Working remotely for a week: pros & cons

Posted by in Digital nomad

Very often I found myself explaining that I choose this life because « I can work from anywhere ». For many years, « anywhere » meant: my house, the dance studio, the shared office space, my friends’ houses or offices, the teachers lounge in one of the various school I teach at, a nearby coffee-shop. I used to joke I was a small business owner with office space is various neighbourhood of the city. And, a few years ago, I ramped this working remotely thing up a notch and took my office to Hamburg, Germany for a whole week.

It was meant to be a test. Can I do that? Can I work from a different country, in a different setting? The test proved successful, and over the past few years I repeated the experiment in various countries and conditions. There are pros and cons in working remotely, of course, but overall I love it. This is why.

The pros of working remotely

The whole intention behind everything I do in life is breaking free from monotony. Waking up in a house full of semi-strangers, getting accustomed to a new setting, a new weather, a new environment, a new culture is definitely giving me that thrill. Professionally, it allows me a new perspective on things. Breaking the monotony of my daily schedule to fit a new temporary system is also a wonderful way to review my priorities. Over the years, my productivity has improved as well as my perception of work/life balance.

When I go away to a co-working house for a week, there are generally a dozen of participants. Some of them I already know and love. Some I have ran into in various social events, some I meet for the first time. They range from 20-something to 50-something, they work in web-development, graphic design, translation, marketing, life or business coaching,… Some are entrepreneurs or freelance workers, some are employed. Some take a vacation from their companies to come and work remotely, some are simply choosing (and/or are being allowed) to do their work from somewhere else. Some are social butterflies, some are a little more shy. Some are outdoorsy and active, some prefer to stay in and relax. But in the end, we’re all like-minded. We share something a lot deeper than the external aspect of our jobs: we have similar values when it comes down to the way we want to live our lives. I met some incredible people, I have learned tremendously by being surrounded by them 24/7 for a week and I have yet to have a bad experience.

« But why do you need to work? Can’t you have the same by simply going on a vacation? » My non-nomad friends object. True. I could. However, the one thing I couldn’t have with a simple vacation is the feeling of being at-home in a different culture. When you’re experiencing something as a tourist, as good intentioned as you might be, you’re still an outside observer of the country’s way of life. When you position yourself as a worker, fitting in feels a lot more natural. In Hamburg, one evening, we went and took a hip-hop class in a local dance school. It was both very familiar and very foreign (I don’t speak a lick of German so the instructions from the teacher were just gibberish to me…) But that evening, I really felt like I belonged to this city. I don’t think you can feel that if you’re visiting all day and going back to a hotel at night.

Yes, there are cons to remote work as well

More often than not, you don’t choose who you’re going away with. And sometimes the house guests aren’t a perfect fit with your business goals (i.e. getting shit done). They are flirting very closely with the tourist/vacation mindset. And putting your work aside in order to enjoy everything your new environment as to offer can be very tempting.

A week, when you work an average of 6-hours during the day, is not a very long time. Which means there’s always something left to be discovered in the area. You will not have « visited » a place after working from there for a week. So if you’re in for quantity or full immersion, you might want to consider either spending little more time, or really making the discovery your main objective and let your work aside.

Talking about leaving your work aside, people back home will think you’re on vacation. While it’s getting more popular by the minute the vast majority of our cultures have not fully integrated working remotely yet. Very often, a Skype call with a client, done in a gorgeous landscape or sitting by a pool will end in « Enjoy your vacation! » You have to choose your fights here. Sometimes, it’s worth it to keep quiet about the location and choose a phone call versus a Skype call. The marketer in me will always tell you to adapt to your audience…

I have traveled with CoWorkator several time: in Hamburg, in the Canaries Islands. I have done a private nomad house in Italy, and solo traveling in California & Oregon. All the options worked for me on different levels. Today, I try to fit at least three weeks of working remotely in my years. It feeds my creative juice, it makes me more productive and I have yet to have anyone complain about that.