Now that my husband and I are empty nesters, we’ve decided to take advantage of our new-found “freedom” and travel more. My husband runs his own business from his office in our home, so, he has the flexibility to determine his work hours and locale.
As a veteran remote employee myself, my company offers the nice added perk of unlimited paid time-off – with the caveat that we are professionals with demanding clients and we are ultimately responsible for getting the work done. So, the biggest obstacle we had to figure out was how to travel and enjoy some downtime while not falling hopelessly behind with our work.
As I write this article from the airplane in transit home on the heels of a nice vacation, I can say I have learned a few lessons on how to do this successfully.
Here are four tips I can share on how to work remotely while traveling:
1. Determine What Needs To Be Done: Collaboration vs. Independent Work
It’s important to take some time to think about what you are willing and wanting to keep up with while you are on vacation and what you aren’t.
Are you planning on taking care of reports, projects, or tasks that you can do independently? Or, will you need to make yourself available for calls, items that will require some back and forth with clients, or tasks that require collaboration with your associates?
The type of work is essential, as it will determine where you should work, when you should work, and who you should be communicating with about your plans to stay connected while traveling.
If you are working independently, you can probably set hours that will work for you. So, maybe a couple of hours before you plan to head out for that day’s adventures or maybe when you’re back at your home base winding down for the day.
If you need to be available to collaborate with your customers or colleagues, you need to take their work hours and your time zone into consideration. For example, in my case, I knew I would have a bit of both independent and collaborative work. For the time I would need to connect with my co-workers, I was one to two hours behind them, so I made arrangements to get up early most mornings and make myself available well before we were ready to head out for the day. For the work I could do independently, I would fit it in whenever it was convenient for me – at the end of the day, when we were back at our rental for an afternoon nap, on the plane, etc.
2. Establish Where Your Home Base Will Be and Ensure You Have Connectivity
Depending on the type of work you do, chances are you will need a somewhat comfortable location with a reliable Internet connection and a solid cell phone signal. That may mean a local coffee shop or restaurant, a co-work space in the city, or even the house, hotel, or AirBnB where you are staying. Those might not be the best places, however, if you plan to be on calls and don’t want to be the one with all the disruptive ambient noise in the background. Take time to think about what you will require BEFORE you go, so you can line up the services (or determine where you can find those services) ahead of time.
3. Set Expectations and Define Clear Boundaries
Once you decide what type of work you will do while traveling and who you might need to engage with, make sure you communicate that to your boss or customers. Let them know you will be slower to return emails and calls, or if you want to be available to talk or collaborate, advise them of when you will be available and for how long each day. This will help prevent others from getting frustrated when they do not hear back from you as quickly as they are used to, and they will know when they can contact you if they need to coordinate a time to talk.
4. Tune out and turn off during your downtime
This is probably the most important tip of all. You might need to do some soul searching ahead of time and determine if you are the type of person who can easily engage AND disengage from work. If you aren’t, then you might find yourself caught up with worry or thinking about work you need to do when you should be enjoying your family or the sights.
The trick is to condition yourself to give it your all when you plan to work and to invest 100% in the fun things you have planned for your vacation (which could include unplugging from your cell phone and laptop while you do it). If you don’t do this, it won’t feel like a vacation at all, but rather another day of working remotely—just from a different location.
Do you have any examples of when you worked while traveling? How long were you gone? What mistakes did you make? What helped you to do it successfully? What other suggestions would you add to this list?