Corporate attitudes about where employees work have changed over the past few years. It seems most companies now embrace the idea that many employees do their best work when free from office distractions. Trusting that employees will do quality work without direct oversight has turned into a low-cost benefit companies can extend to their employees. Win-win.
Audienz is one of these companies.
This month I’ve taken working out of the office a step further, and relocated to the Pacific Coast of Mexico. Here’s a few work and travel tips that I’ve used to stay connected, focused, and ensure that my team can depend on me while I’m traveling.
- Stay connected
Having a trustworthy cell and data plan is essential. WI-FI is available pretty much everywhere, but sometimes networks can be problematic – especially in rural and developing areas. Since my work is dependent on network access, to mitigate disruptions I used WhistleOut to compare mobile carriers to find the best international data package and coverage. I lucked out and I didn’t need to change plans, AND data across this network has proven even faster in Mexico than at home.
- Tether your device
If you don’t already know, tethering allows you to use your cell phone as a WI-FI hotspot that you can connect other devices to. It’s a handy backup in case your primary network goes down. Many mobile plans have data limits and carriers sometimes frown on tethering to reduce consumption. Take the time to find out your carrier’s policy before you travel or you might get stuck with a really high bill – or a service interruption.
- Leverage mobile apps
Love them or not, Microsoft Skype and Outlook apps for mobile make staying connected incredibly easy. While they’re not as hi-fidelity or feature-rich as the full versions, either can help bridge the gap if your network goes down.
- Use a proxy server
Sometimes the web services you use are unavailable or blocked outside your home country. If you have the OK from your IT department, using a proxy server can help get around this roadblock by making the sites you try to access think you’re located in a different country. I use a proxy to access my favorite media services on my iPad, but for security reasons, I don’t on my work computer. A quick web search will help you learn how to use a proxy. Again, make sure to check with your IT department for approval before you attempt to spoof your IP on your company-provided computer or on devices that you use to access critical business information.
- Keep it charged up
As a rule of thumb, if you’re in a location where infrastructure is a concern, it makes sense to keep all your devices charged up so if the electric grid fails, you can keep working. I know this first hand. In my experience, outages seldom last more than a few hours, but in some places you never know. Backup battery chargers are also cheap and can add peace of mind when the grid is down.
- Remain flexible
To stretch out my PTO hours, I’ve arranged to reduce my workload. It’s been crucial to set expectations with my team so they know when I’m available and it’s been important for me to remain flexible. Occasionally, this means that I’ve needed to accept meetings outside my arranged hours. Oh well. This takes some getting used to when the sun is out and the surf is good, but it’s a small price to pay in the big scheme of things.
- Stay focused
To remain focused, I’ve kept my work environment and habits close as normal. When looking for a house to rent, I made sure to ask about the noise level of the neighborhood, and when I arrived, to minimize distraction I carved out a dedicated workspace. While I might technically be on part-time vacation, I’ve made it a point not to stay out too late or overindulge too much. Instead, I’ve been eating well, getting plenty of rest, and getting up early to surf every morning before work. This leaves me clear-headed for the day ahead. Good stuff.
- Make up for being remote
To offset any disruption my arrangement might cause, I’ve made a point to reach out to help my colleagues when they need it. They’ve helped make this experience possible and I make sure to be mindful of that. When it’s their turn, I’ll be there for them.
With a little planning and some reliable fallbacks, I’ve managed to stretch out my PTO and time abroad – with the support of my colleagues back home. I’m not going to tell my clients about the trip though, until after I get back.
- Stay connected