Over the last 10 months, I’ve been fortunate to live in eight countries and visit over 10 additional countries, all while working as a client service director on a global tech account. Lucky? I’m lucky to work for a company that believes work and the teams can be borderless and boundless across time zones. I’m the test case, pushing this theory to the max, proving it’s not only possible, but it’s powerful and necessary. Here are a few lessons learned about working remotely while I’ve lived and worked on three different continents.
“Can you see me?”
Ledger Bennett has one paramount rule: all calls must be done with the camera on. You might have to think twice about the shirt you put on in the morning, but it’s worth the extra effort to see your team members and clients, wherever you are. The connection and ability to see expressions, body language and other things being said (or unsaid) is priceless for delivering your best work. So the next time you have the option to take a call, click that little button to “start video” and start really hearing AND seeing each other.
“Hey, are you there?”
When you’re not in the same office, instant messaging via a tool like Skype is a helpful and an easy way to stay connected. When you’re able to have a quick real-time convo to answer or ask a question, you’re moving forward together. Responsiveness via these types of chat channels creates comradery and credibility. But there are “watch outs” with these talk tools. I suggest checking in with people before calling. A little notice gives team members a chance to pull up that document or email, making your conversation even more productive. So, use the same etiquette for Skype, as with office meetings. A little heads up goes a long way.
“Can you upload that?”
There are a few options for web-based document storing and editing, allowing teams to collaborate online and in real-time. This is a game changer for working with clients, across countries and time zones. We can share comments, tag folks and collaborate outside of meetings (THIS IS KEY) in an organized fashion. And there’s nothing more satisfying than checking “resolved” when you’ve completed a task assigned to you. If you’re not using these products… START NOW.
“Can you hear me now?”
There are a handful of options to have cellular data while traveling: GoogleFi, Google Voice, Skype, and T-Mobile, just to name a few. I’ve been using T-Mobile. Their global service converts to the local carrier in 140+ countries, so you’re almost never without service. However, it’s worth sharing that your speed will vary. Depending on the length of your stay, it may be sensible to get a local SIM card too. Depending on the country, Peru for example, you’ll have better luck using your phone as a hotspot for a stronger connection. The bonus? You can also work from anywhere. I have to say the #cafelife is exactly how it sounds. More on that later…
“Sorry, my internet went down”
I’ve joked that Wi-Fi is more important than water. I’M NOT KIDDING. When you lose it, you feel like you’re dying. In these cases, it is nice to have that hotspot redundancy through your phone. You can also check your connection with tools/apps like Speedtest. It tests your internet bandwidth wherever you are around the world. Some countries will have stronger speeds and reliability than others. In my experience, I’ve only had intermittent issues but it doesn’t hurt be prepared for the worst. While traveling, you might also want to alter your usage habits. You won’t be able to host a meeting via video, stream YouTube, run Spotify and also have 15-word docs open. BUT, is that ever a good idea?
“What’s the wifi password?”
Early in my travels, I learned Americans always give away their nationality with this one question. Yet, it’s the most important question there is (#shameless). I was recently introduced to this amazing app called Work Hard Anywhere which rates/reviews cafes for the speed of their Wi-Fi, if there are power outlets and the noise level — and they often provide that magical Wi-Fi password. This is a game changer for café hopping. One of the big benefits of working remotely is picking your office. I feel excited and inspired to be in a new place whenever I choose, as long as I’m online (with a cappuccino in hand). I’m simple.
“Wait, what time is it there?”
When you’re constantly on the move, it can be super confusing to schedule meetings. I’ve discovered two different hacks that help make this less painful and remove human error for scheduling meetings at ungodly hours. One is an incredible app called Time Buddy. With the free version, you can add up to four cities and then toggle to a desired meeting time and it will show the associated time in all four cities. MAGIC. The other is Time and Date, an online tool. Check out their “International Meeting Planner,” where you can add in as many cities as you want, and it will generate a heat map for good and bad call times across all regions. I have learned, if you’re juggling three international time zones, it’s impossible to find a “normal” working hour that’s sensible for everyone. But this single “con” does not outweigh the other “pros” of international remote working.
Which brings me to this…remote working is less glamorous than you think and just as rewarding as you expect, when done properly. I hope these tips help you get outside the office a bit. There’s a whole world out there waiting to inspire you.