At the time of this publishing, I’m working remotely in northern England. Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely taking advantage of the time with no distractions – no lawn work, no mail to read, no errands to run, no meetings to rush to in-person. But, it is work. Much like working remotely from your home, working from another continent has its advantages and its drawbacks. If you’re considering a long-distance relationship with work, here are four tips for working remotely from another country or continent.
- Time Zone Blues – This can certainly be ignored; I do have some colleagues that will attend meetings at 2 in the morning to make it work. I’ve found, especially traveling with a 7-year-old, that’s not always practical. Delegate meetings that you don’t absolutely need to be in, get the notes and then take the actions you need when it’s waking hours for you. Be diligent about packing all your meetings in a small time block that works for both time zones involved. It’s taken me a few runs at this to figure that one out. Unfortunately, an odd-hours meeting is unavoidable here and there: I have stood outside a theater when my family is inside to take a meeting quickly before the show began. Just know this is part of the program.
- Set Work Hours – Let your travel mates know this is not negotiable… and make your teams and clients back in the states aware what those hours are. Post them on your calendar as “Available to Meet” and then stack them up back-to-back. When I’m in the states, I’m in meetings 6+ hours a day sometimes. When overseas I’m in meetings 2-3 hours a day, max. It really shows me which meetings are absolutely necessary and which aren’t. Outside of meetings, there is Desk Time. My particular role requires a few hours a day of communication – email/phone/text… so I spend a few, pre-planned, hours knocking this out each day.
- Off Hours Catchup – There is this beautiful thing that happens when working 6 time zones away from home… when everyone else is sleeping, you’re awake. Right now I’m typing this blog post in the morning GMT, while it’s the middle of the night CST. It’ll be published before anyone wakes up. The same goes for emails I pop off, etc. Just be careful not to make the classic mistake of texting or calling someone when it’s the middle of the night – major faux pas!
- Be Flexible – The other epiphany I’ve recognized while working this far from home, is that I just need to “roll with it.” For some that’s difficult, so know yourself. If you can’t be flexible and take a call at an inconvenient time, be willing to delay something “vacationy”, or be willing to do work on a challenging project at midnight when you have to get up early the next morning… this set-up may not be for you, and that’s OKAY. That’s why we have VACATION – time when we’re not working… stay tuned, I’m still trying to figure out how to take one of those. 😉
I am, admittedly, in a unique place in my career. For the past few years, I’ve taken a month and traveled to Europe with my family. It solidifies our bond in a way I didn’t understand before I started doing it – for me it’s a magical thing. But, I also run businesses back in the states. I have a long history of working abroad, so I have had a few decades to set some logistical tactics that make it approachable. I also have to be vigilant and honor my work family, who depend on me to be on-point, while traveling. It can be done, but major projects may have to slow down, while I focus on the day-to-day and getting the key tactical things done while remote.
Bottom Line: This scenario is definitely not for everyone. To some it may seem idyllic, to others it may seem horrific; One thing is for sure, it can be very disorienting. The key is putting some strategies in place that keep you organized, and completely resetting your schedule and the way you work — then resetting it again when you return home. If you ever find yourself looking at an extended trip overseas while still working, please feel free to hit me up, I’m happy to share what works for me and hopefully you can take something away that helps.
By Jason Heflin
Jason Heflin is one of CrowdSouth’s owning Partners and brings years of marketing experience from his past lives as a corporate marketing manager, writer, and freelancer. He also plays the ukulele for fun, which is cool.