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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Community Manager: Top 10 Duties

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I haven’t written a new post in a few months because, as some of my social media followers may know, I recently experienced an exciting career change. As you might also know, the first few months at a new job is a supremely busy, exciting, and learning-intensive time. I’m super grateful and stoked about my new gig, which is Community Manager for the cool software company Articulate. Another thing I’m grateful for are my awesome blog subscribers, so here I am, adding some fresh content for you guys!

I like to relate my blog to my real-life learning experiences, so I thought it would be fitting to write a post about what it is that a community manager (CM) does. I’ve had to explain it to a lot of people lately because when I tell someone I’m a community manager, the typical response is “What’s that?”. It’s a relatively new job title, and it’s one that can vary greatly across organizations. The one thing that is consistent across the board is that community managers tend to wear a lot of hats! I’ve decided to compile a list of general duties that are carried out by CMs:

Act as the public face of a community or organization

The community manager is often times the “public face of the company”, so it helps to be like-able, down-to-earth and friendly person. The CM should instill trust in community members and gives them insight into the organizations’ personality. The “personal touch” provided by the community manager sets a company apart and gives community members a person they can reach out to and engage with, which makes them feel special and connected.  As the face of the company, the community manager should always maintain a professional image, and respond appropriately to both praise and criticisms.

Develop and curate content for various channels

Great communities share great content, and while some of the content may be created by the members themselves, it’s often up to the CM to create high-quality content, as well as curate and organize the content created by others. Content could include social media updates, blog posts, articles, tutorials, webinars, community discussions, podcasts, videos, marketing information, newsletters, website content, and more.

Interact with the community across multiple platforms

One of the key duties of the community manager is to spend time interacting with members, both face-to-face and online. These interactions usually consist of building and strengthening relationships, promoting the community, responding and assisting to community questions and concerns, finding and engaging new community members and keeping current community members interested and satisfied.

Monitor the internet for conversations about the community

The community manager monitors the web for comments or discussions related to their community and responds to inquiries and comments, attempting to create a positive experience and add value to the user experience. In some cases, the CM can re-direct complaints or messages to the appropriate departments for follow-up. By participating in conversations related to their community, community managers can build brand visibility and develop a positive reputation as an expert within their industry.

Respond and assist with questions and inquiries

The community manager will address and resolve any issues related to the features and functionality of the community. Furthermore, the CM is often responsible for customer support – answering questions however they come in (email, social media, telephone) and managing any online feedback forums.

Develop communications and marketing strategies

The community manager may be responsible for creating strategic marketing and communications plans to provide direction for the company’s public-facing communications. To that end, a community manager should have an understanding of what’s possible using various technology platforms and should be able to to educate and integrate these technologies to improve the business and the user experience. Additionally, a community manager works to identify the tools and activities that are most appropriate for communicating key messages to the community.

Analyze and report on social media metrics

The community manager monitors the health of the community by compiling and analyzing metrics about growth and engagement levels. CMs analyze numbers (Is the total number of community members going up? Are the number of social media followers increasing?), but they also do some more subjective analysis (Are the community discussions of high quality? Are the newcomers becoming contributors?)  The community manager analyzes these stats to identify trends and exploit opportunities, and finds ways to improve on those metrics through testing and new initiatives.

Plan and attend events on behalf of the organization

One of the roles of the community manager is to attend industry events, conferences, and networking opportunities in various cities. At these events, the community manager’s role is to represent their organization in a professional and personable fashion. The CM may also be tasked with planning meetups, workshops or user groups for members of the community, in order to strengthen interpersonal relationships and get members together.

Engage new customers and community members

One of the signs of a healthy community is to have a lot of “community champions”, in other words, a lot of highly engaged members. The community manager should identify, empower and train potential champions. The CM should reach out to these champions and thank them for their contribution, and should subtly encourage them to take other steps to contribute even more the community. In addition to working with community champions, the CM should identify and target potential new members.

Network and build strong relationships

Whether attending community events or monitoring online conversations, one of the ongoing roles of the CM is to continuously network, in order to build strong relationships that could potentially be of benefit to the community. The CM identifies and develops relationships with key organizations or individuals that fall within the company’s areas of focus and they work to cultivate relationships that impact the organizations’ missions, and develop partnerships that are meaningful and increase community awareness.

There you have it! Those are ten tasks that are commonly carried out by community managers. It’s important to remember that this list varies greatly from one company to the next, depending on the size of the organization and community. If you look at this list and think you have most of these skills or love all of these things, perhaps a job in community management should be in your future!