Working Remotely: How to Travel & Be a Productive Employee

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Have you ever wished you could pack your bags and work from a cafe in Paris for a month? Wouldn’t it be cool to rent a studio in NYC and spend weekends exploring Central Park? If you’re lucky enough to work remotely, these kinds of adventures may be within your purview. Over the last 4 years I’ve been extremely lucky to go on several extended “workations” since working for the software company Articulate. Most people in the training industry know the Articulate name, but few realize that the company is fully distributed. Being a completely remote organization means there’s not a single office anywhere, every employee works from home, with staff in the US, Canada, Australia, Europe, and beyond.

Working remotely has its pros and cons, but a major pro is not being tied to a specific locale, providing a unique opportunity to have a fulfilling career and a nomadic lifestyle. When you work remotely, it typically doesn’t matter where you physically do the work, as long as as you get the job done. Since I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel and work remotely myself quite a few times now, I’d like to share a few of the tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.

Before You Travel

Find The Proper Accommodations

Find a Proper Workspace

Having a proper workspace is important for getting work done efficiently. Before you book a hotel room or select a home away from home on AirBNB, it’s a good idea to verify the space has a proper work setup in terms of a desk or table and a decent chair. It’s a lot more difficult to be productive when you’re slouched over a laptop in bed or on a sofa, not to mention it’s bad for your posture!

Investigate the Internet Situation

Internet is crucial for remote work. Without it, you can’t download files, attend online meetings, and carry out many other crucial tasks. When you’re planning to work remotely, you’ll want to give some thought to the internet situation as all cities are not created equal in terms of internet connectivity and speeds. Before you book your accommodations it’s a good idea to ask specific questions:  How reliable is the wifi? What are the upload and download speeds? Where is the modem located, and can I reset it myself?

You might also consider purchasing a hot spot so you have a backup if the internet is sucky or unreliable. One more tip: it’s wise to scout out nearby shops or cafes that offer free wifi, in case you’re really stuck.

Pack the right stuff

You’ll want to bring everything you need but remember that less is more when you have to carry stuff from one country to another. Some of the basics you’ll want to bring to be a productive worker:

  • smartphone
  • lightweight laptop
  • wireless mouse
  • international adapter
  • extension cord
  • e-reader
  • headphones (with attached mic)

In addition to these basics you may also want to consider a USB key, chargers and extra batteries for your devices, pens & paper, and any other tools or gadgets you need to get your work done.

Get travel health insurance

Imagine this: you’re in a foreign country and you’re injured in an accident. You find yourself in a hospital and before you know it your hospital bills are in the tens of thousands. Travel health insurance will ensure that you don’t end up a situation where you have to pay that bill out of pocket or be indebted for years to come.

If you’re an employee you may already have travel health insurance through your benefits. Check with the Human Resources department and identify if you have it. You also need to familiarize yourself with the terms and conditions of your policy. Travel insurance policies typically prescribe a maximum limit of days you can be insured while out of the country. If you’re travelling for longer than the prescribed period, you’ll need to pay a top up to ensure you’re covered the entire time you’re travelling. You can purchase travel insurance through an insurance broker, a travel agent, your employer’s insurance provider, or perhaps even your credit card company. The important thing is to make sure you have it before you go!

While You Travel

Pay attention to cyber security

Be wary of public wifi connections

More and more shops and cafes offer free wifi but it’s important to remember that such connections tend to be highly unsecure networks that are accessible to everyone. Information that you send through these networks can more easily be intercepted, so it’s important not to transmit secure or private information through these wifi connections.

Identity thieves even create fake Wifi access points that use authentic looking names. Once you’re connected to their system, you’re vulnerable to attack and your information can easily be compromised.

Never leave devices unattended

Seems obvious but it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t leave your devices unattended anywhere. While you’re travelling, make sure your devices are kept in your carry-on bags so that you can keep an eye on them at all times and avoid damage.

Enable two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication is a safety measure that requires a user to provide two authentication factors to confirm who they are. Enabling two-factor authentication on all your devices and applications will add an additional layer of security.

Be a good remote co-worker

Be responsive and communicative

If you’re lucky enough to get to travel while you work, it can be easy for people to assume you’re always off having fun. This may not be a fair assumption, but it’s one of the reasons that it’s even more important to be responsive and communicative while you’re working remotely. Be early or on time for all your meetings, respond to emails and questions promptly, and don’t ever use your travels as a reason that you can’t get something done at work.

Create a routine

It’s important to create a routine for yourself and let your coworkers know when and how they can get in touch with you when they need you. Depending on time-zones you might not be working the exact same schedule as everyone else on your team but regardless of that it’s good to be reliable and available during certain core hours so others know when to expect a response.

These are just some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned from my remote travels over these last few years. Do you have any tips of your own for travelling and being a productive remote employee? Let me know in the comments!

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One thought on “Working Remotely: How to Travel & Be a Productive Employee

  1. +Claude Jordan (@ClaudeHalJordan) says:

    Great article. I currently work remotely, living in Germany working for a gaming company, and your advice is spot on. Managing time-zones is a big thing for me because I’m always dealing with other team members from the U.S., Canada, all over Europe, as well as my moderators, some of which are from New Zealand and Australia. I hate laptops so I purchased an Intel NUC and maxed it out for the best performance I could possibly get but with a very small footprint. I can connect it to any monitor or television if staying in a hotel and I have a mini keyboard that is extremely portable as well. The only drawback to working like this is that I never want to go back to an office or normal 9-5 hours. 🙂

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