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. 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.
Regardless of whether you're working from your home or logging in from a destination away from home, it can be tough to navigate the best practices for staying on top of your work, but the practices are the same—maintaining communication, finding strong Wi-Fi, and clocking in at the right hours, especially in different time zones.
Follow these expert tips for making the most of your remote hours.
Communicate Early And Often
When you start to tele-commute, there are likely some added challenges for your company, especially if you’re in another time zone, so getting approval from a manager is crucial.
If this is a new shift, start by noting 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.)
Communication is crucial. Make sure supervisors and co-workers know you’re pulling your weight, even if you’re thousands of miles away.
Consider the Time Difference
Are you expected to work the same hours you normally would at the office? 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. 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 likely need to be “in the office” from 5:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.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 (a mobile hotspot device) 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? You'll also want to set boundaries and schedules with any companions, such as a friend or family members, you might be traveling with at the time to ensure optimal productivity.
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 or balcony work looks impressive in those Instagram photos, it's not realistic—sand and water are not friends to laptops, and 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.
Remember to Schedule Some Vacation Days
Your job should be the main priority for the days you’re working, but schedule in some vacation days as you usually would for an office job to take breaks and recharge.
If you're traveling, 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 so you can finally check out all the things you’ve heard about.