We’ve all seen the photos on social media. Someone is sitting on a beautiful white sand beach in front of sparkling, clear ocean water, laptop nested onto tan legs. In another image, a person is reclining in front of an infinity pool, a verdant rainforest in the background, also using a laptop. Hashtags might include #workanywhere and #workandtravel.
If you’re stuck in an office, staring at a not-even-remotely Instagramable concrete parking garage, or snowed in at your home desk, those are some very appealing images.
More people are working remotely than ever before, and though those remote jobs are generally done from homes or shared workspaces, the whole world can be your workplace.
Doing your regular job in a different state or country offers a host of positives: You can spend enough time in another city to truly get to know it, and you can see more places without exhausting your store of vacation days. Traveling broadens your horizons, and it can inspire your work.
But no matter how far afield you travel, you most likely want to return still employed. These tips can help you enjoy the best of both worlds, all over the world.
Communicate Early And Often
Already approved to telecommute to your company’s New York office from New Hampshire? That’s great! You might have fewer hoops to clear. But though it seems a work-away privilege automatically applies anywhere in the world, your boss might feel differently. There are likely some added challenges for your company if you’re in another time zone, country, or even hemisphere, so getting approval from a manager is crucial.
First note the days, weeks, or months you want to work from a distance. Explain in great detail the hours you’ll work, and what your work environment will be like. (If you are the boss, your employees will likely appreciate knowing those details as well.)
Working remotely for the first time? Considering choosing a less exotic location for your maiden voyage—a place with fewer time zone and phone concerns.
After your plans are approved, it’s time to book a trip! But once traveling, communication is still crucial. Make sure supervisors and co-workers know you’re pulling your weight, even if you’re thousands of miles away, posting photos of palm trees.
Consider The Time Difference
Are you expected to work the same hours you do at home? If you’re from an East Coast office that usually clocks in from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., working in Berlin, Paris, or Oslo will have you at a desk from 2:30 p.m. until 11 p.m. To some, this is a dream schedule. You have most of the day to explore your temporary city before work. For others—who value dinner out and nightlife—it’s not great.
The same idea goes for someone based on the West Coast who wants to work from New York: You’ll work from about 11:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. Doing the reverse telecommute? You’ll be “in the office” from 5:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., which is a perfect schedule for early risers who want their afternoons and evenings free. It’s a terrible schedule if your brain doesn’t start functioning until 10 a.m.
If your office doesn’t mind when you clock your hours, or if you work for yourself, your options are wide open. Just note that communicating with co-workers or clients who are in Chicago while you’re in Auckland or Tokyo will result in some lag time, which might frustrate them and lower productivity.
Find A Comfortable Workplace Situation—And Strong Wi-Fi
Do you regularly use a lot of data for your job? Before booking a house or apartment on Airbnb, VRBO, or any other rental site, you can ask your host about the state of the Wi-Fi: if it works for transferring large files, if it’s unlimited, and if they regularly experience outages. Most hosts, looking to avoid negative reviews and overage charges, will be honest. In general, you’ll want to avoid using a Mi-Fi system only. (Airbnb offers a category of work trip-approved places, but many homes outside of that are also fine for business travel.)
You’ll likely want a place of your own—especially if you’re clocking weird hours—not a house or room share. If you choose a house share, check in with your hosts about your schedule before booking. Are they OK with overhearing 11 p.m. or 5 a.m. conference calls, or endless Slack pings?
Hotel rooms can suffice too, as long as the Wi-Fi is reliable throughout the property, but take into account potential noise from others—or that you could be that noise if you’re doing a video conference in the middle of the night.
And while beachside typing looks impressive in those Instagram photos, sand and water are not friends to laptops, not to mention you can’t see your screen in direct sunlight. To work productively, you’ll need a climate-controlled room with electricity. A place with a desk is ideal. Comfortable chairs? Even better.
Secure A Phone Plan
If your job requires using a phone often, you’ll want to look into your options beyond Skype and Facetime. Those use Wi-Fi calling, which is perfect for staying in touch with friends and family while abroad, but even on the most reliable networks, there are lag time and connection issues sometimes.
Your best bet for static-free conversations with no dropped calls? Access a cellular connection. Verizon’s TravelPass costs $5 a day per device while in Mexico or Canada, and $10 a day while in more than 185 other countries. AT&T offers its International Day Pass in about 100 countries at the same $10 per day rate. Both companies sell packages of international data and minutes as well. The upside? You can use your phone mostly the same as you do in the United States, including receiving calls. The downside? It’s expensive.
The other option—which is usually cheaper—is to buy a SIM card in your new country after you arrive. Just ensure important contacts understand you’ll be calling from an international number.
Schedule Some Vacation Days
Unless you want to be stranded in another city without a paycheck, your job should be the main priority for the days you’re working. But it’s easier to pass up cool events if you know you’ll also have some free days for exploring.
An ideal mix: Take a few vacation days at the beginning of your trip—let the jet lag clear and learn the lay of your new land—and then schedule a few free days in the end too—so you can finally check out all the things you’ve heard about. Make your own schedule, or have a super flexible workplace? Check the weather forecast and plot your vacation days that way.
Check In Again
If your first trip working in another state or country went well from your perspective, it’s still a good idea to meet with your supervisors again. Were they happy with the quantity and quality of work you produced while traveling? Are there things they’d change next time?
If everyone was happy with your work-away sabbatical, congratulations! You’re ready to plan another trip.