Remote Work in times of a global health crisis

Working from home – blessing or curse? Image by Austin Distel on Unsplash

As much as the current situation scares people, it can also change the way we work. Covid-19 could have a permanent impact on how companies operate, or people work. It´s a blessing in disguise I´d say. As much as I vote for new work, I also see the problems that arise with it not being a choice for most but them being forced into working from home.

Speaking to several IT savvy friends just recently they also pointed out the difficulties for some companies who are not prepared for it. Systems will crack they say, it will be a problem especially for companies whose employees are usually safeguarded by corporate networks and have to connect over virtual private networks now. This might cause a real problem for the IT infrastructure of most companies. Furthermore, internet providers might not be able to supply the bandwidth needed. Peak traffic will increase and with schools being suspended as well, there will be even more internet users during the day. Time will tell if we (or the internet providers) are prepared for this.

One good thing about the whole situation – besides that people really start to care about each other and support each other – is the opportunity for companies and employees alike to build a remote work culture or at least some more flexibility. And companies like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Trello and a few more have already reacted to support remote work and offer some of their services for free for the time being.

I’ve been working remotely for a few years now and I do love the flexibility and productivity that comes with it. And to be honest, the most important thing is that the work gets done – within an office or at your desk somewhere else. The key to be successful with location independent work is to be organized, structured and to have your communication right. Speak to your co-workers and to your boss on a regular basis, like you would do in the office. Keep up the casual conversations and the chat in the coffee corner. But most importantly: Keep spirits up and get your shit done! Don’t see remote work as a ticket for being sluggish because nobody is watching.

I will share some tips and tools shortly that helped me a lot to structure my remote work life. Stay tuned.

Remote Work – trending in Germany as well

Spending the weekend at Machu Picchu – the beauty of remote work.

As I started this new project – working remotely from South America – friends and clients alike were, to say at least, irritated. For my European clients, the concept of working for them, but not being in their office frequently was an alien thought.

But is it that different?

People’s perception is changing – also in Germany. In the end, it is the result that counts, not how you achieve it. Great work can be done from anywhere. As long as you have a stable internet connection there is no hindrance for working remotely. At least this is the experience I’ve made and the feedback I get from my clients.

Recent surveys show that the concept of remote work is getting greater support by the minute in Germany. The motivations for the so-called new work model are multifaceted: Be it the dream to explore the world, following your partner who works abroad or having to take care of your loved ones at home without losing your job. “New work” means more flexibility and freedom for a workforce that puts a greater emphasize on work-life-balance than previous generations.

A recent survey of flexjobs.com highlighted personal freedom and an increase in the health of people who did work remotely. Companies like SAP, Deutsche Bahn or several German startups realized the benefits it has for their business as well. In a very spirited job market, companies that offer flexible working structures are much more competitive than companies with a conservative structure, not to speak about the boost in productivity, reduced turnover, and lesser organizational costs. A recent survey by “Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft (IW)”, support these statements.   

Embrace remote work

In the US remote work is almost common nowadays and most of my fellow remotes do have full-time jobs with US companies. It is a growing trend, 43% of US employers said they plan to allow their employees to have more remote working opportunities over the next year. Only 9% said they plan to offer less.

One explanation for this is highlighted in recent research of Harvard Business School. Prithwiraj Choudhury, an associate professor in the Technology and Operations Management Unit at Harvard Business School, and fellow researchers who compared the outcomes of flexible work arrangements at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Read the full story here.

Let’s talk about Germany and some companies that embraced remote work and its benefits again. As an example, for Mirco Hellekes, HR-Manager at Giant Swarm GmbH offering remote work is a huge competitive advantage. “We can hire the best talents from across Europe”, he says. For him, this kind of flexible work is the future and they have practiced it for five years already. He continues “Remote work for us means that all our employees create the work environment that makes them happy and successful”.

Speaking from my own experience, I can live and work from places I might have never been able to see. I can explore the world while working full-time and so far, my clients are happy with the results. To me, this adds true value to my life and even more so to the work I’m doing for my clients. I enjoy getting up in the mornings and starting my workday because I know that I’m able to see Machu Picchu at the weekend, go for a lunch break in a traditional restaurant in Chile or go out in the evenings to improve my Salsa skills in Colombia.

Working across time zones

It’s said that working remotely gives you the freedom to work at your own terms and to work wherever you feel most comfortable. That much is true, but it is also challenging. You have to be disciplined, organized and structured plus as with any job – you need a certain routine. It took me a while to find mine. A routine not to just find the right balance between work and explore but also to figure out the best working hours and where I need to set up my office to be productive.

In contrary to most of my fellow remotes I prefer not to work from the Selina Co-Working space in Medellín. I choose the quiet of my apartment over the lively open plan office we’re offered at Selina. Despite missing out on the energetic vibes and the occasional chit-chat with my fellow remote workers, it gives me the freedom to be a bit more flexible in my working hours – and that is crucial as I learned in my first week.

Never underestimate the time difference!

I really underestimated the challenge of working across time zones – especially if your clients are six respectively nine hours ahead of you. When they fire up their laptops and enjoy their first cup of coffee, I’m fast asleep dreaming of new adventures. And once I get up in the morning, they are busy making plans for their evenings.  

Lucky me to have understanding clients who share my passion for remote work or at least allow me the freedom of doing so. One of them even postponed a scheduled conference call from 9am to 12pm so that I can be part of it without getting up at 3am in the morning. Nevertheless, I still sat there red eyed and with my video camera switched off – 6am is still tough for a serious and productive conversation. But that’s nomad life and a small price to pay for the flexibility and freedom that I enjoy working remotely.

Digitale Nomadin – Traum oder verrücktes Wagnis

Screenshot von der ohfamoos Webseite.

Sonja Ohly und ohfamoos – Voll das gute Leben haben mich zum Thema Remote Work interviewt. Hier der Link zum Interview. (https://www.ohfamoos.com/2019/11/digitale-nomadin-traum-oder-verruecktes-wagnis/)

Digitale Nomaden, New Work, Work-Life Balance. Alles Schlagworte, die in letzter Zeit immer häufiger auftauchen. Aber was steckt wirklich dahinter, was bedeutet es ortsunabhängig zu arbeiten und warum macht man das? Wir haben jemanden getroffen, der genau das ausprobieren möchte. Marion Englert bereitet sich auf ein Leben als Digitaler Nomade oder so genannter Remote Worker vor. Seit ein paar Tagen ist sie in Südamerika. Gemeinsam mit einer Gruppe Berufstätiger wird sie nicht nur die Region erkunden, sondern auch ihrem Beruf nachgehen. Traum oder verrücktes Wagnis?

Simplify your life – with a twist

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Image by Guillaume Bolduc

I enjoy traveling and I enjoy my work. Now I can combine both, I can live like a local in various countries while working. But and that is new – I do not have a home base anymore. No place to leave precious knick-knacks, books, records and all the other stuff that you deem necessary. Not to speak about the overflowing closet with clothes I never wear or have not worn for months or years.

Having made the decision to work & travel for the next few months (or even longer) there is a point where you have to assess your belongings and make a decision – simplify your life. Believe it or not, for me this was one of the most rewarding experiences in my life so far. To look at every little thing of your possessions and decide to “keep or toss”. For me it was mostly toss or donate. And I cannot recommend this highly enough. It takes so much weight of you – literally and psychologically. First of all, the realization that one tends to collect unnecessary stuff that just takes up space and collects dust and second, the knowledge that what you actually need in life is very little.

My “little” sums up to overall six cardboard boxes safely stored away at my godchild’s place (I might need it one day – or maybe not), a suitcase packed with some of my favorite clothing, toiletries and personal items and a backpack which contains my remote office.

I could not part with my motorcycle

To be completely honest: I also kept my beloved motorcycle – I just could not give it away.  And more importantly, I found some loving temporary home for my two cats.

That by the way was the hardest part of becoming a Digital Nomad or Remote Worker traveling globally. These two monkeys are part of my life for more than a decade and so far, they joined me on my trips. But now that they are seniors, strenuous travel to another continent and a change of place every four weeks is just not fair on them or their wellbeing. Therefore, I’m grateful beyond words that my godchild Sabrina and Franziska, a good friend of mine, are taking on the duty as adoptive mums for my two boys until I’m reunited with them and all of us find a place, we’d like to stay a bit longer.

My boys: Meet Pauli and Barney

If your desire to explore the world is stronger than your roots

Globe
The world is my home. Image by Kyle Glenn

Do you know the feeling when home does not feel like home anymore? After returning back to Germany after 12 years abroad, I just did not feel at ease and comfortable anymore in an environment which should be close to my heart. I felt like a stranger in my own country.

Ironically enough, returning home was what I truly wanted. For two years I was looking for ways to leave my home in Dubai and return to my birthplace, to my family, friends and all the things I thought that I missed while I was abroad… A Leberkäse Semmel for instance 😉

I was wrong.

For someone who has never tasted life outside the comfortable borders of the village, city or country where one grew up this might sound odd. But I’m telling you – it is difficult to return to a place you once knew.

No surprise that I started contemplating to return to my desert home. But a voice deep inside me kept telling me that this might also not feed the yearning I was experiencing ever since I stepped off the plane in my native Bavaria. To make matters worse, from the time I was little, the best thing in life for me was traveling. And IMHO Germany is not the best geographic location to explore the world.

Dubai Skyline
Dubai, my desert home. Image by Nathan John

And this is how the journey started. After a three months coaching session to figure out what I really want in life – professionally and personally – I came to the conclusion that I’m an adventurer by heart and exploring this globe is what I really want. I want to see everything this beautiful planet has to offer and dive into various cultures and learn what makes them tick.

Nice thought – but as I’m not fortunate enough to have endless funds on my bank account the rude awakening came soon. Being an optimist by nature I started digging. There must be a way to make this possible and make a living while on the go! Triggered by a lecture about Digital Nomad life at my local co-working space I soon knew where I’m headed: Remote Work it is.

But wait a minute… isn’t remote work what I’ve done all along in the past few years – as a freelancer, working in my home office or at racetracks around the globe away from my clients? So, the solution for my despair was right in front of me all this time, I just could not put a finger on it.

Crazy, isn’t it? Therefore, I’m taking Remote Work up a notch and work from places I always wanted to explore.

Hello!

This website and blog are based on my latest project. Currently I´m a participant of Remote Year, a group of professionals working remotely while traveling the globe. For the next few months I will be 1 of 26 participants of RY’s community Bolivar.

While working remotely, I will reside in four different cities and travel throughout Latin America. I will get to experience life in Santiago de Chile, Lima/Peru, Medellín/Colombia and Mexico City. Join me on my remote work experience and enjoy exploring!

My home for the next few months.