Having a job where it is possible to work occasionally from a remote location is an amazing privilege. Call it ‘remote work’ or ‘workation/workcation’, it is a great way to get away from daily chores, break routines, get inspired and an opportunity to focus. But it demands a lot from you — working remotely only work if you do.
Is it a good idea?
Before everything else, set yourself up for success. Have the right mindset. The trip should be about you doing the work you usually do but at a new place. With an attitude of “a little vacation and a little work” you are better off putting in those hours at the office, and then take days off to actually do a proper vacation. Working remotely is about putting in solid, productive hours in an environment that requires you to be more disciplined than ever.
It is not a substitute for a vacation, or even worse, a family trip. Bringing work along on a planned vacation is a sure way to get stressed out. You will be stressed about not spending time with your family and at the same time being stressed about not able to focus on work. Going with friends who want you to join them on late party nights is another recipe for disaster.
Doing a successful workation requires discipline, being responsible and professional to a much greater extent than working in the office. First, prepare to succeed.
Prepare your workation
Plan what to do, prepare and set goals
Consider which type of tasks where you are most effective in the environment of your workation. Typically it’s not tasks requiring a lot of collaboration, or dependencies on others. Start by identifying the goals to accomplish during the workation, and then ask yourself how you can prepare for them.
Don’t underestimate all the practicalities that will require your attention when being remote that you may not consider at home. Getting food, access to power and wifi, not to mention taking in a potentially different culture — all that will demand your attention. The better prepared, well researched and the more clear and concise the task is the easier it will be to get started and find a productive flow, instead of being distracted.
Set the expectations
Make sure to talk to your team and those who you interact with about your plans. You will avoid frustration by clearly setting the expectations of when you will be available, how you can be reached, what you will work on and what they can expect from you during your workation.
For example, due to time zones you may not have the same overlapping office hours, or you choose to structure your day to do an afternoon excursion and then continue to work later. Being clear about this to your colleagues is critical.
Talk to your manager
Make sure your manager (and other stakeholders, internal or customers, where it makes sense) are fully aware of your plans, and that they approve based on their perspective as a leader (who also must consider the team dynamic, team collaboration needs, and many other things).
Communicate your goals and how you plan to work — removing any uncertainties and ensuring you understand the manager’s expectations and vice versa. You don’t want to be away and at the same time have a nagging feeling that your manager doubts that you will pull it off.
Research the location
Once at your destination you want to get started as soon as possible instead of spending all your time on finding a place where to work. Consider what you need — power and wifi are a given. Do you expect to take phone calls? Then a co-location space may be better than a public café.
Research as much as possible ahead of time, so you’ve got a plan and a backup plan. A café that once was there might be gone, that great wifi-spot you got told about may have a port blocked that you need to use a particular tool, and so on.
Make sure that you can work from where you live — it is great to have a home-base to start from, especially if all else fail.
Get your kit in order
What happens if your laptop or phone get stolen? Take precautionary actions to reduce the damage done and make it easier to recover.
- Verify hard disk encryption is on (FileVault on macOS).
- Have two-factor authentication enabled where available (e.g., your Google account or Apple ID).
- Have any passwords securely stored in a password manager and know how to recover them (e.g., 1Password).
- Enable Find My Mac to be able to remotely locate, lock and/or erase your laptop and phone.
- Always have a minimum of two credit cards and never keep them in the same place.
During Your Workation
Be disciplined about your times and establish your routine. Don’t sleep in, get up at the same, work first, structure your day. Sure, this is an opportunity to be more flexible and split up your day in both work and recreational segments, but be true to yourself and make it easy to pull off. Don’t plan to work in the evening if you know that dinner usually drags out and may involve a beer or two.
Plan tasks where you are the most effective. Are you most focused in the morning? Then do programming, writing, or what other focus-demanding work you have at that point, to get into the flow. Do you have routine chores that needs to be checked off? Pick a time for them when you know it is harder to focus.
Don’t forget; it is about balance —make sure you also plan time off work. Have fun, plan small excursions, get inspired!
Communication while being remote is critical, especially when coming from an environment where you usually are physically at the same office as your colleagues. If your usual day-to-day communication relies on informal talks in the office and impromptu meetings, the requirement on your communication while remote is even greater.
Do daily check-ins on Slack, outlining how you structure your day, when you will be available and address any other dependencies colleagues may have on you. If you know someone relies on you, let the team know that you will be away for a few hours. Rather over-compensate than doing too little communication. Share your progress.
Be your best
Being away remote is invigorating, but without the comfort of your regular life at home, it does demand more of you. Make sure you get the sleep you need and don’t skip any meals. Take a walk, or even go jogging if that’s what you usually do. Make your health a priority.
Stay professional. Be a grown-up; this is not the time to party. Make sure to be your best at all times.
It would be a missed opportunity to not tap into the local entrepreneurial spirit of your location. Attend local meetups, business hubs, co-location spaces and reach out to companies and people. Most are happy to invite you to an after work or meet you up for a coffee to tap into your knowledge and experiences. Extend your network and get inspired.
Are there any clients nearby, or even potential clients? Make sure to pay them attention — even if you’re not in sales, buying a coffee is appreciated and an easy way to become top of mind.
When back, talk to your team and colleagues about your workation. It is an excellent way for you to share your remote working learnings and experiences, as well as getting feedback about what worked and what could be improved. Also, it builds confidence in the team by opening up to address any questions that may have occurred.
Do follow up and talk to your manager and revisit the goals shared before the workation and how everything worked out. How was the experience, what worked and what didn’t — not only does this build confidence, it is also learnings that may be shared to help others to work remotely as successful as you.
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