Why you should ‘try’ Remote Work before leaving the country for a year

Ever wanted to live the dream and travel the world and work remotely?

What would that actually look like?

Is it possible with your full-time customer-facing, corporate office job?

The short answer is a YES, but…

Working from anywhere becomes a picturesque reality. In Shanghai, China.

1 month ago, I packed up my life to travel and work remotely with my Australian based corporate technology job for 12 months — moving to a new country every month across Europe, Asia and South America. I’m travelling with 52 other digital nomads through a program called Remote Year. More on this in a future blog post.

I’ve just spent the past month working from Croatia (an 8 hour time difference from back home) and I wanted to reflect on 7 of my realisations so far.

  1. You can’t simply ‘lift and shift’ your regular work style

This is for those that have never done remote work before and are used to a familiar office environment. You don’t necessarily have to plan out what your new world will look like, but ensure you have factored in a communication strategy, your work hours, and most importantly, your areas of focus (and refine them weekly). Particularly if you are in a team, you need to plan for what you alone will do as an individual contributor with all the space time you will have from less physical internal meetings. As research shows that we can retain information significantly better when we write things down, I recommend keeping a constant record of the insights you gain. I use a OneNote template that covers:

  • Check In
  • Learnings from the previous period
  • Focus for the upcoming period
  • Notes
  • Gallery (because when you’re travelling, a picture can tell 1000 words)

2. You will be alone sometimes

Even if surrounded by people, you won’t have the familiarity of being around your team or people from your company all day. There are clear benefits to that of course, in being able to have more focus, but be aware that it’s okay to feel isolated.

3. Your time zone/hours will be different

Whether you adjust to the local time zone or not, there will be an influx of communication (instant message, emails, etc) outside of the time you sit down to work. Be clear on what is on the top of priority list and start there. ProTip: Try not to start your day with emails, your mental energy in the morning is greatest, so if you fill it with menial tasks, you will waste your most precious brain power.

4. Your personal creature comforts won’t exist

Local cuisines, local currency, familiar cultures and living arrangements are all consistently changing and will place an unconscious strain on your mind. You know, the things that you took for granted back home that were normalised as part of your routine. Making real-time mental currency conversions, adjusting to the local cultural mannerisms and finding yourself in a grocery store with none of your regular products are all examples of what you can expect. Simply being aware of this will prepare you for the unknown, and allow you to appreciate the additional cognitive capacity used in simple decision making when location independent.

5. Your laptop is your office — and as such treat it as one. When you’re done for the day, close it down and explore. Mindfulness is a big part of being successful on the road, so it is important to recognise the distinction between focus work time and relaxation.

6. My personal favourite — you cannot sustain a 9–5pm mindset. Shift to a value-driven work style i.e. focus energy on the tasks you need to complete, level of priority and by when as opposed to working towards a set number of hours. Of course, this is dependant on the type of work you do, but if you have flexibility, give it a go.

7. You’ll have more insights than you’ll know what to do with. Write them down or record them — you’ll begin to develop a mud map of what you’ll do with it. At the very least, you’ll become a better storyteller.

From the Island of Lopud in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

In hindsight, if you’re a planner and want to ‘try before you buy’ I recommend doing the following:

Pre Remote-Work Go Do’s:

  • Work from a café or co-working space and physically TRY remote work for a week.
  • Have an open and transparent conversation with a colleague or mentor that you trust and connect with on how this will actually look and try the new communications strategy with your team.
  • Reflect daily, in a written form, on what you learnt.

Whether or not you go on a remote adventure, you will be surprised at what you could learn even by trying.

Check out my site www.remotelyemmy.com for more.