12 Tips for Working Remotely While Traveling
I’m working remotely and traveling with Remote Year, and along the way, I’ve learned a lot about the challenges of working remotely. For every challenge, however, there’s a solution! Here are my best tips for how to work remotely and succeed.
Away from the rigidness of a traditional office schedule, working remotely poses a unique set of challenges. There are a few best practices for working remotely that relate to routine management, working with remote teams and environments for effective remote work.
Be present and communicative with colleagues and clients.
For digital nomads who are one of only a few remote employees in otherwise non-remote companies, it’s easy for those who all work together in person to forget about their remote counterparts.
In order to be present, I communicate regularly with colleagues, even if it’s to check in or say hi. Offer video conferences, phone conferences by Skype, Zoom or other tools for remote communication and be transparent about your working schedule.
Create and stick to a remote work schedule or remote work routine.
In thinking of how to work remotely effectively, creating a schedule sticks out as something important to do. With remote work, you don’t have colleagues or bosses physically looking over your shoulder at what you’re doing, so distractions are plentiful.
In my personal experience, I heightened my productivity and efficiency by sticking to a 9-to-6 workday with some breaks. It’s easy to sleep in, and it’s somehow even easier to stay into the nighttime if I have no obligations, but I’ve found that starting my day on time spells out a successful day.
Join a coworking space.
Should you join a coworking space? Yes! Joining a coworking space is for digital nomads who choose a consistent work environment that’s more set up for productivity than a cafe or restaurant.
Dan and I spent three months traveling around Europe, working from cafes, restaurants and hotels, and the outcome was straightforward: we figured out that these types of places are not ideal for working like coworking spaces are. Cafes sometimes don’t have enough power outlets, have lots of noise from espresso machines that make having phone calls difficult or close early.
With even short memberships to spaces like WeWork or Selina, you can increase productivity and also find community. With meeting digital nomads in a type of working community, you can share tips, professional skills, job offerings and social opportunities.
Seek remote work communities and opportunities.
There are lots of communities online out there for digital nomads who want to network and find new remote opportunities. You can look for remote work opportunities that are non-time-zone-specific, so you can keep working flexibly no matter where you go.
Some helpful job boards are We Work Remotely, Working Not Working, RemoteOK and Flexjobs. For example, a site like FlexJobs is for nomads who want to find flexible jobs that might be remote or part-time.
Pack appropriately for remote work and travel.
Whenever I take a vacation, I ditch my laptop and focus only on my phone as a way of capturing my trip and staying in touch with family. If you’re on the road and working, there’s a slightly different way to pack your bags.
Working remotely while traveling is another beast of its own, as you have to take along things that make working possible. What changed for me in packing for my Remote Year trip was what I needed in order to have the essentials for getting work done: my Dell XPS 13-inch laptop, a small-size wireless mouse by Logitech, the Google Pixel buds wireless headphones (for taking meetings!) and the Google Pixel 2 phone, on which I access all of my tools for remote work are my essentials.
Minimize distractions in order to work efficiently.
I find that I check my phone often - okay, all the time. If my phone is next to me, I’ll start checking all my apps and it takes away significantly from my work. As with any type of task to which you dedicate your energy, take away the things that prevent you from being productive.
If you don’t work well in loud environments, get some [noise-cancelling headphones]. If you function well with background noise like I do, use the energy of those around you to keep yourself motivated. Remove the little distractions that get in your way of having a productive day in your remote office.
Understand time zones and use them to your advantage.
If you’re already working in a multinational company or with clients or vendors across oceans, then you’re familiar with time zones. I’ve been working with companies in Asia, Africa, Australia and Europe for five years now, and it directly affects how and when I’m able to schedule meetings.
If you’ve worked within your home country and time zones haven’t affected you in your working life yet, then congrats! You’re in for some awesome surprises. Working remotely abroad or throughout various time zones introduces you to familiarity with how time zones can affect communication! Does the country in which you’re living change clocks for Daylight Savings? Will Daylight Savings affect your meeting times with your client or your remote team?
My favorite tool for scheduling meetings across time zones is World Time Buddy and it has helped me arrange calls with contacts in Australia, attend meetings with companies in China and even helps me figure out what time it is in San Francisco, where my sister lives.
Set limits for how much you work and know when to call it a day.
Unless you’re working on deadline, limit your work day to a personal time limit that causes you to be the most productive. It’s important to create a balance so that you can enjoy your surroundings, take time for yourself and fit in a workout or some health and wellness hobbies. I usually limit my workday to between six and nine hours with a bunch of breaks.
Working remotely and traveling when the rest of your team is elsewhere makes it challenging to visualize that your colleagues’ day has ended, or started. Relating directly to time management, it’s easy to take the morning for a hike or an excursion and promise yourself that you’ll fit an entire business day into your afternoon and evening. If this will affect your sanity, then choose to schedule a hike on a weekend! Work should come first, and committing to not overworking is equally important.
Use working remotely as a flexible way to work, not a lazy way to work.
During my month in Bogota, the WiFi in my apartment was too slow for work, so I did all my work and anything that required the use of my laptop from our Remote Year coworking space WeWork La 93. I’ve found that I work best when I’m in a workspace scenario, and I focus terribly when I’m lounging in bed, sitting on a couch and leaning my head down too much at my computer or sitting in a stool in my kitchen.
For some people, working in bed feels the most comfortable, but it’s not the best for your body! Make sure to take breaks from your screen, get up, stretch, get some steps in and sit in a proper ergonomic chair.
Do your research regarding WiFi speeds.
The world has some beautiful places, but not all WiFi speeds were created equal, unfortunately. I learned this when I traveled in China and Bolivia and sometimes, depending on the city, could hardly get an email to send.
WiFi speeds will impact the speed at which you can work efficiently, send files and download documents, so it pays to research WiFi speeds of where you’re going. Luckily, most coworking spaces are usually dependable in terms of WiFi, but keep in mind that in developing countries, simple things like rain can sometimes knock out the Internet for an hour or so!
You can do a quick benchmark download speed test on fast.com to see how fast the internet is. If you click on “See more info” you can see the upload speeds. The speed test will give you a good idea of whether or not the internet is “good” or “bad.” Anything over 15 Mbps is considered “good” for download speeds. Anything over 5 Mbps is considered “good” for upload speeds.
Use your location as a way to explore.
Have you chosen to work remotely from Colombia, or maybe from Bali? Use your location to your benefit, whether it’s learning the local language, taking advantage of local workout trends or diving into the country’s culture.
In working remotely in Peru, Colombia and Mexico, I benefited greatly from taking Spanish classes with great teachers in all three countries. I also learned all about the local fruits in these countries and enjoyed coming to our coworking space to introduce fruits I had found to other travelers.
Congratulate yourself, because you’re taking a huge leap!
Remember to praise yourself often, as working remotely while traveling is a challenge. It looks pretty easy from the outside and to those who’ve never tried it, but every time you come across a hurdle, you remember what type of challenge you’ve chosen. Smile, and keep going!