The world is no longer one where you need to be chained to your desk for 10 hours a day in order to get work “done.”
Times have changed and there’s finally a strong movement of people saying there is more to life, there’s no point waiting until retirement to ‘live.’
We have been working remotely for at least 4-5 months of each year for the past 8 years and have seriously output some of our best work when “away.”
It just seems to happen – less distractions and more time to focus. Inspiration drawn from exotic surrounds. Creativity fuelled by new sights, sounds, smells, tastes. We have always found we have been able to achieve in 4 to 5 hours what we would achieve in a day at home.
Working remotely is an opportunity to focus on development and planning. Content writing. Product development. It’s often a time to sink your teeth into those meaty projects that just seem to get shifted from list to list when at home with so many other priorities and demands.
Along the way, we’ve learned some valuable lessons on the “best” ways to work remotely – simple learnings that we have acquired over the last ten years which are as important now as they were back then:
Choose your destinations carefully and avoid ‘hitting the road’ for days or weeks at a time without structured plans.
Yes, it takes a bit of the romance out of things but…be realistic. If you are at a point in your business right now where your team and your clients need pretty much daily support then YOU need to know and THEY need to know when you are going to be working on things and when you’re available. You’re still going to need to plan your week out and know when you’re going to have those two or three hour uninterrupted windows of time with a great wifi signal in a calm environment. ‘Wingin’ it’ will only serve to raise your stress levels and frustrate your team members holding the fort back at home. Choosing destinations where you will spend a longer duration of time will serve you best when working remotely.
Get set up on Day 1. Too many times we have worked remotely and haven’t spent the time to get organised early enough. As a result, we have worked in clutter and an uninspiring space for weeks and weeks at a time – a productivity killer. Be calm, be methodical. Don’t allow yourself to get frazzled. Try and replicate your favourite workspace at home from the moment you arrive. Find a space that has good energy, some peace and quiet away from kids and distractions if possible. Take your favourite stuff from your office (within reason) mouse/mouse pad/ highlighters/sticky notes …anything that you use a lot at home. Buy anything you think you might need in the first couple of days so that you’re ready to hit the ground running.
The frustration of cords. To avoid chord clutter we always pack power boards plus universal adapters. It’s a ridiculous waste of productivity when you’re constantly plugging, unplugging and untangling. Invest in new long life batteries before you leave. This will go a long way to avoiding that. Seriously consider a touch screen laptop for when you’re in cramped spaces or in the car, train, aeroplane. Our touch screen HPs were game changers for us.
Be prepared to change your work habits and to work very early and/or late at night depending on your time zone. For us, this means that when we are in Europe we can sometimes grab a sneaky lunchtime siesta with the kids before hitting the beach in the afternoon and working later in the night.
Be structured and be reliable to clients and staff
We have daily or weekly structured meetings with our staff. Communication with staff is also key. Prior to leaving, they need to know how long you’ll be away and how it is all going to work. It’s important that you involve them in this process because they will think of angles you didn’t consider. They also need to know exactly when and how they have access to you. The responsibility is also on them to come prepared to team meetings as this is the only time for the day that you’ll all be speaking. And you’ll find they do. It creates great habits that can be replicated upon your return.
If you’re renting a house or an apartment with wifi then you’ve got to drill right down before you arrive. ‘Do you have Wifi?’ won’t cut it. Tell me about it – what’s the speed like, who’s the provider? Is it unlimited? Where’s the router positioned? Upstairs? Downstairs? Where’s the best signal? Can you get a good signal on the terrace? By the pool? If I was getting wifi at home I’d be asking these questions so why wouldn’t I when I’m going to be somewhere for months at a time and I’ve got work to be done? The kids also have books and movies to download and we have meetings that rely on clear lines. The best wifi solution you can get in the place you’re in is essential for working remotely.
However, these days (and I’ve found particularly in Europe) wifi is pretty easy to organise yourself. Last year we were in a remote part of the Balearic Islands without any wifi. I jumped online at the bar down the road on the day we arrived and found a company called ‘Easymifi’ (it took me 5 seconds). They offer unlimited wifi for rent for around 4 euros a day. I ordered one of their devices online, they couriered it from the mainland to the very same bar. It arrived the following lunchtime. I took it home plugged it in and we were away. Once I was finished with it, I simply called the courier and he came and collected from the same place.
Plan holiday time and communicate this to staff and clients. Working remotely is not a holiday – as you will find out. You need to have planned holiday time within the duration of your time away where you set your auto reply and switch off. After all, what’s the point of being in a foreign/new destination if you don’t look up from your screen?
Give yourself some meaty projects that you want to complete before leaving and stick to these. Make sure you have them visible somewhere – save them on your home page or your wallpaper. As you don’t have a “fixed” work space, your computer/phone or notebook become even more important than ever.
You’re either ‘on’ or you’re ‘off’. If you’re used to walking out the door and going to an office back home then you’re in for a dramatically different experience on the road. You’ll be working in close confines to the rest of the family. If you’ve conjured up this pretty picture in your mind whereby you’re lying on a daybed tapping away on your keyboard with a cold beer and few café del mar tunes in the background whilst the kiddies happily play with their puzzles on the rug then you’re kidding yourself. Believe me and save yourself the frustration. It’s either family time or it’s work time. It’s not possible to mesh the two and will just lead to everybody being pissed off with everybody (namely significant other and kids with you).
Oh and don’t forget to take an external hard-drive and continuously back up. Back up before you leave and backup every week or so when you’re away. There’s nothing quite like searching for the only computer shop on the island in a vein attempt to retrieve hours and hours of work when you’re away from home (been there, done that).