While working at a previous company I used to hear people comment that work remote days were “remotely working days”. It sort of became a running joke, or at least an attempt at one.
Why are remote work days a running joke?
Some of the time, I heard that from people that really didn’t have the luxury of working remote. Occasionally it was because their job didn’t allow for it, but that was a rare case. Most of the time, they had more of a traditional (old school) view of work, and felt they needed to come into an office to feel as though they are working. If that is how you feel, you might not have any interest in this post, but if I may say it, working remotely can actually boost employee satisfaction.
Though some feel working remotely detracts from work productivity, that is definitely not how I feel. In fact, I wrote the majority of this post from Europe this summer. Much of this post was written while on the go on planes and trains. I finished it up on a plane from Berlin, Germany to Santander, Spain. The last month has taken us through numerous cities in Spain as well as a few short days in Berlin.
How can you make it work?
This post will make the assumption that working remote is possible in your profession or that you already do some work from home now. In the future, I can share more about getting to a place where you can work remotely. Working remotely is also something that works well for my family. I have a wife and 2 small boys, which may mean I have to make some adjustments you might not need to make. Also key to this post is the assumption that your travel will take you to areas that are well developed (namely because of the need for reliable internet and phone access). As I mentioned, our travels took us to Spain and Germany this year where there was reliable and easy to access wifi. If you are traveling in developing areas, you will probably need to do thorough research to ensure you are able to stay connected.
#1 Travel OR Working While Traveling
This might sound obvious but make sure to establish boundaries and times for work. Accept that there are places or activities you are probably going to “miss” by working while traveling. If you want to just travel then that is awesome! Plan for the week or two, disconnect from work, and travel. I think there are huge benefits in the trips where you can completely disconnect and reset. If you want to take longer trips, immerse yourself in cultures or surroundings, or plan to live like you do at home then remote work is a nice way to do it.
#2 Boundaries Need To Be Solid AND Loose
This goes along with the first point. One way I have been able to establish solid work boundaries is by having a supportive wife. She knows that work makes it possible to take these adventures so she helps keep the boys occupied while I am working. This includes planning activities or taking them out during peak work times. Some of the time, this also means more than the normal permitted screen time. At home, we limit the amount of time they use tablets and TVs, but at times while traveling, depending on the location those limitations or boundaries were more flexible. When we were in more rural areas they could play outdoors but in urban areas they might have watched one or two movies in a row while we worked or did things online. These types of compromises were what made it possible to work and travel and expose our kids to some pretty amazing sites.
#3 Working On The Go
Another way I have been really productive, actually sometimes even more than at my home office or in our actual office is finding ways to get from one place to another that are conducive to long stints of working. For example, trains and buses are great places to get a lot of work done. These options are great in Europe. Some have had wifi, but even when they don’t, we have been able to tether to the phone and get great speeds. I was joking (but it was actually true) with one of our developers over Slack that I was getting better speeds in a bus in the middle of nowhere in Spain than he was at his home office in the suburbs of Atlanta. I had a few 5-6 hour bus and train trips where I could work almost non- stop. On the other hand, I have not always found planes to be a great place for connectivity. Wifi is spotty and slow on many flights so I used those times to code or read docs or even write a few blog posts like this one.
#5 Take Advantage Of The Share Economy To Find Affordable Housing
This one probably goes without saying but Homeaway/VRBO and Airbnb have been our go to for finding places to stay for a longer period. Short periods get expensive. Visiting family could also be an option. I recommend looking for places with wifi, but for us, the phone was a great backup. We also found a nice resort in Marbella, in the south of Spain through a friend because we asked around before we left. This location was nice since my wife could take the boys out to the pool or beach and give me a few hours of quality work time.
#6 Figure Out Ahead Of Time How To Stay Connected
I have mentioned the phone a few times already, because it continues to impress me how well it connects in most areas. We have T-Mobile and they have an international add-on. It was not too expensive and it gets you unlimited high speed data with unlimited calls. There are probably similar plans from other providers but these are well worth the cost. If you don’t have it I would definitely look at planning ahead for getting a phone for whichever country you plan to visit. Spain’s service far surpassed Germany’s for internet and wifi service. The Spanish infrastructure is amazing and I could see going back there for an even longer stint.
#7 Plan On The Time Difference
If you are heading to Europe, Asia, or anywhere that might take you 5 or more hours out of your teams’ timezone, this is something you really want to take into account. When we first left I thought we would get up early go do some fun things and then I would work most afternoons and evenings. This worked some of the days but in some countries, like Spain, things don’t really get going in many places until later in the day. Be prepared to be really flexible in your timing, and prepare your team when you think you might have outages in availability. I usually did my heads down technical work early in the day, when most everyone else I work with was asleep. Then in the afternoon I just always made sure to have my phone available if there were any questions or issues I needed to help with. Then, at the end of the day, after the kids were in bed I would usually get another two to three hours in while the team in the US was wrapping up their day. One day we visited Gibraltar and another we were touring ruins in Seville. Those 6-8 hours periods I just let the team know I would be more difficult to reach. I would say the key is being flexible. This leads to possibly the most important tip of making Travel Work possible.
#8 Find A Great Team!
Your boss, your company, your co-workers, and as I mentioned before your family. This is really only possible if you have buy-in to do something like this from all those involved. Fortunately, FunnelAmplified and specifically our CEO Brandon is very supportive of working remote and trusts his team will get their work done. He has built a team that is accountable to one another. We all stay connected via Slack and Zoom and make sure to be there for our weekly team meetings as well as our dev meetings on Mondays. It is a great team that supports one another in their passions and adventures.
#9 Have fun
That should go without saying, but remember you are also allowed (and should) take some days off for actual vacation. This will depend on your company, your current deadlines, and what you want. We would sometimes extend the weekend by taking a Friday or a Monday and Tuesday and see a few things or drive somewhere and mostly disconnect. These were the true vacation days. Due to my technical responsibilities at the company, and the kind of person I am, I chose to keep my phone on and an eye on slack. Overall though, those were the days where we would go out and explore or just immerse ourselves in the surroundings.
#10 Just Do It
Working remotely takes balance, but you need to just plan and commit to do it. If you can do it I highly recommend it as a way to expand your horizon or look at the world from a different point of view. If you choose to travel as a family, it could give your family an opportunity to have new experiences and try new things together, or even to meet new people. I highly recommend traveling if you can or working at a company that supports your desire to try remote work/travel.
If you have any questions about where we went, need help planning, or just questions in general please let me know.
Happy working while traveling!