Working as a management consultant I was used to living out of my suitcase. Monday morning, red eye flight to the client site, Thursday evening, being important with some other dudes in the frequent flyer lounge – just longing to get back home. Fortunately, the last few months have proven to the industry, that physical presence is important, but it is not the key element for business success for plenty of jobs out there. Working remotely is possible, and the place where you stay does not necessarily affect your effectiveness. That’s great news, so what do we do with this “new” insight and what do we do with our new freedom?
For some of us it is clear: Make more of your private time, use it to the maximum and offer yourself and your family the chance for a prolonged weekend in the Alps or at other cool places. But could we even extend this long weekend to a trip somewhere for some weeks? The answer for me and my family is: YES, absolutely! But what do we need to consider when working remotely from other places than our home, even for longer times than just the weekend? Well, that depends greatly on where you go, what you do for a living and a lot of other circumstances. So I’ve tried to put together my top 7 things to think about and consider when I am with my family away from home, working, while still being able to see something new.
1. A place to live and work
How much space do you need to have it comfortable for your family and yourself? The living space is where most of our interactions happen if we are at home – and this will stay true even if you move to another location for a while. In contrast to your vacations, you will still be working, you will follow a rough schedule that you cannot escape from – your housing situation should take this into account.
And a working space? A no brainer most of us would say, but nonetheless it’s worth thinking about it before you plan your trip. Does the location offer a surrounding, where I can work just as good as from home? Will I be secured from interruptions, fancy elevator music in a restaurant (happened to me once during a client call), do I have a chance to get a second monitor if needed? In short, what is it that you cannot miss from your current home office set-up, that your short-term home office space needs to offer?
2. Your employer (if you have one)
“Wait – why aren’t you at the final client pitch today??? Are you *** kidding me?“ – to avoid this situation, let’s play with open cards straight from the beginning and evaluate, which opportunities your employer is willing and able to give to you (if you are self-employed, better have this discussion with yourself as well ); remember, you are not going on vacation, you just want to change the room and view from which you will be operating for a couple of days, weeks or months.
3. The family & kids (if you have some, and want to bring them along), as well as other people close to you
Now this is a very broad topic and those of you who have kids know how facetted this topic can be. So I will just scratch the very top of the iceberg, especially because my own experience is ‘only’ the experience of a dad with a little toddler. What I generally do is having a “red line” list for this. This list contains all aspects where we are not or only to a certain amount ready to take compromises, e.g. child care, doctors, hospitals, nutrition needs, friends & family, hobbies, spouses job requirements. Those definitely have an impact on the places we are going to, but also help to plan ahead as well.
Additionally, I suggest thinking about those around you and your family who will be affected by you not being around for a while. Write down the pros and cons and see where there might be negative impacts and how you can solve those upfront (e.g. if you take care for someone), if you really want to be away for a while without causing the world to stop for your beloved ones.
4. “Paperwork”: Visa & tax
Do I need a visa if I stay in the country just for a couple of weeks? Is there a difference between my stay for leisure reasons and my stay for work reasons, or is this considered a business trip (e.g. what is the relevance of the existing immigration law)? How does this affect my tax for the current year? And what about my partner and kids, do they need a special visa, if they don’t work? Those questions are highly dependent on where you come from and where you go to. Luckily as EU passport holders it is much easier for us to travel and work in many countries.-So fortunately our list shortens in most cases down to tax considerations, but even if you are considering going to a country with specific visa requirements, very often you can get insights from your current company if you work in an international company. Otherwise Google will be a good starting point for your personal case or a quick call to the embassy can work as well, we had good experiences with that.
This is another important aspect when thinking about going abroad – will you be covered by your insurance, if you work from another country, or will you have to sign a new, temporary contract with a local or international insurance? This highly depends on your insurance model, but it is a MUST CHECK before you jump into your working abroad experience. And don’t forget the insurance for the family. The good thing, if your insurance wouldn’t cover you and the family, is: There are plenty of short term options out there that cover international travel, as well as international work.
6. Time zones & availabilities
Are you skipping time zones? You should clarify upfront with your employer and clients, when you will be available and agree on the best, possible means for collaboration.
Another easy one is that your ensure your PC’s time settings and the Outlook calendar gets updated once you start working at your new place – otherwise your trip could start with some bad surprises and unhappy colleagues and clients.
7. Plan for fun & experiences
Quite often I tend to plan on a very nitty gritty level for everything that is work related – which sometimes leads to forgetting important things that are not work related. Plan your trip in advance, what is it you want to see in the country or city you’ll be staying in? Depending on the length of your stay, the weekends will be limited (maybe you can even have one or two weeks off while you are abroad) – the options to travel and experience the culture, food and people won’t, so get your insights upfront and probably look for things, that are not on the everyday tourist agenda.
For sure this list is not fully exhaustive, but I hope it will give you an initial idea of which topics to tackle once you plan your and your families personal work from home away from home journey. Enjoy it, you deserve it!
For now, I will leave you with a nice little quote…
“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you. You must travel it by yourself. It is not far. It is within reach. Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know. Perhaps it is everywhere – on water and land.”
― Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass