I'm sitting in my hotel room in Hanoi, having wrapped up my four weeks with Hacker Paradise and a quick trip to Singapore. Even though I just left Ubud a few days ago to begin the vacation part of my travels, it already feels like a lifetime ago. And for that reason, I figured that it's best to write this post before too much time passes. So, here it is - the top five things I've learned about working remote.
1. Having a flexible schedule reduces stress. You might be wondering, did I put in a consecutive 8 hours/day, 5 days/week? The answer (as you might have guessed) is no. Does that mean that I just slacked off? Definitely not. It just means that I had the freedom to work 35(ish) hours/week when I wanted to. Many days I would start work at 6am and end around 7 or 8pm with a few breaks in-between for lunches, yoga or coffees. Some days I'd just work 4, 5 or 6 hours. Not only did this keep me productive since I actually worked when I was on my computer (versus counting the clock or playing on the internet), but I found that my stress levels were down for the month. Way down.
2. Having cross-over time with the home office is essential. This was a bit tricky since I was 15 hours ahead of my Calgary office. But luckily, my love for early mornings got me to drag my a** out of bed around 5:30am most days to catch people on Teams and take calls (shockingly there were A LOT of client calls). Early mornings (or the occasional late night) gave me 2 or 3 hours a day with the folks back home, which helped me feel connected, and get work and tasks from the office. Which was good, because sometimes people forget about you...
3. Find working buddies. The best thing about being in a group of remote workers is that everyone was also there to work. We'd often sync up schedules, find places to work together, and keep each other motivated. Many times, if I didn't want to go to Outpost, I'd Slack my friend and facilitator Jess and we'd work out of the hotel restaurant. Or I'd catch early morning work at the villa with Erin and Brian. Just sitting with someone else who's working helps you not only stay focused, but not lose the social aspect of an office (which I love).
4. A change of scenery keeps things fresh. While we had an awesome co-working space at Outpost, I enjoyed being able to switch up locations. I worked from cafes, the hotel, my room, and (sorry folks back home dealing with winter), but even pools. There's something about physically changing your surroundings that helps spur new ideas. This is probably the easiest thing to take back home with me, and something I'd recommend everyone trying out.
5. Collaboration with the office was tough, but it was great to get new perspectives. The most challenging thing was how tough it was to collaborate with my co-workers back home. We constantly get together to bounce ideas off one another (in-person), and it was something I sorely missed. I really noticed this when working on a proposal. I missed having someone to talk things through with, and felt very nervous sending over work that no one had weighed in on. But on the upside, I had talked about it with a few people at HP, gained a couple new insights, and took it to a place I normally wouldn't have. So I guess there are trade-offs.
While I took away even more from this trip on a personal level (which warrants its own post when I'm done and back home), these are a few of the things that stood out to me professionally. This has been one of the best things I have ever done for my career and my sanity. Not only do I feel energized to go back to work, but I truly feel like I've learned how to deal with stress by being more open to change. And to me, that's made this experience seriously worth it.
PS: A big thanks to ZGM for letting me do this!