever your ideas mean to you, I beg you to follow them until you drop. I am coming to you from the other side of my dreams, and I am telling you it is worth it.